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I have long been fascinated by the three foot narrow gauge railways of Ireland - some of the most delightful railways ever built running through one of the most beautiful countries on Earth.  The line I like best is the Tralee and Dingle, thirty-odd miles of sharp curves, steep grades and unbelievable scenery.  I have attempted to model the T&D several times in several scales, but the advent of Rail Simulators makes it possible to model the line in its entirety - and not only that, but run the line through a true-to-scale Digital Elevation Model of the actual landscape.

The Philosophy:

There is a great deal that can be done on a computer.  There is also a great deal that can't.  The upside of computer modelling is that the entire route can be built - and driven over with a fairly good physics model.  The downside is that the temptation to re-create every single building, bush and tree must be resisted.  Wherever possible principle buildings will be represented by models based as closely as possible on the prototype.  Lesser buildings will be generic, and background structures - villages and farms etc. - will be purely representative.  The level of detail near the line will be as high as possible - right down to tufts of grass - but to conserve computer resources the greater the distance from the tracks, the lower the level of detail will become.

There is also a huge amount which needs to be guessed.  I have researched the T&D as thoroughly as just about anyone on Earth, but my knowledge of the fine detail is scanty at best.  If I can get it right I will - if not I will work something out.  Should any visitor spot an error please let me know.  One of the beauties of computer modelling is that nothing is real - most things can be undone and redone very easily.

These comparison shots of Castlegregory station show the sort of accuracy that I am after (and degree of compromise I am willing to accept!).  The 'look' is undeniably 'right' even if the buildings are all wrong.  As it happens Steve and Ricky are working on replacement buildings as true to prototype as possible, but if the weren't then I would still be happy with this scene.  The building in the distance on the model is a part of Castlegregory village.  It's not visible on the 'real' pic because I have moved the village slightly closer to the station than in real life.  This use of 'modellers license' puts the village in the view when running trainz rather than more-or-less out of sight.  It's 'wrong', but the model is better for the 'mistake'.  Too many trees?  Yes, there are, but the view in Trainz needs to be broken up - ground textures are one of the least realistic aspects of the sim and anything that draws the eye away from the ground and breaks up long views is a good thing, so there will be too many trees, and too many building.  What I will do when I get up on top between about Skylough and Garynadur where the photos show a whole lot of absolutely nothing I have no idea....

Joint Project

The T&DLR Project is a joint venture between myself (Andy Turnbull), Steve Flanders and Ricky Sykes.  Ricky and Steve jointly produce 'content' for the sim.  Content is the actual models I use to build the route.  Steve and Ricky have produced an enormous amount of high-quality Trainz content over the last twelve months or so and I look forward to working with them both on the T&D.  Ricky and Steve's work can be found on the Narrow Gauge Railways of Ireland for Trainz website.

Sadly Ricky passed away on 24 October 2008.  He will be missed.  Although this project has been on hold for over a year I have placed a small marker on the route at the spot where scenic work is more or less complete as of this date...


In addition to the regular screenshots posted below - don't miss the series of 'Postcards' on the next page...

...or the U-tube Video posted here (23 Mb approx)....


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Newest screenshots are at the BOTTOM of the page.

The Castlegregory Branch

For want of a better starting place I have chosen the Castlegregory Branch, which followed the western shore of Brandon Bay from the junction at Lower Camp (Castlegregory Junction) to the small rural hamlet of Castlegregory.

Some small indication of the scale of the project can be gleaned from this shot.  Castlegregory Station is in the foreground.  On the larger image the waters of Brandon Bay can be seen to the left.  The track will more-or-less follow the blue line meandering off into the distance. The entire area in view represents not much more than 1% of the entire project.  The complete route will take years! (18 Jan 07)

A general view of the station looking North.  The buildings and platforms used are chosen from what is currently available, but models of the actual buildings are in course of preparation.  The modelling side of the project is being handled by Steve Flanders and Ricky Sykes while I look after the route.  The buildings used don't look too bad though... (18 Jan 07)

Looking South from the road side.  The hills in the distance are 'textured' with an overlay made from  the Irish Ordinance Survey 1:50 000 map sheets.  The scanned map sheets are overlayed on the Digital Elevation Model of the area (imported from NASSA no less!) and the whole converted into 'Trainz' Rail-Sim terrain by a beautiful piece of software called Trans-Dem from Roland Ziegler. (18 Jan 07)

Looking south-west from the goods yard gates over the station towards Stradbally on the horizon.  The goods shed is again temporary and will be replaced with a model based on the shed at Annascaul - unless better pictures of the CG shed come to light. (18 Jan 07)

The first view with no un-textured background - over the station approach with the village of Castlegregory in the background.  I have copies of some very old (but undated) maps of the entire route thanks to Simon Star.  The scale is uncertain, but it must be several inched to the mile.  The scale allows detail down to every farm fence and building to be shown and these maps will be the inspiration for the texturing of the route.  I might try to find a more Irish sky - something with a cloud or two :~) (19 Jan 07)

South of Castlegregory the line runs along the roadside verge more-or-less dead straight for about half a mile. This long shot is looking south west with a down train about half way along the straight.

At the south end of the straight at Cloghanesheskeen the line swings away from the road and climbs steeply before swinging onto a more easterly course.  The track can just be seen climbing through the trees to the right.  Castlegregory is in the far distance.

Looking back towards Castlegregory from near Kelly's Height.  The rail line has left the road for a short while and between this point and where the train rejoins the road reserve just beyond the buildings in the previous picture Down trains plummet down a short length of near 3% grade.

An unlikely visitor to the line in the form of a County Donegal railcar rumbles across the bridge at the bottom of the grade between Castlegregory and Kelly's Height.  Odd that the T&D never ran any railcars - if ever a line was made for them, it was this one.

An over-view looking North back towards Castlegregory from half way up Kelly's Height with the CD railcar struggling up the 3% grade.

From Kelly's Height the train ran along the roadside verge for a bit less than half a mile before crossing the road at a shallow angle, the crossing coinciding with a shared road crossing of the Owneamallaght River.  This shot shows the spot where the tracks can just be seen to merge with the roadway as an Up train behind a CVR 0-4-2T tram loco approach the crossing.

Much the same spot as the previous picture, but the train is now on the shared bridge just about to swing across the roadway and onto the line's own right-of-way.  The trains did not slacken speed for these crossings (of which there were many) and it was the responsibility of other road users to keep clear.  Changed days indeed!

A surprisingly different shot from the one above despite the almost identical angle - not a train in sight, but one of my favourite screenshots to date none the less.

The same train as in the previous picture swinging across the road under a threatening Irish sky.

Back a bit farther west than the previous pics satellite photos show a large building near the spot where the railway leaves the road reserve at Kelly's Height.  I like country pubs, so a country pub it is!  There is a slightly different view looking more along the road on the Postcards page.

Just behind the camera lies the Aughacasala platform - or at least I think it does - nobody seems to know and the location is not marked on any maps I have been able to find.  Nobody knows if the shared road/rail bridge just beyond the platform was protected by gates or not.  And nobody knows if there were any signals on the branch other than the Home and Down Starter at Castlegregory.  So Publish, I say, and be damned!

That elusive platform is still behind the camera - looking East this time....

... and looking west again, but from a couple of hundred yards farther east.  Confused?  The signal closest to the camera in this shot is the same signal as in the previous shot, it's the Ahghacasala Up signal.  The signal in the screenshot two up the page is the Down signal.

Jump forward to December 07 - I've been playing around with this while my Clovis Sub is in Beta.  This is still my favourite route.  Maybe I will finish it one day.....

       New CDR rolling stock from ING4Trainz.

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Feedback is always welcome - please email any comments, queries or criticisms here.

Andrew Turnbull 2007/8