Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ Updated 12 Aug 2013
What is Open Rails?
Open Rails is a train simulator project based on Microsoft XNA Game Studio.
Is Open Rails freeware? Is there a downloadable version available?
Yes. The latest version of the Open Rails software is available on the download page.
Is Open Rails just an improved version of, or a big patch to MSTS?
Open Rails is not an improvement to MSTS, but a complete new game platform that can read MSTS routes, activities, consists, and train sets. It currently uses the MSTS entries in the Windows registry to locate where your MSTS files are on your computer to read them into the Open Rails game engine. Open Rails does not utilize or change any original Microsoft Train Simulator code. Open Rails will eventually be a completely stand-alone sim, once suitable utilities have been developed for it.
Can I use my collection of MSTS locomotives and rolling stock with Open Rails?
The short answer is 'yes', but with some limitations around cab controls and gauges. Everything else should work very similar to MSTS.
Can I use my collection of MSTS routes with Open Rails?
The short answer is 'yes'.
Can I use my collection of MSTS activities with Open Rails?
The answer is "Yes", though the evaluation step is still missing.
Does Open Rails use MSTS Bin?
You do not need MSTS Bin to run Open Rails, nor are any of the executables from the MSTS software required.
Does Open Rails improve the performance of MSTS?
No, Open Rails has no effect on the performance of MSTS. Open Rails is a completely new game engine. With suitable hardware, most users running MSTS routes and consists in Open Rails see significantly higher FPS because the Open Rails game engine more effectively uses the GPU.
If I install Open Rails, will it change my MSTS files?
No, Open Rails does not modify any MSTS files. However, because Open Rails is work-in-progress software we suggest you always have a backup of your MSTS installation, just in case.
Will Open Rails improve my frame rates, decrease stuttering, make my MSTS content look better or improve the lighting compared to MSTS?
The point of Open Rails is not just better frame rates or display colors, but those are common side effects. Open Rails is more about the future!
Will Open Rails make my MSTS routes and trains look better?
MSTS displays textures as 16-bit color even though most are stored as 24 or 32-bit ACE files. Therefore, the foundation is there to support these higher bit textures. Open Rails could provide better lighting effects and texture effects to give a better view of the current MSTS models. Nevertheless, Open Rails will not magically make everything look much better.
Does the Open Rails team have access to the MSTS source code?
No. The Open Rails team is not attempting to duplicate the efforts that resulted in the BIN patch to MSTS. The Open Rails software is a platform built from the ground up using 100% new code.
Do I need MSTS to run Open Rails?
No. However Open Rails does not yet have a route editor or an activity editor, so you cannot build your own routes and activities.
Are there any routes available for Open Rails that do not need MSTS?
Most free and payware routes are packaged as add-ons to MSTS and many locos make use of sound and cabview files from MSTS.
Some Australian routes (New South Wales) have been packaged to work just with OR:
What computer specs do I need to run Open Rails?
In general, Open Rails currently requires the higher hardware specification
as MSTS, especially with regard to video cards (GPU). Community members have
Open Rails running on Windows XP, Vista, Windows 7 and 8 operating systems.
Some OR users, however, have reported difficulties with low FPS especially on
laptops with onboard video because of the demands Open Rails places on the GPU.
The latest system and software requirements are shown on the download page.
Are the better FPS achieved through Open Rails because the graphics card is doing more of the work in rendering the graphics?
Yes, Open Rails basically places less demands on the CPU for processing information and rendering the graphics. The GPU and CPU now share these functions.
Why does my train operate differently in Open Rails?
With the current release, Open Rails software has implemented our first phase of independent physics for diesel electric, electric and steam engines. This more sophisticated physics model incorporates ground-breaking inertia and traction motor loading, plus wheel slipping equations that more realistically model train physics. As a result, you may experience slower acceleration and longer stopping distances compared to MSTS.
Why don't I see distant mountains?
Distant mountains were implemented as an option in v0.9. Please tick the checkbox in Menu > Options > Experiment > Show Distant Mountains.
How do I change my view?
You can move about in the route and locomotive in Open Rails with several
camera views. The F1 key assignment window details all the views available in
In current version of the Open Rails software, you can do more than MSTS with BIN. The #4 camera (trackside) automatically jumps as the train passes. Use the #8 key to "unlock" the #4 camera to a fixed view, which is movable like all the other cameras. Then just press the #4 key to jump to the next automatic viewpoint. You are able to jump between cars (and to first/last cars) in cameras #2, #3, #4, #5 (cars with passenger views only), #6 (cars at each end of the train only) and head out (cars with head out views only).
You can view other (AI) trains using Alt-9.
Does OR have working signals?
The Open Rails team has a comprehensive signal system detailed in the manual.
What should I do if I find problems, issues, or stuff not working with Open Rails?
Open Rails is a constantly evolving project that runs on volunteer participation. Please feel free to post questions and comments about Open Rails at the Elvas Tower forums. The Open Rails team monitors these forums daily.
Where else can I discuss Open Rails?
Australia at Railpage
Spain at Spain Trainz Rutas
UK at UK TrainSim Forums
USA at TrainSim Forums
What's the graphic engine in Open Rails?
Open Rails currently uses Microsoft XNA technology to display its environment. The XNA technology was developed by Microsoft specifically for computer gaming.
What about a route editor for Open Rails?
An Open Rails WORLD EDITOR is being actively planned, architected and designed. A WORLD EDITOR is the next major development project for the Open Rails team.
Will Open Rails incorporate all the features from MSTS, KRS, RW, and Trainz?
No, but the Open Rails team's objective is to provide the best features from all of them.
Does Open Rails support the use of KRS, RW or Trainz content?
Will I be able to contribute my skills to the development of the Open Rails Project?
The Open Rails team is in need of volunteers to help with developing the Open Rails project, a train simulator. We are particularly looking for programmers, who are knowledgeable in C# and have experience working in this language, to join the team and contribute code to the project. Key areas of the project that need volunteer contributions include physics, environmental features, AI and Signaling. If you are interested in joining the Open Rails project, please visit the volunteer submission page
If I want to model for Open Rails, what should I do?
Continue to build as you would for MSTS 1, if it works in MSTS 1 it should work okay in Open Rails. You can use better textures, more about that later. Your documentation should make it clear the model is for Open Rails.
Are there any 'open source' programs I can use for my Open Rails projects?
There are many useful freeware 'open source' developed software packages;
some are handy tools for Open Rails modelers.
One of the most useful is Paint.NET; a paint program with a lot of power and it's all free. Paint.NET is missing a 'spray can', but apart from that it is a 'must have' tool. While you are searching, also look for The Gimp, another freeware paint program. Another helpful tool is ConTEXT Editor, which is a freeware text editor suitable for editing ENG, WAG and other data files that require Unicode text.
Which coding SDK are being used for the Open Rails project?
Open Rails is being developed using Microsoft's XNA game platform using C# programming language and .Net framework.
How will textures display in Open Rails?
Open Rails can only display the resolution of the original ace file. So, if the user has a 1-bit transparency or 8 bit alpha ace file, Open Rails will only display the native resolution of those files -- not full 32 bit color.
I am getting really low frame rates (FPS) with locomotives, rolling stock, and route textures that use 1024, 2048, and 4096 textures. What can I do to solve the low FPS?
Open Rails uses video memory to render scenes. On the other hand, MSTS uses your System RAM to load and manipulate all the textures. MSTS just passes the frame to the video card for rendering - much less stress on your video card. That's why you have the long pause to load the textures, then MSTS moves merrily along to rendering the next scene. For users who are experiencing low FPS, we recommend updating the graphics card.