Open Rails

Learn > Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


General Questions

What is Open Rails?

Open Rails is a train simulator project compatible with Microsoft's Train Simulator product.

Is Open Rails freeware? Is there a downloadable version available?

Yes. A variety of downloads are available here.

Is Open Rails just an improved version of Microsoft Train Simulator?

Open Rails is not an improvement to Microsoft Train Simulator, but a complete new simulator that can use Microsoft Train Simulator routes, activities, consists and train sets. At installation, Open Rails looks for Microsoft Train Simulator entries in the Windows registry to locate any Microsoft Train Simulator files on your computer. It will offer to use them in the simulation.

The Open Rails simulator operates train services independently of Microsoft Train Simulator and without running any Microsoft Train Simulator code. Currently you must use Goku's modern editor TSRE5 or even the original Microsoft Train Simulator Route Editor to build new routes, but we plan to develop our own Route Editor.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator locomotives and rolling stock with Open Rails?

The short answer is 'yes'.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator routes with Open Rails?

The short answer is 'yes'.

Can I use my collection of Microsoft Train Simulator activities with Open Rails?

The answer is "Yes", though the signaling in Open Rails and performance of AI (computer-driven) trains is more rigorous and some activities may need adjusting.

Does Open Rails improve the performance of Microsoft Train Simulator?

No, Open Rails has no effect on the performance of Microsoft Train Simulator. Open Rails is a completely new simulator. With suitable hardware, most users running Microsoft Train Simulator routes and consists in Open Rails see significantly higher frames per second (FPS) because the Open Rails simulator uses modern graphics cards (GPUs) effectively. Loading times are much reduced and larger routes can be accommodated.

Will Open Rails make my Microsoft Train Simulator routes and trains look better?

Microsoft Train Simulator 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 may also provide better lighting effects and texture effects which gives a better view of the current Microsoft Train Simulator models.

Will Open Rails improve my frame rates, decrease stuttering, make my Microsoft Train Simulator content look better or improve the lighting?

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!

Are there any routes available for Open Rails that do not need Microsoft Train Simulator?

Older free and payware routes are often packaged as add-ons to Microsoft Train Simulator and many locos make use of sound and cabview files from Microsoft Train Simulator.

Newer routes have been developed specifically for Open Rails. See our Content page.

Technical Questions

What computer specs do I need to run Open Rails?

The latest system and software requirements are shown below.

Does Open Rails have 3D cabs?

Yes, these have been supported for a while alongside the older 2D cabs.

Does Open Rails have working signals?

The Open Rails team has implemented a comprehensive and robust signal system which is detailed in the manual.

Does Open Rails have timetables?

Yes, timetables provide multiple trains running at the same time, with complex operations such as splitting and joining trains as described in the manual. You can choose which train to drive and the other trains in the timetable will run automatically.

Does Open Rails have multi-player operation?

Yes, you can share your session with as many remote friends as your computer can cope with, all working together driving individual trains to deliver a service.

What's the graphics engine in Open Rails?

Open Rails currently uses Monogame technology to display its environment. This makes good use of modern graphics cards and is also compatible with the ReShade graphics post-processor. Installation advice can be found here at Elvas Tower.

What about a route editor for Open Rails?

An Open Rails route editor is a key element of the project and is identified in our project roadmap.

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 on the forums. The Open Rails team monitors these forums daily.

Installation Questions

Which platforms does Open Rails run on?

Open Rails works well on Windows PCs from Windows 7* onwards (including Windows 11). It does not work on Windows XBox, Windows Phone or non-Windows platforms.

* Windows 7 requires Service Pack 1 (SP1).

32-bit or 64-bit Windows?

Open Rails is an "AnyCPU" program which will run as a 32-bit program on 32-bit Windows and as a 64-bit program on 64-bit Windows.

Programs compiled for 32-bit Windows are always limited to using a maximum of 2GB of memory.

What hardware does Open Rails require?

  • Processor : 2.0 GHz (32 or 64-bit)
  • Memory : minimum = 0.5 GB, recommended = 4 GB
  • Hard drive : 50 MB (but models require lots of space. The 6 routes in Microsoft Train Simulator require 1.4 GB)
  • Graphics : any compatible with Windows 7 upwards. (more than 0.3GB graphics RAM recommended)

Do I need Microsoft Train Simulator installed to use Open Rails?

You do not need Microsoft Train Simulator installed in order to use Open Rails.

If Microsoft Train Simulator is installed, then Open Rails can safely make use of all the Microsoft Train Simulator content as it does not change any Microsoft Train Simulator files.

Most non-Microsoft Train Simulator routes, activities and rolling stock make use of some Microsoft Train Simulator content, usually sound files, textures and cab interiors. If products designed for Microsoft Train Simulator are used on a PC with Open Rails but not Microsoft Train Simulator, then they are likely to work but some sounds and textures will be missing. Such files will be listed with warnings in the Open Rails log file.

How can I recognise add-on products for Microsoft Train Simulator that require Microsoft Train Simulator files?

Add-ons designed for Microsoft Train Simulator may rely on files from the Microsoft Train Simulator product. For instance:

  • Routes provided with an Install.bat file that copies shapes and textures from the routes on the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs.
  • Locomotives that re-use cabviews or sounds from the locomotives on the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs (see folder TRAINSET).
  • Rolling stock that have sound management (SMS) files that refer to wave files from the Microsoft Train Simulator CDs (see folder SOUND).

If I install Open Rails, will it change my Microsoft Train Simulator files?

No, Open Rails does not modify any Microsoft Train Simulator files.

Does Open Rails suppport RailDriver?

Yes; this cab controller from P.I.Engineering is suitable for Open Rails and support for it is built in to the simulator. Installation instructions are included in the installation download (and also from this webpage). Eric Conrad has posted a detailed review on his MSTS Roundhouse blog which provides valuable advice for using this product.

Does Open Rails report data back to its creators?

Not at the moment. Data on how Open Rails is used will be very helpful for the project but, if we wish to collect usage data, we will inform you beforehand and you will always be able to opt out.

* Privacy Note

On first use, Open Rails reports the version that has been installed. You can configure subsequent reports using Options > Update - see the Operating Manual.