last few details…

One of the last few details behind the scene is one of the “surprises” I mentioned a few updates ago. It’s a small detail that helps give life to the Disneyland scenery but it’s actually pretty big physically… the Mark Twain River Boat!

Also a steam powered vehicle, you’ll see it glide along the river as a long time companion to the railroad, and you’ll hear its very distinctive whistle through out the park from time to time.

The Mark Twain is also quite a sight at night!

In addition to the whistle, in the sim the Mark Twain also features animated stern wheel with water splash effect and steam exhausts. It was quite enjoyable just watching it cruising the river while I was taking these preview pictures 🙂

quick update… almost time to countdown!

This is going to be a quick update, not a lot of words but there are pictures! And this is the update I waited to make for a long time because I’m happy to finally show the preview of the Disneyland layout, as it was in 1955!

Can you believe that there are less than two months to release?! I can’t! I’m actually quite a bit behind schedule, but working late nights trying to catch up. There are a few more surprises in the sim that I’m saving. I hope it makes it into release in December. At this point it’s really up in the air if it’ll be in the sim. As usual, “more on this later”.

Two questions I get asked the most right now is “how much” and “what computer do I need”, so I’ll address this real quick. As you can see, I’m still waaaay deep in development mode and finalizing the price and computer requirement is still something I will need to devote more time to. But I’ve had in-depth discussion with people I trust about the price. It’s a delicate issue, and I hope that once it’s finalized you’ll find it fair. As for the computer, for now “anything relatively modern” will work. That means x64, dedicated graphics card capable of dx11 (say Nvidia GTX).

Okay, let’s get on with the pictures, straight from the sim.

This layout, I hope, is representative of Disneyland park in 1955, at least to the portions that are relevant to the railroad. Back then, the park was quite sparse and some part of it was very much still a construction site. So, in the sim, you’ll see this accordingly.

Let’s start with the roundhouse. It is a simple shed structure housing two tracks. Here are the two engines finishing their prep in a late summer morning.

Note the orange grove in the background, behind the chainlink fence. This was the rural Anaheim in 1955, quite different from today. Notice also numerous lumber and construction debris scattered throughout the backstage area. The yellow fuel pump, exactly as you’d find at a gas station in 1955, services the engine (tender).

The main visual centerpiece of the railroad, though, is the Main Street Station. In the sim, it is rendered at it appeared in 1955. The surrounding main gate sits nearby.

Details, details, details! From the cornice, to the working clock tower, which displays the sim’s time! But there is also some simplification in the model for the sake of performance. Hopefully the balance between detail and performance is right.

Notice also a portion of Main Street USA behind the station. Yep, it’s all there.

Here’s a stretch of Rivers of America. It was quite spare from any vegetation in 1955!

This section of the tracks passes by the desert/wagon scene. (I forget the name of it now). It’s right after the Rivers of America and before Fantasyland. See also that slight left curve up ahead? Yes, DRR had a left curve since its opening! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise that the DRR “never had a left turn until now” 🙂

Here’s the transition between the desert and Fantasyland. The castle peaks above the trees. Casey Jr is just on the right side of the tracks.

Here’s the turn into Main Street Station. Not much to say about this image; you’ll get to be at the throttle and pull the train into this station soon 🙂

It has taken waaaay longer to get this scenery to this stage than I anticipated. Every building had to be made from scratch. I tried to be faithful, down to even the size, type, and placement of trees. All of this to make sure that it feels right. All of these details of course include the building lights.

I think they look their best at dusk. Don’t you?

I hope you’re ready… the park will be opening soon!

waiting in the shed

I know there hasn’t been any updates lately since the announcement of the release date, but I assure that there is a lot going on behind the scene and many late late nights (check out this update’s posting time… and this is a weeknight 😮 ).

Speaking of behind the scene, here’s a really really quick look at where the engines live behind the scene at the real and original park: the original 1955 roundhouse. It’s really not much more than a light-frame metal shed. In the simulator, the roundhouse will be “furnished” with various pieces of equipment scattered about, giving it a “live in” feeling. Note also that there are only two tracks… because there were only two trains!

I love this picture of the engine waiting in the roundhouse shed, slightly basking in the late morning sun. It looks so peaceful with the back drop of orange grove behind. But this peaceful engine will soon be roaring with fire and steam, all ready for us to take her out.

And also in 1955, DL was very much still a construction site. So, expect to see construction materials scattered through out, too.

Sitting in the cab, waiting to steam up. You can see the tunnel that takes the train under the berm and into the park. But, you’ll have to wait a little bit longer before we preview the park itself 🙂

around the corner

This is the post you are probably waiting for, so I’ll keep this brief.

I’m targeting to release the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad Steam Locomotive Simulator this Christmas 2017!.

It will be available for Windows and *tentatively* Mac OSX.

That’s all for now. More information, of course, will be forthcoming as we approach the target date.

And now I have a lot of work to do. See you later!

still alive

Hello! Just dropping by the blog to say that I’m still alive.

However, we are in a middle of moving from our little apartment to a bigger condo! So, the progress on the simulation has slowed down for a bit. But I can confidently tell you that the “steam engine simulation” part of the simulator is at least 90% finish! All that’s left is to finish the Disneyland layout, write the manual, and we’re off to release!

Why’s the work on the Disneyland layout so time consuming? Well, the research on the layout and buildings has to be done, and every building has to be custom made, with custom painted texture map. Even the berm size and location, fences along the tracks, and the foliage along the route, has to be researched and recreated.

It’s not fun to make a post without anything to show, so, I’ll leave you with this closing image of the Holliday waiting to steam out into the ranch:

happy new year testing!

Happy New Year! Can you believe that it’s been one year ago already since the last major video preview back in 2016?

I thought the sim looked pretty good then, but since then, there’s still plenty of subtle rendering and lighting improvements. Also, most of the development has been in the underlying codes.

Here are some of the new features and improvements completed since the January 2016 video, made a year ago:

  • Cab controls have been changed to pushing/pull your mouse, rather than using the scrollwheel. This allows for certain controls to “feel” lighter or heavier. Using the sim really feels much more realistic when you’re “turning” valves or “pull” the throttle.
  • Steam in the cylinders now exhausts with each “chuff”, and is replenished proportional to whatever throttle amount you have, so the pressure in the cylinder is not constant.
  • Pressure gauges are not “exactly” accurate like a “computer”. They error by up to 1% or 1.5%, per the manufacturer’s specification.
  • Lubrication in the steam chest can “wash off” if you pull the water into the cylinders. When the cylinders are flooded, the pistons move sluggishly, if at all!
  • The water glass can be clogged from sediments, and you’ll see all the proper signs of it.
  • Added a bunch of engine customization options like gauge face type, metal or wood running boards, arm rests, etc.
  • Better (more realistic) sky and clouds, lighting, and overall rendering qualities.
  • Expanded the ranch test tracks.
  • More realistic smoke and steam effects.
  • Better camera shakes and controls.
  • More realistic air compressor behavior.
  • Added limited hot keys.
  • Water in the boiler now expands realistically when it’s heated.
  • A ton of miscellaneous fixes and improvements that just makes everything “feel right”. This is only “one” item on the list but it’s actually the biggest item of all, because every system, components, and physics of the sim got fine tuned at some point in the last year. This really makes the sim come together.

All this tweaking and fine tuning is paying off. Steve DeGaetano is one of the expert tester, and so far he feels “right at home” with the sim. Here are some of the things he had to say:

I have been playing with a couple versions of it over the past few days. It is mind-boggling to me how accurate to firing and operating a real steam locomotive this is. You basically have to do *everything* the way you would on a real oil-burning engine. You have to hook up an air compressor if the engine is cold, in order for the blower and atomizer to work. All appropriate valves must be opened. The fire door has to be opened in order to throw in a lit piece of waste, which will go out in about 10 seconds unless you apply atomizer and oil. As the boiler heats, the water in the sight glass goes up: Why? Because water expands when heated!

For me, the experience of firing this engine and running it is exactly as I would expect from the real thing–I felt quite at home, knowing that when I made an adjustment, say, to the fire, I’d see that adjustment reflected on the steam pressure gauge. When I added water with the injector, the pressure invariably goes down in proportion–you’re adding cold water to the boiler and cooling it off, so the pressure goes down.

I can say that this is as close as you can come to actually operating the real thing. The thought has crossed my mind that Disney themselves might be able to use this as a training tool. If you’ve ever wanted to know what it’s like to fire and run a real DRR-style steam engine, this will be as close as you will be able to get unless you get a job on the DRR.

You can read his full write up of the experience here. I will admit that I was quite anxious when I was sending the sim out to testing, but so far I feel reassured by the feedback that this will be *the* steam sim (even a couple of DRR engineers like it!). Of course, there are bugs, and I’m getting them fixed and patched up everyday. Some of the bugs they found are very interesting, and I’m certainly learning even more about the engine from them.

Having sent the sim out for testing, and it being a new year, was a good opportunity to make another preview video! I always wanted to do one without narration—just let the sim sounds speak for themselves so you can get the full immersion of being around these engines. Well, here it is! It is also the perfect accompaniment while reading Steve’s write up! Enjoy!

development road map

To stay on the “development track” one must create a “road map”. The mixing of track and road analogy probably sounds weird, but it really makes sense when you think about it. Many developers don’t like to share their road map with their followers and rather keep their development a secret, but I don’t really have anything to hide so I will share it here for two reasons. One: because I really do need to see it for my self and this is a good permanent place for me to find it later; and two, so you too can know exactly where we are, and how close we are to upcoming major goals, etc.

In my development world, version numbers are sort of like “percentage completed”, so a version of 1.0.0 is really 100% complete. It makes sense for me to look at it that way (other developers have their own versioning philosophy). You’ll see in the road map below that we are really quite close to the end of the development phase (alpha), and almost into beta (general testing).

However, we will also have a round of special testing, called “tech testing”, which is between alpha and beta, where I will have steam experts pick the sim apart. When the experts are happy, then we’re off to general beta testing!

Also I linked the version number to its corresponding previews, just for time capsule sake.

So, here it is… enjoy!

Disneyland Railroad Simulator Development Road Map

  • 1.0.0: release!
  • 1.0.RC1: release candidate… may be more than one
  • 0.9.9: finish the manual, finish all beta bug fixes, optimize for performance
  • 0.9.5: second round of beta, finish all peripheral operating features (main menu, loading menu, setup.exe, website)
  • 0.9.0: finish the DL layouts, first round of general beta testing and builds
  • 0.8.5: tech testing for industry experts/consultants
  • 0.8.0: lots of improvements/optimization of sim codes, effects, and general stability of features <— you are here!!
  • 0.7.7: lots of secondary physics and functions (lubrication and the effect of its temperatures, cylinder lubrication wash out, etc), upgraded Tenkoku Sky module to 1.0.8, running board options, improved sounds, etc.
  • 0.7.0: added camera post effects (color grading, motion blur… all optional)
  • 0.6.0: finish EP Ripley and the cab interior
  • 0.5.0: engine and cab now in 3d!
  • 0.4.0: working hydrostatic lubricator, fire randomness, other compressor effects, exhausts, etc. The engine really takes shape here!
  • 0.3.0: added air compressor
  • 0.2.0: boiler stuff, water level, etc.
  • 0.1.0: proof of concept/mock up (in 2d)

a quick update

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes right now… the last time I posted an update, I wasn’t even a father! 😀

Yes, there’s a little baby boy in this house now, and he sure is a time sink! We’re going through a whole new set of adventures everyday. Meanwhile, the sim is in a “slow burn” mode. There actually have been quite a bit of progress under the hood… real subtle stuff.



I love looking at this comparison of the two engines. You get a really good sense of scale in these pictures, the tiny, compactness of the engines, and yet big enough to ride in.


This picture above of the EP Ripley steaming into the blazing late afternoon/early evening sun really gives you a sense of the atmosphere.

The shot below is a sneak peek of the options available to customize your engine:

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The engines are mighty thirsty machines, drinking about 250 gallons per hour. You’ll have to stop at a water tower somewhat frequently to keep the tender from running out of water (which is modeled in the sim). Here’s the Holliday filling up from the water spout:


I’ve having a lot of fun trying to stop the train to line up the water hatch right under spout. It’s very challenging!

By now I’m sure you’re eager to see the Disneyland layout (me too… hahah). It’s still not picture ready yet, and it’s taking a lot more effort than I thought. I’m happy to share this rendering of the Frontierland station with you, though.


It looks great in the sim, next to the tracks. And when the sim is finally released, you’ll be able to pull up to the station on the right side of the train!

expanding the scenery

I took a break from working on the Disneyland layout to go back and work on the ranch scenery some more. The ranch is more than just a test bed for the train, but it is also a test bed for scenery-related stuff. So I tend to work on the ranch stuff first before using it in the Disneyland layout.

Recently, I expanded the ranch tracks to double the length, and it’s now possible to run the trains through reversing loops, etc. This was my “switching” practice for those siding/switch outs in the Disneyland layout.

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This is the control panel for the switches on the ranch tracks. It’s pretty simple to understand, and very much resembles a control panel for model railroads (or even real railroads!).

And now for some scenery goodies!

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The tracks run through small villages that you’ll see on the sides.

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It’s a serene little scenery, with plenty of hills and trees, nestled in at the foothills. A real chance to stretch those 4-4-0 legs!

And here’s a little miscellaneous teaser—you can select the gauge face style: normal or bolded; and you can select to display the calibration stickers, too!

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up close with the ck holliday in fullerton

Last month, the CK Holliday made a very special appearance at the 2016 Fullerton Railroad Day. It was a momentous occasion because it was the engine’s first public appearance in quite a few years.

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Why the disappearance for so long? The Holliday recently underwent an extensive refurbishment at the Hillcrest Shop in Reedley, California. The engine received a new boiler, new plumbing and appliances, and many more improvements and changes. Indeed, she’s the “newest” that she’s ever been, since 1955 when she was “actually new”! This is truly an exciting moment for the engine.

Trivial rumors might also suggest that Pixar’s CEO John Lasseter had some say in the direction of the refurb, given that he’s an avid train fan and the Hillcrest Shop did work for him before.

Join me as I survey the engine up close and personal, and talk to the DRR crew. I also make some before-and-after comparisons to get an idea of what kind of work was done on the refurb (… and it’s indeed very extensive!)

In a later update, I’ll post a selection of pictures I find interesting. For now, enjoy the video…

…and this bonus picture (I had to do it!)

A picture of the CK Holliday cab with the Engine Study Plan Book (Author for scale)

A picture of the CK Holliday cab with the Engine Study Plan Book (Author for scale)