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Nardo's Thoughts About The Game

Started by Nardo69, March 12, 2008, 09:18:45 AM

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Nardo's Thoughts About the Game


Hello To All!!

Some of you may know me have noticed me for nagging around especially about railway items, some may know me as the Creator of Urland where I posted my first tutorial on how I do rural settings. I may repost them here but for now I want to start my railway tutorial. There may be more tutorials following when I feel / see they are necessary or desirable

When doing tutorial my intention is showing how I am trying to do realistic as well as beautiful settings. These most probably are not the one and only way to get a wanted result but as a civil engineer IRL I do have some rather helpful background knowledge.

My tutorials and thoughts may not be suitable for the complete rookie but the knowledge about gameplay can be found in a number of great tutorials from other great SC4 gamers. You do not need to be a rocket scientist to follow them.

This is my "famous" railway tutorial I began a long time ago over at Simtropolis. If you want to look there, here is the Link. Those who prefer / want to read my thoughts in my mother language German find the German Version of my thoughts over at Simforum.de - just like my MD/CJ/Regionsportrait Urland. :)




Nardo's Heavy Railway Tutorial

Chapter 0: The Basics

Note: When I speak of Railway or heavy Railway I mean the railway already implemented in SC4 Vanilla that is used by passenger and freight trains. For Light Railway, i.e. El.Rail, Subway and GLR some aspect are different regarding especially slopes.

What do you need for a nice and realistic Railway:

SimCity 4 with Rushhour

Obviously ... although something techniques will work with vanilla, too

The Network Addon Mod - shortly The NAM
a 100% must have. Nuff said

The Bridge Height Mod by Joerg

As small as necessary – I always hated those pesky ramps at bridges before I installed that mod!

A Slope mode: The maximum slopes of the game by EA are ridiculous steep – especially but not only for (heavy)railway. I use the first and most radical one by BigRedFish which AFAIK is no longer available but there are others.

And you should know how to build embanked or sunken railways / highways in general as this "tutorial" is not intended to complete rookies. But since there has been quite some excellent tutorials about embankment / sunken I don't feel that I have to explain them here again.

A good railway layout is flat without any curves. If any ramps are necessary they are way less steep than any slope for any kind of roads (including highways). Without a slope mod it is almost impossible to create a nicely sloped and smooth railroad. If you don't believe just have a look in the middle of Digby. Llewellan showed a very extensive technique to create a smooth track that he gave up just some updates later when he discoverd that with BRF's tunnel and slope mod he got the same effect way more easy and faster...

Why are railways so sensitive to slopes? Because of the very low adhesion resistance between steel rails and steel wheels of the cars. Being a big advantage in flat terrain it is the biggest disadvantage as soon as the terrain gets hilly and therefore the track becomes sloped. It is because of this small adhesion resistance that especially freight trains incline their speed so slow and need so much time to stop!

Just as a scale:
The maximum weight of Freight in flat terrain in Europe is limited to 4000 (metric) tons which goes down to 1250 tons depending on the slope of the railway track. The maximum allowed weight of a truck is 40 tons ...

It is this sensitiveness to slopes that makes railways in hilly terrain like for example the St.Gotthard railway in Switzerland, the Semmering Railway in Austria, the Brenner between Austria and Italy or the railways over the Rocky Mountains so impressive and breathtaking with all there bridges and tunnels and curves.

So because of this here are Nardo's Railway Rules

Nardo's Railway Rule No.1:

Try to avoid any slope. The best slope for railways is 0,00 % - no slope at all!

Nardo's Railway Rule No.2:

Try to avoid any curves. Curves slow down trains more than they slow down any street traffic

Nardo's Railway Rule No.3:

If you have to make ramp make their incline as small as possible. If necessary prolong the railway track to reduce the incline.

Nardo's Railway Rule No.4:

If you are really not able to get where you want to you may built a steeper ramp with a limited length. In these case though there is/has been always a reason IRL why it is steeper than normal and a ,,dunno how to get there else" is not a reason at all! Just open your eyes, use your fantasy and be a little creative. The engineers that built railways through the Alps or Rocky Mountains solved problems that seemed to be unsolvable at their time ...!

And don't forget every ramp limits the train's weight AND length!!!

Nardo's Railway Rule Nr.5:

If you cannot achieve a railway-conforming slope at all prolong the way by using valleys etc. Violating Rule Nr. 2 is no problem as a curvy route with a moderate slope is 1000 times better than a short straight route with a steep slope!

Something you should consider before you start your next city with railways:
Even though streets and canals are way older than railways it has been railways that enabled the industrial revolution and changed the landscapes to its today's shape in Europe and America. Industry got kick started by the possibility of economic land transported, new industries expanded along railway lines, and long before the car was invented the first commuting railway lines and subways (London!) had been installed to bring workers to the working places with the consequence of new quarters raising along railway lines (and tramway lines that disappeared after WW II). So instead of laying out an (expensive!) highway network when setting the layout for a new towns think about laying out railway first – it is historical older (60-100 years) and cheaper in the game!


Nardo's Heavy Railway Tutorial
Chapter 1: Retaining Walls

In November 2004 JeroniJ put his Modern Concrete Diagonal Walls on the Stex. Until then making dams and sunken roads/highways/railways wasn't really fun because there were no retaining walls at all available. He later showed us (not only ...) how to use them in his first CJ ,,Sculpting Columbia River". The rest is history ....

With these walls and together with his Residential And Rural Diagonal Walls Set V1 a retaining wall euphoria began in almost all CJ. Having had not a single nice retaining at all before we put his creation on almost every ,,empty" sloped tile in our cities, with the end pieces almost flat. Shortly: we (including me) overdid and still overdo the use of retaining walls (especially since there have been so much other nice retaining walls following in the meantime).

Why do I think so? Let me as a civil engineer show you basically how a retaining wall is working IRL:

When you dig a trench or make a small embankment in dry sand the slopes of the flange will be like the following pic:

t is similar to the slopes you get when you dig in rather dry soil or sand. It is the most stable angle for a slope that isn't secured by other measures like anchors. When an embankment or a trench is done for a road, railway etc. the slopes usually do have this slope. It is not steeper to avoid expensive additional measures for securing the slope, and not less steep for an economic use of ground.

If you possess one of those nice old hourglasses you can watch it: the angle of small cone built by the fallen sand should be about the same...

This angle of 1:1,5 is valid for most soils, however there are soils where you may build the incline steeper. But these are exceptions of the rules. Wet sand for example can be inclined way steeper than dry sand but as soon as it dries the slope will become instable. You may try this next time at the beach ...

So, when do you use retaining walls? In general in all those cases when there is not enough room for those slopes. Just see the relation: For one meter height you need 1,5 meter horizontal length....

As you can see in this sketch the angle of the soil would be too steep for a stable slope within the given room. A slope with a good angle would need too much space because of this the slope is made with a stable angle. The remaining triangle is cut off by the retaining wall.

A typical section through a retaining wall:

This is rough sketch of a of a retaining wall section. Depending on the underground (soil, rock etc.) other measures have to added to secure the wall but explaining would go too far. Just note that most retaining walls have a small angle and are therefore not perfect vertical due to static reasons. Due to aesthetic reasons a lot of retaining walls are blended with nature stones.

When you built an inclined embankment IRL the incline of the slope will be kept the same over the whole length and the retaining wall will begin where the 1:1.5 incline isn't sufficient any more for the height distance because building an embankment is rather cheap IRL but a retaining wall is very expensive.

So what does this mean for playing SC4?

The main problem of building realistic retaining walls IMHO is the 3D model of SC4 itself. The terrain height is defined at the four corners of the tile. Each side pf a tile is 16m long. So with our inclination of 1:1,5 a "perfect" embankment would incline to a height of 10,67m. For any other height we would need a different lot length to maintain the standard slope of an embankment (which is not possible as we all now) since we are tied to 16m*16m tile limit of the game.

Another problem I see here is that EA may have screwed up metric and imperial units. A road with two lanes à 3,50m, two park lanes à 2,0m and a pedestrian walkway of 1,50m has a width of 14m and therefore fits into the 16*16 fit. What does not fit at all is the height scale of the game: 14-15m is the height of a 4 story building but NOT the standard clear height of a bridge over a road that is 4,70m in RL or – almost 16 feet ...

This makes it really hard to say at which height a retaining wall is needed / suitable / not tolerable. I personally made some visual acceptable experience by using single grass tiles and God Mode trees for all slopes that are optical smaller or equal to 1:1 in the game. Just have a look at the following pic:

On the top I put the grass tiles on the slope, in the middle Buddybud's version of Jeroni's concrete walls, in the middle I combined them – please ignore the colour difference between the "dirt" of Buddybud's end piece and the slope ... IMHO the simple grass tiles look the best but decide by yourself ...

A not for the use of buddybud's bridge pieces at the grass embankment: The support of such overpasses are quite often plastered and have a small walkway at their side in Germany – an effect that can be nicely achieved with buddybud's wall pieces!

BTW – these thoughts are obviously NOT limited to railways but for all kind of embankments and trenches for all kind of transportation routes!

So – when to use retaining walls then? Here is an example:

In order to obey rules Nr. 1 and 2 the railway cut through the hill. And as the brown rock structures shows the hillside slope is VERY step – a retaining wall is needed! On the other side the green colour tells us a smooth grade on the riverside – no need for a wall here.

Some clicks later: Here I used Jeroni's rural wall to "cover" the steep grade.

In rocky areas with stable rock (which is NOT obvious!) the rock may be able to carry the hill. Looking at the given rather smooth grades I would rather guess a sand or clay ground there which means a retaining wall has to be build.

Note the effect of PEG's seasonal wood to cover the smooth slope on the riverside. Such small areas can be found covered with bushes, scrubs and trees very dense IRL – a visual effect that can be reached best IMHO with PEG's Seasonal wood. But of course grass tiles and/or some God Mode trees may do it, too – just experience a bit!

Another angle. Note how the railway is hidden between the trees.

More about retaining walls and dams in chapter 2: Railway Crossings, Under- and Overpasses
until then:

Have Fun!

Bernhard  :thumbsup:


Nardo's Heavy Railway Tutorial

Chapter 2: Railway Crossings, Over- and Underpasses

A short historical survey

During almost 6.000 years of human civilisation the choice of transportation was easy: If you were lucky there has been water on your chosen route. Then you could use boats and ships.

Otherwise you had to travel on your feet (if you were poor), by horse or by carts pulled by horses, oxes or humans. A rather uncomfortable way of travelling, especially as the art of building and maintaining roads had been forgotten in Europe after the end of the Roman Empire. Around 1700 the glorious Roman street network was completely run down. It has been Napoleon Bonaparte who has been the first in Europe after the Romans who began to build a street network – for his armies as well as for trade.

Where the terrain was suitable kanals were built as it was way easier to carry goods on boats than on carts – even with oxes pulling them on small ways parallel to the kanals. If the terrain wasn't suitable sometimes even tunnels have been built for kanals – I only know it from pictures but I know there is a kanal tunnel and railway tunnel parallel to each other somewhere is East France.

In these time crossing waterways and streets was easy – if you were lucky there was a bridge or a ferry. If not – bad luck ...

Then beginning in 1825 the railway came. Railway was the first improvement in transportation that needed its own traffic ways. And railways needed (and still need) to cross the other routes of transport.

While you needed a bridge to cross waterways (mostly the railway crosses the waterway with a bridge but I know there is at least one Kanal Bridge over a railway somewhere in Brandenburg – East Germany ...) you can cross a street with a .... railway crossing.

With the rather low speeds of oxes, horses and pedestrians railway crossing were rather harmless – unless a poor animal got completely terrified because of these big, fiery, smoking monsters or a rather stupid human thought he was fast enough to cross the railway lines 5 meters in front of the fast approaching train ...

Then the car was invented.

Before the car was invented people couldn't estimate a train's speed as trains were by far the fastest vehicles at all. Now people (at least those who could afford to buy a car...) were able to reach similar ultra high speed such as 60, 70 or 80 km/h on streets that were designed for pedestrians, horses and oxes.

Over the years railway and car traffic incredibly increased (and is still increasing!). From the beginning railway crossings were neuralgic points as car drivers couldn't estimate the speed of the train and thought they could cross the railway 5 meters in front of the fast approaching train. In addition to this some railway crossing were closed so much time that almost no street traffic could cross them.

One of the first railway crossings that had been replaced by an underpass because of traffic capacity reason in the early 30es was situated between the railway stations Bingen and Bingerbrück in Germany. In its last months it has been closed 19-21 hours a day on an average ...

In Germany railway crossings are to be avoided if the railway line's speed limit is between 100 and 160 km/h and forbidden if the speed limit is higher than 160 km/h.

Some needed definitions and explanations

High Speed Railway:

Modern railway lines built for bullet trains like the TGV in France, the ICE in Germany or the Shinkansen in Japan for maximum speed beyond 200 km/h.

They do not refer to this tutorial as they don't have any Railway crossing – without any exceptions! In addition to this they belong to the High Speed Rail Project (HSRP) and not to the standard heavy railway.

Main Line:

Mostly at least two or more tracks, speed limits 80-200 km/h, on the European continent most of them has been electrified after WW II.

Secondary Line

Mostly one track, very rarely two tracks. Most of these railway lines are not electrified, their speed limits range between 25 and 60 km/h, but may be up to 80 km/h or even 100 km/h.


Railway especially for mass transit, mostly with two tracks, speed limit 60 km/h. In Germany they count toward street traffic!

(Railway) crossing:

Crossing a railway/tramway and a street on the same height level

The main difference between Heavy (and Light!) railways on one side and Tramways on the other side is how they are secured. A "green light" for railways means the railway line is secured until the next "green light" (on a different level for main and secondary lines though) whereas signs for tramways work the same ways as traffic lights for cars, in fact they are more or less the same. Tramways take part in street traffic meaning that the driver has to look how others behave (like car drivers). Because of this their speed is limited to max. 60 km/h but als because of this Tramways do have a lot of railway crossings.

"Big" railways are different. They need kilometers to stop – even on emergency. Because of this train drivers are not able to watch other traffic – their way has to be secured before they approach.

Let me explain how railway crossings are secured in Germany:

On main lines railway crossings have to be secured by gates. A train is only allowed to enter a certain section if all gates are secured. Depending on the railway line's traffic density these sections are shorter or longer. If one gate cannot be closed trains are not allowed to enter the resp. sector without special permission and have to stop in front of the signal that controls the block. Because of this some gates have to be closed even if the approaching trains is miles aways which explains why some gates are closed for a long time.

On secondary lines railway crossings are secured acoustically, by red lights or gates depending on the traffic density of the street and the speed limit of the railway line.

If the train's speed is less or equal 20 km/h within towns or village resp. 60 km/h outside towns / villages a railway crossing may be secured by acoustic signs (pipes) if there is little traffic on the crossing street. If the speed is higher or there is a high traffic on the street the crossing has to be secured by red lights, gates or both of them.

Since secondary railway lines have less or no main signs at all due to their small traffic railway crossings are secured by special signs telling that the railway crossing is closed. If the railway crossing is not closed the train has to stop in front of the railway crossing, and the train personal has to block the street. Then the train may cross at walking speed.

As you may have seen by now, railway security levels are way higher than street security level. Because of this most railway crossings have been replaced by over- or underpasses on main lines and / or main streets in the last 50-60 years.

So let us continue here with Nardo's Railway Rules:

Nardo's Railway Rule Nr. 6:

Before you cross railways with streets define your railway. If it is a main line try to avoid railway crossings, if it is a secondary railway line limit their number.

Nardo's Railway Rule Nr. 7:

But try to avoid any railway crossing on your main streets. This rules applies both to main and secondary lines.

Note that rules Nr.6 and Nr. 7 do NOT apply on Tramways!

Nardo's Railway Rule Nr. 8:

Don't. Do. Railway. Crossing. With. Highways!!!!!!

Under. No. Circumstances!!!!!


There is no exception to this rule at all!!!!

When you need to cross a railway and a highway build an overpass or an underpass for the highway. Remember Rule Nr. 1?

Note: You can do Tramway (GLR) overpasses over Highways as Tramways are not that sensitive to slopes as "normal" heavy railway. But still: Don't make a crossing!

Railway Crossings have to be secured so that no stupid may cross it 5 meters in front of the approaching train. And there shall be signs that prevent trains entering the sector when a crossing is not closed for street traffic. Because of this Railway crossings are often found before or after railway stations. Railway stations themselves have to be secured by signals so no additional expenses are needed to secure both the station and the crossings. However Railway Crossings within the stations shall be avoided if there is a lot of switching traffic (Freight Stations, rail yards, engine depots etc.) within the station for letting some street traffic path.

Railway Crossings

If you have a small station on a secondary line you may do a crossing within the station, otherwise think about an over-/underpass.

Even when you do railway crossings on a secondary line with minor streets avoid a crossing every 16 meters because every railway crossing has to be secured and is a possible place for bad accidents with people dying (never forget the stupids trying to pass in front of the approaching train!)

Note: Just because you may be doing a rural region/city does NOT mean your railway line(s) is (are) automatically secondary railway line(s)! Bullet trains need to cross through rural areas to connect big towns. Furthermore a lot of secondary rural railway lines had been closed after WW II.


are the necessary consequence of the dramatically increased (and still increasing) traffic during the last 200 years. The choice which is more adequate cannot be answered in a short sentence as it depends on quite some surrounding factors:

Note: The following notes are universal to all kind of over- and underpasses and not limited only to railways

  • If the traffic ways have a different level try to use that height difference for decreasing ramps and slopes. Don;t go over an embanked railway or under a sunken highway ...

  • Pedestrian underpasses are most of the time rather dark and dirty place that especially women don't like. Because of this pedestrian overpasses shall be preferred except if the height difference is too big.

  • Within urban (residential) areas underpasses are more suitable than overpasses as no one likes it if some thousand car drivers look inside their flats ..

  • Close to rivers or on flat terrain with a high level of groundwater the construction of underpasses is in general rather high. As the water may be able to press the whole construction out of the water the underpass must be very heavy – heavier than due to static reasons. Overpasses are a better choice here because their foundation is rather easy.
As always go through the world with open eyes and try out. Unlike in RL you can experiment a lot without wasting millions of tax money – if you don't like the result leave without saving ...


Let's have a look at the main railway line of "Gleiwemünde" from my CJ Urland (from an older update on Simtropolis):

We will just look the main railway line leaving Gleiwemünde to the north.

An Overview from the city view to give you a feeling of the actual situation. You can roughly see two mayor roads / avenues crossing the railway line. The railway line is partially flat, partially embanked for crossing the river and partially cuts into the hill at the downtown area in the middle of the picture.

A roughly section through the railway line:

A: The Friedrich-Ebert-Strasse (avenue) goes over the railway station south of the Hbf (Central Station)

B: The S-Bahn (Metro) crosses as elevated Rail over the railway

C/D: The Flegginger Allee (avenue) and a main road within the "Nordstadt"-quarter crosses with an underpass designed as a small tunnel

E: The main road from Wäschbach to Bad Schönsand / Highway goes over the railway line

F: The main access road for the small industrial area north of Wäschbach goes over the railway

G: A small rural access road crosses the railway line with a railway crossing close to Wäschbach Bf.

Let's see some more details:

You can easily spot the two overpasses. The railway crossing is right on the border of the pic. Even though the railway line is intended to be a major line with bullet trains a railway crossing is possible at this position due to the following four reasons:

  • the small street is only accessing some farms
  • because of the curves and the (rather old) bridge as well as the proximity to the central station a maximum speed of more than 160 km/h is not possible at that particular spot
  • the railway crossing can be controlled and secured by the railway signals of the railway station itself – no need for expensive additional signals etc.
  • the railway line is almost on the same level as the surrounding terrain.

The area around the Nordbahnhof. Note how easy you can separate Industry from Residential with such an embanked railwayline. The underpass of the avenue is done with the old tunnel method. However I did a wrong design here: There should be no trees over a tunnel as their roots would destroy the hull of the tunnel.

Let's look at some nice designed railway crossings and over- / underpasses. The following pictures are not my courtesy but from three of my favorite CJ.

Let me say a big "Thank you" to PhilsCafe, Darmok, T Wrecks and Anubis, for letting me analyze their CJs resp. Stadtjournal and use some of their screenshots!.

I will begin with a rare example of a good railway crossing with an avenue from PhilsCafe's "Ahorn Creek" - another big THANK YOU VERY MUCH to Phil's Cafe:

It can be found here: http://www.simtropolis.com/forum/messageview.cfm?catid=36&threadid=58638

The avenue is accessing a small town in rural areas and crosses an electrified railway line. The road is rather wide for the freight truck traffic. The railway line itself does have some traffic – the railway line is electrified like almost all railway lines in Switzerland – but not a high speed line which would have less curves. The railway crossing(s) in the area of the freight station is adequate. A switching tower can be assumed somewhere at the freight station that video controls the railway crossing in the lower part of the pic.

An overpass is possible (and maybe necessary in the future). The bridge should span over the grey street, too. An underpass can be possible, too, but since we are here in an industrial/commercial area the aesthetic impact would be limited.

Note: Even in a fully electrified railway networks like in Switzerland freight stations and access tracks of fabrication are almost never electrified. Especially when the railways are using high voltage alternating current like in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Norway (all 16 2/3 Hz 15000V) or France, Denmark (50 Hz 25000V) as the electric cables hinder the loading works and the high voltage is a lethal danger to any railway worker. Good seen detail!

The next pics are from Darmok's famous,Trixie-Award winning (Best CJ 2006) CJ Anduin Valley Revisited. Let me here say a big THANK YOU VERY MUCH for letting me use his screenshots!

You can find his great CJ here (but I think you already knew it before ... )

A perfect example showing where and where not to put a railway crossing!

The avenue in the upper left corner as a main road with a highway junction has its overpass whereas the small gray street connecting the railway station and the small settlement to the settlement in the upper part of the pic crosses the railway line within the area of the station in order to be controlled by the local railway personnel (or videoed from far away)

If the railway line's maximum speed would be above 160 km/h the railway crossing had to be closed and replaced by a pedestrian overpass. For the rather small car traffic the connection to the avenue would be sufficient.

A fine example for an underpass: Whereas the grade does not change the avenue goes under the railway using marrast's underpass. This is an universal rule and does apply even if the avenue would be a heavily congested main arteria and the railway line a secondary line.

No comment needed to be added here ...

I am rather ambivalent with this layout (and discussed it with Darmok in AVR already):

For a major main railway line with a high train frequency this layout is not suitable at all, for a high speed railway line (v > 160 km/h) even forbidden.

For a small secondary railway line – speed not bigger than 60 km/h, most probably 40 km/h or less, not more than one freight train per day, irregular or no passenger train service) however it fits – and there are still some of these railway lines that have survived until now.

A good compromise would be to connect all those farms left of the railway lines to a collector road that crosses the railway line only once or twice.

Note: From the game layout it cannot be tetermined as SC4 only offers one type of railway: double tracked without electric cables. I would realy love it if EA would expand this into at least single and double track, maybe with the choice with or without eletric cables!

Note 2: Thanks to Kenworth from the SFBT we can at least choose between electrified and non electrified!  :thumbsup:


T Wrecks is not only a great Lotter and Modder but also a great CJer – it's just that his CJ is not called CJ but Stadtjournal and to be found on www.simforum.de. If you are lucky and know some German then you can even understand his as great as humerous comments ...

Let me say here again bigh THANK YOU VERY MUCH to T Wrecks!

You can find his Stadtjournal (CJ) here: http://www.simforum.de/showthread.php?t=119109&highlight=Schwummerland

A technique that is used way too less IMHO is the embanked railway line. Rather early railway crossing had been avoided by embanking the railway – in flat terrain as well as in rolling hills. Especially in river valleys they can be found often by to the left and right of bridges to raise the bridge level upon a required level. In some other cases material that were digged out elsewhere has been used to fill such embankments.

There had been a lot of discussions and tutorials and threads about sunken highways even though they are rather young and not as common as embanked railways. Actually I really want to recommend them to you due to the following three reasons:

1.  They are common. See above.

2.  They can add some nice green touch even in the dirtiest industrial area.

3.  You can avoid unnecessary railway crossings.  :)

Let's enjoy another example of T Wrecks great screenshots:

Note how the railway lines separates the two settlements by adding a kind of green lung. The fauna and flora along railway embankments is regarded very ecologically precious. In these rather dry areas a lot of insects and other small animals as well as rare flora can be found that had to leave from other places due to agriculture and/or urbanization!
Let's look finally at this before-after shots:

We are in the middle of a rather dense settlement. The railway line lies on the same level as the environment, has some curves and a not every nice railway crossing bit hidden in the upper right corner. The small cemetery is most probably not a very quiet place for resting in peace ...

The new arranged area before the "click". Much better! Marrast's railway station does fit way better to the spot than the ingame one, in addition to this the railway line now goes straight through the town. All building showing their flanks or backsides to the railway line.

The railway crossing had been replaced by an underpass and an pedestrian (eyecandy) overpass. The only thing I am not completely happy with is the one way street crossing the railway at the railway station ...

The situation after the "click". A nice going over and under as you can find in a lot of urban areas and a good example for the elTrain-over-road pieces, too ....

Last but not least I want to show here a nicely laid out railway line from Anubis' Stadtjournal (CJ)on http://www.insims.de. A big THANK YOU VERY MUCH for Anubis here!

Anubis Stadtjournal can be found here: http://forum.ingame.de/sims/showthread.php?s=8dfda084f2c3b6728f1b254652182cc9&threadid=5906&perpage=20&pagenumber=1

Let's analyze that nice laid-out railway line here:

The railway line is most of the time on flat terrain and climbs a not very high embankment on the top of the picture. You can cross it only at three positions:

  • the underpass on the top of the pic
  • a small pedestrian overpass close to the railway station
  • the railway station itself

The only railway crossings is situated at the tracks that access the small freight station in the left part of the picture. At that point an overpass would fit only to highways or heavily congested avenues but not for a rather small road – especially since the tracks most probably are used maximum two or three times a (week-)day).

As you can see there is no way to cross the railway lines for cars etc. around the railway station. The only way to cross is the pedestrian overpass and the railway station itself.

Railway lines do separate different areas within a village or a town. Anubis did not only "copied" this from RL but also used it very creative. The separated areas do not necessarily have different functions or density even though such a railway line with some greenery can be a good separation between (dirty) industry and (clean) resiential / commercial areas!

That's it for today - next chapter will be a tutorial how to do nice overpasses in the game. Hopefully I don't need as much time as I needed now.

Until then :

Have fun!

Bernhard  :thumbsup:


<Reserved for Signal Tutorial Chapter 1>


Nardo's railway signal and station Tutorial Chapter 2

A small rural Railway Station

Today we will design a small rural railway station, as you could find them until the eighties in West Germany and until the nineties in East Germany. Stations of these kind can also be found in Turkey (e.g: between Adana and Toprakkale) or Poland where the same kind of semaphores are/were used as in Germany. These kind of small station have a small (sometimes way too big) station building, one or two platform tracks and a small freight station.

Unfortunately these kind of station have disappeared almost every in Germany. With today's freight policy you would have 1 or 2 big freight stations on a very big map and most railway stations would be flag stops in case the railway line was still existing and had still passenger train service.

For SC4 the "old" concept of lots of small freight stations fits way better, and in addition to that, does definitly look way better!

At the beginning lets look out for a rather flat place. Such small railway stations have usually been
built at the outskirts of the settlement due to fire danger as well as the pollution from the steam engines. After WW II a lot of housing has been built which often "grew" around old stations moving them more to the centre of the settlement.
Old industrial areas are to be found right next to the railway station for short or direct connection to the railway.

It is important that the railway station is completely flat as single cars are put there for a short or long time. Due to the small adhesion between steel rail and steel wheel the cars could run away – even with the brakes pulled!

The preparations for our small stations can be seen in picture 2.1:

Pic 2.1

Note: I regard the street patch technique for flatting out the terrain as well known!

As you all know there is only dual track railway in SC4. But with some small work you can layout a station for a single or dual track railway line. The stations in this tutorial are designed for one track railway lines!

As trains can only meet in stations with/or sidings on single track railway lines the basic system of such a station can be seen in picture 2.1: a main track especially but not only for trains running true and a side track.

For not to decrease the speed of trains running through (too much) the main track is put on the straight line of the switch(es). On the side track(s) trains usually don't run through so that the side tracks are at the diverging lines.

Pic 2.2

A lot of times the costs of pedestrian over- or underpasses were too high for these kind of small stations. In this case either a small level crossing was made and secured by the station personal or a street level crossing was used for the same purpose.

If there are any signals they were used to secure the level crossing. To keep the barriers opan as long as possible the crossings should be located between entrance and exit signals. If the level crossing is located in front of the exit signals the barriers have to be closed all the time the train(s) need to enter and leave the station.

A standard layout can be seen in Picture 2.3:

Pic 2.3

The station building is the Llann...Station from frogface, the freight station is the Rural Freight Train Station from Silentbreaker. In this kind of RR stations platforms are always at the main track so be sure to place the passenger train station at the straight branch of the switch(es)!

By the way IRL quite often all station building of a railway line were erected following the same draft and only adapted as much as absolutely necessary; because of this it is quite realistic to use the same (small) passenger station rather often at a railway line or network! 

Pic 2.4

Picture 2.4 shows the classic layout of the exit signs in front of the level crossing. In addition to this you can see the singlearmed semaphore on the straight branch and the dual armed semaphore on the diverging branch of the switch (it can show only slow approach!)

For mechanical hump and switch signals there is no rule on such small railway stations. Sometimes there are none, sometimes only where shunting tracks diverge, sometimes on all main and side tracks. There are not needed in a lot of situations as there is always a station chief on RR stations with mechanical signals.

Finally some views of the station "after the click":

Pic 2.5

As a short example for a station with electric light signals and a different freight station layout I want to show you picture 2.6:

Pic 2.6

It has the same basic layout – a main and a side track. The freight station (the ingame one!) is connected to a shunting track which diverges from the main track with two switches. The switches are shifted manually, however most of the time they are closed by the signal tower that might be miles away.

The platforms are situated at the side track. Since the shunting tracks diverge from the main track trains may also run through the station by using the side track in case the main track is blocked by shunting manoeuvres.

As you saw I didn't put a signal in between the dual tracks of SC4. If I want to copy a single track railway line I like to put a SC4 railway for every single main track but simplify the side and shunting tracks. 

In chapter three I will look at dual tracked railway lines. Until then:

Take care (and don't forget to make backups!)

Bernhard   :thumbsup:


It will be one of the best SC4 tutorials, Bernhard! (In fact, it is fantastic yet, very informative and very inspiring  :thumbsup:)
I have a few ideas, I will wait till you will complete your tutorial  :)
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Awesome work here Bernhard, I read this when it was started over at ST and I was really dissappointed when I thought you weren't going to continue with it, but I was overjoyed when I spotted one here. I love playing with railways and this thread is just a treasure trove of information.



Good Golly! This tutorial has been here since March and I've only just discovered it. A very good source of ideas.   &idea  I'm going to put it in my IE favorites so that I can refer back to it. Thank you.
Jim Myers  (5th member of SC4 Devotion)


Good tutorial! Since I read it, I prevent level railcrossings. Around railways, I leave some space open (You wouldn't like to live next to a railway track?).
Lurk mode: ACTIVE

Shadow Assassin

QuoteAround railways, I leave some space open (You wouldn't like to live next to a railway track?).

Well, it would depend on whether the railway line was built before or after the area was developed... I've seen some places that back right onto a rail line. In fact, I saw a house advertised as "Close to transport", and a major railway line ran through its backyard.  :D

I always try to minimize level crossings whenever possible, so this tutorial does help a lot in designing rail lines.

Bernhard, is there any chance of a tutorial on positioning of rail stations? ;) It might help those people who aren't sure where stations should be placed.
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Nardo's railway signal and station Tutorial Chapter 3

Railway Station Layout and the STR Part 1

Hello alltogether!

It has been a while since I was active due to sever hardware problems. In the meantime a lot there has been of new developement.

Regarding developement steps it seems to me that their names are always three-letter-abbreviations - the BAT (how many of us would play SC4 without all that wonderful custom content), the NAM (no need to explain why ;) ), the GLR and its derivates and now the STR.

From what I saw I think that the community hasn't really realized what new possibilty are opened to us by the STR. I mean I saw a lot of nice STR railways (just look at degren's wonderful work at 3rr) but I think no one has realized yet the possibilties of STR regarding realistic railway station layout.

Let us look at the possibilities how to make a medium-sized railway station on a dounle-tracked railway line with a siding and a freight terminal. For showing the passenger platforms I used Marast's railway stations, for the freight terminal I used the "Rural Freight Statiion" by Silentbreaker.

Pic 1

Pic 2

Pic 1 and 2 are showing us the basic layout:

A: Ingame railway tracks
Sharp curves, very short, not really nice.
Especially for the heads of big railway stations there will be the need to use Maxis ingame tracks but for such a medium station there are way better and more elegant possibilities by now!

B: Smooth parallel branch
Much better! The radii smooth, the length bigger and more realistic.
Yet such a double track branch is rather overdimensioned for such a rather small station

C: STR - layout
Now THIS is realistic! The radii smooth, only one track branching off the main line and the lenght is really long which makes it much more realistic than anything else untill now.

Why is layout B overdimensioned?
Well, the double track branch from layout B is a rather high capacity branch that allows trains to enter and exit the branch line at the same time. For a freight terminal that is served 3-5 times a week we don't need such a high capacity.
In addition to this crossings are special parts and as such expensive at constrution and maintenance. If the crossing is replaced by standard switches four switches are needed for a double-track branch whereas only three branches are needed for a single track branch.
And there is another advantage in the single track branch: shunting manouevres are more or less completely within the siding and have little or no influence on the train traffic on the main line.

So when shall we use then the parallel branch? Whenever we have a double tracked railway line branchinf off from another double track line with the need of a rather high capacity. Pic. 3 shows sch an example:

Pic 3

Let's have a detailed look at the railway station heads:

Pic 4

A is rather is to make - just draw the standard ingame railway tracks.
For B we use the branch for parallel branch - to be found in the menu for the smooth railway puzzlepieces.
For C we need the parallel branch to single track and the 3 field long transition from single to double track. The switches at the end are found under the NAM puzzle pieces.

How do we put (German) signales there?

Let's have a look at the semaphores first:

Pic 5
On the through track we put a one-arm semaphore as the trains pass only the through tracks of the switches. Even though it is possible to use the left track (German railways are running right-hand) trains would use the left-hand tracks only in special situations like cnstruction site.
For the siding there are two possibilities:
If the railway line has such a dense traffic that the siding track is used very frequently both tracks will be equipped with semaphores (B) to allow entry and exits on both tracks in order not to block track 3. If track 3 is used rather seldom a semaphore for track 4 isn't necessary(A), trains will only entry and exit on track 3 whereas track 4 is only used for shunting manoeuvres. Another differnence is that the switch before the freight terminal in B would be remote controled whereas in A it would be turned manually.

In case of B shunting signal are likely to put whereas in A shunting signales aren't likely to be found.

Pic 6

C and D show the same situation as A and B but with light signals. C corresponds with A and D corresponds with B.

I hope you are not too confused by now as this was quite some stuff for one single post ...


moin Nardo,

fantastic explanation i might say!
can't wait to see more about puting railtracks together in the right way!  :thumbsup:



@beutelschlurf: Thanks for the compliment!  :) And the next part came really fast this time!  ()stsfd()

Nardo's railway signal and station Tutorial Chapter 4

Railway Station Layout and the STR Part 2

Hello alltogether!

In Part we only plopped the puzzle pieces - this time we drag the STR itself. The Technique is easy - if you know how to use the SAM and the draggable GLR you know how to drag the STR, too! ;)

In this example we are still at a double-tracked railway line. This time I am redoing the layout of a pre-STR-Station made completely with Maxis railways.

Legend for all Pictures:
A: Northern Entry Signal
B: Northen Exit Signals
C: Southern Exit Signals
D: Southern Entry Signal
E: Siding tracks for local industry that is located a bit far away from the railway line

Pic 01: Overview
The railway line goes top down, the siding tracks leaves at the left side and continues to the local industry (that part will be a separated chapter! ;) )
You can distinguish the siding easily from railway line: At the railway line the Entry Signals A and D are needed to secure the railway station, at the siding track they're not.
Technically the siding is handled as a railway station track. As long as the shunting manoeuvres last the track(s) are secured so that no other train can go there. After the shunting the train leaves. Rather economical and effectiv as long as only one loco is needed.

Pic 02: The southern railway station head
Even the layout is quite spatious we will encounter here a serious space problem.
I would guess that space problems will take place with almost all older railway stations. In this case it might be reasonable to leave the "old" layout" instead of redoing a whole area. Anyway before you start redoing anything make backups before you start SC4!

Pic 03: The railway station
The railway station has two main tracks, two side tracks and a freight terminal.
If you look really closely you'll recognise that the duial-armed Exit Signal C is equipped with a shunting signal unlike the dual-armed Exit Signal B. The reason for that is that sometimes during shunting manouevers the loco may leave the station at the southern head, whereas at the northern head the sidng track can be used. (Just a small detail)

Pic 04: The northern railway station head.
There will be some work here too but we wil succeed in redoing that layout with the STR.
Note the distance between entry signal A and the first switch: Within the given SC4 dimensions I regard this a suitabl distance. It shouldn't small but may be bigger.

Pic 05: Overview II
After redoing. The main layout is almost the same. I reduced the side tracks to one. I didn't change the location of the entry signals though, I'll have to do that later as they are too close to the staton at the moment.

Pic 06: The southern head II
Here we can see the first problem by redoing the ralway station with the STR: There is not enough place here for the transition as there are only two fields left between the puzzle piece (that cannot be plopped close to the railway station) and the onslope - piece of the small street underpass. For a ingame tunnel the embankmant isn't wide enough and since I didn't want to put the buddybud underpasses here I had to abandon the transition here (just in my imagination ...   &mmm )

Pic 07: The railway station II
I turned the switches so that the side track may serve the industrial siding tracks directly. The second problem we encounter can be spotted at the freight station: on one side there was enough place for the transition piece but not on the other side. In addition to this the different radii of the switch look a bit strange to me. Solutions will be waiting for (hopefully) upcoming new puzzlepieces or relotting the freigh terminal.

Pic 08: The northern station head
Unlike the southern station head there is no other puzzle piece obstructing us with the transition piece. However we can see clearly that the entry signal A is now way to close to the first switch!

Pic 09
Before we come to an end today let's again have a look at the southern station head. You can spot clearly the üproblem, do you? If the underpass would be only field closer to the bridge there would be no problem here. Problems like this are encountered usually while tearing down and modifying big areas of your map, one save and your old state is gone for good.
So let me repeat my advice:
Before you rebuild ares of your maps/cities make an update before your start Simcity!

That's it for today, hope you liked it.

Bernhard  :thumbsup: