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Ok I'll keep posting here since I don't have an account on trainsim.com. I think I understand now where my confusion is coming from. I was taking the 4 semaphore gantry in the picture above to mean only a train on the 4th (rightmost) track had the clear signal and that my train, being on the third from left, had a danger signal.

But I wasn't taking into consideration that signal poles (always?) appear to the left of the track they are relevant to. Given that, I now believe that the signal in the picture is telling me that the route I'm on is diverging to the right (the 4th track) and, given the height of the 3rd and 4th semaphores are identical, the speed limit is the same as my current one.

Which leads me to another question (sorry!). The picture below shows what I'm calling, until told otherwise, a pair of merging signals. They seem backwards... why do the semaphores not correspond to the tracks? I.e. the leftmost semaphore is mounted on the taller pole which indicates it's the faster line... but the faster line is to the right of the train.

The number of semaphores relates to the number of options you can be routed to from that signal onwards. In this case the tallest means the route "straight" along the leftmost track of the set of four main line tracks. The smaller semaphore indicates that you are clear to proceed and will be routed to the next "option" to right, which is the third main line track from the left. The "options" are the same for the signal on the right, i.e. when coming down that track. The reason why there are only two semaphores instead of four is that half of the main line tracks are designed to be run in the opposite direction, thus you won't ever be routed to them from this signal and therefore no semaphore is required for them.

This is actually trickier to explain than I thought!

I feel your pain :-)

I was really overthinking things in my confusion. What seems to be working for me is: scan the semaphores that apply to my track and if none of them are clear then stop. If one of them is clear then continue at the speed limit knowing (from the semaphore placement) which track I'm going to end up on. Simple!

I also learnt I didn't have the correct goal in mind when I was previously running routes and this was affecting my scores. It seems silly in hindsight (given I catch trains every day) but I was trying to get 'my' graph line (the red one on the end-of-run graph) as close to possible with the grey line (I can't remember the name of it currently) but in doing so I was running consistently early because I was trying to get as close to the speed limit as possible. So I decided to back right off and just try to hit the timetable times... and my score doubled!

Now I'm wrestling with the handling differences between the smaller single and 4 car trains and the 12 car ones. The acceleration and braking is so noticeably different with 12 cars: the brake air-bleed duration really draws out starting and stopping.

Loving this game, you've done a bang-up job with the whole feel: sounds, movement, palette, controls. Really impressive, and I'm really looking forward to future patches of this simulation and to experiencing the future simulations that build upon it.

Yes, that's probably the best way to read the signals. You can't know which route each semaphore refers to until you're familiar with the track layout.

Thanks for the compliments! You might be interested in first-hand accounts of operating these type of trains. The stories on that page are the inspiration for the sim.

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Thanks for sharing! Enjoyed reading that and seeing some of the locos featured here talked about. It explains why the engine on the 127 drops to idle for a while at 44mph, which was puzzling me, as it's changing from the torque converter to direct drive. Nice!

Also, I was growing up in the UK at that time so it's always interesting to get perspectives on what was going on.

One small thing I've noticed (and it is small and may already be taken care of in the next patch): ESC from the game opens the menu but to return to the game one has to use the mouse. Do you think it might flow better to also allow resuming the game with ESC?

Yes why not! It's not difficult to do so I'll include it in the next update.