The Racetrack – Aurora to Chicago: Meet the Developers

Written by: TrainSim-James

We spoke with Joseph Barnes, Director at Chicago & Southwest Productions, about his new company and the fabulous new route they have produced – the famous ‘Racetrack’.

Welcome, Joseph! Please introduce yourself and tell us a little about C&SW Productions and your history with Train Simulator.

Hi! My little production company might be new, but I’ve been around Train Simulator since the beginning; all the way back to MSTS. C&SW came about as a result of this first project moving forward.

As a new name to TS development, you’re making a fantastic start with the much in-demand The Racetrack  – Aurora to Chicago route. Does this route have a personal connection for you, other than being something most US users have been requesting for years?

Yes it does. Aside from the fact that I’ve wanted to play this route ever since the first time I loaded up MSTS, I grew up alongside the Racetrack. My father took the train – the line – into Chicago every day for work. We often rode the train to get out and go places also. I remember more than one picnic – and ice cream – in Hinsdale at the park by the train station.

The C&SW Productions name may be new, but it seems that you have brought in some seasoned TS developers over the past months. How has the project benefited from that kind of involvement?

Yes, I have. Rick Grout (G-Trax) in particular has been a tremendous help for me. He agreed to assist with this project just about one year ago. He brought with him a wealth of experience specific to working in Train Simulator that I obviously didn’t have. I’m sure the route could’ve gotten finished regardless, but I don’t think it could ever have looked this good without him. Rick’s work has been amazing, he helped with scenery and created custom models including the Chicago Skyline that helped bring the route to life. Rick also singlehandedly crafted the rolling stock seen on the line.

What parts of the route are you particularly proud of? What do you look at that makes you glad you went ahead with the project?

I love that this route really captures the feel of Chicago. You can load up anywhere along the line, look around and say, “Hey, I recognize that!” We put a lot of time and effort into creating an entire library of custom assets to populate the line with.

This is where I need to thank everyone else who lent a hand crafting models while I plopped down scenery and edited scripts. Marc Nelson (3DTrains), Mike Durdan (The Locoshop), Jonathan Lewis (MilePost Simulations), Rich Chargin, and the guys at SkyHook Games all lent a hand with various models for this line.

With the track complexity, in-cab signalling and some very asset-dense areas, this is by no means a simple route. What unique challenges has it thrown at you during development?

I’m not sure if signalling qualifies as unique, but it has presented several challenges for us. First we needed a set of signals that could tolerate triple and even quadruple mainline with complex crossovers. Next, we wanted to “step it up” for US players and make some improvements to the displayed signal aspects. Lastly, we realized that the commuter trains utilize an in-cab signaling system, and we wanted to bring that to the Sim also. I don’t believe that in-cab signals have previously been a part of US signals in Train Simulator outside of the NEC Corridor, and both routes there utilize an entirely different signal script.

Though the route features the F40PH3 with bi-level cars and cab cars, they don’t carry the real-life operator logos. Is this a license issue like with the Surfline consists?

Unfortunately, this is true on both points. We set out fully intending to apply real-life logos to the rolling stock, and we worked hard together with DTG to try to secure the necessary license. However, despite our best efforts an agreement with the railroad in question was simply not possible. We decided that while unfortunate, this alone shouldn’t keep the route from being published, so we have moved ahead without the logos. Ultimately, we hope that TS users will be glad to finally be able to drive The Racetrack, even with some operator logos omitted. Looking ahead, who knows, perhaps when the railroad sees the final product they will have a change of heart and allow a license in the future. If that were to happen we would gladly put out a patch to add those logos to the rolling stock and stations.

Many people hear the name Chicago and think immediately of long distance Amtrak services and local commuter trains. Does freight figure in the route? What scope do you see for Steam Workshop scenarios?

The Workshop has nearly endless possibilities for us. We can only pack so much content into one product, so we are going to depend on the ingenuity of the Workshop creators out there to add more life to this route. Nearly all aspects of US railroading are possible here. Want to see your new CSX locomotive in action? I see them go by nearly every day on the real route. Want to drive Amtrak’s Southwest Chief? You can assemble the consist in the yard and then drive the first leg of the trip. Once players have the route they will see that we’ve squeezed in more operating possibilities than they might expect. They just need to add the rolling stock from their own libraries. I’m excited to see what players will add through the Workshop.

Finally, anything else you’d like to tell us about The Racetrack – Aurora to Chicago as we await its release on Steam?

Get ready, we are bringing 8 career scenarios and the route is QuickDrive ready out of the box. The Midwest & Chicago are new territory for Train Simulator, and I think this route has a little different feel that helps make that clear. Thanks!

Thanks to Joseph Barnes at Chicago & Southwest Productions for taking the time to speak to us. The Racetrack – Aurora to Chicago will be available soon from the Steam store.

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