A Short History of (Nearly) Everything

With several new items added to the site recently, I’ve decided it’s time to write a short-ish piece about the history of this site, the Plymouth Route, and why things have gone the way they’ve gone!
As always, development is ongoing, and I’ll also try and explain some of the reasoning behind the current developmental direction.

The Early Days & Beyond:
Where to start is actually one of the most difficult questions!
Probably the best place to start is at Mechanik, the predecessor to BVE.

The S80 Route for Mechanik

The S-80 Route for Mechanik

Mechanik itself was originally created nearly 17 years ago in early 2007.
Until somewhere in mid-2000, Mechanik was the simulator of choice for myself and many others, and a lot of impressive stuff was created.

In mid-2000, the very first version of BVE was released. At that time, interest started to shift from the lower resolution & MS-DOS simulator Mechanik, and onto this new and technically impressive Windows based simulator.

The original version of BVE

The original version of BVE

One of the first BVE message boards also emerged at Crotrainz:

Later in 2006, the current incarnation of BVE- OpenBVE was created. This allowed us to look beyond the cab, and implemented animations, and a greatly improved performance.
The stuff on this site is all designed for use with OpenBVE 🙂

This Site:
Whilst I was present from the ‘start’, this site only really managed to get off the ground in September 2001. At that time, creating a route was a comparitively simple process- There were no smooth curves or pointwork, and large numbers of fancy objects simply weren’t possible!
Being young and naive, I decided to start a route, with the bold aim of going from Plymouth- St. Austell; Oddly enough, things never really managed to turn out that way, but more on that a little later.
I’m now writing this post in February 2014, and in some ways it’s quite surprising to find that I’m still here. Over the last 12 1/2 years, we’ve been through several community sites, and practically all of the names I know from the early days have moved on to greener pastures.
Having said that, as you can hopefully see, I’ve got no plans to give up any time soon, and I’m still hard at work on various BVE related projects.

The Plymouth Route:
Any post about history and this site must cover the one thing that’s been there (At least in the background) from the start- The Plymouth Route.
As I’ve already said, in September 2001, I boldly stated that I was going to build from Plymouth- St. Austell. The first version of this wasn’t released until mid 2002, and featured a short stretch of track from Plymouth- Devonport. A little more work managed to get the route to Dockyard, but the total track length at this point was only about 4km, and the route was nowhere near accurate.
The first turning point in the Plymouth Route came with the release of RouteBuilder 1.2 in 2004- This allowed me to construct the 20km of track to Liskeard, including the bugbear of every BVE developer- Nice smooth pointwork! Whilst this represented a great achivement, I quickly became frustrated with RouteBuilder, and resorted to using it for just the basic trackwork, adding all the scenery by hand.
At this stage, the Plymouth Route looked like this:

Early versions of the Plymouth Route (Devonport)

Whilst that superficially looks similar to what you see today, the difference is actually vast- At present, I’m using approximately 1,000 unique objects, many of which are made up of multiple parts.

The current version of the Plymouth Route (Keyham)

The Future:
So, where is the Plymouth Route actually going?
That’s a question I’ve asked myself in the past, and the answer has always been- I’m not sure! I will keep on building so long as there’s interest in OpenBVE, but exactly where the route ends up going is something that’s up for debate.
At the moment, I’m actually working on adding Laira Depot and some further trackwork at the Plymouth end of the route, so I’m not getting any closer to the original stated goal of St. Austell 🙁
Having said that, I’m not so sure anyone cares about the actual destination so much as the route itself! Either way, more will be added, and hopefully you’ll enjoy what you see.

Other Routes:
As you’ve hopefully noticed, I’m now hosting a copy of Richard Scott’s ‘The Somerset and Dorset’.
Over the last 13 years or so, many good routes have been created for BVE, and many of these have dropped beside the wayside- One of the biggest problems in this regard is that BVE routes have been traditionally small enough to pop up on whichever bit of personal webspace happened to be handy, rather than the much large MSTS & Trainz routes, which gravitated into their own library sites.
This has sadly meant that once a route creator has left the community, in many cases their work has dropped out of view forever.

I’m working on getting back some of these ‘missing’ routes, and hope to have further announcements on this subject soon.

Tools and Utilities:
So, comparatively little to say here actually. As you’ll notice, I’ve been given permisson to work on and host Nils Busch’s excellent TrackGen program.
Platform generation has been added to it to replace a previously withdrawn tool, and I’m continuing to work on this and a few other bits and bobs to make people’s lives easier when developing a BVE route.

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this read, and it’s given you a few small insights into why this site is the way it is today!

Cheers 🙂

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