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MSTS Folders & Files - An Introduction

 
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JohnH
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Posts: 3580
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jul 11, 2004 2:53 am    Post subject: MSTS Folders & Files - An Introduction Reply with quote

Here is some information about the structure of the program package that you are going to devote countless hours of your life to from now on MS Train Simulator. It is not essential that you understand this information, but I have found that it has made my MST experience a whole lot better (and less frustrating).

My Assumptions:

1. You know how to open either Windows Explorer (not Internet Explorer) or My Computer to look at the folders and files that are stored on your computer's hard drive.

2. You have installed MSTS to the default drive - Drive C.

3. You have installed MSTS to the default location on Drive C - in the Program Files folder, and in the Microsoft Games folder inside that, and in the Train Simulator folder inside that.

So that's where we will start.

Open the Train Simulator folder (double-click on the folder name). You will see a number of files there. These are mainly concerned with running the MSTS program, such as train.exe. You will also find a number of folders. Your structure might include some folders not mentioned here. That's OK, as some of the material that you have added since you installed MSTS might have added some extra folders. Do not change anything in this starting folder.

(a) 1033 - a system folder - not to be touched.

(b) FONTS - screen fonts used by MSTS - not to be touched.

(c) GLOBAL - contains information that MSTS uses to set up its world. There are also folders here, including SHAPES, TEXTURES and TUTOR. These hold files that set up the shapes of objects and textures that make up the MSTS world that you will see when you run the program. In general, these folders are not to be touched.

The exception here is when you install a set of files called X-Tracks, which are needed by some routes (you will find out which ones when you read the installation instructions for a route before you install it - and you always do that, don't you?). This installation will overwrite and/or add files in these folders.

There is also a file in the GLOBAL folder called tsection.dat. This one is also updated periodically - you can find the new versions at www.train-sim.com. Read the installation instructions carefully before you install it. Again, some routes require the most recent version of this file in order to work properly.

(d) GUI - a system folder - not to be touched. This sets up the User Interface for the program.

(e) HELP - a system folder - not to be touched. This is the Help file for the program.

(f) ROUTE GEOGRAPHY CREATOR - a system folder - not to be touched.

(g) ROUTES - the folder where all the routes are stored. Each route is in a separate folder. The folder name is the name that MSTS uses when you run activities on the route. Do NOT change the name of the folder, except in special circumstances. You might be tempted to make the name more sensible for your purposes - e.g. the Reedsburg folder holds the Central Wisconsin route, but who can always remember that? Do NOT give in to that temptation. If you rename the folder, MSTS will not be able to find the route, and the activities will not work.

Each route folder contains a number of folders which each contain information about the route.

The more route folders that you have, the longer that MSTS will take to load. If you want to delete a route, you can do so by deleting the folder or moving it to another part of your hard drive or to a CD for storage (check the folder size before you do that).

(h) SAMPLES - lots of samples of loco and rolling stock 'skins'. These are graphics files in various formats that are used by MSTS and by those people who produce the locos and rolling stock that you will use in MSTS.

(i) SAVES - when you save an activity as you are running it (with the F2 key), the details are stored in here. You can retrieve them again by selecting 'Load a Saved Activity' as you come into MSTS instead of 'Drive a Train'. You can delete these files when you no longer need them, or you can delete a few of them at a time.

This folder also holds the Evaluations of your run of each completed activity if you choose to save that evaluation. The files are standard rtf files that can be opened by word processor programs such as MSWord or MSWordPad. You can delete these if you no longer want them, or you can move them to storage so that you can keep a record of the activities that you have run.

(j) SOUND - this folder contains hundreds of sound files in wav and sms formats. This is a system folder - not to be touched.

(k) TEMPLATE - this folder holds a template of a route folder - a system folder - not to be touched.

(l) TRAINS - this folder contains two folders.

The CONSISTS folder contains files that each describe a consist that is used in one or more MSTS activities. A consist is a train or set of equipment (e.g. 2 boxcars or three locos or ...).

The TRAINS folder contains folders that each contain one or more locos or items of rolling stock.

(m) UTILS - some utilities that can be used to help people produce MSTS models (but they are not not sufficient in themselves). One of the utilities that should also be in this folder is the file called tsunpack.exe that you installed as part of the WCN induction tasks. This is the utility that allows you to install activities to run on the routes. These activities are supplied in apk files - tsunpack.exe unpacks them for you.

Conclusion:

This gives you an idea of the structure of the program package that is MSTS. If you check what is in the Routes and Trains folders from time to time, you will see where the folders and files are stored.

One reason for doing that is to keep a close eye on the number of files in the Consists folder. Many people report having problems with MSTS when the number gets over 800-900 - e.g. strange things happen when they try to run an activity. There are ways to reduce the number of consists.

A second reason is when you want to remove a route or item of equipment that you no longer want or need.

Note: Many of the files in the MSTS folders (especially in the Routes and Trains folders) are written in a form of clear text called Unicode. You can open and read these files using Unicode-friendly programs such as WordPad (supplied with Windows XP). This allows people who know what they are doing to alter them and make improvements to MST easily (and those of us who do not know what we are doing can mess them up just as easily!!)

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Last edited by JohnH on Wed Jul 27, 2005 9:24 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Powderman
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Joined: 28 Nov 2004
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Location: Rochester Hills, MI

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 3:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

John,

I have read your post and find that I am indeed ready to understand more of MSTS.

How be I start with a few questions that perhaps you or another of the experienced train simmers can help me find answers. How do the files interact? Is their a file hierarchy involved and what is it? What calls what and when???

What do the extensions stand for and can the files be edited?

File extensions (readable with ConText, WordPad, or other Unicode reader):
.ACT - info used for activity
.ENV - environment setup
.DAT - data files used throughout
.PCX - screen capture
.SD - how to use shapes (.S)
.TUT - tutorial
.MKR
.RDB
.REF
.RIT
.TDB
.TIT
.HAZ - hazard (deer are the only ones I ever see)
.FBK
.SMS - how sound files are used (.WAV)
.WAV - sound files
.TRF - traffic definition
.CON - consist definition
.ENG - engine defintion
.ACR
.BK
.TGA
.WAG - wagon setup using shape (.S)
.SRV - service definition
.PAT - path setup

And now the compiled files:
.TPS
.IOM
.S
.ACE
.KST
.VEC
.TD
.RAW
.W
.T
.TDL
.ASV

Probably missed a few. Embarassed

What is the syntax or key words for the commands in the Unicode files? C++?
Any good books/tutorials/web sites/etc. on these aspects.

Thanks (wanting to contribute but lacking the basic knowledge)

Larry

Powderman
NERR #71
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JohnH
Human Resources Director
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Joined: 14 Sep 2002
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Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 4:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Now you are getting past my level of knowledge! Embarassed Some of the other people around here will be able to help you in much more detail than I can. But here are some responses, which might be corrected by the more knowledgable members:

1. There are no books that I know of that will help you understand the details of the file types in MSTS. Route developers usually refer people to Michael Vone's book on the subject, but it deals with the MSTS Route Editor and how to use it, rather than the minute details of the files themselves. That includes the file extensions ENV, MKR (marker file), RDB (route database), REF, RIT, TDB (track database), TIT, and the compiled ones. I don't know of anyone who edits these by hand - they work with the Route Editor - a very fragile beast!

2. PCX - a standard graphics file format - produces large files, which can not be used in forum postings. Convert the file to JPG or GIF and then post it. ACE files are also graphic files - produced during MSTS model construction.

3. ACT, CON, TRF, PAT, SRV, ASV, APK - all part of the world of activities. APK - packaged form of an activity - use the unpacker utility to install these files to the Activities (ACT files), Paths (PAT files), Traffic (TRF files), and Services (SRV files) folders in a route, and into the CONSISTS folder under the TRAINS folder. Again, few people edit these by hand - they work with the other fragile beast in the MSTS package, the Activity Editor. Experienced people can look inside the ACT, PAT, TRF, and SRV files to see what an activity does and what an engineer should be doing when it is running, but I don't think that many people edit them by hand. The CON files are easy to read - they show you what the locos and equipment are that make up that consist.

4. There are also the files that relate to locos and rolling stock, e.g. ACE, ENG (engine variables and paarmeters), WAG (wagon variables and parameters), CVF (cabview file), ... the list continues.

I believe that KUJU and MS did a marvellous thing in making the code for routes and equipment readable in Unicode editors. That has enabled MSTS to survive and develop in the way that it has - otherwise, it would have died off a long time ago! Skilled and keen people have been able to get inside the route and equipment files and change them to produce better and more realistic ones (e.g. the physics of the locos and the rolling stock have been improved dramatically since the early examples in 2002). So the parameters and variables inside the ENG, WAG, SMS, and some of the other files can be changed by hand - if you know exactly what you are doing. You will find links to lots of tutorials about these sorts of things at the bottom of our Other Downloads page, e.g. to Yuri's page at http://www.railpage.org.au/steam4me/trainsim/tutorials/index.html

In terms of a file hierarchy, there is, but I don't know enough about it to be able to give you a good paragraph on that. I'm not a programmer or modeller or route/activity developer - I'm just a user who has learned a few simple things about the folders and files. That's why I haven't produced a deeper follow-up to the first posting in this thread. Embarassed

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Kip
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Location: Camano Is, Wa.

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 7:03 pm    Post subject: terms Reply with quote

See if I can clear a few things up....

Posted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 12:32 pm Post subject:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

John,

I have read your post and find that I am indeed ready to understand more of MSTS.

How be I start with a few questions that perhaps you or another of the experienced train simmers can help me find answers. How do the files interact? Is their a file hierarchy involved and what is it? What calls what and when???

What do the extensions stand for and can the files be edited?

File extensions (readable with ConText, WordPad, or other Unicode reader):
.ACT - info used for activity
.ENV - environment setup
.DAT - data files used throughout
.PCX - screen capture
.SD - how to use shapes (.S)
.TUT - tutorial
.MKR - Route editor marker files (the little flag thingys)
.RDB - Road data base (no touchy!!)
.REF - Reference file for all object items in a route (gotta have that one)
.RIT- Road interactive data street lights, crossings etc. (no touchy this)
.TDB- Track data base. Track node data. The nerver Network of the sim. (Really don't wanna touch this!!)
.TIT- Track interactive data such as signals, platforms, etc. Directly linked with the TDB. (No touchy)
.HAZ - hazard (deer are the only ones I ever see)
.FBK - backup for something
.SMS - how sound files are used (.WAV)
.WAV - sound files
.TRF - traffic definition
.CON - consist definition
.ENG - engine defintion
.ACR
.BK - Back file...any file such as w.bak, tdb.bak, etc.
.TGA - Targa file. Large graphical file for Alpha channels to convert to ACE
.WAG - wagon setup using shape (.S)
.SRV - service definition
.PAT - path setup

And now the compiled files:
.TPS
.IOM - Common Template files for stock and such upon startup of the sim.

.S -Shape file for models. Holds all shape/model criteria

.ACE - Readable graphics interface that is used in conjuction of targa files.

.KST - One of the tutor files

.VEC _ Vector file I think

.TD - Terrain data from the RGE (Quad tree info) for terrain and Distant Mountain Lo_Tile) (No touchy)

.RAW - Layered 8 or 16 bit file for grayscale interrpetation for terrain files. It's what makes the hills man...(No touchy)

.W - World tile files. These files tells the sim what is on each tile such as tree's, buildings. Directly linked to the REF file on objects. (No touchy)

.T - Terrain info where track lies. These are in the TILE folder. This is the part of the terrain that is adjusted (terrain alignment) when track is laid.

.TDL - Terrain data list for terrain and Lo_tiles (No touchy)

.ASV - Saved activity file

_________________
Kip

Creator of PRRR and Hoodoo Pass 2.5 "Cascadia" (semi-retired)
"I'm not a real engineer, but I play one on TV"

NERR's Hoodoo Pass 1.0.
NERR's Wisconsin Central 1.1
NERR's Chippewa Valley 1.0
Now released to the NERR masses.
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Powderman
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Joined: 28 Nov 2004
Posts: 15
Location: Rochester Hills, MI

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 7:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the additional information. I picked up a copy of Vone's Guide to Building Routes.

What I am looking for is more the syntax of WAG, ENG, SMS, etc. files. When ConBuilder points out a problem in activities I find that I need to hunt and peck until the problem is resolved. A little frustrating when I know it is due to my ignorance of the structure of the files. Any thoughts on this issue.

Perhaps I will be able to contribute to this thread i.e. tutorials when I know more.

Powderman
NERR #71
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Powderman
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Joined: 28 Nov 2004
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Location: Rochester Hills, MI

PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Kip and John,

John pointed me in the right direction with http://www.railpage.org.au/steam4me/trainsim/tutorials/index.html

I found the following tutorial: Very Happy Very Happy Very Happy

"Manual for .ENG and .WAG files" by Rudolf Richter: latest version is 2.0e; - a great tutorial on understanding the ENG and WAG files.

There is great information at that site

Powderman
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JohnH
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Joined: 14 Sep 2002
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 02, 2005 7:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is an excellent site, isn't it! Glad to be of some help. Good luck with your learning! Very Happy
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