Although simulating the operation of an extensive railway network would seem like quite an obvious thing to do with your computer, there aren’t many programs that really allow you to do this.




Bahn is a shareware program written by Jan Bochmann. After many years as one of the classic dos programs, it finally made the big step to Windows a little while ago, but a dos version is still available.

It was intended in the first place as a tram network simulator, and it is great for modelling complex tram or metro systems with hundreds of trains. Because the model avoids most complications, it runs very fast. Its main drawback is the lack of a realistic signaling system, which rules it out for serious modeling of mainline railways. Trains run automatically, so there’s not much fun to be had once you’ve completed the model, but in practice you can spend many happy hours tinkering with a network to get it just the way you want it.


Bahn Homepage




Mark Goodspeed started work on Rail3D a few years ago with the intention of making something like Bahn, but with better signals. That goal was achieved long ago, but the project continues, adding proper 3D graphics, the possibility to drive your own train in cab-view, signal panels, and even - for a while - an economics module that allowed Rail3D to be used in a multiplayer strategy game.



Rail3d on this site; Official Rail3d site




This Czech freeware program, by Jan Prochazka, is essentially an open-source version of Transport Tycoon “without the money”, but with OpenGL 3-d graphics. Quite fun to have a play with, but still relatively undeveloped. Like Bahn and all Transport Tycoon clones, it is hampered by the square grid.

A personal view of some programs I have tried and found interesting. 

I’ve divided these notes up roughly into different categories, as they were getting a bit long. Meta-Simulation is an expression I just invented to refer to other resources dealing with railway simulation in general.


Please be aware that many of the coments in these pages are not based on the most recent version of the program concerned — new features and new bugs may have been added since I looked at them last.

Some of the programs listed in these pages (and their websites) are in German.

Rail3d is a railway network simulation being developed by Mark Goodspeed. The focus is on reproducing operational aspects, especially signalling, as accurately as possible (Mark G is a volunteer signalman on a steam railway), and for a time at least Rail3d was much better at that sort of thing than most of its commercially developed rivals. Of course, it couldn't match them on performance and quality of the graphics, and with their big user communities they eventually got nearly as good as Rail3d at signalling too.

Rail3d swallowed a lot of my free time over the years - and lets be honest, I enjoyed it - but I've only been very marginally involved since I started building a "real" model railway. It is very impressive what we could do as a bunch of amateurs, but of course commercial rail simulators are getting better all the time too. 

Some of my Rail3d models, ca. 2008

 This site used to serve as repository for a lot of Rail3d information, but that has now moved to the official site, where you can also find the latest versions of the software and models, including some of mine. 

Furka Oberalp models for Rail3d