Route Building in RailWorks - A Guide from Start to Completion

written by Keith Mross on UKTS and used with permission


Route selection

Decide on a route; what period will it depict?, is sufficient source material available?, will it satisfy your operational requirements?, is there suitable stock to run on it?

OS mapping

In the UK, obtain Ordnance Survey data for the route. Small sections of about a square mile can be downloaded and stitched together in a graphics program. This will provide lots of detail; topography, structures, watercourses, etc, etc and also clues to the routes of lifted lines.

Google Earth

Is the route shown at high resolution on Google Earth?
Unfortunately, some areas are not although the image can still be a useful guide and will be essential for plotting the route in RW. You can use RWDecal to create the images and automatically import them into RW for your route, see the helpful tools section. With the new version of GE it is also possible to see the height level of the terrain along a path which might be helpful to create correct gradients for your line. They are not 100% accurate, but it should do fine enough to give a pretty good impression together with the DEM Data


Route template

This is fundamental to starting a real world route as it sets your origin in the real world and allows the co-ordinates system to mean something. How to create one will be inserted shortly, you can also do it very easy with RWTools.

Things to watch out for:

  • Make your own unique Developer and Project folder in Railworks\Source
for example, Railworks\Source\keithmross\WCMLNorth
  • RW will convert your source files and put them in, for example, Assets\keithmross\WCMLNorth
  • When asked for blueprint entries, use those in Kuju\Railsimulator.
  • If you’re making your own load screen convert your image into a .ace format file.
  • For the complete setup of those folders please refer to the official Wiki.

Track rule

Best to make your own track rule if you are likely to use a number of track types. Never connect two different trackrules together, you can however use different ones in your route, just don't connect them!

Things to watch out for:

  • Track is found in Kuju\Railsimulator\RailNetwork\Track
  • Point motors/levers are found in Kuju\Railsimulator\RailNetwork\Junctions
  • Catenary is found in Kuju\Railsimulator\Scenary\Procedural
  • Set Mainline minimum radius to 500m but ensure that your other track types (Freight, Yard etc) can do less than that, maybe 100m minium.

Route Building - Stage 1

Depending on the size of the project I have found it better to split a long route into a number of smaller routes – maybe 10-15 miles in length. This way you can avoid lengthy periods of the same activity – as some stages can become tedious and will drain your enthusiasm.
So, for each section I tend to do things in the following order, although this is by no means rigid. Some areas may take your attention at different times and small pockets of a route may be worked up in isolation. Each to their own.


Route Tutorial 001
Assuming that the route template has been successful you can jump to any point local to your route and extract the terrain. I recommend doing this first and extending the terrain for some distance beyond the route on all sides. RW draw distances are such that you may see straight edges on the terrain on the horizon if you don’t extract enough.

Rough track paint

Route Tutorial 002

Turn on route markers, bottom left pull out window – compass icon, and paint the approximate line of the track following a map as a guide as the markers are very approximate.

Lay track with gradients

Next actually lay some track.
Use only one track rule or editing the track properties becomes a nightmare.
I would recommend always working in one direction to ensure the gradients are reasonably accurate as you go. Also, joining track from two directions can be very tricky.
Gradient info is very important here. It is surprising how well the line of the track relates to the terrain if you keep this in check – cuttings and embankments will be formed in roughly the right place without too much additional manipulation. Use the snap terrain to track tool as you go.
Do not lay complex track on a gradient unless you really fancy a challenge. Identify where crossings and junctions are located and prepare to lay level track on those areas. Some track tools won’t function on graded track.

Paint Track

Route Tutorial 003

Use the appropriate ballast colour to paint the line of the track. This helps ground it and make it stand out in the editor.

Route Tutorial 004

Rough road/river paint, lay roads/rivers, paint roads/rivers
Follow a similar process with other loft objects.
These start to provide some structure to follow when adding more scenery and texture.
While GE decals may be not always be suitable for track laying they are usually accurate enough for road and river placement in conjunction with series markers.

Lineside infrastructure

Tutorial 005
This is really building on the structure that you made in the last step. Place bridges and points where rails and roads or rivers meet. These are key reference points and will often relate to GE route markers. These are also easy to identify on cab ride films and photographs. Decals may be helpful in well populated areas.


Before things get too well populated it may be useful to drop in some scenery assets as placeholders or markers – these might act as a reminder of a particular feature that needs more time to detail correctly. Maybe you’ll construct some custom assets later which can replace your temporary items.

Track setup - Stage 2

Before your virtual world gets too cluttered it may be useful to set up the track. As this is core to the gaming experience it is worth putting as much into the accuracy here as you can.

Track type

Route Tutorial 006

Track types

Using the space bar, circulate through the track edit modes.
Track type will determine how the dispatcher will utilise the tracks and prioritise traffic over them. Start off with everything as Mainline and then identify which stretches of track should receive a lower classification that will encourage the dispatcher to do what you want him to do.
Beware, as certain classes of train will not gain access to certain types of track. This will become apparent in scenario testing later.

Track direction

Route Tutorial 007

Track directions

Also, very important when testing begins. A train will not be routed along opposing track. Bi-directional track may be a safe choice in most situations but more specific up and down running may help with accurate pathing by the dispatcher later.

Speed limits and signage

Route Tutorial 008

Speed limits

Cab ride footage is particularly useful for this type of detail. Even better if you can source a trip in both directions. It is not always the case that the limit on a double track section is the same in both directions. Placing the speed limit signs is rather easy, they are linked to the tracks and will automatically take the speed limit from the track's properties.

Track sound

Route Tutorial 009

Track sounds

Choice of track texture will also dictate the sounds that are available to attach to it. The default track types have their own sound sets. It is worth being creative to get the most out of the EAX reverb features at bridges, stations, cuttings etc.

Destination markers

Route Tutorial 010

Destination markers on the map

If you are confident about the location of everything it is useful to complete the track setup at this stage before adding more layers of scenery. Add platform and siding markers to all relevant pieces of track and then destination markers where they may be useful to influence the pathing of trains. These can act as waypoints not just stopping points. The more the better. Adding waypoints to a trains orders during scenario creation can help in setting up AI traffic, as you will know when your train is likely to pass a given location. However: any markers on the tracks should be the last object you place in this stage. If you alter them later, any so far created scenarios will stop working.


Portals are very useful in scenario creation. They allow your AI traffic to be much more efficient. Rather than running trains the full length of a route in order to pass the player service it can be orchestrated to appear shortly before the approaching player and disappear shortly after. This means RW isn’t looking after too many things in game.


Route Tutorial 011


Again, a cab view DVD is the best way to identify signal locations and types/functions.
If possible, add prototypical signals if they are available in RW. If you are equipped to make specific signals to suit you needs, even better. Generally the default signals suit most situations. One notable void is the theatre signal, making complex station approaches a bit more of a challenge. This is one of the most trickiest parts in route building and well worth it's own complete guide. See the category start page for some tutorials.

OHLE infrastructure

Route Tutorial 012


Be creative. I have experimented with adding odd bits and pieces to recreate lineside structures and electrical and signalling clutter. This is effective enough at 125.
Start with the O Wire Gantry Tool to auto-place masts. These can be adjusted or elaborated on as you proceed down the line. Keep an eye on the cab view for ideas on how to add interest.


These can be placed with reasonable accuracy if you have track plans with milepost markers. The distance figure must be put in manually. Placing Mileposts has some good advice on how to get the distances.

Terrain and Scenary - Stage 3

With the core track and structures in place you can now add layers of scenery.

Adjust terrain

If necessary, add or reduce the height of terrain. Available DEM data is not particularly accurate and will require some fine tuning particularly in relation to smaller topographical features. Use the terrain tools as required.

Paint landscape

Route Tutorial 013

Terrain painting

A method which is quite well documented elsewhere is to cut up the landscape using a dark grass texture. This will represent embankments and hedgerows etc. It helps identify field boundaries allows areas of woodland etc to be picked out. Lofted objects and bushes/trees can be placed later to show field boundaries etc.
GE decals can be useful to ensure accuracy although painting over them can be awkward as you can’t see what you’re painting. Break up the
Route Tutorial 014

Terrain painting 2

landscape with different colours – use some artistic licence if things are looking a bit bland.

Place buildings

Route Tutorial 015

Place buildings

For well populated areas use a decal. I have used GE decals and OS decals where available aerial photo resolution is poor.
Be creative. Merge default assets to make something new.
Lower assets into the terrain to make them appear to be something new, stack two of the same on top of each other, just think a bit out of the box where you can.

add details

Route Tutorial 016

add details

As your world gets more populated, start to add smaller scenery items, vehicles and people. Remember that generally you will be viewing from inside the train or close to the track, so don’t add to much in the distance – you may never see it again. Also keep an eye onto the asset counter in the bottom left corner, a value of around 1.000 items was given once by RSC. This does not need to be exactly adhered, but everything you place will take up memory space and system power when driving the route. From experience try not to get above 2.000, everything in between will leave some users with stuttering and low framerates on older PCs.

Trackside lofts

Route Tutorial 017
These are applied by offsetting objects from the track.
Fencing and weed lines can add much to the embankment area. Variety is good but too much will reduce realism and look overly cluttered. See Offset Tool for further information how to use it.

Planting trees

Route Tutorial 018
This is also about levels of detail and distance from the track. The default items are designed to be placed at a specific viewing distance. Work out a system and a palette of trees and bushes that suit your locality. Layering of closer items in particular will build up into dense woodland which can be quite effective when close to the trackside. Forested areas should be painted first using a mix of forest floor colours. This avoids bright grassy gaps showing through the trees. Rotate objects to increase variety. Ensure that tree assets are well planted – they may need to be lowered to avoid floating. This can be particularly apparent when using the spring or winter season where leaves are not present. RSC already announced that with the next big update a tool for building forests in one click will be included.

Add detail

Route Tutorial 019
When the bulk of the larger trees are in position you can fill gaps with individual trees. Individual trees around buildings and along streets will add density and interest.
Grass objects close to the track side will add depth and texture.
Small bush and weed assets can be added right at the end to add to the object density.

Add sounds

I usually leave these cumbersome objects until the very end; although they can be turned off using the display filters. Make sure the emitter canopies overlap to ensure that the whole environment is covered.

Now this guide does not cover on how to exactly use all of those tools or their meaning, but it will give you a good impression what it's like to build a route and which steps to take. Here and there additional wiki pages are linked for a more detailed discussion of the used tools, some still need to be created.

Important: Save your work often and make a backup of your route whenever you did so many changes you don't want to do again! The editor has a bad habit of crashing in the middle of a work process with the last save two hours and 15 miles of track back. So again: save often and backup your route folder every day or two or use the package manager to create an .rwp of it! You will need that backup more than once during your project, so make one for your own mental health ;-)

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