Thanks for the compliments and can I say that I am pretty much making this up as I go along however I will try and pass on as much as I can.
I tried to use the different modelling programs i.e. Blender and 3d Crafter to make the models from scratch but found them to complicated. I needed something simple. That’s when I found Google sketchup.
The basic version is free and with a bit of tinkering you can get stuff from this into railworks. The other advantage is that there are loads of tutorials on YouTube showing you how to use photographs to make 3d models using sketchup which makes it ideal for the route I am building.
In order to get the model out of sketchup and into railworks does require a bit of technical knowledge of windows and virtual PC. I have windows 7 which allows me to have windows xp as a virtual pc. A virtual pc is like a pc within a pc and allows me in effect to run 2 versions of sketchup without them interfering with each other. On the virtual PC I have installed the trial version of Sketchup Pro. When I downloaded this it gave me about 300 minutes (I think) of use before it wanted me to buy it. Once I got it working I used the free version to make my models (in windows 7) and I only use the pro version (in windows xp) to transfer my models into a 3ds version. Because I’m only using the pro version for a minute at a time it allows me to create lots of models without spending lots of money. (I guess I will have to buy the pro version at some time in the future.) (Expensive but fun). (I am in no means telling you to do this but if you take backup of your virtual pc when you have still got 300 minutes then 300 minutes would still be available if you restored your virtual pc from the backup.)
Sketchup Pro (Trial) Export
Exporting the models to 3ds also exports all of the textures as well. When you export you need to make sure that you select export… 3d Model from the file menu and then select the option button. Make sure Single option is selected in the top drop down box and export texture maps is checked. Then click ok. Save the model in its own folder so that the 3ds file and the textures are all together.
Then load the exported 3ds model into 3dcrafter. I have bought a licence for the pro version of 3dCrafter as I needed the export functions for railworks. Because you are importing the whole model you don’t have to worry too much about the modelling side of 3dcrafter. We are only using it as a way to convert our model.
You also need to have a paint program that is capable of loading jpg files and saving them as Tiff files. When sketchup exports the model it saves the textures as jpg files. All of the textures in the folder need to be converted to Tiff files. I use Paintshop Pro which has a bulk convert button. We aren’t finished with the textures yet however. All the textures that you load into Railworks have to have sides that are of a certain length and width. In pixels they can be any combination of these numbers, 2,4,8,16,32,64,128,256,512,1024,2048. You should try and refrain from using textures that are huge as this will slow the simulator down. You need to resize all of your new tiff files so that they fall into these sizes.
Back to 3dCrafter
In 3d crafter you need to import the 3ds model. This should arrive with the jpg textures in the right places on the model. You need to then manually change each of the textures to the Tiff ones. Don’t worry about the tiff textures being different sizes to the jpeg ones because 3dCrafter will sort out the maths. Once this is completed you can export into railworks using the plugin that is provided with 3dCrafter Pro. The files that railworks needs will be created in your my documents folder. These can the be copied to your developer folders inside of railworks.
There are lots of threads on this forum showing you how to build the file structure and blueprints that allow you to use your models but if you have any questions then please ask.
I hope I haven’t lost you. As you can see it’s a bit of a faff but making models in sketchup is lots easier that the other methods. One day, you never know, someone might actually build an export for sketchup that will put your model straight into railworks. Don’t let the complexities put you off. Seeing your model appear is quite a thrill. Any issues that I can clarify then let me know.