Monday, 26 February 2018

An Interview with Steam Trains Unlimited

Steam Sounds Supreme were recently approached by Steam Trains Unlimited for an exclusive interview. Below is the interview in full, where Matt tells of his passion for steam and where it comes from.
Q: You have a passion as creator of superb sounds of Steam locomotives and what is included, but when did your passion starts to appear?
Picture supplied by Steam Trains Unlimited
A: "My name is Matt. I am the co-founder of steam-sound specialists Steam Sounds Supreme. My fascination with sound goes back many years to when I was a child. As a boy, I used to listen carefully to the sounds steam locomotives make. The feelings you experience when a steam locomotive comes powering past you, sending vibrations through your whole body, is something that you never forget. And it’s an experience you want to enjoy again, and again, and again! It’s often said that steam gets into your blood. What I believe is that when you are a child, if you have an amazing experience, be that with a steam locomotive, a racing car, motorbike, aeroplane or whatever; then the emotion you experience at that moment will turn that experience into your hobby for life! It becomes part of who you are as a person. My interest in steam is certainly a huge part of who I am."
Q: What is your present occupation and is there any link between your profession and your passion?
A: "My present occupation is Steam Sounds Supreme. It is my only means of income. Although things can be a little tight month-by-month, my wife and I get by, and it’s thanks to our loyal customer base. The customer base continues to expand gradually as well. So, my profession and my passion are intertwined. When a hobby becomes a profession, it can create a problem. Obviously, there can be times when you are not enjoying the work as much. But when it is your livelihood, you must keep going."
Q: When did you start to create sounds for steam locomotives (including the MSTS era)?
Picture supplied by Steam Trains Unlimited
A: "When I first played the train simulator game MSTS, right at the beginning, I thought it was terrific. Of course, that was all there was at the time. I hadn’t heard of Trainz. However, as new locomotives and routes began to appear for MSTS, I started to wonder how the steam locomotive sounds were put together. I started to dig a little deeper, in an effort to understand how I could make what I heard better. But, the MSTS audio engine was extremely limited in both the quality of sound it would support and the way sounds were played. So, it was not a particularly satisfying experience. When Rail Simulator came out in 2007, I bought it straight away. The sounds were much better. Locomotive exhausts were set as individual triggered sounds, instead of the MSTS method of using loops. So, it was certainly a huge step forward. But soon I became dissatisfied with the default sounds supplied with the Black 5 and SDJR 7F. And from there, the early moves toward setting up Steam Sounds Supreme occurred.”

Q: Are you a member and/or co-worker of any heritage railway, railway museum, steam locomotive society or miniature railway (live steam, 7,25 inch, 5 inch) that gives you the insight in the working of the steam locomotive?
'DARTMOUTH CASTLE' visits the Medina Valley Railway
A: "I am not currently a member of any society connected with heritage railways or engineering. In the past I was a member of the Isle of Wight Model Engineers Society for a period of 1 year, but that was a temporary thing. We had a brief foray into 5’’ gauge steam, and we needed somewhere to run the locomotive we had. We no longer own the locomotive, as it was unreliable. We have returned to our first love, 32mm gauge (16mm scale) live steam. We have a railway in our own garden. I personally own a ‘Silver Lady’ by Roundhouse(similar to what was seen in the recent Channel 4 TV series ‘Biggest Little Railway in the World’) in Victorian Maroon livery, with the name ‘Dartmouth Castle’."
Q: You create magnificent steam locomotive sounds. How long does it take before a recording has been converted into the virtual reality of TS20XX?
A: “Thank you. The length of time to get sounds from a recording, onto a working Train Simulator steam locomotive can vary, depending on the quality of the recording. The factors which dictate this are:
(1). The performance of the locomotive on the day of recording;
(2) The weather and
(3) The state of play regarding the TS steam locomotive we record the sounds for.
(1). Sometimes you set yourself up behind the locomotive(usually the front window behind the loco on a heritage railway), eagerly anticipating capturing the sounds I need, but on the occasion you visit, the driver does not provide the sounds you want – I.E. Lack of whistling, doesn’t work the engine particularly hard, or there are other sounds from the loco preventing getting a clean exhaust sounds, like a leaking cylinder, a loud ejector or often blowing off steam. These things can make for a poor recording. That is the experience we have had with the Fitzwilliam Hunslet loco. Getting clean exhaust sounds has proven to be very difficult.
A recent occasion when the weather let us down!
(2). There can be occasions when the weather is completely unsuitable for recording, most likely rain. I won’t record in anything more than the lightest drizzle, as I don’t want to risk damaging my equipment. And the sound of rain can interfere with recording clear sounds as well.
(3). Sometimes recordings are made with a future locomotive sound project in mind, so will be put to one side until needed. Or recordings are made simply to increase my catalogue. No such thing as too many recordings in my view!
But when all things fall into place, then it is at least 2-3 days work to complete the process. But ideally it will take a week, as there will be lots of testing.”
Q: What kind of sound program(s) do you use to create your sounds?
Recording device and microphone take a well-earned rest!
A: “To record the sounds, I use an Olympus LS-100 digital recorder, with an Audio-Technicashotgun microphone. This gives great results! Editing the sounds is done using Goldwave audio editor, Nero Wave Editor and a free program called Wavosaur. All these programs offer different vital tools which help me to create the sounds I do. Goldwave offers the ability to add Cue Points. These are vital when making exhaust sounds. Nero Wave Editor features a tool called Time Correction. This speeds up a looped sound without raising the pitch. An important thing when creating exhaust loops – used for high speed exhaust sounds. Wavosaur is unique among the three, in that it is the only one that support Loop Points. Adding a loop point to a sound sample is perfect when you need to create a looped sound but also want a beginning and end to the sound. Perfect for making whistle loops.”
Q: What is the best TS20xx experience you ever had?
A: “I think it would have to be connected with what I feel are the best locomotive sounds I have ever created. Steam Sounds Supreme have a very good working relationship with Victory Works. We have enjoyed many reciprocal arrangements over the past few years – I do something for them, in exchange for a task they carry out for us.

Picture supplied by Steam Trains Unlimited
Picture supplied by Steam Trains Unlimited
The standout has to be the S160. I agreed that I would supply the sounds. I had a great time recording for this project, as I think the USATC S160’s are one of the most awe-inspiring steam locomotive types in the UK. Most of that awe is felt when that 5-note chime whistle is blown. It was important to make sure all aspects of the sounds were as good as possible, but the most important part had to be getting that 5-note chime whistle in-game, sounding as good as in real life. The kind of sound that gives you goose pimples! I managed to sort out some sounds I liked for the whistle sounds. One for a more distant sound, and one for when the loco is directly next to the camera position. In my communications with Peter(of Victory Works) I was trying to explain how I wanted to be able to position myself lineside, but still have access to a handle, so you could blow this amazing whistle in a dynamic way. What do I mean by ‘dynamic’? I had introduced a dynamic whistle to some releases a few months earlier. Basically, a dynamic whistle control enables you to play with the whistle sound by gradually increasing the volume and pitch as you press down the whistle lever. This gives an awesome effect, when I find a suitable whistle sample. Peter delivered! He created a control where you could change the brake handle on the HUD,into a whistle control, providing a way of playing this dynamic whistle from the lineside. The moment I tested this out for the first time, yes, that was the best experience I have had in TS to-date!"

Q: Have you any other family, friends or relatives that are passionate about steam locomotives?
A: “My close family have an interest in steam, particularly my Dad, Grandad and Uncle. But I think the word passion for steam would best describe how my uncle & friend Jonathan feels about steam locomotives. When I was in my early teens, that passion began to rub off on me. And when we lived under the same roof for a period of 6/7 years, we would travel to many steam event around the country, experiencing the power and thrill of steam – many unforgettable moments!”
Q: Are you working with (retired) train drivers and or with heritage railways in order to complete the sounds you create?
A: No, I have never enjoyed the privilege of working alongside such experienced individuals. I know that some of the guys I do sound work for – Victory Works, Digital Traction – consult experts where possible. Pieces of information have come my way which have had a positive influence on making sounds better, and reflect more closely real-life experiences with a particular locomotive type.”
Q: Do you use any other resources to create your sounds?
A: “The only other resource that comes to mind is the built-in tools that come with Train Simulator – the Blueprint Editor. This piece of software is where all the parameters are set, for when each sound sample is used in the game situation. A lot of trial and error is needed to get things just right.”
Q: Have you ever driven a steam locomotive?
A: “Not a full-size one. As mentioned previously, I own a 32mm gauge live steam Silver Lady locomotive. This is radio controlled. I have also had the opportunity to drive and fire two 5” gauge steam locomotives in the past as well.”
Q: Do you have any new project in mind since the release of your last sound?
Picture supplied by Steam Trains Unlimited
A: “I have a lot of sound projects in the works. But the one I really want to do, but don’t yet have the sounds for is the LMS Duchess. As soon as I get a recording of one, then a sound pack will follow. The same goes for the ‘Gresley’ A4. We have received many, many requests for an A4 sound pack. All that is stopping us doing it is a lack of good sound sources. Again, as soon as we have something to work with, a sound pack will follow.”
Q: What can you tell to inspire fellow train simmers to drive mainly with steam locomotives?

A: “This is a tricky question because really, you must be passionate about steam in real life first, I would say. However, Train Simulator can disappoint at times, if you love real steam, because some pieces of steam loco DLC have sounds which are not up to scratch. So, if you have been disappointed by the sounds of steam locos in Train Simulator in the past, we’re here to make up for that, as our sounds are a huge step towards immersing yourself in a believable world. Sounds will make or break any simulator experience. Steam Sounds Supreme will certainly make your Train Simulator experience a significantly more enjoyable one. Steam locomotives live. They have personality. Our sounds go a long way to adding that personality to your steam driving experience!”

Friday, 9 February 2018

Progress Reports & Other News


  We must begin with humble apologies. Many of you have been waiting patiently for the Bulleid Light Pacific 'Working Days' Pack. The pack has been on PRE-ORDER for many months. When the pack went onto pre-order, it was no more than a month away from completion. All that was left to do was to complete the set of steam-era headboards, produce some scenarios, and test. Unfortunately, the chap who is producing the headboards has been through a serious health scare, meaning that production of the headboards was put to one side, naturally. We were left with a problem. Thankfully, production of the headboards is back on, and our friend is well again. 

  On initial release, the Bulleid Light Pacific 'Working Days' Pack will feature eight headboards:
  • Alantic Coast  Express 
  • Bournemouth Belle 
  • The Man of Kent
  • Devon Belle 
  • The Pines Express 
  • Night Ferry - 2 Styles 
  • The royal wessex

These will be changeable in-game, using the Ctrl+8 key, similar to our other scripted releases. We weren't satisfied releasing the pack without this feature. Many apologies to you if you preordered the pack. We thank you for your patience. The headboards are almost complete. Look out for news over on Facebook.

The grovelling continues. . . . . . . . . . . . . 

  Another pre-order product we have had problems with is the REL&CW's Hunslet Fitzwilliam Loco Pack. Again, this pack went on pre-order back in October 2017, as it was so near completion. Sound work was going to be a simple process, and there was one scripting issue to resolve. Unfortunately, as can happen with these things, the scripting issue was more complex than first thought. The issue has now been resolved. We await the fix from RE&LCW. As for the sounds, this has again proved to be a far more tricky loco to record and source sounds for than we could have anticipated. Our recordings were not giving us all the sounds we needed. So we have been asking around. Some kind and generous people have shared sounds of this loco type. But still we are finding the sounds to not be suitable. We will keep working on it. We again apologise for the delay these things have caused, and we thank you for being patient with us!


And in other news, we are pleased to announce that a pair of Pullman carriages are in development. These are to be made available with the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway - a route package in development for Steam Sounds Supreme, in association with Vulcan Productions and Skyhook Games. The Pullman carriages are being modelled to represent the pair based on the KWVR - Ann & Mary. Below are a couple of WIP pictures of how the modeling is progressing. The bogies are being fitted now as I type.

How about the route itself?

Progress has been slow recently. There are many factors which have slowed things down. Firstly, we hit a development obstacle, as we do not have the necessary experience to complete the scripted aspects of the scenery assets. Here I am referring to the level crossings at Oakworth and Damems, as well as all the signals in the route. we are looking to recruit someone who can assist us with this.
The other reason for the delay is time. Time needed by members of the team for other commitments. But the route is looking good still. It's just development is in a bit of a lull.

Mytholmes Tunnel
Ingrow West looking towards Oxenhope
Looking towards Ingrow
Top of Keighley bank looking towards the station
View from NR platform 2 of Keighley station, at the entry to platform 3 on the KWVR station.
And lastly for this blog post, a new product is imminently due to be released. This is a first wagon pack for Steam Sounds Supreme by well-known developer Malcolm Mackay. The product he has created is the BR Shocvan Wagon Pack.

Look out for release news on Our Website, Facebook Page and Twitter Feed

More Soon. . . . . . . 

Friday, 1 December 2017

Betton Grange Expansion OUT NOW

An expansion pack giving you new-build GWR Grange 6880 Betton Grange
in a selection of possible liveries the locomotive could carry.

pack contains a set of engaging scenarios by Golden Goldsmith
Scenarios, a basic version of CJB particles, sound enhancements, Quick
Drive and more.

Grab your copy HERE

Monday, 10 April 2017

Wycombe Railway and Joint Line Version 3 Progress - April 2017

The Cherwell Line

  Version 3 will finally be available 'later this year'. Route requirements will be Falmouth,Woodhead, Isle of Wight, West Somerset and Riviera 50s all from Steam. Featured heavily will be the Cherwell area, between Oxford and Banbury.
Quick Drive Developments

Cropredy Station with the down goods loop, extreme left, joining the main line beyond the station
  The northern end of the route is at the now closed station of Cropredy, a couple of miles beyond Banbury. The southern end, via Oxford, is at Radley a few miles south of the city. There are extensive yards, private sidings and junctions immediately both north of Banbury and south of Oxford stations. The Oxford line has two QD options: 'Passenger' takes the main line while 'Goods' uses goods loops and the avoiding line around Banbury station. The distance is 31 miles. Options for the 44 mile route via Bicester to High Wycombe are 'Stopping' which takes the platform line at 4 track stations and 'Through'. 
Banbury Yard early morning start
  Another starting point is Banbury Yard. The loco could be uncoupled and a different rake of wagons chosen. Destinations are Radley or the reception line at Oxford's Hinksey Yard. 

Leaving Banbury Yard
Banbury Shed
  Starting at 'Banbury Shed-light engine' is a possibility for a 'Light Engine' selection. The points are already set for reversing on to carriages waiting at the up platform.

Snaking out passed variable stock and visiting locos.
Ready to leave Banbury for Oxford.
More Stations

The first four stations after leaving Banbury, shown previously, were 'Kings Sutton', 'Aynho for Deddington', 'Fritwell and Somerton' and 'Heyford'. 

Approaching Somerton
Tackley Halt was added to the line in the 1930's and is still open.
It consisted of a fine collection of sheds and a crossing keeper's house.
Bletchington looking north from the road bridge.
Bletchington station was previously known as 'Woodstock', 'Woodstock Road' and 'Kirtlington' before becoming 'Bletchington'. It is now closed. It had a strange looking goods shed positioned between two sidings. Beyond this the line crossed the Oxford Canal and River Cherwell.

A quarry and cement works used to be situated beside the canal a mile to the left. Bags of cement were brought here by narrow boat, winched up by the crane and the shed, which was originally open on three sides, provided some shelter. When the quarry was worked out a new one was started with rail access. The works chimney is visible beyond the road bridge. 
Occasional other traffic.
The Woodstock branch runs parallel to the main line before it turns away.
Thrupp canal side village.
Kidlington, junction for the Woodstock branch. Now closed.
Wolvercote Junction with the Oxford, Worcester and Wolverhampton railway.
Wolvercote Siding
The siding was used by a papermill in the village. A down goods running loop was added behind it during the War.

Oxford Shed
Osney footbridge
Hinksey Yard reception line.
Work continues on completing version 3 of this wonderful steam-age route. Peter is making excellent progress.

More soon. . . . . . 

Friday, 9 September 2016

Route Build Special

  WELCOME to our route build special blog post. We will feature work taking place on three routes, with a mystery fourth featuring at the end of the article.

Wycombe Railway and Joint Line Version 3

  As revealed in a previous blog post, Peter Goodearl is busy preparing version 3 of his fantastic 'return to the steam days' route. Version 2 took us from Oxford to Maidenhead via Thame, Princes Risborough and High Wycombe, and Princes Risborough to Bicester, via Ashendon Junction.Version 3 extends north from Oxford to Banbury and Bicester to Banbury on what is now the Chiltern Mainline. Here are a selection of the images sent through by Peter:

An S160, with a train of empty ore wagons, leaves the Up Goods line at Ironstone Sidings, a mile or so north of Banbury.
Oxfordshire Ironstone private sidings. Their line stretched 4 or 5 miles to quarries at Wroxton.
Banbury Junction where the LNER/Great Central branch from Woodford Halse joins the GWR Oxford to Birmingham line.
Two rows of weeds conveniently delimit the running lines. The S160 is on the Up Goods line. To the left of it are the Up Main, Down Main, Down Yard Reception, and Down Goods. The next 6 are the Old Down Yard and 6 more of the New Down Yard which was added during the War. On the right are the Reception Lines for Banbury Hump Yard.
The (non functional) 'Hump' Yard at Banbury.
Banbury Station and the River Cherwell.
Across the bottom is the Oxford Canal. A tar works, with private siding, is between it and the River Cherwell. At the top is Banbury Cattle Market.
Banbury had a major cattle market, at one time the largest in Europe.
Banbury Shed. Wartime additions include an extension to the coalstage which loads a line on the far side and ash sheds built to hide the glow from enemy bombers.
The gasworks was between the GWR and LMS lines. It also received bomb damage. After it closed it became a scrapyard and several locos were cut up there.
Next are selection of images from the Banbury station platforms:

  There will be more on the Wycombe Railway and Joint Line Version 3 soon. We hope to get the new version complete by the end of the year. 

The Bluebell Railway

  As revealed exclusively on Facebook, we will be releasing our version of the Bluebell Railway in the near future. The route has been developed by Ivor Russell, with many custom assets. Our version will feature our custom track, audio environment and much more. See the below images showing some of the most recognizable parts of the line:

Sheffield Park Station
Standard 4MT Tank 80151 approaches Horsted Keynes on the high embankment
The view off the end of Horsted Keynes platform 2, looking towards Kingscote and East Grinstead

Looking back towards Horsted Keynes
A birds-eye view of Kingscote

The high quality of station model can be appreciated in this shot

Kingscote Signal Box controls all activity at around the station and all movement between here and East Grinstead

GWSR Update In The Works

  As was our intention upon release, the GWSR isn't standing still. Much like the real line, our route is extending and changing. See below some new additions and extensions taking place:

One of the first things to put in was the new water tower in Toddington loco yard
The new viewing areas off the end of Toddington platforms 1 and 2 have been put in
Up at Laverton, the loop has gone. New running line is in place and the extension to Broadway has begun!
The sight of the previous headshunt and new rail is now in
First of the new bridges is in. Progress towards Broadway is well under way
The railhead in the distance is Broadway. As you can see, there's much to do!
Mystery Route

  As many of you will have seen, we have a mystery route in development. We're not ready to announce it yet, as we are tying up various contracts and agreements with parties associated with the project. What we will do is share another distorted image taken in the route itself. See if you can work it out!
You might be thinking you can tell what loco type is in the picture, but don't let that fool you!