OpenBVE: The Sim Now Approaching Platform PC

The news that Microsoft had abandoned another Train Simulator sequel didn’t dismay the entire rail sim community. Many would have been more disturbed had the mysterious code samaritan behind openBVE announced he was walking away. Michelle appeared from nowhere a year ago, declaring he was going to modernise frumpy-but-faithful freeware train sim BVE by rewriting it from scratch. True to his word, he’s done just that. Improvements include finer physics, external views (BVE is strictly cab-based) and animated scenery. Barring leaves on the line at Surbiton or escaped pumas at Chessington North, the first non-beta version of openBVE should enter service today.


One thing Michelle hasn’t managed to do is make the sim significantly friendlier to the rail sim novice or PC illiterate. The install of the base package is a bit of a palaver and getting user-made routes and locos up and running can be tricky. Persevere however, and you’ll wind up with an extremely atmospheric and accurate train sim.

What OpenBVE lacks in scenic splendour it more than makes up for in cab ambience and realism. Strong routes like Birmingham X-City South and quality rolling stock like the stuff available at reveal just how demanding train driving is these days. Half the challenge is sticking to the speed limits and stopping next to those big concrete people shelves, the other half is learning the intricacies of the different locos and multiple-units. Most trains will grind to a halt every five minutes unless you’re awake enough to cancel bleating ATS alarms (Insert). Don’t think of jumping in without first printing the basic key commands  and scrutinising the start-up procedure hints on the right side of the cab (use Ctrl + R to deactivate camera restriction if panning is impossible).


Currently few routes take advantage of OpenBVE’s more advanced features. When trains come with external models, they’re often crude. Until BVE stalwarts such as Anthony Bowden complete projects like his Watford Junction to Rugby route, we’re not going to see the true worth of this unique sim.


  1. PC Monster says:

    Does it come with a realistic buffet car? One where they charge £10 for a HALF bottle of wine?

    My girlfriend and I nearly both had heart failure when they charged us that. Needless to say, we…paid it because we didn’t want to look cheap in front of the queue that was forming behind us. but NEVER AGAIN, I tell you. :(

  2. Sum0 says:

    Half of me loves train sims for their sheer nerdy enthusiasm and the romantic thrill of surging through the countryside watching trees and buildings and signs fly past. The other half of me gets bored after ten minutes. Still, this looks interesting enough…

  3. bitkari says:

    I’d love it if someone made a mod for one of these rail sims to turn it into THE TRAIN.

    THE TRAIN was an ace C64 game. Literally an on-rails shooter, it also had resource management stuff thrown in as you try to escape Nazi-controlled territory in your coal-fired death trolley.

  4. Bob Arctor says:

    That is genius! I could recreate my journey from Selly Oak to the Bull Ring!

    I’m not sure they’ve got the medical school and the Selly Oak pubs all put in though unfortuntely.

  5. pepper says:

    I love BVE, been playing it for quite some time now, and OpenBVE is definitely much better. the BVE2 and 4 versions grinded my rig to a halt and continuously crashed it.

  6. Chaz says:

    Last time I caught the train home from Bristol I had to sit listening to a drunken BA pilot that had just split up with his wife. He stunk of cheap booze and kept sipping from a can of Diamond White he had hidden in his coat pocket. 50 bloody minutes I had to sit there listening to him grizzle on about his failed marriage, and he kept repeating this drunken little mantra over and over.

    “Am I angry and pissed off? Yes!”
    “Am I confused? Yes!”
    “Have I been drinking too much? Yes!”

    From what I gleaned from him he sounded like a typical playboy pilot with a woman and child in every major city, so I think his karma had finally caught up with him, and I didn’t feel very sorry for him.

  7. itsallcrap says:

    Seriously, how bright do you have to be to do that?

    And why hasn’t anyone thrown a job at him?

    He rewrote a whole Microsoft game from scratch AND MADE IT BETTER.

    Much as such acts obviously benefit ‘us’, why are people like this not being put to better use?

  8. SadSac says:

    What do you mean “better use”?

    If it’s what he wants to do there could scarcely be a better use of his time.

    Until we live in a society where collaboration is put above competition following ones own trivial pursuits is the best use of ones time. So he has found a community that values and shares his pursuit. A better use? Not likely.

  9. Pags says:

    @itsallcrap: t’wasn’t a Microsoft game he rewrote, it’s a freeware train sim written by a Japanese student. Though it’s still impressive.

    First time I played BVE was actually a modded version at the London Transport Museum; I drove a tube train through the Northern Line, fell in love, went home and installed BVE immediately. Turns out the real BVE was a little less forgiving, and I was more used to MS train sim so I was a little out of my depth at first.

    Anyway, this looks excellent. Unfortunate that getting it to play user-made routes is tricky though as that’s what gives these sims a shelf-life of more than a wild weekend.

  10. pirate0r says:

    The only question i have is
    “How to the train derailments stack up?”
    Secretly that’s the most fun you can have playing train simulations…

  11. Tim Stone says:

    @Pags. The BVE-based tube sims at the London Transport Museum are lovely but I can’t understand why at least one of them wasn’t built with children in mind. When I was last there I watched a succession of kids grapple unsuccessfully with the heavy throttles, then walk-away crestfallen. Sad.

  12. Pags says:

    London Transport Museum: Killing dreams since 2001.

  13. pepper says:

    Tim, the photographs i saw off it were those with kids playing with it, and what i read about it was that it got wrecked quite a bit by people treated it very rudely, so that is why i think it moves so heavy so people cant smash the thing around and wreck the servo’s/housing.

  14. Ziv says:

    train/bus/all-those-other-stuff-you-never-wanted-to-drive simulators are kinda boring. but I’m going to give this a try.

  15. clive dunn says:

    Train sims are the only game i let my three year old daughter ‘play’. She loves them. I think it’s her grandads genes coming through. My father in law used to drag his two girls along to see steam trains and even just ‘rare’ goods trains. They hated it at the time but nowadays they do get a bit giddy when they see a steam train (one goes past my front door once a month).

  16. Ziv says:

    I’ve just read the “basic” controls and… W00T? it’s like those really complicated flight sims! definitely gonna try that!

  17. Ziv says:

    well, got tired of it. how hard does it have to be to install routes? I managed to get the trains but there aren’t any compatible routes and those that are don’t work…..
    can someone just upload a working zip of the game w/ trains and routes?

  18. zak canard says:

    Sounds like a trainspotters dream, especially since if you do the real thing now you’re apparently a terrorist.

  19. Tim Stone says:

    @Pepper. Ah, I see. Little blighters. Not a very imaginative solution though.

    @Ziv Have you tried driving Birmingham X-City South in a Class 323? All you need is the route installer from this page:
    link to

    And the Class 323 (openBVE beta version) dl from this one:
    link to

  20. pepper says:

    Just read the instructions carefully, its not rocket science.

  21. Rei Onryou says:

    Barring leaves on the line at Surbiton

    The number of times this has affected me in RL is too high. :(

    I’m not sure who would want to use BVE to simulate the Northern Line though. It’s already as miserable as it can get as a passenger.

  22. CdrJameson says:

    Can’t be too hard, as my four-year-old likes taking it for trundles around the underground.

    I’ll admit that there isn’t much ‘stopping’ going on, but the horn and windscreen wipers seem fairly intuitive.

  23. Heliocentric says:

    Does this game offer any kind of multiplayer? Our offspring should have some kind of faceoff, first to escape the geographical area of a town wins- or something.

    The winner will get sweeties and a printed out “#1” on A4.

  24. Heliocentric says:

    This story stood in my random story box, check the picture.

    link to

    I demand a stalker/trainsim cross gaming mod, our offspring will not be allowed to face off in this mod until they are 8. 8 because mutants are not so scary when you are driving a 50 ton steel titan.

  25. CdrJameson says:

    Mutants, sadly, take cover at the sound of the horn.

    And the ‘mind the gap’ announcement.

  26. Ego says:

    Michelle is a girl btw….