Rails & Trains – Part 3

Train StationA few months ago, I started the Rails & Trains mini-series of articles. In the two prior installments (part 1part 2), we looked at how to make the tracks themselves, now it is time to round it out by looking at rail cars.

We’ll have a look at how to draw the insides of a rail car based on a real blueprint, giving us a nice scene for a handout or battle. I am going to base my drawing on a blueprint from the early 19-hundreds. I mainly picked these because it is difficult to find older blueprints online with proper dimensions, and because the trains of that time still had the same basic layouts as earlier trains, making it easy to adapt them to earlier times. Of course, my procedure here works fine with any blueprint, so if you’re mapping for a modern train, just grab the appropriate blueprint and possibly a different drawing style better suited for modern maps, such as SS3.

I’ll just start with the small straight line segment similar to the one we developed in part 1. While the curves from part 2 are great for rail lines, placing cars on them is a bit more tricky. Railroad cars are quite long and rigid things, which is part of the reason that railroads in real life needs a lot of space for their turns so it is a bit hard creating a small map that includes a turn large enough. Nothing wrong with you taking the techniques from this article and use them to make such maps, but you’ll find you need to make the maps quite large and the turns quite wide.

I mentioned blueprints above, so where to get these? In my case, I started with an internet image search for “19th century rail car blueprint” which netted me the below image, found on the site The Great Western Archive.

The great part of that blueprint is that it has dimension labels, allowing us to scale it accurately within CC3+. The original image did have some more information, including a side view of the rail car as well, but I cropped it down using an image editor to get just the information I needed. Now, to insert it into CC3+ so we can trace it. What I like to do is to put it on it’s own sheet, and set a partial transparency on that sheet. This allows me to see through the image, and also easily hide it when I don’t need it. So, we start by making a new sheet called BLUEPRINT, add the transparency effect to it (set it to 50% for starters), make sure that sheet is our active sheet, and then use Draw -> Insert File to insert this image. Remember that when you insert an image in CC3+, it only inserts a reference to the original destination, so if you later move the map and/or the image you may break the link, causing it to show up as a red X. (Read this article for more information about CC3+ file paths).

Once we have the image inside CC3+, we can scale it properly. This is where the dimensions on the image come into play. For my image, I have that nice 60′ line there, so let us measure it. Start by turning on Ortho and Snap off in the lower right corner of the interface, and then use the Tools -> Distance command. Click the first point anywhere on that little vertical line the arrow points to (you need to do this by eye, but the more accurate you are when clicking, the more accurate the result will be. Keep in mind you can zoom in the middle of a command). Since we enabled ortho, the measure line will be perfectly straight, so just put down that second measure point at the vertical line on the other end of the dimension line. You should get one of these two dialogs, one more verbose than the other, but both giving you the measured distance.

As you can see, my image is just a tad too large. But that is easy to fix. Right click Scale and pick Non-visual scale. As usual, you are prompted to pick an entity, so pick the image and hit Do It. The command line will then ask for the scale factor. We could of course calculate this ourselves first, but CC3+ is fully capable of doing it for us, so just enter the scale factor as 60/63.46198 and hit enter (Obviously, use your own measured distance instead of 63.46198, and keep in mind that the first 60 in this calculation is the expected distance, so if you measure something else, replace the number with the appropriate value. Also, do not use any spaces in the expression). The final prompt on the command line will be for the scale center. Since we haven’t positioned the image properly yet, just accept the default by pressing enter. (If the scale change was large, this may cause the image to change position quite a bit as well)

Now, with our image scaled properly (You can measure the line again if you wish to check), use Move,Scale,Rotate to move the image into the final position, making sure to center it properly over the tracks.

The next step is drawing the wall. I just treat this car as a building, so pick a nice wood fill that works with thin walls. I used the Wood Wall Oak_SS4 fill for this, and set the line width to 0.25. I also set the sheet AND layer to WALLS. (Setting the layer makes no visual difference, but it is important for some tools later).

Now, as you can see, a railroad car like this have rounded ends, so we need to use the smooth tool. The Smooth Poly works fine here, but we need to take care when using it to get a good result. Start by making sure Snap is off, and Ortho is on. Then start the smooth poly command, and place the first point in one of the corners. Now, notice how the command line offers you to make the next point a corner by pressing C. Exactly what we want, so press C and place a node in the corner at the other end of whatever long wall you started with. Thanks to Ortho, this will be straight, but since the next section is curved, turn Ortho off, then place about 4 points evenly along that curve, and finally hitting C again before placing the node in the corner at the end of the curve. Again, turn Ortho back on, hit C to make the next point a corner too, and place it at the very end of this side wall. Finally, turn ortho back off again, place 4 points along the curve, and finish up by hitting C to make the next point a corner, and place that final corner node back in the corner we started in before right clicking to finish the command and see our new wall.

Since this required placing points by eye instead of relying on snaps, the result will depend a bit on your own accuracy (Ortho will have helped us ensure the straight section were perfectly straight though). You can see in my image I am not 100% perfect, but it is close enough. Once the blueprint is hidden, that won’t be noticeable anyway, so I’ll just leave it like that. Remember that you can zoom in and out while working, it is easier to be precise if you zoom in a bit. And make sure your clicks are at the centerline of the walls if you wish the line sin CC3+ to be centered on them properly.

Once you have drawn the walls, you can easily make the floor by copying the walls and modify the copy. Simple procedure is just hide all sheets but WALLS, then right click the Sheets and Effects button and pick Copy to Sheet, and use that command on the walls we just drew to copy them to the FLOORS sheet. Now, hide all sheets except the floors sheet, then use Change Properties on the wall copy here, and change the fill to something appropriate for a floor, maybe some planks, set the line width to 0 so we get a filled shape, and set the layer to BACKGROUND (FLOOR 1).

Now you can show the sheets again. If you find the floor is now covering up your blueprint, you can just move it later in the draw order by moving the BLUEPRINT sheet downwards in the sheet order so it gets on top of other things. It is a bit of a preference where in the order you need it, I usually like it after the floor, but before the symbols, but I typically move it around as I need while I work.

At this point, we’ve done all the custom work. You can now place windows and doors and they will cut out walls just fine just as if they were drawn by drawing tools (This is because we remembered to put our walls on the WALLS layer, which is what the smart symbols use to identify walls). For my own drawing, I’ve elected to use a bit of a different furniture layout than the blueprint, but it is still a nice guide because it tells us the expected sizes. Many of the furniture symbols for indoor use are a bit large for use in a train, so I scaled them down a bit for a better fit.

Here I mostly used symbols directly from the standard SS4 style, but I also grabbed some symbols from the Forlorn Cottage set (Which also comes installed along with SS4), especially the doors since base SS4 didn’t have anything I felt was appropriate for a rail car.

Now, a train is more than just a single rail car, and there are still a few details on that rail car. And since I don’t have the skills myself to draw a locomotive, I went to a recently released annual, the Steampunk Streets issue. Here, I found a few nice parts, like a locomotive, a coal hopper, and a car coupling. I also needed the buffers, which it didn’t contain, but I was able to draw some workable ones myself. I just drew the basic shape using a smooth poly, and added some inner glow to give an illusion of rounding. They’re simple, but they work well enough. You can check out the final example map to inspect them if you want.

Finally, I rounded out the scene by making a small station area, using some symbols from SS4, and a building from SS5.


What about cars at an angle?

Many of the instructions above only really works as long as you draw your car straight vertical or horizontal. Ortho for example, can’t help you at all with angled lines, and snaps usually aren’t very helpful either. So if you need angled cars, like you would if the train was in a turn for example, my advice is to draw them as straight first, then simply rotate them after drawing them. As long as you have every component selected when rotating, it will rotate nicely together.

But there is one potential weird thing with a rotated car, and that is the floor. Normally, fills doesn’t rotate even if the entity they fill rotates, leading to a weird result when the alignment is important, as shown with the floor below:

Now, I am pretty sure the floor under me kept it’s alignment with the car last time I was in a train, so what we need to do is to tell CC3+ that this fill style should be aligned. We do this by changing the polygon to a shaded polygon. This is a special polygon that can have additional properties, but it will no longer work with commands that work on regular polygons, so this is usually one of the very last step we do, when we are certain we are happy with the polygon.

You can do this process both before or after rotating the car, but I will be doing it before, since it is easier to set up the correct angle. To make it easier to work with, hide all sheets except the FLOORS sheet. Now, right click on the Polygon button and pick the Shaded Polygon option. Select the floor, and for the angle, type in 90 and hit enter, for pitch, just hit enter to accept the default. The pattern should stay exactly the same, but you may notice it becoming lighter or darker. This is because shaded polys are affected by lighting effects by default. We don’t want that for our floors, so use the Numeric Edit command on the floor, and check the Shade Only Copy checkbox. If the fill is wrongly aligned, you can also change the angle here (This dialog only appears on a shaded polygon, if you instead get a dialog with a node list, you probably didn’t complete the shaded poly command properly, or you picked the wrong poly).

With this done, if I now rotate it (or create a rotated copy), the floor fill rotate with the entity.

And with that, I conclude this series on rails & trains. You can download my example map if you wish.


If you have questions regarding the content of this article, please use the ProFantasy forums. It can take a long time before comments on the blog gets noticed, especially for older articles. The forums on the other hand, I frequent daily.


2 Responses to “Rails & Trains – Part 3”

  1. Excellent work, Remy. Thanks very much for sharing your methods 🙂

  2. Very impressed by this tutorial. Transportation is so integral to maps. Personally, I was thinking of adding trains to theme park maps.