Train maps: Details that count

Edited to add extra features. This article is subject to editing by the author to add more articles.

Current number of chapters: 10

Current train maps do suck. Many rail lines appeared to be added as an afterthought, poorly thought out and never used. Those maps designed for railroad see almost no usage at all, and for several good reasons too. The creators don’t do their homework by either reading articles on railroad operations or visiting a real railroad operation, and they often don’t appear to get much input in the way of play-testing with other players. Botmap v3 looks brilliant, but the one slope on the tracks is too steep for most trains to take without derailing. Trainconstruct is so empty and bland that people lose interest very quickly. No usable map has anything you could remotely consider a railroad yard. Train stations often end up in the middle of nowhere with no real use for them. Crossovers are non-existent (in lamest terms, a place where you could switch your train from one mainline to the other without lifting it off the tracks.) The one feature that map makers do utilize correctly are turntables. Tunnels are also a bit overkill. Maybe if you were driving through a large cave cavern it would become interesting. Train yards can be added to Gmod, but I feel there ought to be a sense of realism when you are building a yard to make it feel like an actual place instead of having a few rail lines or rail lines randomly sprawled everywhere and calling it good. Here’s the lecture, use the work to build some interesting layouts.

Chapter 1: Railroad Yards

People say “Use PHX to build your railroad yard!” ** I’ve already done that, and the 100+ props it takes to spawn the yard is not something that players are willing to endure for any length of time.** That and I can’t really spawn any good trains when I use up that many props.

Train yard: the single curse that Gmod railroads lack. There are no playable maps with anything that can be considered a railroad yard where freight and/or passenger cars and locomotives can be sorted and assembled into trains. For those who happen to be building a railroad map and are adding a railroad yard, there’s a few key features you can add to create an interesting and useful environment to be provided in the list below:

  1. Yard Office: Every train yard has an office building of some sort. The size of the office depends on the size of the yard, and the architecture of the building varies with the time built and its location.
  2. RIP (Repair In Place) - Every yard needs a siding where quick repairs can take place on cars and locomotives. These places tend to be outdoors, have buildings for tool and material storage, a wheel storage for spare wheel assemblies, and blue flags and safety first signs around the perimeter to warn of dangers working in this area.
    3.Scaling Track - Railroads often value cargo by its weight, and a weight station is often the best way to do it. These are small structures next to a scale where the weight of the cars and be measured as they slowly roll by.
    4.Clean-out Track - Railroad cars do need to be cleaned often to prepare them for their next load. Cleaning supply sheds and systems to deliver water would be suggested. These can also be found near freight depots where cleaned railroad cars are required for the industry’s cargo.
  3. Crew Bunkhouse - Not really necessary, but some yards where crews on long journeys are resting would need such a house just for such a purpose.
  4. Caboose Track - Cabooses were an important part of railroads and railroads often had a dedicated track where they can be resupplied by structures in the area.
  5. Sheds and Shanties - Older railroads often had sheds to store equipment for every separate operating and maintenance function. Some yards used old cabooses, boxcars and coach cars as storage sheds.
  6. Train order office - Larger yards had these offices at either end of the yard where crews could gain orders from them instead of moving back to the yard office to get new orders.

Adding these structures to a railroad yard would make the place look interesting to explore, it would give a reason for players to stick around if they got places to store their props, and it would make railroad more fun with some realistic scenery.

Here is a quick example I drew up in MS paint of a larger yard you could put into a Gmod map.

Chapter 2: Balancing the Ballast.

A minor detail that is so simple that it boggles the mind that map makers don’t even attempt to utilize it. The textures are already there, so why not add them? The detail in question? Railroad ballast and railroad ties. The railroad lines you come across in Half Life 2 are all the same scale as PHX tracks, so using the texture for the railroad ties should not be rocket science. Easy to add? It should. Present on maps? Only FlatConstruct is the only map that uses this texture on a small section of track.

Chapter 3: Grading the Grades

As quoted from the Federal Railroad Administration website (

Chapter 4: Industry and the Railroad

In the United States, freight is king. With nearly all passenger traffic taken by airliners and the automobile, freight trains took over as the only operation in many railroads. Industries are interesting locations for players to explore and play around which would justify adding one into a map. Industry supplied by a railroad line would have a siding of its own connecting it to the mainline. The siding might include a few extra rail lines for cleaning of rail cars or to store extra cars, although they are not necessary. The depot which loads or unloads the cars may vary according to the industry. For example, coal tipples are the primary building which loads coal into hopper cars.

Chapter 5: The Passenger is Always Right!

There is no shortage of passenger stations in gmod. However map makers make very common mistakes when placing these stations. For starters, the stations need to have a real purpose. Country towns connected by rail or the station connecting major streets in a big city would provide incentive to using these stations. Map makers have a strange habit of placing railroad stations literally in the middle of nowhere where nobody will bother to use the station, and trains just pass by without second thought. A second lacking feature is diversity in station design. 95% of player-usable railroad stations consist of only an open platform with a roof and possibly seating. Fine if you are in an urban setting, but what if you are out in the country? Map makers need to find real life prototypes to model after if they want diversity in their railroad stations. For example, compare the station mentioned above to the Union station located on the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois.

Chapter 6: Train vs Car

Railroad crossings aren’t so much of an issue in Gmod, as there are not many maps where working railroads and roads meet. All railroad crossings need to have a crossing sign of some form to inform the driver of any vehicle (other than a train) that there is a railroad crossing ahead and they should slow down. Railroad crossings do not have to be complicated with crossing gates and lights. A simple and recognizable x-shape sign without any attachments will suffice for railroad crossings.
For the locomotives, especially going around blind bends, there is a sign called the whistle post. This is a sign found on the side of the tracks with a “W” on it, indicating to the engineer that a railroad crossing is ahead and they should start whistling. A modern twist to this sign is a W with the circle and slash through it, indicating the area ahead is a no-whistle zone.

Chapter 7: Tele-this, Tele-that, Phone Lines + Speed Signs.

Railroads depended on telegraph poles for their existence. They communicated between stations, allowed trains broken down or in other trouble to send warnings down the line, and many other uses. They along with the railroad helped tame the Wild West. These telegraph lines were not abandoned, but they were upgraded to telephone poles and are still used to supply electricity to local homes and businesses alongside the tracks. It is a detail to consider adding to your railroad to further strengthen the idea that the railroad line is an important and busy area.
There are such things as speed limits for trains. Speed signs for trains are not like your typical speed limit you see going down the interstate. Speed signs come in a variety of shapes, one example would be an angled rectangle, with one or two numbers indicating the maximum speed for the particular stretch of track. If there are two numbers, the top indicates passenger top speed, and the lower indicates the freight top speed. Speed limits are important for safety measures in areas such as mountainous grades, curves in the rail and railroad yards.
Warning signs can be found all along the railroad line. They include no trespassing signs at bridges, danger signs around third rails, and these sorts of signs. An often unnoticed danger sign is called the Flanger Sign. A flanger in railroad terms is a fancy word for a snowplow. Be aware flanger also stands for an electronic device. A Flanger Post is a warning of an obstruction between the rails, such as a crossing. Flanger posts are an angled black rectangular sign.
Yard Limits would be another sign to put along the edge of the railroad lines. Yard limits indicate to the engineer if they are entering a railroad yard, and should slow down and take caution as they approach. Yard signs are most commonly seen as a V-shape sign.
These are only a few of the many signs which dot the side of the railroad lines. For a more complete list, visit this site.

Chapter 8: A Tale of Two Sheds

Two sheds were sitting next to each other. One said to the other “Do these bricks make me look fat?” to which the other replies “Well you do seem red with anger!”
Bad joke behind, Maintenance of Way sheds were a common sight on railroad lines. These simple structures varied greatly in size and shape. Many did more than just hold equipment. Some were large enough for offices, store track speeders or hi-rail vehicles, or even be a temporary home for track crews.
In a Gmod setting, these structures would provide players with hiding spots, a place to call home or set up shop, a quiet building area.

Chapter 9: Signals

Nobody should expect any map maker to create a fully functional and working signal system. The amount of scripting and work to get these things to work flawlessly would be too much effort and maybe even impossible.

This chapter may be extended later.

Chapter 10: Switchers n Switches

Switches vary slightly in Gmod. Some are a bit more realistic like those found in Wireconstruct, most aren’t. Whether or not they are performance related, I cannot tell. I can tell that there are methods for switches not used and methods that are a bigger pain in the ass than needed.

Let’s talk about the method not being used. Real life switches do not have any parts which just vanish into the earth. In the center of the switch is called the closure rail and the switch point, which move slightly to the left or right to direct a locomotive in either direction. This system can and has been duplicated using PHX tracks, and I say when done right, it works like a charm. Signs to inform the engineer of which direction the switch is going is done by either a small lamp which has two lights on two sides and turns when the switch does, or a simple colored sign which does the same. There might be issues with 3 prop train cars which may have to be sorted out to use this type of switch. It is still a prospect for map makers to look at. Find photo references via google or another search engine for a better picture.

Now we move on to the methods currently implemented. Wireconstruct has very minor parts which move up and down to redirect a train. It looks much more realistic, but there are issues with the map with it being lower-grade handiwork. These joints are prone to catapulting trains right off the track. These sorts of problems could be solved by adding a curve or rounding off the area where the moving closure rail and the solid track meet to avoid the train wheel catching the often sharp point and then flying off the rails. Botmap and Wireconstruct use a completely different method where the whole section of the rail will vanish and the other appears. Aside from the obvious silliness to its looks, I have other personal issues with this. For starters, mingebags have a hell of an easier time derailing whole trains very effectively with this system. The trainconstruct has the addition of barriers which despite its intention, just adds to the mingebag problem as mingebags can now not only derail a train, but stand a good chance of making it spazz out and possibly crash the server in the process. The barriers also have a high tendency to block long locomotive and cars when they’re going on the other track. Trainconstruct also attempted to utilize light systems for the switches, but since you cannot tell which side the light is on unless you’re 5 feet away, it is really a futile attempt on the part of the map maker. That and the barriers also make it pointless. This is the fault of the map maker for a lack of proper testing.

I tried, but cannot seem to make a decent track piece turn without messing up the track width. If there are any track tutorials, I would be glad to make an industrial/City 17 type looping track with a decent yard.

BJK…Do it D:

My only concern are maps like Mobenix, the track curves are THE most important. Next to sidings, and last of all, if they fit PHX size.

The curves are ALWAYS #1 priority in train map making, because if the train can’t turn around the corner, your tracks must be edited to work. Like mobenix, he won’t edit his tracks and loads of people agree, others just say “Just use the brush train” which imho is very assy because it’s either someone bans you for using it, you get into a pointless arguement over who drives it, or you MUST let the gnome drive it.

I’d like to see a nice turntable with sidings with sheds for once, like in real life.


OP I agree to a full extent, and the maps need a terminal station. Just a random platform in my opinion also isn’t very nice looking. The map has to not lag, too, so we can also use many trains instead of one that has a few props so others can’t use it. Areaportals are this things job.

What I like to see in a train map;

This type of train yard (good paint, by the way)
If map has ramps, ALWAYS, ALWAYS include a straight section before it goes up/down, don’t make it go up/down and then instantly have a curve. That’s bad, really really bad. Makes my trains derail because the first wheel can’t get onto the track because it CURVES instantly. Thingshappen did this in a part of his map and I can’t run any of my train on there, good job if you can.

If op can add;

Maps like Trainconstruct use barriers as train stoppers when tracks are switching, and in real life this would be a buffer. It wouldn’t pop up, and would only be a siding. Now real life uses a method of a switch, when switched a little piece of track goes onto the track wall, and the wheels clip onto it and switch onto another track.

Problem 2…what is PHX size?

Add the PHX models into hammer and use them. Easier than trying to replicate the right size

Thats also my problem, I use EP2 (GMod.fgd didn’t help :D) so I can’t use them unless I can somehow use the wheel in hammer.

Grr, this wants me to make another now… I’ll think about it after I’ve finished my current projects.

This makes me want to work on my street car map again

i would like to see this made into a map

a Subway yard near me for the Toronto Subway


Just copy the models and materials folder and put them into your EP2 folder, overwriting the exsisting models and materials folder.

I was working on such a map, with spawnable locomotives, cars, etc. It had loads of tracks, switches, signals, a shed to control the signals, camera’s to monitor the switches, and i was working on a railroad that activaties using triggers.

The setting was in the mountains with tunnels and slopes. You can drive on a slope with full speed without derailing

I really CBA to work on it any further. It grew too big and too complex and garry’s mod doesnt like that.

thats one of the major pitfalls with this. people want these massive yards and complexes, but dont want lag. they want tons of detail, but still want enough entdata left to spawn props.

somewhere compromises have to be made

We NEED people to make props, unfortuneantly (no offence) modellors are lazy bastards. Seriously. If I could have a shed, and maybe even a turntable that would be so nice of them.


Did this.

Didn’t work. Not at all. All it did was copy over a few crappy things like pirateship wars player models and stuff, and two buttons that when pressed will crash hammer. For some reason. I copied a phx folder over, didn’t work.

Now I have to remove that models folder as it clutted hammer up with some useless crap.

The problem is that source doesn’t handle realistic rail operations very well.

It’s true. this was part of my big problem making streetcar tracks. even with PHX wheels, the tight turns are kinda finicky.

Don’t make tight turns then, try and widen them out more (not the rails, the curves are shit).

This is a major mistake that the Mobenix maker did. He made good tracks, only the major problem was the god-damn curves. They where so tight litterly nothing but the brush train is used.


I know people don’t like this method because they want to make their own “good”-looking trains, but why not just use the Half-Life 2, TF2, and other train models? Just stick 2 wheels on their wheels (a bit lower of course), weld, and super ice/ice, put some thrusters on and you have a train. Make more and you have a long train that MIGHT just lag a bit (depending on the map, some maps rape your FPS (Botmap V3 with it’s deadly bloom and trees.) whilst others don’t, and also depending on your computer.).

I’ve made trains using the models and they’re very handy, you can range the weight sizes of 50,000 for an effect of a vehicle-crushing mechanical monster of destruction, but then you have the problem of people being dicks and freezing/sticking stuff that will spaz the train out under the tracks and fucking it up on purpose.

The problem is my target was not trains, but streetcars, and for streetcars tight turns and streetrunning is the name of the game.

Still too tight.

Not as bad as you think. I have been experimenting with some sizes.