4. Use of MSTS Files by Open Rails

4.1. Overview

4.1.1. Your MSTS Installation and Custom Installations for Open Rails

Open Rails reads only the content folders in each of the MSTS installations you choose to identify for it and will do so without modifying any of those files. None of the MSTS program folders are used and no changes to the MSTS directory tree are required.

Open Rails may also be used to read a non-MSTS directory structure that you create.

This document uses the term Root Folder to designate the parent folder of any MSTS or OR-Specific directory tree (.e.g, \Train Simulator is the Root Folder for MSTS).

4.2. MSTS Directories Used by Open Rails

Open Rails software reads and uses all of the data found in many MSTS directories:


Open Rails uses a file parser to read the MSTS files and will locate many errors that are missed or unreported by the MSTS software or by other utilities. In most cases, the Open Rails software will ignore the error in the file and run properly. Open Rails software logs these errors in a log file on the user’s desktop. This log file may be used to correct problems identified by the Open Rails software. The parser will also correct some of the problems that stumped MSTS. For example, if a texture is missing Open Rails will substitute a neutral gray texture and continue.

4.3. MSTS Files Used in Whole or Part by Open Rails

4.3.1. Route Files

Open Rails software uses some of the data in several MSTS Route files, depending on the MSTS features supported by Open Rails:

  • Route Database file (.rdb) – CarSpawner is supported.
  • Reference File (.ref) – a Route Editor is well under way.
  • Track Database file (.tdb) – supported
  • Route File (.trk) – Level Crossings and overhead wires are supported.
  • Sigcfg (.dat) file – Signal & scripting capabilities are supported.
  • Sigscr (.dat) file – Signal & scripting capabilities are supported.
  • Speedpost (.dat) file – Supported
  • Spotter (.dat) file – Supported
  • Ssource (.dat) file – Supported
  • Telepole (.dat) file – Supported
  • Tsection (.dat) file – Supported
  • Ttype (.dat) file – Supported
  • Hazards (.haz) file – Supported

4.3.2. Environment .env files

Open Rails software does not support advanced water dynamic effects. OR Defined Weather

Open Rails uses its own sky, cloud, sun, moon and precipitation effects developed exclusively for it. When using the Explore Route feature you may choose season, weather, and time of day. When using the Run Activity feature they are read from the activity file. OR Weather using MSTS Compatibility

Open Rails can replace MSTS Environmental displays by its own (e.g., Kosmos)

4.3.3. Activities

Many passenger and freight activities created using the MSTS activity editor run without problems in Open Rails.

Some Activities created using the MSTS activity editor will have slightly different behavior as compared to running in MSTS. This is often due to slightly different train performance resulting from differences in how each simulator handles train physics.

A few activities fail to run at all. This appears to be due to the creativity of Activity Designers who have found ways to do things wholly unanticipated by the Open Rails Team. As these are discovered the Open Rails team will record the bug for future correction.

4.4. Using a Non-MSTS Folder Structure

Open Rails uses a subset of the MSTS folder structure to run. You must create a root folder of any suitable name and it must contain four folders, together with their related sub-folders:


No other files or folders are required in the root folder. Within the \GLOBAL folder two sub-folders are required:


Within the \TRAINS folder two subfolders are required:


4.5. Original MSTS Files Usually Needed for Added MSTS-Compatible Content

4.5.1. Original MSTS Files Usually Needed for a Non-MSTS-Folder Structure

A number of MSTS folders and files must be placed into any OR-Specific installation you have created. These may be obtained from your own MSTS Installation or, as noted below, from Train Sim Forums \GLOBAL

Within the \GLOBAL folder only the file tsection.dat is required. The most current version is best and it can be downloaded from many Train Sim forums. Files sigcfg.dat and sigscr.dat are needed if there are routes that don’t have their own specific files with the same names in their root folder. \GLOBAL\SHAPES

Many routes use specific track sets, like XTRACKS, UK-finescale etc.

Routes which solely use such sets do not need any of the original MSTS files from GLOBAL, as all required files come from the relevant track set. These sets can be downloaded from many Train Sim forums. There are also many routes using super-sets of the original MSTS track sets. These routes will need some or all the files contained in the SHAPES and TEXTURES subfolders within the GLOBAL folder of your MSTS installation. \TRAINS

Requirements are similar to routes. Again, only the folders for the trainsets which are actually used are required, but many third-party trainsets refer to original MSTS files like cabviews and, in particular, sound files. Many consists refer to engines or wagons from the original MSTS routes but those can be easily replaced with other engines or wagons. \SOUND

Only very few routes provide a full new sound set, so the original files included in this folder are usually needed. \ROUTES

Once all the above directories are populated with files you need only the specific route folder placed into \Routes to run Open Rails from a non-MSTS directory.

Note that many routes – in particular freeware routes – use content from the original MSTS routes, and therefore when installing new routes you may find their installation requires files from the original MSTS routes in order to be properly installed.