Into 2000 with Sydac...

Sydac - not a rail operator

Sydac is a company which has developed from a small team of people experienced in the field of computerised simulation of a range of activities, beginning with the aircraft field.

In 1998 they were succesful in bidding for the refurbishment of four existing 3000-class electric locomotive driving simulators for the Queenland Railways. Photographs taken of the first of the four simulators undergoing its final testing prior to acceptance by QR are able to be accessed here by clicking on the thumnail image; an extra browser page will then open with the full size picture on it.

More recently, Sydac obtained a new contract for an articulated road truck based simulator for the new 4000 class diesel electric locomotives on order by QR. The life expectancy of the truck simulator is about seventeen years, though an educated guess suggests that alternative software modules could be employed in the future to allow conversion of the simulator to a different model locomotive.

The trailer unit was outfitted during the latter part of 1999, and here is a series of thumbnail images which you can click on to see the interior.

Now completed, it is expected that QR will move the simulator unit around a number of locations in Queensland's extensive rail network on a regular basis to enable enginemen to obtain "simulator time".

These locomotives are being manufactured by Clyde Engineering at Granville for Queensland Rail, and are of the latest EMD technology. There are similarities with 2800 class units currently operated by QR, and the more recently delivered Westrail Q-class (the image is from a brochure courtesy of Clyde Engineering and Sydac).

To rationalise the software modules used in both simulators, the contract for the 3000 series electric locomotives was later varied to permit upgrading to a common system which will result in better module interchangeability and more effective technical support for both systems.

Whereas the 3000 series simulator features a large video rear-projection screen (pictured on the left) showing the track in front of the driver seated at his "desktop" (see the image at the top of this page), the 4000 unit will be in a genuine Clyde-built driver's cab with higher-tech digitally recorded footage projected on to the windows.

An opaque projection screen is mounted a few inches outside, and parallel to, the driver's windscreen (appearing a light green colour in the photos) , and a digitally smoothed image where each digitally recorded frame is morphed into the next, to enable a smooth transotion between frames, regardless of how slow (or fast) the simulator believes the locomotive is travelling. (See pictures below, right)

This is accompanied by very realistic sound, and the only missing feature is the physical motion of the cab! A very large bass loudspeaker is located immediately behind the driver's seat to help in the presentation of lower frequency engine sounds, which are transmitted into the floor of the cab.

In the two images below, the driver's own fault console can be seen on the left, and the instructor's station on the right; the latter shows a closed circuit camera's view of the driver to the instructor on the 19-inch TV monitor. The fault console is located immediately ourside of the driver's cab door, in what would be the entrance vestibule of a real locomotive.

The system is designed to run unattended with specific 'lessons' for each pupil already set up in the system. All the simulator driver has to do is to swipe his entry card in the reader at the door, turn the power on and log-in, check his train at the fault console, and away he goes on his simulated journey! A complete record of his reaction to all events is logged by the simulator and he can be debriefed later on by the instructor.

For the computer-literate, the system runs on Windows NT workstation operating systems, and to economise on space, flat screen technology is used at the fault station. The illustration here shows the vertically mounted computers below the fault station keyboard and screen.

Since 4th April 2000, Sydac have been engaged in the design and construction of a further trailer-mounted simulator, this time for Westrail; this will simulate four classes of standard gauge and narrow gauge locomotives (P, Q, S and DB), operating over a route mileage of nearly 2500 kilometres, all of which have been accurately surveyed by Sydac as part of the contract requirements. The routes cover Perth - Geraldton, Perth - Bunbury and the South West, Perth - Kalgoorlie - Leonora, Kalgoorlie - Esperence and Northam - Albany. Details will be furnished in due course.

The Westrail trailer construction is slightly different from the one supplied to QR, being a little shorter, and having a lower floor.

Photographs of the final testing of the simulator componentry in the company's Adelaide labs, and its subsequent installation in its trailer, can be seen on the next page.

A point made by Adrian Smith, Sydac's General Manager, is that using such simulation techniques, trainee drivers can find out what actually happens when one takes a turnout at too high a speed, or is unable to slow down in time to avoid a collison without actually doing any damage.

Work in progress photographs taken during construction of all three train driving simulator projects may be viewed here

Watch this space for information about a generic simulator which may become available on CD-ROM from Sydac in the future.

Updated 1st July, 2006