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Progress Update – January 2024

Hello. It’s been a while, hasn’t it. How have you all been?

We have a lot to tell you in this progress update. There’s some good news, and some not-so-good news. Let’s start by talking about why things have been so quiet from us. Have we given up on BVE? Not at all. In fact, there is still plenty going on behind the scenes, we just haven’t had anything ready for release. Thank you to those who have been emailing us with kind words about our existing routes. We may not always respond to every message we receive, but they do get read. It’s something of a policy of ours not to respond to requests for updates, but rightly so, there are many of you who have been concerned about the Central Line. Sadly, we’re not about to tell you that “the wait is over” but we feel you should at least know what’s been happening. So make yourself a cup of tea (or coffee) sit back, and read on.

Let's Talk About The Website First

Without going too much into the technical details, we’re now in a position where we need to move to a different web host. You may have noticed images won’t load any more on some pages for instance. It’s a very big job moving everything from one place to another and it’s not something we’re looking forward to doing. We need to thoroughly vet the potential hosts to ensure we don’t end up in this position again.

Ok, that’s the housekeeping. What about our routes? Fans of the Jubilee Line may be interested in what we have to say later, but first, the Central Line.

The Central Line - Not Brilliant News...

As you may have seen, we at BVE Western Region have spent the best part of a decade working almost exclusively on London Underground content. Many miles of track spanning over 3 tube lines have been built so far and this has largely been thanks to one team member in particular. While it has been a collaborative effort, a lot of the visual side of these routes and access to a wealth of useful resources has been down to him. Outside of OpenBVE, there’s been a lot going on with him, which has resulted in a sabbatical from route building. Unfortunately we can’t say when he’ll return so we aren’t in the position to say when the Central Line will be finished.

Is It Cancelled Then?

No. We have every intention of finishing the route one day, but like how John Deacon of Queen didn’t want to continue in the band following the death of Freddie Mercury, we don’t think it’s right to carry on without him, given he spearheaded these projects.

What’s very unfortunate is, track laying wise, we’d reached Leytonstone shortly before things ground to a halt. You may think this means we have a finished route, ready to be released, but this isn’t the case. Leytonstone is just an empty space with a floating signal and some track. Not really something that fits the high standards we try to maintain in our work. There is also a considerable amount of tidying up to do in order to release the route. Many of the tube tunnels have unfinished junctions. The new surface sections still have gaps in the scenery.

In short, the Central Line isn’t cancelled. It’s just on hold for now. When work finally continues on it, we’ll be all too glad to let everybody know.

Can't You Just Use The New Train On The Old Route?

This was something we discussed at length recently. The problem we have is the plug-in the new 1992 stock uses handles the signalling differently from its predecessor. In order to get the new train to work with the original route, we’d have to go in and rewrite the code it sends to the train. This is a lot of work for something will be replaced as soon as we finish the route.

This isn’t the nicest of announcements we’ve had to make over the years, but feel it’s right we should be honest about what’s going on. Just to be clear that we haven’t just been promising an extension and have in fact done nothing behind the scenes, here’s a sneak peek at what has been done so far…

Bethnal Green
Bethnal Green
Mile End
Mile End - as it was back then
Stratford - It's changed a lot since 2002!

Anyway, enough about that. Did somebody say Jubilee Line?

Jubilee Line - A Bit Of Good News

We’ll keep this short and sweet because we need to manage expectations. We’re about to make an announcement about the Jubilee Line, but please keep the following in mind:

  • This is not an extension – just a new version
  • We’re not about to suddenly resurrect the project

When we first released the Jubilee Line some years ago, it quickly become popular in the BVE community and remains a staple to this day. Many of you have been in touch reporting problems with the route since OpenBVE was moved over to 64-bit. This is why we’re making this annoucment.

Announcing The Jubilee Line Patch

We may currently be running without our London Underground dude, but fortunately, the nerdy one that makes signals, animated objects and train plug-ins is still with us. In order to make the Jubilee Line compatible with current builds of OpenBVE, we are in the process of making a much needed fix to the route and 1996 stock in order to make it function the way it was intended.

While it isn’t ready to be released yet, some work has gone on behind the scenes fixing the problems with the Platform Edge Doors (PEDs) and the fact the sounds no longer behave the way they were meant to. As part of this tidying up exercise, we’ll also look at making some fixes to other bugs that have been reported.

Again, to be as clear as we can, this is not an extension. We genuinely appreciate how popular this route. Sadly, the person who makes London Underground content is not currently making anything – as we said before. We may never continue beyond West Hampstead. However, we will continue to ensure the Jubilee Line continues to function correctly whenever OpenBVE is updated. Likewise, once it eventually gets released, the Central Line will also be maintained, even if no further extensions are planned.

Mainline News - The Really Good News

A lot has been going on in the absence of our London Underground bloke. Namely, we’ve started work on making a return journey for the North London Line. See below…

North Woolwich Westbound
Waiting our departure time at North Woolwich
Canning Town Westbound
Canning Town - it looks really weird seeing a westbound train in BVE!
South Acton Westbound
South Acton
Kew Gardens Westbound
Westbound train at Kew Gardens
Buffers at Richmond
Arriving at platform 3 at Richmond, as seen from the cab

While it may look finished, apparently turning things around to face the other way offends OpenBVE greatly. We now need to go back and tidy up everything, filling in the cracks that return journeys create. The main point of starting this was to give us the coordinates we needed to be able to start the West London Line.

Construction of the West London Line commenced just before Christmas. It will run from Willesden Junction to Clapham Junction at a distance of about 6 miles. This will be set in the Silverlink era just as the North London Line is, which means you’ll see the route in the days before Shepherd’s Bush and Imperial Wharf opened. This was a very interesting period for the West London Line because this was back when Eurostar used it to connect Waterloo with their depot at Old Oak Common (a site now used by Hitatchi to maintain their IET fleet for Great Western Railway). Keep an eye out for updates. Progress won’t be rapid, as this is by far one of the most scenery intense routes we’ve attempted. Just as you leave Willesden Junction, you go through a bustling industrial estate before dramatically crossing the Great Western mainline over Mitre Bridge. Does it get easier after this? No. The Old Oak Common/Shepherd’s Bush area is quite the urban jungle of flyovers, tower blocks and much more. Eventually we’ll cross the Thames at Chelsea where there are a lot of distinctive buildings… Eventually we’ll reach Clapham Junction which will be challenging. Here’s a small look at progress so far.

Siding at Willesden Junction
The siding used by West London Line trains between trips - you may recognise this from the North London Line
Westbound signal
This is an LED signal these days. Routed onto the West London Line at Willesden Junction
Mitre Bridge Area1
The large industrial estate between Willesden Junction and Mitre Bridge
Mitre Bridge Junction
Mitre Bridge Junction so far. There is a lot of scenery to put in!

We thank everyone for their support over the years and continuing into 2024. BVE Western Region is very much alive and well, and we look forward to bringing you more content in the future.

Oh, and as a little footnote for those who have bothered to read down this far: We’re not done with London Underground routes yet. Yes, we’re taking a break for now, but there is at least one more tube route in planning (possibly a second) with a different team member at the helm. This is very much something for the future, as we’ve got projects we want to get finished first!

Thanks again, and happy (belated) new year!