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Driver's Guide for openBVE and BVE

Welcome to the Driver's Guide, a resource to help beginners and new BVE users learn the basics about driving the trains used by the routes developed here at The Driver's Guide is a 'work in progress', and will be expanded over time, but please use the links below to learn more about the subjects already covered.


Introduction - Cross-City and Class 323 Driving Tutorial

This is a mini-tutorial to help you get started with driving the class 323 25kV AC EMU on the Birmingham Cross-City South route, in openBVE. This tutorial is aimed at beginners and those who are not well versed on railway practice, but experienced users may also find something of interest. For the purposes of this tutorial, you should load the Daytime Spring 2005, Dry and Cloudy activity:


Down the left side of this guide you'll also see a simplified track diagram of the Birmingham Cross-City South route, with the route you will take marked out in green. This track diagram is designed to help you learn the locations of the permanent speed restrictions along the line. Other details, such the locations of signals, gradients, whistle boards, and other signs, you'll have to learn for youself as you drive along the route. :)

Finding your way around

The openBVE Window
To start with, you might like to familiarise yourself with openBVE's window:

The openBVE Window
  1. Message Area (Arcade and Normal modes only)
  2. Stopping Indicator (Arcade and Normal modes only)
  3. Frames per second [Ctrl+X] (All modes)
  4. Speed (kmph/mph) [Ctrl+V -- kmph > mph > off] (Arcade and Normal modes only)
  5. Clock [Ctrl+C] (All modes)
  6. Power and Brake Handle Indicators (All modes)
    • Reverser annunciation shows either  N (Neutral), F (Forward), or R (Reverse). [To control reverser, use the 'F' and 'V' keys]
    • Power/Brake Handle annunciation shows EMG, B3, B2, B1, N, P1, P2, P3 or P4 [Emergency brakes can be applied by pressing '1'. To apply service brake, press 'Q'. To release brakes/decrease power, press 'A'. To increase power, press 'Z']
  7. Door Indicators [left/right] (All modes)
    • Doors are controlled by the conductor, however you can open and close them yourself too. [Use 'F6' to open/close left doors, 'F7' for the right doors]
  8. Security System Indicators [Ctrl+S -- On > Off] (All modes, but only visible with non-plugin enabled trains
  9. Timetable [Ctrl+T -- BVE4 style timetable > openBVE Timetable > Hide] (All modes)
    • Note: The timetables included with the Cross-City South also feature a section on the left for outlining upcoming landmarks and warnings, and also include a journey progress indicator on the right. This information is updated at each station stop, so read the display at each station to remind yourself of upcoming speed restrictions, warnings or general points of interest.
  10. Messages relating to scoring (Arcade mode only)
  11. Current Score (Arcade mode only)

Now, you may wish to familiarise yourself with the 323's (3D) cab layout:

Cab layout of the class 323 25kV AC EMU
  1. Combined Power/Brake Controller [Emergency Brake: '1'. Apply brake: 'Q', Release Brake/Decrease Power: 'A'. Increase Power: 'Z']
  2. Reverser Handle [Forward/Neutral/Reverse - Forward (push lever away): 'F'. Reverse (pull lever towards): 'V']
  3. Vacuum Circuit Breaker indicator (illuminates if the vacuum circuit breaker next to the pantograph is opened, e.g. at a neutral section)
  4. Line Volts indicator (indicates voltage is detected from the overhead wires via the pantograph)
  5. Battery Charger indicator
  6. 'Proving Lights' (headlight annunciators) and rotary switches [Press '4' to turn tail lights on/off; press '5' to cycle through headlight settings - see below for details]
  7. Main Reservoir brake pressure gauge
  8. Brake Cylinder pressure gauge
  9. Pan Up/Reset button (raises the pantograph) [Press '2']
  10. Pan Down button [Press '3']
  11. Speedometer (mph)
  12. Speaker (for audible AWS sounds)
  13. AWS 'Sunflower' Instrument
  14. AWS Reset button ['Insert']
  15. Driver's Reminder Appliance (DRA) [To activate or deactivate, press 'Spacebar' - see below for details]
  16. Door Interlock indicator
  17. TPWS Brake Demand indicator
  18. TPWS Temporary Isolation/Fault indicator
  19. TPWS Train Stop Override button/indicator
  20. Horn lever [Sound high tone/push lever away: 'Numpad Enter'. Sound low tone/pull lever towards: 'Numpad +'.
How the head and tail lights should be used - rotary switch positions and 'proving lights':

Inset image

  1. Tail lights OFF [Press '4' to toggle on/off]
  2. Tail lights ON

  3. Headlights OFF [Press '5' to cycle through settings]
  4. Headlights - Day Time Configuration
  5. Headlights - Marker Lights Only
  6. Headlights - Night Time Configuration

  7. 'Proving Lights' for head/tail lights on driver's side
  8. 'Proving Lights' for head/tail lights on non-driver's side

Common headlight configurations/examples:

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Tail lights ON (ensure these are OFF when travelling forwards!)

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Daytime headlights ON

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Marker Lights only ON

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Night time headlights ON

Common keyboard commands

For a full list of keyboard commands, please see the Default Keyboard Assignments page on the openBVE website: But to get you started, here are the key's you will use most often when using openBVE with the Class 323 EMU:

Train Controls (including combined power/brake handle):

Keyboard Layout - Driving (for the class 323 EMU)

Power Handle:
Apply Emergency Brakes
Apply service brake in steps
Release brakes in steps OR decrease power
Increase Power

Push reverser handle away from you (Reverse > Neutral > Forward)
Pull reverser handle towards you (Forward > Neutral > Reverse)

Door Controls:
Manually open/close left doors
Manually open/close right doors

Horn Controls:
'Numpad -' [Toggle]
Sound a short high then low tone on the horn (due the way openBVE works, the sound will repeat until you press 'Numpad Minus' again)
'Numpad +'
Sound a low tone on the horn
'Numpad Enter'
Sound a high tone on the horn

Camera and View Controls

Keyboard Layout - Driving (for the class 323 EMU)

Camera view selection:
'F1' [Cycle]
Switch to internal cab view (cycle between Interior and Interior [Look Ahead] mode; with the latter, the view can be focused on the track ahead, i.e. the driver's head automatically turns in response to travelling through curves, simulating his/her attention focused further ahead of the train).
Switch to external car view (you can either follow the train or enter carriages)
Switch to external track view (camera stays in position relative to world)
'F4' [Cycle]
Switch to drive-by views (camera can be moved but remains pointed at the player's train; cycle between non-zooming and zooming mode)

Points of Interest:
'Numpad 7'
Jump to the next Point of Interest
'Numpad 1'
Jump to the previous Point of Interest

Camera positioning
and zooming:
'Numpad 8, 2, 4, 6'
Move the camera Up, Down, Left, Right
'Arrow keys'
Rotate camera Up, Down, Left, Right
'Numpad 9'
Move camera forward
'Numpad 3'
Move camera backward
'Numpad 0'
Zoom out
'Numpad .'
Zoom in
'Numpad /'
Tilt camera left
'Numpad *'
Tilt camera right
'Numpad 5'
Reset camera position to default

Security System and Miscellaneous Controls (via plugin DLL):

Keyboard Layout - Driving (for the class 323 EMU)

Main in-cab system controls
(via plugin DLL):
AWS Reset button
Acknowledge Driver Vigilance Device
'Home' [Cycle]
Wipers on / speed up
'End' [Cycle]
Wipers slow down / off
'Page Up'
Enable / Disable TPWS TSS Override
'Page Down'
Isolate AWS, TPWS, and vigilance device

Miscellaneous Controls
(via plugin DLL):
Raise the pantograph
Lower the pantograph
Toggle tail lights on/off
'5' [Cycle]
Set the headlights (day, marker lights only, night, off)
Signal guard with buzzer (1 buzz per button press)
Activate / Deactivate the DRA

Other openBVE Keyboard Assignments:

Keyboard Layout - Driving (for the class 323 EMU)

In-game Menu Navigation:
AWS Reset button
'Up/Down Arrow'
Acknowledge Driver Vigilance Device
Wipers on / speed up

Miscellaneous openBVE
Simulator Commands:
'F10' [Cycle]
Cycle between Debug interface mode, no on-screen information, and normal in-game information mode
Enable or disable backface culling (enables one sided 3D surfaces to be viewed from both sides, useful for legacy BVE routes designed to be viewed only in a forward direction)
Enable or disable Low CPU mode (reduces CPU usage; handy if you want to multitask but only have a slow or single core processor)
Pause or resume the game

Other Commands:
Quit openBVE (after confirmation)
Activates or deactivates the AI driver (if you have installed the class 323 3D cab and UkTrainSys cross-platform plugin update, then the AI driver can also fully operate the systems which are simulated by the plugin)
Show or hide the framerate
Show or hide the in-game clock
'Ctrl+V' [Cycle]
Show or hide the current speed or velocity (mph > km/h > hide)
Disable or enable in-cab camera restriction (when disabled, allows you to pan the camera beyond the boundaries of the 2D cab panel or image)
Show the timetable (BVE4 style timetable > openBVE Timetable > Hide)
'Ctrl+Up/Dn Arrow'
Scroll up or down the openBVE style timetable
Switch between windowed and fullscreen mode
Time Acceleration (x5 / Normal)
Mute/Enable Sound

Show or hide the braking system debug output
Show or hide vertex normals (advanced users only)
Show or hide wireframe 3D models

Step by step guide - Redditch to Birmingham New Street with the class 323 EMU

Important Note: On your journey, you may on occasion hear a louder high pitched 'beeping' sound (not the beeping you hear when the doors are closing). This is the Driver's Vigilance Device, and it sounds when you haven't moved the power/brake handle or acknowledged any AWS warnings for a period of 60 seconds. If you fail to acknowledge the Vigilance Device by pressing and releasing [Delete] within 7 seconds, an emergency brake application will be made. The Vigilance Device essentially offers some additional safety should the driver become incapacitated or unconscious.

Second Important Note: If you 'jump' to a station using openBVE's in-game menu (see the openBVE Help Guide for more information), you may need to deactivate the Driver's Reminder Appliance (DRA) using [Space], or possibly, reset the AWS and TPWS before you can proceed. Immediately after 'jumping to' a station, simply check to see whether the DRA needs to be deactivated, and if necessary, apply full service brakes by pressing the 'Q' key until the brakes are fully applied, and then follow the startup/self test procedure in Step 1 under The Startup and Self-Test Procedure, found below.

Third important note: I'd recommend you enable openBVE's 'Normal' driving mode to begin with, as opposed to Arcade or Expert mode. This way, a good balance between on-screen information and challenge is provided. This option can be set via the "Mode of driving" drop-down box at the bottom of the route and train selection screen.

Upon entering the cab, the first step is to prepare the unit for departure.

You can pan the camera around the 3D cab (if installed), by clicking the [Right Mouse Button], and moving the mouse around.

This unit has just arrived at Redditch (from Birmingham), and you join the cab after changing ends. You need to insert your driver's key and run through the startup and self-test procedure, and possibly raise the pantograph as well.

The Startup and Self-Test Procedure:

  1. Master/Reverser Switch to ON - move the Reverser to Forward, then back to Neutral. [Press 'F' once, then 'V' once]
    • The panel lights will now illuminate
    • In a moment, the AWS and TPWS will self-test. TPWS indicators will illuminate, the AWS 'Sunflower' instrument will show the sunflower and then revert to black, the brakes will apply, and the AWS horn will sound continuously. Press the AWS Reset button ['Insert'] to end the self-test. The horn will cease, a short bell will be heard, the brakes will release, and all TPWS indicator lights should extinguish.

  2. Ensure that the Tail Lights are set to OFF (see the headlights section above for further information).

  3. Set the headlights to the daytime configuration [Press '5' once] (see the headlights section above for further information).

  4. Check the Line Volts indicator is illuminated and the VCB indicator is extinguished. If the Line Volts indicator is extinguished, press the ['2'] key and wait for the pantograph to rise. When contact is made with the overhead line, voltage is sensed, and the Line Volts indicator will illuminate.

Waiting to depart:

While you're waiting for the guard to give you permission to leave the station, now would be a good time to play with the external views. Press ['F2'], and you'll see your class 323 from the outside. Move the camera with the [Numpad 8, 4, 2 and 6] keys. Zoom in and out using the [Numpad . (period) and 0] keys, and look around using the [Arrow] keys. Now press [Numpad 5]; note how the camera resets itself? This will be especially useful when you're using the F3 lineside external view and the F4 drive-by view later on, as Numpad 5 will also reposition your camera at the train's current position if you've driven away from the last camera location.

Departure Time:

  1. The guard will close the doors for you, and signal you via two buzzes when this is done, informing you that it is safe to depart. Acknowedge the guards buzzer by replying with 2 buzzes [press '6', twice]

  2. Move the Reverser to the Forward (F) position. ['F']

  3. Deactivate the Driver's Reminder Appliance (DRA) by pressing ['Space']. Ensure the red DRA indicator light extinguishes (you may need to pan the camera down with the ['Down Arrow'] key if you are using a widescreen resolution). If the DRA is activated, you won't be able to draw power.

  4. Move the combined power/brake handle to P1, P2, P3 or P4 to release the brakes and begin accelerating (repeatedly tap the ['Z' key]). To hear a more accurate rendition of the class 323's 3 phase AC traction motor acceleration sounds, you can safely move the power handle to P4 immediately. As the brakes release, the brake cylinder gauge will show a decrease in pressure to 0 bar, and you'll hear air release sounds outside of the train. You'll then hear the 'thunk' of a relay and the train will draw forward.

  5. Just beyond the platform at Redditch, you'll see your first Permissible Speed Indicator, showing the speed limit beyond Redditch station is 20mph, so as you accelerate towards 15mph, start to ease back the power handle so you don't exceed 20mph.

    Inset image

  6. There are some steep downward gradients on departure from Redditch. Keep your speed in check by periodically moving the power/brake handle between B1 and N to maintain speed.

  7. Beyond the first overbridge, you'll cross a road underbridge and see an AWS magnet. On passing over it, the AWS horn will sound, and the AWS sunflower will show. Within 3 seconds, press the and release the AWS Reset button ['Insert'] to cancel the warning - the horn will cease, but the AWS sunflower will remain visible. If you don't press the AWS Reset button quickly enough, an emergency brake application will be made, the TPWS Brake Demand indicator will flash red, and you will be unable to release the brakes until the train has stopped, and 60 seconds have elapsed.

    Inset image Inset image

  8. Further along, you'll see you another Permissible Speed Indicator, showing you can accelerate to 55mph. If you are driving a single class 323, then you have 3 coaches, so judge when your last coach has passed the Permissible Speed Indicator and then accelerate to 55mph.

  9. As you accelerate, you'll also notice a blue sign with a white cross on your left - an AWS Cancelling Indicator. This sign indicates that you may disregard the last AWS warning you recieved - in this case, the AWS magnet and the associated warning apply only to trains travelling in the opposite direction towards Redditch.

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  10. A couple of minutes later, you'll encounter a Whistle Board. On passing this sign, you should sound one high note and one low note using the horn. [Press 'Numpad Enter' for the high note, followed by 'Numpad +' for the low note]. This horn serves to warn people who may be using the upcoming foot crossing to stand clear of the line.

  11. As you pass beneath the next over bridge, you should begin to decelerate for the upcoming 20mph speed restriction at Alvechurch station. In the interests of passenger comfort, you should use brake handle positions B1 or B2. Only use B3 or EMG (Emergency Brake) if you have to!

  12. When you enter the platform at Alvechruch, look out for the 'S' Car Stop sign fitted to the lamp post at the far end of the platform - aim to stop directly by this sign. If you undershoot the guard will press his buzzer button 6 times, and you should draw forward and stop at the correct location. If you overshoot, then the guard will send you 3 buzzes, and you will have to set the Reverser to 'Reverse' and set the train back into the platform.
  13. Once you've arrived, wait until you hear the doors close and recieve 2 buzzes from the guard - perform the same procedure with the buzzer as you did at Redditch, and then depart.

  14. Around a mile further along, you'll encounter another AWS magnet, and your first signal. Usually this Distant Signal will be green, and if so you'll hear an AWS 'bing' sound, and the AWS sunflower instrument will turn black - no action is required on your part.

    Inset image

  15. The next signal will probably show a single yellow - this means the following signal is showing a red aspect, and you must be prepared to stop at it. Cancel the AWS horn as you did earlier.

  16. On the approach to Barnt Green you'll traverse a sharp curve, don't be alarmed by the loud squealing of wheel flanges against the outside rail! If the sprinkler system fitted between the rails is activated, you may hear less pronounced flange squealing sounds.

  17. After leaving Barnt Green you will notice a double yellow signal - this means the next signal is showing a single yellow aspect, and the next but one signal is showing a red aspect. You can continue to travel reasonably fast past the double yellow, but must begin braking before passing the single yellow - just to make sure you can stop in time for the red signal.

  18. As you approach the red signal before Longbridge, and if the line ahead is clear, you may notice the aspect change before you reach it - this is because this is an 'approach controlled' signal - it is deliberately held at red until you are near to it, to force you to slow down in time for the junction. You will also notice the feather illuminate above the signal, indicating that you will be taking the diverging route to the left, i.e. crossing over to the slow line.

  19. On arrival at Longbridge, look out for the '3' Car stop sign - as you're driving a single class 323, this is where you should aim to stop. You're now on your own until Kings Norton...

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  20. On departing Kings Norton, you will see your first Banner Repeater - this tells you if the signal around the curve is showing a red aspect or not.

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  21. As you round the curve after Kings Norton, you'll enter a short tunnel - 'Pershore Road Tunnel'. You may wish to sound your horn upon entering the tunnel. You'll now have to reach the approaches to Birmingham New Street by yourself!

  22. On the approaches to Birmingham New Street, the last tunnel you'll enter is 'Holliday Street Tunnel'. At the entrance to this tunnel, is a 4 aspect signal with a 'theatre' type route indicator which will show a number - the platform you'll be entering, and a Ground Repeater, which shows the same aspect as the main signal next to it. Notice as you emerged from Canal Tunnel (the previous tunnel), how you saw the Ground Repeater aspect from within the tunnel, before you could see the main signal? This is why it is installed at this location - to give you better visiblity and more warning of the signal. You may also notice the small AWS Gap sign at ground level, this indicates that there is no track mounted AWS equipment fitted beyond this point, although there is TPWS equipment installed.

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  23. On entering the station throat at New Street, you should have slowed to 10mph, and should maintain this speed throughout the station area. Half way along the platform, you'll see a 'middle signal' showing a single yellow aspect - this means you are cleared to draw forward to the second half of the platform (in this case, platform 8a). Aim to stop at the orange marker painted on the platform edging.

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Congratulations! You've completed your first duty on the Cross-City line. Why not try again, but this time in rain and fog, or even at night?!

If you spot any other lineside signs but don't understand their meaning, check out the Lineside Signs section of the Rail Sim Routes UK Driver's Guide.

[Return to Topic List]

Content last updated: 10th April 2019