Letting off steam with Zany Zen Railway in Second Life

Riding Zany Zen’s Railway – April 2021

Back in April 2020, I wrote about Rydia Lacombe’s work in mapping all of Second Life’s railway networks (see: Mapping Second Life’s mainland railways). I ended the article by musing the idea of doing an occasional series about the Second Life Railroad (SLRR) network, even going so far at to contemplate a title for the series: From the Footplate. However, in June of 2020 the Lab launched a video series on the subject, prompting me to put the idea onto the back burner.

However, had I gone ahead with that series, I would have started with the Zany Zen Railway (ZZR), located in the heart of Jeogeot.

Riding Zany Zen’s Railway – April 2021

Created and operated by fellow “Brit” Zen Swords-Galway (ZenriaCo), it’s one of the most unique lines to be found in Second Life, being a) almost entirely scratch-built by Zen (with rolling stock scripting by Dizzi Sternberg, Janet Rossini and NightShade Fugu) and b) it is and narrow-gauge service, something of a rarity in SL. There’s also the fact it offers something of a celebration of UK in the most subtle of ways.

This last point can be seen on arrival at one of the two terminus points for the railway, Little Coverston, located in Gaori. Here, above a small Welsh coastal hamlet (complete with RNLI station) sits a stone built station, the entranceway to which is lined by posters advertising places to Ely, Whitby and the famous Rheilffordd Talyllyn – Talyllyn Railway, itself a narrow-gauge railway and Welsh tourist attraction that runs along the line that original carried slate from the quarries to the port of Tywyn. Incidentally, it was also the first narrow-gauge railway in the UK to be authorised by Act of Parliament for the transport of passengers.

Riding Zany Zen’s Railway – April 2021

It’s very much a passion project that grew into something I could never imagine. I’ve been lucky over the last few years to have some help with a few bits and bobs; the passenger carriage update last year couldn’t of been done with out a friend.

Zen discussing her Zany Zen Railway

Roughly three passenger trains an hour run along the ZZR, so if you arrive between services, you can take a wander along the street below and maybe pop into the Welsh Dragon to refresh yourself or, if it is open, the local corner shop to grab a sandwich or snack to enjoy on the train.

The rolling stock on the ZZR is all designed and built by Zen herself, and is incredibly well detailed

One of the reasons the service may appear slow is that – like many narrow gauge lines – the ZZR is predominantly a single track, one that is shared with goods trains. This means that passenger services often have to wait at the one double section of track to allow the freight service to pass. Not that this should be a problem; it simply gives passengers more time to appreciate their surroundings.

From Little Coverston the line runs east and then south, with a station at Seogyeo where that double section of line can be found, allowing trains to pass one another. The station is also home to the ZZR museum, offering a history of the line’s development that is very much worth hopping off the train to see – you can always catch the train once it has been down and back along the line to resume your journey. Also at Seogyeo is the chance to wander the streets of the local Welsh-themed village that is fully in keeping with the railway, and designed and built by RoaryCymru.

Seogyeo station, April 2021

After Seogyeo, the line continues south, passing over an extensive viaduct and then through a cutting to arrive at Ahndang, a little country station typical of a bygone era here in the UK, before continuing on to Somdari – actually the point where the line originally started. The ZZR’s engine sheds are here, giving visitors the chance to see more of the engines – all of which are beautifully designed (and there may well be a couple in the sidings along the line).

Another of an aspects of the ZZR that make it so engaging is the level of scripted automation and detail: station signs neatly display arriving services, levers shift as points change, carriage doors opening as closing as the trains sit alongside platforms, and so on. The ride can admittedly be a little rickety – but anyone who has ridden a narrow gauge knows that can be the case – as can be the tightness of the curves.

Looking back along the tracks on the Zany Zen Railway, April 2021

Zany Zen’s isn’t the longest or the fastest railway, nor does it have the biggest trains;  but that’s precisely the point. ZZR isn’t supposed to be big and bold and charging along; rather, it is an accurate interpretation of an English narrow gauge line that has been re-purposed from its original use to provide an engaging excursion people can enjoy – and one  I recommend you try if you haven’t already.

SLurl Details

2021 viewer release summaries week #13

Logos representative only and should not be seen as an endorsement / preference / recommendation

Updates from the week ending Sunday, April 4th

This summary is generally published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.
  • Note that for purposes of length, TPV test viewers, preview / beta viewers / nightly builds are generally not recorded in these summaries.

Official LL Viewers

  • Release viewer: Custom Key Mappings RC viewer, version, dated March 24th, promoted March 27th – NEW.
  • Release channel cohorts:
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • No updates.

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers



Mobile / Other Clients

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: Ingenuity readies for flight

Ingenuity hangs under the belly of Perseverance at the end of several days of initial deployment.Credit: NASA/JPL

This past week has seen the Mars helicopter Ingenuity successfully deployed onto the surface of Mars in readiness for its first flight – although NASA has announced the flight itself has been delayed.

As I noted in my previous Space Sunday report, the helicopter was unpacked over several days (the work actually commencing prior to that report appearing). It took several days because each stage of the deployment had to be verified to ensure it had been correctly completed using the WATSON camera on  the rover’s robot arm imaging the helicopter from several angles after each phase of the deployment so that engineers on Earth could confirm everything looked correct. However, everything went as expected, and by March 31st (UTC), Ingenuity was in an upright position under the rover, but still connected to it via the power umbilical and backplane support.

At this point proceedings were paused whilst systems were given a final check-out prior to the command being given to release the helicopter to drop the 10-13cm down onto the Martian surface. Once released, Ingenuity would be on its own power-wise, with a limited period in which to charge up its batteries using sunlight, so the engineering team wanted to run through final verification that everything was OK.

On Sunday, April 4th, the Jet Propulsion released images revealing that final step of deployment had been completed, and Ingenuity is standing on Mars, Perseverance having moved several metres away to establish line-of-sight communications with the helicopter.

Caught by the Hazcam system on Perseverance, Ingenuity sits on the surface of Mars after the rover had initially moved away from it following release. This image was taken on mission Sol 43 (Sunday, April 4th, 2021) at a local mean solar time of 15:14. It is a raw image that has not been white balanced for Earth lighting. Credit: NASA/JPL

The next challenge is to ensure the solar cells that the very top of the rotor mast are able to provide energy to the batteries, which can only survive 25 hours without recharge now Ingenuity has been separated from the rover.

It had been hoped that the first in a sequence of five planned flight tests would commence on Thursday, April 8th. However, this has now been delayed until Sunday, April 11th, at the earliest.

A further view of Ingenuity sitting in Jezero Crater after the rover has moved further away. Sol 43 (April 4th, 2021)

The delay is to allow for a full regime of tests to be carried out on the helicopter – which has gained the nickname “Ginny”  among the engineering and flight team at JPL – including its ability to survive the harsh cold of Martian nights and then recharge its batteries during daylight hours. Should all go according to plan, Perseverance will capture the flight, and images / video from both the rover and the helicopter will be released on or shortly after April 12th.

Providing the first straight-up-hover-straight-down flight is a success, the flight team will move on to the remaining four pre-flights for the helicopter, which the hope to complete well inside the 30-day window allowed for the tests – and potentially complete more, if there is sufficient time left before Perseverance must turn to its now duties and say “bye-bye” to  Ingenuity.

Following the first flight, Ingenuity will perform a more complex series of flights, such as the one shown above. Credit: NASA/JPL

When it does commence its own science work, Perseverance may not initially travel too far from the helicopter’s flight zone: whilst Ingenuity was unfolding beneath it, the rover’s team became increasingly intrigued by a green-tinted rock a short distance away.

The yet-to-be-dubbed rock is thought to be a possible meteorite or a piece of bedrock that may have been “popped” up from under the layers of sedimentary rock on which the rover is parked. However, the science team will not be drawn on any conclusions until Perseverance has had the chance to get up close to the rock and focus all of its attention on it. Thus far, the rover has only been able to image the rock using its Mastcam-Z system and zap it a few times with the SuperCam laser system.

That the rock – roughly 15 cm in length – might be a meteorite is not beyond the bounds of possibility: Perseverance’s “sister” rover, Curiosity, happened upon a similar odd rock sitting on the landscape in 2014. Once its duties watching over Ingenuity have ended, Perseverance will be able to devote its full attention on the rock, further utilising its SuperCam laser and spectrometer, as well as the SHERLOC and WATSON combination on its robot arm in an attempt to decipher the rock’s mystery.

The interesting rock – possibly a meteorite – Perseverance has been studying from a distance whilst the Ingenuity helicopter deployment has been underway. Credit: NASA/JPL

Meanwhile, and half a world away, Curiosity has been busy as it continues its investigations of  “Mount Sharp”, the 6 km high mound of deposits left in the centre of Gale Crater, the result of multiple periods of flooding.

At the start of March, Curiosity commenced it most recent science campaign, examining an impressive 6 metre high rock formation dubbed “Mont Mercou” after a mountain in France close the village of Nontron, which is being used to generate monikers for features in the area the rover is exploring due to the presence of nontronite, a type of clay mineral (also named for the village) within the area.

A 3D view of “Mont Mercou” created from a total of 32 images captured by Curiosity on Sol 3049 of its mission – March 4th, 2021. It was made by taking 16 images from one location and then moving 4 metres to take a second set. The resulting stereoscopic effect helps scientists get a better idea of the geometry of the mound’s sedimentary layers, as if they’re standing in front of the formation. This finished view has been coloured balanced to match Earth-type lighting conditions. Credit; NASA/JPL

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