Minecraft and Closing the Rail Loop

After finishing up the Prismarine Bridge and under water glass tunnel… and screwing around with that huge series of abandoned mines which I still haven’t finished clearing out… I took the rail supplies I had accumulated and started building that last stretch of rail line to cut across the north of the rail loop and bring me to the mesa biome where I could start angling to join the whole thing together.

I made one base along the way in order to have a place to hole up at night.  The day/night cycle can be a burden.  You can either commute to and from your base every time the sun goes down or you can stay in the field and fight stuff all night.  Commuting is safer, but it eats up valuable daylight hours the further you get from your base.

From that point I kept pressing forward across plains, through a forest, into a savannah, until there, in the distance, I got my first glimpse of the mesa biome from this end of the tracks.

That bit of color there past all the sand

That bit of color there past all the sand

Seeing that put my goal in sight.  Also visible there is a desert temple, one of those naturally generated bits of the game.  When I reached it I found that it had, of course, been looted by Xydd already.  All of the hallmarks of his work were on the place.

But that was fine.  I didn’t need any more luggage, though I was happy enough to reuse the empty chests he left behind.  I sealed the place up, putting doors on the openings, lit the interior and the surroundings, and ran the rail line right up next to it, creating a station stop there.  This was to be my base at the north end of the mesa biome.

Desert temple becomes base

Desert temple becomes base

I needed a base because I still had to build a rail line across most of the mesa biome which, as its name implies, is made up of a lot of flat topped mountains.

There I had to make a choice as to how to proceed.  I could stay at about sea level and tunnel through mesas at need, or I could run rails up to the top of the first mesa and build bridges between them.

Tunnels would certainly let me collect plenty of colored clay, but I had already got to the top of a mesa at the south end of the biome, so going upwards seemed to be the better choice.  Plus the view is better from up there.

Also, using some extra powered golden rails was a benefit, as I have an excess of gold and redstone, while I am always looking for more iron.  I actually started laying golden rails more often as I went along.  You only need 1 every 30 iron rails to keep a mine cart up at full speed, but I cut that back to about 1 in 20 to reduce iron usage a bit and because, if you get stopped by something on the track that 1 in 30 plan won’t get you back up to full speed unless you hit a hill or a station.

I had also hauled along a lot of stone brick.  I have furnaces all along the rail line smelting cobblestone back into stone in order to make stone bricks, which is my current preferred building material.

So I pushed the rail line into the mesa biome and ran it up to the top of the first mesa that seemed to connect to a line of mesas that formed an arc along the eastern shore of the biome.

After I had gotten that side settled in, I went back down the rail line to the portal at the prismarine bridge, took the nether transit system to the portal already in the mesa biome, and came up there to start building the rail line from the other direction.  This was because there was going to be more work at that end of the line.  I had built the original rail terminus where there happened to be a portal and not with an eye to extending the line further along.  So I had to turn the terminus into a station and start building eastward to catch the southern end of that same arc of mesas.  From there I pushed northward until I got the other end in sight.

At that point I ran a bit ahead to build a last bridge on the northern end of the line so as to bring the two ends together at a point where I could build a little marker.  And so the circle was complete.

On this spot, the golden rail was laid...

On this spot, the golden rail was laid…

So what have I wrought with all of this work?

Well, there is a great loop railroad.  Single track I am afraid, and no sidings.  But there isn’t much traffic on it, so collisions are unlikely, unless we are talking about wildlife.  I’ve run into a few pigs.

The line is horse compatible, which means the right of way, as railroad people refer to it, is two blocks wide and three blocks high.  That is the size you need to be able to ride a horse through, so it can act as a road for those in the saddle.  The only exception is the line between Skronkholm and Firenze, but there is an alternate surface path there.

There are 19 main stations along the line, spread out thus:

Stations... you may want to click to enlarge that...

Stations… you may want to click to enlarge that…

The stations that are at each of those numbers:

  1. Desert Temple Station – North end of the mesa biome, lodging and storage only.
  2. Mesa Biome Station – Former terminus of the rail line, has a portal and the beginnings of a mine. (screen shot when it was just the terminus)
  3. Bridge Portal Station – A quick tower to spend the night in and a portal.
  4. Horse Fields Station – A prismarine rest stop with a stable and a portal.
  5. Farm Station – A large base of mine with a portal, a large series of mines, and a farm.  Additional building projects and a town nearby. (screen shot)
  6. Schloss Adler Station – A base I made in a mountain, with a mine and a portal.
  7. The Kremlin Station – A sprawling, walled base at the end of my second major rail line.  Has a portal, a farm, livestock, a mine, and paths off to a town and other structures.  Has several experiments in tower building and an ender portal off one of the mine shafts.
  8. Aaron & Xydd Station – The stop that leads off to both of their bases.  There is a rail line to either, though Aaron’s has grown such that it has crossed over the main line.  Portals and all sorts of buildings and machinery there. (screen shot of the vicinity)
  9. Spawn Point North Station – The stop at my first castle north of the spawn point.  A portal, a mine, and a farm are nearby.
  10. Spawn Point South Station – The stop south of the spawn point that used to be the end of the rail line to Skronk’s holdings.  Our first base in the game is nearby.
  11. Skronkholm Station – Skonk’s first works.  Includes a farm, a portal, and mining.
  12. Firenze Station – Skronk and Enadli’s elaborate base that has about everything.  Voted a world historical site by unanimous acclaim. (screen shot)
  13. Southwest Station – A minor base on the southern end of the west line, a quick place to sleep.
  14. West Plains Station – A small base located near a portal with a mine.  Food is available. (screen shot)
  15. Stone Mountain Station – A more elaborate base near a portal, with a mine and a small farm.
  16. Fire Town Station – A station I built adjacent to an NPC town, which I then walled in, expanded, and added a portal and a mine to.  So called because I built a two story red building that looks a bit like a fire station.  Horses are nearby as well. (screen shot before I built the fire station)
  17. Desert Town Station – A convenient stopping place during the build. Only lightly improved with an unfinished wall, no portal and no mine.
  18. Prismarine Bridge Station – A long time resting point for me, with a portal, small farm, dock, and a mine that leads down to a series of abandoned mines that were a source for much of my iron rail in the last push.
  19. North Point Station – The last station built on the line, used primarily as an overnight spot so I did not have to roll all the way back to the bridge.  Has a stable, as I rode a horse up there to use to scout the way.

Of course, that isn’t nearly obsessive enough.  After finishing off the line I had to go and travel the whole thing.  I decided to go from station to station and chart the distance between each, noting my odometer setting in the statistics panel as I hit each station.

  • Desert Temple to Mesa Biome – 1.58km
  • Mesa Biome to Bridge Portal – 1.12km
  • Bridge Portal to Horse Fields – 1.71km
  • Horse Fields to Farm – 1.70km
  • Farm to Schloss Adler – 1.43km
  • Schloss Adler to The Kremlin – 1.03km
  • The Kremlin to Aaron & Xydd – 0.50km
  • Aaron & Xydd to Spawn Point North – 0.41km
  • Spawn Point North to Spawn Point South – 0.36km
  • Spawn Point South to Skronkholm – 0.53km
  • Skronkholm to Firenze – 0.59km
  • Firenze to Southwest – 1.31km
  • Southwest to West Plains – 0.46km
  • West Plains to Stone Mountain – 2.52km
  • Stone Mountain to Fire Town – 1.61km
  • Fire Town to Desert Town – 1.57km
  • Desert Town to Prismarine Bridge – 1.67km
  • Prismarine Bridge to North Point – 1.30km
  • North Point to Desert Temple – 1.07km

That ends up totally to a 22.47km rail loop.  Of course, I opened up Excel and put that data into a two dimensional grid so I can expand it out to have a table that shows the distance along the rail line between any two stations.

I also timed the runs between each station, though that was a bit more problematic.  That required me to start and stop a stopwatch, which introduces some error.  Then I ran into animals at a couple points, which put off the time.  And then there are a couple of stretches of the line where I need to go back and inject a few more golden rails to keep mine carts at full speed.  I was stingy with those rails early on.

The times were off, but they seemed to indicate that a minecart, kept at top speed, moves about a half a km a minute.  That jibes with the wiki, which says the top speed is 8 blocks a second, and blocks in the game are a meter on each side. (Speeds of various things in Minecraft if you are interested.)

So that is a rail line that is 22,470 meters long… or, if you prefer, 22,470 sections of track… which, if you kept at top speed, would take 2,808.75 seconds to travel, or a bit more than 45 minutes.  I was considering how to showcase the rail line and thought about taking a video of a trip around the loop, but I don’t think a 45 minute video would be a big winner.  I’d have to speed it up.

And, as one additional bit of semi-related trivia, the explored area of our world… which admittedly still has some holes in it… is about 15km by 8km, which makes it about the same as the estimated size of the Kalimdor continent, as measured by somebody who attempted to apply some science to the topic.

So that is a major project completed in Minecraft.  I still want to go back and spruce up the bridges I build in the mesa biome.  I was in a bit of a hurry towards the end, so they are mostly just flat platforms between mesas.

So what was The Great Northern Road back in October, finished up in November, which later became the Great Northern Railroad ,and then plans for the great loop were hatched, which I did not post about until early May, when I was already pretty far along (14 of 19 stations in place by that point), is finished.  And that brings us to the eternal Minecraft question, “What next?”

11 thoughts on “Minecraft and Closing the Rail Loop

  1. Chip Van Alstyne (@chipvanalstyne)

    Despite not playing any of your games (although I am a recovering WoW addict), your blog is fascinating. In looking at the map, there’s an entire southern section which needs to be added to the rail loop. ;) I’d also suggest some crossing rails between stations on the opposite sides of the continent to allow easy access to them. Although that might be unnecessary due to your nether portals.


  2. Aywren

    Huge congrats on getting this complete! This is so impressive and I’d love to see a video of the entire thing if you ever make one. :)

    I was piddling around in Minecraft this weekend and discovered an abandoned mine. There was a cart with a treasure chest in it, that also had some track inside. So I started gathering up track and messing around with it. Made me think about this rail loop you were working on, though mine is in no way even close to this long. XD


  3. Mazer

    Congrats! Definitely +1 vote for a video, sped up or not it sounds like it would be interesting. I’m not that familiar with vanilla cart mechanics, but a natural progression might be rigging up what automation is possible beyond BYOCart.

    “Although that might be unnecessary due to your nether portals.” Necessary?! This is Minecraft. ^_^


  4. PB

    Aw man, how do you get all the resources to build that? I’m in the process of building a simple stone road and the constant grind for blocks is killing me.


  5. anon

    I’d recommend some intermediary exploration projects to foster some creativity on what to do next. There’s always the chance you will discover one more rare biome.


  6. p0tsh0t

    Excelsior! Before vacation and undertaken another major RL project, I was hatching plans to build a few more UNESCO world heritage sites as points of interest along the line…

    I suspect that will have to wait a few weeks to get started.

    Amazing job!


  7. Leoric Firesword

    amazing work. I’ve never even built a 1km rail line! now there’s the task of critter proofing the line, nothing sucks more than hitting a creeper on a bridge!


  8. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Leoric Firesword – I have taken to lighting bridges so they won’t be as likely to spawn on them, but the creeper menace is not to be trifled with. Since 1.9 they seem to spawn in greater numbers, and I have had three or four at them come at me while I have been working on something and blow it to bits… or blocks. Nothing like having to clean up the mess after your full auto-furnace has been obliterated and the contents are all over the yard.


  9. Fenjay

    Congrats on finishing! I’d watch a video showcasing the line also. You could speed it up during the cross-country bits and slow down for points of interest.

    I’ve only built a small rail line between our two main bases in our vanilla server, but it was super useful. There is a lot to be said for afk travel between two given points. It’s a little like WoW flight points, and across a landmass similar to Kalimdor at that.

    Also, I love that you named the stations. That is one of my favorite parts of the Minecraft project process, and it’s good to see that someone else likes doing it.


  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Fenjay – I had to give a couple of them names when I did the distance chart; Southwest and North Point stations specifically. Being mostly just rest stops during construction, they hadn’t developed names of their own accord.

    Desert Temple station actually has a sign up right now that calls it Ankh Station, which is what I named it initially, but then changed my mind. Have to go fix that. But most everything else has a name (with a sign) because the location had a name already.

    There are actually a few other stations along the line where I have a switch set so carts do not stop. Between Bridge Portal and Farm Stations there is Red House and Three Pigs Stations. (I built houses of straw, wood, and brick at the latter.) There is also a tunnel station between Southwest and West Plains stations. And there are a series of points where I built shelters during the project at which I didn’t bother building stops. You just roll by and see a door in a hillside with torches on either side.


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