AVSIM Commercial Simulation Review

TRAINZ
RAILWAYS

Product Information

Publisher: Just Trains

Description: Train Simulator.

Download Size:
NA

Format:
DVD
Simulation Type:
Train
Reviewed by: Gene Davis AVSIM Staff Reviewer - February 23, 2008

Introduction

Trains, what do we need trains for when we have a Flight Simulator? Well, when I was growing up I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed breaking out a new HO Railroad set and building my very own railroad. I remember the trips to the hobby store well, the anticipation was enough to choke a horse but I always managed to find that new engine, car or building that would soon join my miniature rail world. Sadly though, whenever I got to the point where I would actually start working on the terrain, I would get bored because I just didn’t understand how to put it all together, nor did I have the patience.

I remember one time when I had built a mountain over my railroad track, armed with chicken wire, newspaper and a stapler, I built my mountain that resulted in a big mess all over the floor but the end result was a mountain with a tunnel for my train to travel under. Ultimately, my early days in model railroading fell short, while I pulled out the two big boards that my track was laid out on several occasions, I never really got back into it as I found that being a teenager and chasing after girls was a lot more fun!

As I get older I seem to have my moments where I venture back into the days of wanting to build. Things like model railroads and model airplanes tend to come to mind, but time usually comes in short supply as real life seems to intercede more often than not. So, what do we do to fill the void? Like many of us we use Flight Simulator, but for that railroad engineer in us I have found that Auran seems to fill that void with their never ending product line of Train Simulating and this time around we take a look at Trainz Railways, Auran’s latest release through Just Trains!

Installation and Documentation

Test System

Computer 1

Intel Core Duo E6600
3GB Dual Channel Ram
ATI Radeon X1950 512
Saitek Flight Yoke
Saitek Throttles
CH Rudder Pedals
Saitek X52 Flight Controllers
Track IR 4
Patchberri Flight Panel

Computer 2:

P4 3.0 800 FSB W/HT
2GB Of Corsair Ram
ATI X1600 PRO 512
Saitek Cyborg 3d Joystick

Sims I use:
FS9, FSGW3, FSX
Trainz, Rail Simulator

The first thing you are going to notice that I refer to Trainz Railways as both Trainz Railways and Trainz Classics, that is because it is referred to in the manual as Trainz Railways and in the program it is referred to as Trainz Classics; Which one is it? At first I thought I had the wrong program in the box, but the disc says Railways, the books says railways but the program says Classics. Hmm, that is mighty strange! It might be this way because of marketing in both the United Kingdom and the US regarding the product name, but in all it's kind of confusing!

Having owned and reviewed the last release of Trainz, the 2006 version, I was really quite anxious to see what this new release would entail. Surprisingly, Trainz Classics does not install into Trainz 2006 or any other version for that matter. In fact, the manual makes it clear that some of the features may not be compatible between the two and that you are required to have a separate installation of the TC on your hard drive if you want to use it. So, an individual installation of Trainz Classics is required.

Installation is relatively easy, simply insert the disc and let the program install. The product does require the input of a registration number rather than the on-disc copy protection that usually comes with Just Trains and Just Flight products, I really can’t stand registration numbers but I understand their importance and why they are there.

There is a printed manual that explains the program layout and tells you exactly what you are getting, though it doesn’t contain a whole lot of information on the Surveyor portion of this sim, it is refreshing to have something to read. Be warned, this is the exact manual that was used in the Trainz 2006 version with certain chapters changed to accompany the new title, so there is little new information.

What really surprised me was the lack of anything in the manual referring to the Train content in the program, there was nothing that talked about the individual Trains. There is, however, an in-program rail museum that you can access through the main menu, this will give you some information on both the Engines and their accompanying cars.

The manual makes it very clear that Auran has a website and that is where you can find any and all information that you may require for additional research or additions to your rail sim. The only thing I don’t like about the Auran site is that you are limited to the amount of downloads and time that you can spend there. What I don’t like is that the manual covers their site in over 10 pages in the printed manual explaining what is there and how to get there and always pushes the “golden ticket” access.

The problem I have with that is, if I had just spent $40.00 on Trainz Railways the last thing I want to see in the manual is ten pages of someone trying to convince me that I need to spend more money. I think it would really help if Auran offered a free 30 day trial to the website after purchase as a way to get people to the site and better promote the product, as doing it the way it’s done now just turns me off the entire program. This will always be a big issue for me when it comes to the Trainz line of sims, but to each their own and whatever works for them seems to suit them best.

Also included in the package is the same content manager that was included with the original Trainz product, with this I do believe that you can incorporate train sets and other scenery objects from the original to Trainz Railways, although it does say in the book that some of it may not be compatible. When I used the content manager in Trainz 2006 it repeatedly crashed on me, this one does seem a little more stable and does what is promised.

All Aboard!

I had a big misconception about Trainz Railways when I offered to review it. I thought that it would incorporate all of the features from the original and offer some new fluff to keep me interested in this sim. Well, after I installed it and found that I could not use the original content without trying to import it into the new sim and with that, only some of it may work. So, putting that aside I decided that I would just treat this as a standalone sim without some of the features that I wanted and ultimately went full forward and jumped headlong into the new sim.

The first thing I found was that the new Trainz Railways only comes with 4 real trains and one tram for the Metropolis route giving you a total of 5 engines to plot and build with. I was a little disappointed in the lack of a steam engine, but got past it when I saw that it had the FL9.

The four engines that come with TC are the FL9 (my personal favorite), The SPW 2000, The Shore-liner and the P32ACDM, each of which are passenger based but you can take the FL9 and add a cargo consist and with a little effort you will be hauling goods instead. There is a fifth engine and it is the Tram for the Metropolis route and with a little creativity I think one could design his or her own route to use it on.

As you journey across the miles and miles of track, you will find lighting for all of the towns. The lighting is really outdated and almost makes the sim look terrible at night, lamp posts almost take on a life of their own when they are lit up. For that reason I left the light poles and such out of my track design. Rather than having a dissipating light that comes from the light source, what you get is a cone that illuminates yellow from the top of it, very ugly!

The Harlem Line from New York covers over 40 miles of actual track. Cities and towns are laid out as they appear and all have custom scenery objects and buildings, as well as accurate landmarks. The route is well laid out, although most of it is rural and a lot of what you see is countryside.

The Harlem Line

As for the Metropolis route, I decided to give this one another go and this time I hit pay dirt! Not being able to add any new content, I was able to clear the schedule for one of the inner-city trams and operate it myself. What a ride! Watching ahead, checking speed and making sure the correct switches are switched is crucial to getting your passengers to their stop on time. I managed to derail the tram a couple of times, once by not watching my speed on a tight corner and the other by not making sure the correct switches were switched on the tracks. It was a lot of fun and offered a nice change of pace to that of the New York Harlem Line.

The Metropolis Route

Overall, the graphics in the program are just okay. The trains aren’t as detailed as I would like to see them and the buildings as well as the many scenery objects have a dated look to them, but with the ability to create one’s own routes, this product does have a life outside its dated graphics.

In all not much has changed since the Trainz 2006 release! As you navigate from town to town and rail yard to rail yard, you find the only real thing you can do is transport passengers. Sure, you can add your own freight train with an FL9 cab, but the scenarios aren’t set up for it and you must create your own routes. I rode the Harlem line from one end to the other and found that when I arrived at the other end there was no train yard and my scenario ended telling me that I had reached the end of the route. With little or no fanfare it was over.

The Tram

Controlling and Driving a Train!

Getting into the cab of a train doesn’t really appeal to a lot of people. What does a train driver do but just sit and watch the world go by. Personally, I think that is a big misconception of train operations because there really is a lot a train driver has to keep track of (no pun intended!). Posted speeds, switching tracks (mostly done with computers now) but in TC you need to make sure all the tracks are switched properly, and most importantly, keeping time so that you don’t interfere with other train traffic is crucial. This is all simulated in TC and is one of the biggest selling points of TC, besides that of its world editor.

Climbing into the cab of either the FL9 or one of the passenger trams is represented in limited graphical detail. I was really amazed at how little the interior of the Trains have changed since Trainz 2004! The cab of the FL9 just leaves you wanting more, but as for the passenger trains, there is a bit more detail and all of the levers and switches are clickable. But if you step into the cab of the SPW2000 , you will notice that it is presented in greater detail as it appears to be a newer release.

Once again track switching is done from the exterior of the train rather than from inside. This can make things kind of tricky if you are trying to maneuver a train out a tight area like a train yard because you don’t notice the switches until it’s too late and your train will derail. This can be especially aggravating if you are trying to learn a new route and I find jumping in and out of the cab constantly to switch tracks tedious.

Controlling the engines are done one of two ways, one by the simple and easy to use DCC mode and the other is the realistic mode. The DCC mode acts much like that of a model railroad, forward and backwards is what you get with simple and easy braking. Now, put yourself into the realistic mode and you will be controlling all aspects of the dynamic brake, shifting gears, and most importantly controlling your speed and learning when to slow down or when to deploy sand!

I recommend starting out with the DCC mode and learning the other functions like track switching before moving into the realistic mode of control. It is crucial that you learn about switching track, especially when you are crossing over a switch that goes in the opposite direction. Doing this without switching the track in your direction will cause the train to derail and all the time you have put into your railroad adventure will be over.

Switches that go nowhere is another issue. I found that switching to different tracks usually resulted in a derailment because the track I switched to often went off into nowhere land. Map your route out and watch the signals and switches as you go. The signals will warn you of oncoming trains and/or track disruption and the switches will keep you moving in a straight and timely manner.

The Scenarios

What can I say about the scenarios in this package? They are all passenger based and require the user to maintain the correct arrival time at each station. Of the entire Harlem Line Route, there are only 4 scenarios. This is where adding additional content and making your own scenarios comes in handy. I was able to add a freight line using the FL9 that worked in conjunction with the existing Train Schedules that are already implemented within the Harlem scenario. It is important to note though, that if you add content like another train, be sure to check the existing lines for other scheduled operations. I ran head on with a passenger train as I wasn’t able to find a spot to switch to another track.

Switches that go nowhere is another issue. I found that switching to different tracks usually resulted in a derailment because the track I switched to often went off into nowhere land. Map your route out and watch the signals and switches as you go, the signals will warn you of oncoming trains and/or track disruption and the switches will keep you moving in a straight and timely manner.

The Metropolis scenario/route was quite impressive. It adds a lot in the way of dynamic features that are laid throughout the city so you don’t have the same thing going on all the time. At times you can hear music, people, cars and even birds; what is even more impressive is that you can incorporate these into your own worlds. It's kind of cool pulling up to the station and hearing a club filled with people across the street from the train depot.

A scenario can be built within a world for any train and you can do this by setting it up in the Surveyor portion of the program when adding the engines and their cars to the virtual world. Speed limits, signals and proper train operation is a must, and one really does learn a lot about the train world when all is done and said. One of the other cool features in this product is that you can add other trains that navigate whatever route you are creating. You simply assign a schedule for the engineer to keep and he will follow it with or without you in control.

Designing Your Own Virtual Rail World!

This is where you might separate Trainz from other Railroad simulators, as it offers a relatively easy to use and easy to understand interface for creating your very own virtual railroad. The editor exists within the Trainz program and it is merely a matter of creating a new route from within the surveyor menu. Once that is done, you are presented with a large grey grid where you can start building your own world. I have to say that little has changed since the original release of Trainz 2006 and the editor is how I remember it, although it does seem easier to use and doesn’t have some of the bugs that the other version had in it.

As simple as it sounds, it does require some learning and most importantly, how to lay track in a realistic manner. You can just go willy-nilly and lay all the track you want and just hope for the best, but what you end up with is more of a roller coaster ride rather than a true train ride. One of my biggest complaints with Trainz is that the documentation in the manual for the surveyor mode is merely one page and as I said earlier, there are 10 pages discussing the Auran site and how to get that golden ticket. More attention needs to be placed in the manual for the Surveyor portion of this sim. The lack of information just leaves one sitting wondering, "what did I just buy?" The manual on the disc is the exact same manual that is in the box!

Stepping aside and taking a deep breath, I set out to conquer this program on my own and building my own railroad is what I really wanted to do. The first thing you need to know is that the grid that is in front of you is small, so if you attempt to build your entire railroad on one grid, what you think should be miles and miles of track is no bigger than a half section of plywood. There is an option in the paint/world editor to extend the grid. I was ecstatic when I found this and I have to say that I found it totally by mistake. Being able to make the world grow was the first big hurtle for me. I know you are saying I should have read the manual, but as I said before, there is nothing in the chapter for Surveyor mode that discusses it.

The first two areas that I built was that of a small town and then the outskirts of a large city. I have attached pics that were taken from my project specifically for this review. The next step was to figure out how to make the layout work. As time went on, I learned how to elevate track and make elevated terrain so that my virtual trains didn’t just travel on a flat surface. Once the track was laid, the next step of the process is to build the cities and towns that you would travel to.

I was amazed at how easy it was to build the cities and towns. With all of the extra objects, buildings, cars and people you can make a rather impressive landscape. Where I messed up though is in size. Remember you are only going to see what is outside the train and you aren’t going to see a whole lot at a distance. So, after building a city and having the train pull into the station, I couldn’t see half of what I had done without switching to the external view.

The idea here is to think small. There is a lot that you can use to gain the illusion of a big city without designing a big city. My personal favorite is probably the city and rural backdrops. These add an almost 3 dimensional feel when incorporated into the overall design of the city. Simply put, using this backdrop with a couple blocks of scenery objects and buildings gives you the illusion of a thriving metropolis filled with people and cars.

In The End

First off, I have to say that I really enjoy the Trainz series. It has been a lot of fun but its graphics and design are starting to feel somewhat dated. In this day and age of powerful video cards and super gamming computers, one would tend to expect a lot more out of an updated version of the original. I think if I was new to Trainz, I would probably buy the original Trainz 2006 rather than Trainz Railways (Classics). Simply because the original offers so much more and it can be had for the same price or less as this one.

In the end, I found that this reintroduced me to PC railroading and I ended up going out and buying the newly released Rail Simulator from Electronic Arts here in the United States, but I didn’t give up on Trainz TC. It offered me a good learning environment of what to do and what not to do when creating a virtual rail world. I have since spent more time with the Metropolis route and finished my virtual world, although I still find my own route way too small. The design capabilities of Trainz TC is great and I recommend it to anyone that wants to get into this kind of sim. But if you want the age of steam you will need the 2006 version!

Train Simulating is a matter of choice and when it comes to what product to use, I just don’t see a big benefit to having Classics except for the extra route if you have Trainz 2006.

 

What I Like About Trainz

  • The Surveyor mode
  • Easy to understand builder
  • The concept
  • The F7 engine

 

What I Don't Like About Trainz

  • Graphics are dated
  • There are only 2 routes
  • No other content for route building from the previous versions
  • No Steam Engines!

 

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