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    REVIEW - JT Marsdonshire Route (Entire Network)


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    JT Marsdonshire Route (Entire Network)

    A review by Peter Hayes

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    Introduction

     

    Just Trains have introduced for TS2014 a new fictional rail route aptly named, “The Marsdonshire (a fictional county) network”, with ≈160 miles (260 km) of mostly double track, 23 stations, 4 distinct interconnected rail routes and 14 different rail lines. A veritable miniature sim rail city.

     

    With so much on offer to call it just a route is a misnomer and JT quite rightly label it as, “an entire network – not just a route.”

     

    This extensive railway network comes complete with 26 Standard and 31 Free Roam scenarios giving the simmer the chance to explore the beautifully varied scenery and the innumerable places of interest in the county.

     

    JT Note: For certain scenarios to run correctly, the following Just Trains locomotives are required: Class 153 DMU Advanced, Class 67 Advanced and Voyager Advanced

     

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    Pre-Trivia

     

    With a name like Marsdonshire – I did wonder if this was one of J R R Tolkien’s shires that he did not write about, and in my travels I dully expected to see Bilbo and other Hobbits gambolling in the fields.

     

    The Railway goes ever on and on

    Down from the Station where it began.

    Now far ahead the Railway has gone,

    And I must follow, if I can,

    Pursuing it with steam heat,

    Until it joins some larger railway

    Where many points and signals meet.

    And whither then? I cannot say.

    ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring - With apologies to J R R Tolkien

     

    Trivia

    Features

    • Power Station (Nuclear??) Generating electricity supply
    • Quarry – Excavate slate
    • Forestry Commission - Lotsa Trees
    • Slate Mine – Roof Roster
    • Coal Mine – the pits
    • Railway Museum for various locos and rolling stock
    • Heritage Centre for steam loco’s,
    • Garrison Barak’s barracks - East Anglian style
    • Car Plant – auto sedan - rival to railway
    • Airport – Landing Strip for kites
    • Motor Racing Circuit - Grand Prix Indy Cars
    • Caravan Park – Trailer Park - Yorkshire style
    • Marina – old Morris dance or Harbor Haven
    • Ski Fields – a sort of Scottish Off-Piste

     

    Download and Install

     

    The package is available as a download (≈381MB –with an extracted size of ≈631 MB. There is also a boxed version available on the JT website.

     

    Installation is typical of Just Trains, just open the supplied “.exe” file enter in your login details to verify the purchase and the installer finds the correct path to install the software in TS 2014.

     

    The installation procedure does not use the “.ap” file structure now used in TS2014 and this makes it easier to edit scenarios etc. without having to extract files from the compressed “.ap” structure.

     

    Manuals

     

    There is a comprehensive manual for the route and comprises 54 packed pages. The manual gives us a detailed map and description of the network, notes on performance and settings, Installation/Uninstallation, Support, Route Description, Stations, Lines, Places of Interest, Liveries, Optional DLC, Scenarios, and Credits. It covers most aspects of the route in good detail and needs reading to optimise your simmimg experience.

     

    The manual can be found in the RailWorks\Manuals\EN (English) folder,

    Entitled “Just Trains Marsdonshire” as a pdf file.

     

    To reiterate, if in doubt “Read the Flipping Manual” first!

     

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    Background: (from the Author)

     

    The network is really based on the author’s own experiences in both railways, mines and life in general. For example he states, “The main line from Anstone to Skelthwaite is loosely based on the Appleby to Settle section of the Settle to Carlisle route,” plus some alterations. The Marsdon Rail Works and Cairnlochross Service Centre were inspired by the author’s own work experience, and the coal mine by family association, and so on.

     

    Putting all this together, you end up with an add-on route/network which offers a wide variety of scenery, track design, and numerous scenarios with an option to create more new and varied scenarios.

     

    System Requirements from JT:

    System Requirements:

     

    • Train Simulator 2014
    • ‘European Loco & Asset Pack' and 'US Loco & Asset Pack’
    • 3.0GHz PC or any Dual Core (I recommend Haswell i7/i5 4xxx series)
    • Windows 8 / 7 / XP / Vista (I recommend Win 7/8.1 – 64-bit)
    • 512MB RAM (1 GB for Vista) (I recommend 8Gb matched RAM)
    • 256MB graphics card (I recommend  2GB card with large monitors)
    • Direct X 9.0c compatible sound card
    • 840MB hard drive space

     

    Note: For certain scenarios to run correctly, the following Just Trains locomotives are required: Class 153 DMU Advanced, Class 67 Advanced and Voyager Advanced.

     

    The route ran without issue on my Windows 7 64-bit and Windows 8.1 Update 1 64-bit systems, with TSX on and/or off. I saw little effect on frame rates and all the scenarios, standard, and free roam performed as they should without issue.

     

    Marsdonshire Route (Entire Network) – My visual observations

     

    Overall this is a huge route/network that will take many days and weeks to properly navigate. Hence, my observations can only skim the surface otherwise it could be next Christmas before I completed the review. Just about every type of scenery and activity is covered here with different areas of the route presenting different views and challenges. The more I explored the route an opinion began to form in my mind that the layout was some gigantic 00 gauge scale model, i.e. for me too many turns and twists.

     

    So, I guess that first I need to look at the route in sections and these are listed by JT as:

     

    There are four main interconnected routes on the Marsdonshire network:

     

    Cairnlochross to Portkeane

     

    This route runs from West to East i.e. Cairnlochross to Portkeane, being ≈44 miles (71km) long, it is an overhead electrified line and has 8 stations. This main electrified line features superelevation and represents a proto-typical version of a British main line travelling through open countryside plus urban and industrial areas. Basically this is a high-speed passenger route with the locos reaching up to 125 mph on certain sections. The scenery is varied from totally rural to undoubtedly industrial e.g. Llandothry Power Station, and the area around Marsdon. There is also a vibrant port/dock area at Portkeane, which includes a large Marina plus several inter-crossing rail flyovers, which make for complexity in rail operations. It’s strange, although this section has overhead lines (Catenary), I could not find a scenario with an electric train with a pantograph, they were either DMU’s, EMU’s, Diesel, Electric, or Steam.  I guess its time to make your own using something like the superb Class 90.

     

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    Cairnlochross Service Depot, this a large complex and would be ideal for shunting type scenarios, but as far as I could tell none are included in the route. Like wise the Cairnlochross Sidings are huge and again some shunting scenarios would be good. There are lots of industrial type buildings, there’s even a scrap heap complete with rusting junk. The Cairnlochross Vehicle Distribution Centre is an industrial development for loading/unloading motor vehicles and calls out for a freight type scenario, and fortunately one such scenario is included and it is excellent, very immersive.

     

    Most of the stations in this complex are well done, but Cairnlochcross is a standout, very realistic and well detailed, and it approaches a real-life station. I visited quite a few stations after nightfall and the lighting is superb and very realistic.

     

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    Kirkboswell is the next station and it is a typical station almost in the middle of nowhere.

     

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    There is a branch line to Invermuir barracks, which are based on Catterick Army Barracks in N. Yorkshire. The barracks are well laid out, and contain the usual features even including a couple of hovering but static helicopters with loads, sidings with tanks loaded onto flatbed wagons, and so on. There are a couple of Standard scenarios that let you travel the line and also explore the barracks.

     

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    Invermuir Station is next again small and compact, with rural aspects

     

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    The Inverston Quarry and Cement Works is good with a good layout, and included is a freight scenario delivering cement to the Port Keane docks – good to see a freight scenario on this run.

     

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    Tregevan Airport and the associated railway station are great. You can stop at the station and then wander round the airfield and eventually a nicely modelled jet flies in, unfortunately, sans sound.  The church and graveyard are worth digging into, if you have the time.

     

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    The Llandothry Power station (coal fired) has an amazing amount of detail including cooling towers and ponds plus diverse buildings, boilers, plant and machinery. I’m not sure how many power stations in the UK still have cooling towers, I know that they demolished the ones in my home town at Ocker Hill (Ocker Bonk to the natives) some time ago. The yard is interesting and could make the basis of several freight scenarios.  It is a good depiction of a large power station.  Well worth a long visit it is truly electrifying. The standard scenario included from the mines at Anstone to the Power Station is a dusty affair.

     

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    The next station is Llandothry and after that we travel to the hub of this network – Marsdon. This is where all the main lines meet forming a sort of London terminus for the layout. The station, town and industrial areas are very well modelled and you could spend several weeks here just exploring all of the various points of interest.  For example, the Marsdon Rail Works are vast with tons of lines and again a shunting scenario would have been great, but it does have a very good freight scenario (standard).  This again looks incredible at night.

     

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    Further on, beside the track at Dent, there is a motor racing circuit, Brroom, Brroom which is well drawn with the odd race car whizzing round the track, and well worth a visit. I didn’t get a chance to drive the day I visited, so I will have to return for a second bite of the cherry.

     

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    As we get nearer to Portkeane we pass beside the Portkeane car company, which is well done, but in my opinion perhaps not as detailed as The Ford Motor Company on the RSC/DTG London to Faversham High Speed Route. But having said that this is yet another complex industrial development, it’s just a pity that there is no 4 x 4 to drive around the roads.

     

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    Finally we arrive at Port Keane Docks end of the line for this route.  This area again is huge complex, with tracks crossing over each, underground stations, docks, a marina and great marshalling yards complete with cranes and ships.

     

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    The Stations in this route include:

    • Marsdon Central
    • Cairnlochross
    • Kirkboswell
    • Invermuir
    • Tregevan Airport
    • Llandothry
    • Dent Valley Motor Racing Circuit
    • Portkeane

     

    Marsdon to Anstone

    This typifies a rural railway line (the line from Anstone to Skelthwaite is loosely based on a section of the Settle to Carlisle route). The route from Marsdon to Anstone is ≈45 miles (72.4km) long, passing through exquisite countryside, bleak moorland and hilly terrain. It takes about 1 hour to run the full length of the route. The towns that it passes through are mostly small and are typical of that type of rural/urban town. The stations look good being well detailed and populated with passengers.

     

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    This is not a high speed route with a top speed of 70 mph (113 km/h) and with most of the route around the 50 t0 60 mph (80 to 100 km/h). The speed limits are a little strange (as they are sometimes in TS2014 itself), for example at one stage you get a 60mph limit, about a mile further on this increase to 70 mph but then in less than a mile it decreases to 40 mph, that just does not make sense. It is primarily a passenger route but goods scenarios could be a feature as there are 2 mines on the rote and coal and slate need hauling and in this sort of terrain, rail would be ideal. One goods (standard) scenario is included (4 passenger) and again it is well done with lots to see and do. The free roam scenarios are also invaluable for investigating and navigating the route.

     

    One feature I did not like is at Anstone a very acute balloon line is used to turn the locos around, they overhang almost into the adjacent line, and the effect makes the turn look like a model railway layout. As the DMU’s used on the route have a driving cab at either end then a reversing point would have been more realistic.

     

    It has, (especially for steam locos), some very challenging hills and gradients. There are some very well designed tunnels with some of the best occlusions seen in TS 2014 which means that there is no light bleed in the tunnels , nor does it snow and rain within them. This route also includes some superb viaducts, reminiscent of the Settle to Carlisle route.

     

    There are some interesting branch lines off from the route, including Anstone Mining Company, Marsdonshire Forestry Commission and at Grenton going to The Grenton Moor Slate Mine and the Duntelem Pike Ski Resort. There are also “branches” just South of Hebdon-in-Rydale and at Skelthwaite. Marsden is the major junction of this route and lines go every which-way from Marsdon Central.

     

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    Other Points of Interest on this line include Grenton Railway Heritage Centre, White Horse Junction, and Skelthwaite Railway Museum.

     

    Stations Include:

    • Anstone
    • Kirkton Smithfield
    • Grenton
    • Dalery
    • Rydalehead
    • Hebdon-in-Rydale
    • Skelthwaite
    • Marsdon Central

     

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    Marsdon to Portkeane (coastal route)

     

    As the name suggest this runs along the Southern Coast and is ≈

    24 miles (38.6km) long with 6 stations, 4 above ground and 2 under ground. The underground section is well done and using the tunnel occlusions I mentioned above they are extremely well depicted. The coastal depicts typical coastal scenery see in Britain & Ireland – it is very well done. Some simmer commented on the forums that the coastline resembled that of South Wales, and on looking at it there is some resemblance.

     

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    The Stations:

    • Marsdon Central
    • Marsdon Promenade
    • Ballacraig
    • Killymeara West (underground)
    • Killymeara Central (Underground)
    • Portkeane

     

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    Grenton to Duntelum Pike

     

    I called this a branch-line earlier but it is in fact a challenging ≈14 mile (22.5km) tortuous climb that winds its way from Grenton (Grenton Railway Heritage Centre) up a steep mountainside to the ski resort of Duntelum Pike. Even in the summer scenarios where its green and verdant in Grenton as soon as you really start to climb (half-way up) the route becomes constantly covered with snow. At first this is quite disconcerting but as time goes by you become used to the fact that by the time you reach the ski resort its snow, snow, all the way to the top! 

     

    At the beginning of the route there is a branch line to Grenton Moor Slate Mine and cement works, again well-modelled and ideal for freight scenarios and there is a free roam scenario included.

     

    One minor gripe for me is that for most of the way on this route the speed limit is 20 mph, and the scenarios use a steam engine and keeping that at a constant 20 mph becomes a challenge, brake too much and you are back to 0 mph, don’t brake enough and you are derailed! It also takes a long time (>40 minutes) to get to the ski-resort and once you have travelled the route it could become tedious to repeat the journey.

     

    One caveat close the blower before any tunnel otherwise a fatal blowback occurs – end of scenario. Save often!

     

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    Overall

     

    The routes are well done, there have been comments about tight curves and signalling issues in the various forums, but I did not find that the perceived issues “spoiled” enjoyment of the route/complex. JT have reliably informed me that a patch will be issued in the next 2/3 weeks that should address any of the issues raised in the forums. If this occurs after the review is published I will write an addendum showing the fixes that have been made.

     

    There are a lot of curves/bends in this route and a lot of the time the going is a little slow, but having said that there are lots of activities to keep your interest. Personally, I would like to see the track straightened in many areas.

     

    Stations

     

    The stations are well modelled, with tons of interesting features.

     

    Track

     

    The track looks like it does in the real world, with the points (switches) are well modelled as is the ballast and the track itself. Super elevation on the high speed route is quite a feature, with the trains tilting realistically around the curves in the line. (I did not concern myself with any minor imperfections if indeed there were any.)

     

    Roads

     

    There is an intricate network of roads throughout the complex but traffic, is few and far between, so for me, it would have been nice to see more vehicles.

     

    Signalling

     

    This has drawn some negative comments on the forums, I do not have enough knowledge to judge about the finer aspects of signalling, correct or otherwise. My only comment is that in some areas there were a lot of close signals and then you could go for miles without seeing one at all.  I believe the SP will probably fix this.

     

    How does it run on my PC?

     

    My PC specs are listed below, and I did not see any real impact on frame rates, suffer any stuttering or minor pauses using this locomotive. I use TSX ON and OFF and in both cases performance was fine and image clarity very good.

     

    Computer Specs

     

    OS

    Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1

    Windows 8.1 update 1

    CPU

    Intel Core i5 3470 @ 3.20/3.60GHz

    i5, 4670K @ 4.4Ghz

    RAM

    16.0GB Dual-Channel DDR3 @ 802 x 2MHz (9-9-9-24)

    16.0GB Dual-Channel DDR3 @ 802 x 2MHz (9-9-9-24)

    Motherboard

    Z68X-UD3H-B3 (Socket 1155)

    Z87-G45 (socket 1150)

    Monitor

    DELL 24” Resolution (1920x1200@59Hz)

    Samsung Syncmaster 2233 R

    Graphics

    2047MB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 750 Ti (MSI - Maxwell)

    GTX760TI OC

    Storage

    223GB KINGSTON SV300S37A240G (SSD)

    256GB OCZ Vertex SSD

    Audio

    Realtek High Definition Audio

    Realtek High Definition Audio

     

     

    TSX Graphics settings

     

    TSX Mode

    ON/OFF

    Screen Resolution

    Windows Recommended

    Full Screen

    Full Screen

     

    Advanced

     

    Anti-Aliasing

    FXAA+2 x 2xSSAA

    Scenery Quality

    Highest Detail

    Scenery Density

    10

    View Distance

    Highest Detail

    Shadow Quality

    High Detail

    Water Quality

    High Detail

    Procedural Flora

    ON

    Adaptive Bloom

    OFF

    Depth of Field

    OFF

    Lens Flare

    OFF

     

    Summary

     

    A review like this can never do justice of a layout of this size, had I sampled everything extensively the review would not have been finished until next Christmas.  Hopefully it will whet your simming appetite to add it to your virtual collection and find the hidden delights that I failed to discover.

     

    To summarise, in my opinion this is an excellent route/complex from JT, yes, it is a little raw in places but overall it is an excellent route with the potential to be a great route once any anomalies, perceived or otherwise, have been fixed. Hopefully this will happen with the impending service pack.

     

    I did not notice any visual glitches with this route, but again, I found it better in terms of AA and Moire effects on the points to run it with TSX off. This is a limitation of the TS2014 game engine rather than any fault associated with this software.

     

    The manual was very good and I like the standard scenarios and the excellent free roam scenarios, but making it compatible with Quick Drive, would have been the icing on the cake. All in all an immersive complex i.e.  Very enjoyable experience.

     

    Again I have to repeat that because JT do not distribute their products via STEAM there will be no RSC/DTG community workshop scenarios. That aside I’m sure that there will be scenarios say from websites like UKTS , trainsim.com and others.

     

    I give the route 8.75 out of 10 on my chuffometer – well worth it and this score will probably go higher, post the service pack.

     

    Acknowledgements:

    Image included with the courtesy of

    Google Earth



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