by Gene Davis
What exactly is the story of Forest Rail, you ask? Forest Rail is based on a real world route that was built in 1910 and used until 2006 in rural Japan. Although the geography is correct and it is based on an actual train route it is more of a fictional route that centers around a fictional story within confines of Train Simulator that allows the user to experience its story.
Purchase, Download and install!
This product is like all other Just Train and Just Flight products, all you need to do is purchase, download and install, then provide your email and password that you used when you opened your account at Just Trains /Just Flight during the installation process. This, in my opinion, is one of the best reasons for getting routes from Just Trains as it bypasses the whole Steam purchase system.
The installer will locate Train Simulator on your system and install all of the necessary files to use the product along with product manuals and any other pertinent information. Do make sure to check out the manual as it explains the route in great detail and tells you how to get the most out of your add-on.
There is also an excellent map of the route on the Just Trains website for the product.
The Story of Forest Rail –The Route
This route is many things and it is not only a story to be told but it is also a beautifully rendered vision of rural Japan. There are wide open landscapes and tree lined tracks along with foliage on a level that I haven’t seen in any other route for Train Simulator.
The route itself is made up of about 84 miles of track and features 16 different stations throughout the entire run that has two separate lines that converge into one main line. The route itself is actually based on its real world geographic location where this line once existed, but you will find that many of the towns and their locations are fictional and there is a disclaimer in the manual that states this.
Along with the 16 different stops throughout the route there is also a plethora of scenery to go along with it. Every little town and community has its own custom buildings, people and signage along with audible environmental sounds throughout. I found that I was really impressed with the quality of the early Japanese style architecture in the buildings and this carries over to each and every little town with many having their own unique style of buildings. Track signage, markers and signals are unique to this route as well as many of them are manual and not the automated systems like many of the modern routes.
There are three main hubs in this route and they are Matsuhara machi, Sowakokawa and Rintenjo. Matsuhara is the furthest south, Rintenjo is the furthest north and Sowakokawa is the farthest east. Matsuhara would be the main hub for your base of operations and is the largest of the cities throughout the entire route.
If you want to really experience what this route has to offer visually then I recommend that you start a run from Sowakokawa and then end in Matsuhara machi. This run is from West to East and Is by far the most visually stunning of the two lines and the most challenging to traverse with 70 plus miles of track and lots of hills and mountains to climb. The other run is South to North and is mainly wide open valleys and with little change in elevation, though it is still beautiful and it is only 40 mile it is much more of a straight line in both directions.
Seasons change with the simulator so the route looks very different when picking a different season. The flora changes significantly and I have to say that my favorite out of the four seasons has to be fall as the colors are simply gorgeous in Train Simulator.
Lighting is also nicely rendered in this add-on and it really shows off at night, while travelling at night you will notice lit lanterns along the route, custom lit buildings and even lightning bugs in some of the more over grown areas. It’s kind of cool to see a light way off in the distance from the cab of your train that has the appearance of moving only to find out that it is only a group of lightning bugs hovering near the track.
Story of Forest Rail – The Content
At the heart of this add-on is the included rail content and they are the Kiha 750 and the 720, both are based on the design of other rail content but they are nicely detailed and offer the user full on control of the vehicles.
The Kiha 750 is based on the Kiha 07 that was built back in 1934 and at that time was name the Kiha 42000 but was renamed in 1952 when the remaining 20 cars were built. The vehicle allows for 125 passengers with a max RPM of 2000 and has a fuel capacity of roughly 105 gallons.
The cab of the 750 is totally accessible and all of the switches and levers are clickable from within the cab of the train. All of the gauges are easy read and understand, though they have been designed to look authentic with Japanese writing on them. Controlling the 750 is relatively easy and just needs to be watched on climbs and descents for speed. I like that you can move throughout the interior of the car using arrow keys rather than switching using the views button, this is good when you are not using the 3d overlay for the train controls.
I really like the exterior design of this engine as it has an element of old world design and in its own way reminds a lot of the trolley’s used back in the day in the United States. From the wood work design on the inside to the intricate design of the exterior there is a significant level of detail to the car that really brings it out in the simulation. The lighting and textures are nicely rendered and give off a very realistic look in Train Simulator.
The Kiha 720 is a rail bus that was based on the Coaster B20 which was used in Hong Kong in the 80’s. It is a passenger only vehicle that runs on gas and is meant for short trips between towns. The controls and gauges are all accessible and working and again this is not a very hard vehicle to operate. This is just a fun little car to tootle around with and makes for part of the story in the Story of Forest Rail.
The sounds for both vehicles are nicely modeled and create a nice environment for those long runs through the rural parts of Japan. Being both diesel they use a diesel engine sound and given the age of the both there are little or no audible systems from within the cabs of each vehicle.
The Story of Forest Rail comes with 5 standard scenarios and each is a story in itself which helps define this add-on. Each one includes an intro to the story and a dialog between different characters each of the scenarios. The dialog is actually kind of funny but it does add to the uniqueness of this add-on and centers around the operation of this rail line.
Out of the 5 scenarios I enjoyed the fifth one the most because the story hinted at the paranormal and centered around the superstition of being the last train of the day. It has you running passengers after 9PM and as you read through the story from the dialog between the engineer and the stewardess, Chia, (is that what you call them on a train?) the story will progress visually.
She will continually hint that something is going to happen and the engineer talks about maybe seeing a ghost, but then low and behold you go from having no passengers to a ghostly white woman standing in the middle of the rail car! Then before you know it you are passing through the remnants of an old town where the characters in the story surmise that is where the ghost came from and that she was merely getting off at that stop, a stop that no longer existed.
The first scenario puts you in the Kiha 720 and has you being introduced to the operations manager of the rail line and going out for your first run. Again, all of the scenarios tie together to tell a story, hence the name of the add-on.
The Story of Forest Rail is an interesting concept and I enjoyed exploring this route and will add hours of additional fun. One of the things I like doing is dropping in an engine that wasn’t meant for the route and I was able to add just about anything I wanted that would run under its own power. This add-on is worth a look and is an interesting twist to the hauling of freight and or just passengers. Its visually stunning and makes for a nice fit in Train Simulator!