Train S(t)imulation

Flight simulation still is a killer app for the game business. Train simulation came out later and always has been regarded as Flight’s ugly younger sibling. After all, most folks would rather soar through the clouds than grind it out on a grimy locomotive in the rain, right?

Well I am not like most folks, I guess. I’ve always been a train buff and my family roots are deep in railroad tradition. I had model trains as a kid, and the present Train Simulators are a virtual extension of my love of models.

I had a copy of Microsoft Train Simulator in the early days and enjoyed it despite the rather cartoonish display and lack of steam locos. Microsoft abandoned the project for a MSTS 2 but another company took up the challenge. That company is now called Dovetail Games and they currently sell Train Simulator 2015 through the Steam games distribution channel.

TS2015 is getting a bit long in the tooth now as far as graphics go, but it’s still pretty good. A new game engine is planned for next year so we’ll see how that goes.

The three major areas of the world that are simulated well are Germany, the US and the UK. The German experience is mostly going fast with electric trains and trying to stay on time. The USA sims are in large part trying to haul massive freights over mountains with multiple diesel units.

Maybe it’s because I enjoy my grandson’s preoccupation with Thomas the Tank Engine, but I like the UK train sims best. There seems to be a huge variety of rolling stock in the UK – from 1895 steam such as you see above to the fastest intercity trains.  Also there are many routes to choose from, including some who have disappeared 50 years ago. There are leisurely Heritage lines, and very fast mainline routes.

You can drive anything you want including many vintage steam, diesel and electric locomotives, 3rd party developers have made some excellent steam models available at very reasonable cost. There are always sales, which makes the whole thing far cheaper than a physical train model setup.

It takes a while to get the hang of train driving – especially with steam locomotives – but it can certainly be fun.

In spite of the aging graphics engine, the developers do their best for realism with rain, steam, smoke and rumble. It does take a pretty powerful computer to get the best out of TS2015. I had to upgrade my power supply and graphics card to obtain a realistic experience at night or in bad weather.

Toys for boys – thats how I’d describe it best.

Published by Ray MacDonald

Ray MacDonald is a retired food scientist who lives in Almonte, ON.
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