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Review: American Classics
Developer: Train Artisan, Publisher: Just Trains
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 27 April 2002

Train Artisan is a name that pretty much anyone should be able to recognise, their original J3A Hudson Empire State Express loco was included in Abacus Roundhouse.

They are responsible for some of the original classics in Train Simulator such as their Empire State Express 'Hudson' Steam locomotive (which I believe was the first third party steamer available) and their diesels.

They produce American stock exclusively and the American Classics pack is pure 100% American trains and rolling stock. So if you have no attachment or desires for American stock in your Simulator then there's probably not much for you here. With that said, most of us have used all the American stock that came with Train Sim so let's look at this with an open mind and see what TrainArtisan and JustTrains have come up with for us.

Included in the pack are four variations of the J3A Hudson ESE steam loco, the E7, F3, F7 and FP3 diesel locos and Empire State Express coaches to go behind it all.

The diesels are all presented in their A and B varieties (A units are the ones with cabs, B units are power units that have no cab, generally you run them in consists of A-B-B-B-A or something like that, with the A's reversed so that their cabs both face outwards).

There is no route contained in the pack but they have supplied a number of Activities for you to use that will get you using the stock. This is a nice touch, if you're going to supply a loco pack it's nice to actually demonstrate it to the user in this way.

I have tried a couple of the activities so far and they are quite good, including a race where you either drive a J3A steamer or a diesel to prove which one is the best. The Steamer has a higher top speed, but the diesel can get to its top speed faster and the steamer also has an extra stop to make that the diesel doesn't. Speed limits do of course still apply, and it's also a nice touch if you get there with all the wheels still on the rails correctly :)

The 3D modeling of the locos and rolling stock is superb, as we have come to expect from TrainArtisan. Texturing is equally good and while there are no specular surfaces to be found the texturing more than makes up for it with light reflections in just the right places.

As there is no route supplied you just use the stock on the North East Corridor - which isn't far from reality so the only issue you have to get over in your mind is the year - the NEC depicted in Train Sim is of a much more modern electrified period than the steam/diesel era that American Classics represents.

The activities all set the time of day so that it's a lovely dusk and this sets the mood like you won't believe. Suddenly the route looks a different place with the orangey scenery and these excellent older locomotives. You will quickly begin to ignore the overhead gantries that are present :)

The coaching stock contains Passenger views, these are situated at the back of the train in the Observation car. Train Artisan have shown plenty of innovation here in having subtle animations going on and music in the background, so as you are watching you will see the bar man slowly cleaning the bar and the man reading a book nod his head - it's all very subtle but it makes everything feel so much more alive.

The E7, F3, F7 and FP3 all follow the same basic design, and if you have seen the LTV Erie Mining company pack then you already know what the F7 looks like, so while there are all the subtle differences (presumably no different to our 40, 45, 37 and 55 to the untrained eye) they are basically the same loco.

Likewise, the J3A Hudson comes in four numbers but only two significantly different versions. There are also different coach sets that largely look the same but you'll see that the passenger views are different as well as the numbering.

Also included in the box are a set of cards that have been specially commissioned for this pack. They are a particularly nice addition to the box.

If you pop over to the Train Artisan web site, the link is at the top of the page, you'll find there's also been an add-on for the pack released called "Passenger Set Add-on for American Classics" that gives you some more to look at while you are sitting in the passenger view.

Over all I would say that if you like what you read in the box, you like what you've seen in this review and in the screenshots then you will be even more happy with the contents of the box. It does everything it says it will and the package is extremely professionally finished. You won't have any need for the Consist editor and in fact thanks to a utility they supply you can even swap the cab in the J3A's over to an alternative that they have supplied at the click of a button.

Our score:

Scottish Central PLUS




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