Black Forest is the latest in a very long line of German products that have become
available for Microsoft Train Simulator since it arrived. New entrants to this
busy product area must produce even better quality than those releasing for other
regions of the world simply because there is so much out there for Germany - and just
about all of it is extremely good.
The packaging of the product is up to a good standard with a very comprehensive manual
that includes both English and German versions and covers topics such as:Station Track Plans
It all installs easily from a single CD that auto starts, so newcomers to PC's will
not have a problem installing this product.
The product features a route, a selection of locomotives with appropriate freight and passenger
rolling stock and a decent selection of activities. Let's take each one in turn.
The route is obviously the cornerstone of the product and it is this that most users of
it will be comparing with the many other German products that are available.
It doesn't take long to realise that a lot of effort has gone in to this route,
there is some extremely beautiful scenery as you go from one end of the route to the other. It
is all custom modelled from the looks of it and quite densely detailed, so you won't be driving
past lots of flat fields with this route!
The biggest feature in the route is the massive 5.5% gradient that comes out of Titisee but
there are plenty of other gradients to be had along the route - you will need to keep your
whits about you in order to remain within the speed limit at all times while still being able
to meet your timetables.
The route is primarily single tracked so there is little scope for passing other trains
in an activity - however the stations along the route are often four or more lines so
quite often you will find other AI trains coming in to and leaving stations during an
It really is a pleasure to drive this route from end to end, the many stations range from some
fairly large affairs down to local stations that don't even have a platform to speak of,
you definitely can feel the difference between running a 'through' train and running
a local stopping train.
There are extra sidings along the route and there are some services dotted around so there
is scope for Freight activities as well as the expected passenger activities.
In general the track has been laid very well (though with a single track route this
is not a tricky thing to achieve!) although there were one or two spots along the route
where I wasn't quite sure that the sudden extreme bump or dip should have been there in reality.
Overall the route is extremely impressive, there's loads to see and from a technical perspective
there's enough variety to keep you amused for hours.
The Locomotives and Rolling Stock
The product comes with a very nice selection of stock for you to use. With both
Passenger and Freight stock included fans of either will find plenty to keep
them amused. The freight stock included is quite plentiful and there's a fair
bit of variety including logging wagons, covered wagons, containers and more.
The loco's included are the BR-101, the BR-143, the Steam BR-85 and the DABbuz, which
functions much the same as a British DBSO allowing a loco hauled train to run in both directions.
One very nice surprise was that the DABbuz passenger cars can open and close their doors,
as usual this is linked to the Pantographs - so press P to open and close the doors as well
as raise and lower the pantographs. It has the side benefit that while the doors are open
the train won't go anywhere because the pantograph is down and you don't have any power!
The final nice touch was the correct beeping sound as the doors close.
I was recently on a business trip to Jena where among the many trains I had to take to get
there from Berlin Schonefeld Flughafen I also had to take one of these DABbuz trains - so I can
definitely say that it models the real one very well indeed, including the interior. It does
not have a passenger view unfortunately.
The nice surprise in this add-on is the BR-85 steamer. Absolutely beautifully modelled, this 2-10-2
monster (which surprisingly has no tender, the coal bunker is on the back of the loco) is fantastic
to watch in motion. With specular lighting on the boiler she looks the part. The developers have
also included two different sets of coaches specifically for the steam engine, you can either have
the two axel coaches or the bogie coaches depending, I presume, on exactly what period you want to
simulate the loco running in.
The coaches have passenger views showing their small and cramped nature very nicely.
The cab views for the loco's are very well modelled and all have transparent windows. One artifact
I did notice on some of the coaches was the presence of LOD (Level of Detail) - which unfortunately seemed
a little too aggressive as from a '4' (Trackside) view the coach would have solid white in the distance,
then it would get transparent windows but no interior so it would flip to appearing dark inside and
finally the interior would appear with the white cushions on the seats and once again it appeared
to be light inside. Only a minor point but it was a little distracting.
The only negative comment I have is that some of the wheels seem a fair bit too thin - indeed the DB-101
almost seems to have a 2D Disc for the wheels! The rest of the loco's look good though so I wasn't
too bothered by it.
Overal the loco's and rolling stock are very good indeed, the addition of the opening doors on the
DABbuz was a great extra touch.
With the majority of the route being single track there isn't much potential for passing AI trains, however
the activity authors have applied ingenuity and imagination to their activities - you will find a lot
of static consists all over the activity leaving you feeling you are very much part of a working railway, there
are other AI trains that you will see - more often than not you will find them waiting for you in a station, or you
will be waiting for them in a station.
The included activities range from local stoppers to express trains, it's not unusual to find yourself redirected off the mainline
at a station in order to let another train come past you and free the line ahead for you - so you need to keep an eye
on signals as well as speed limits.
From a pure entertainment value (I know very little about the DB so I can't speak much about realism or accuracy) I found
the product to be superb. I normally shy away from a single track route as I like to see other things happening
while I'm driving - but there's enough scenery to keep you occupied, plenty of stations that you need to watch out
for, plus some tricky gradients and trains in the stations that you'll not notice.
I definitely approve of the inclusion of a Steam locomotive - my personal favourite kind of loco to drive.
With the caveat as above that I cannot speak to it's accuracy as I am unfamiliar with the real route,
this product is getting a score of: