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Review: Cambrian Coast: A Seaside Journey
Developer: 3DTrainStuff, Publisher: 3DTrainStuff
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 14 June 2003


Loading Screen Class 101 DMU Cab Front View Class 101 DMU Cab Right hand view Class 101 DMU in Green

You can obtain Cambrian Coast directly from UKTrainSim as we are the UK distributors for the product. The price is 23.50 including VAT, Postage and a free 1 Month subscription to UKTrainSim - just go to 'CD Ordering' on the left hand side. Alternatively you can purchase it direct from 3DTrainStuff in the USA for $29.95.

Full Disclosure

In the interests of full disclosure I feel it necessary to add to this review that UKTrainSim does receive some of the income from any Cambrian Coast that is purchased through us as we are a UK distributor for it. I have tried to write the review in a fair and unbiased way however you may feel that this extra information is necessary in your reading and interpretation of the product from my point of view.

Cambrian Coast was a product i'd seen several times at our exhibitions when MartinH - part of the 3DTrainStuff team - brought it with him on his computer, it looked impressive from the glimpses I got of it on the odd occasion I got to look back at what all the computers were doing on the stand and I was looking forward to its release.

Class 101 DMU Passenger View Class 101 DMU in Green Class 101 DMU in Green Class 101 DMU in Green

Cambrian Coast represents the forth UK product release from 3DTrainStuff, the first two (LMS Freight and Record Holders of Steam) were combined in to a single package called the 3DTrainStuff UK Branch Pack and the third was an Activity Pack to provide a bunch of activities for the UK Branch pack on the various default routes in MSTS.

As you might guess from the full title, the route covers a coastal stretch of western Welsh GWR railway set in the BR period (1960's I believe). Those readers who have obtained Gordon Mackenzie's wonderful 'Ruabon-Llangollen-Barmouth" route will be very interested to hear that the route includes Barmouth, Barmouth bridge and what's left of Barmouth Junction. It is very interesting to drive this common area of the route and compare how the route has changed between the two time periods. As you come across the bridge in to what used to be Barmouth Junction the route turns to the right and you enter the station - there is no triangle left and the big station that was there is gone, replaced by a very small "bus shelter" type station.

Class 101 DMU in Blue at Aberystwyth Class 101 DMU in Blue Class 101 DMU in Blue Class 101 DMU in Blue

The western most point of the route is Pwllhelli, from here you head east to Penrhyndeudrath and turn south following the coast line. Crossing Barmouth bridge you end up at Aberdovey where you turn back to the east. The line extends out from Dovey Junction further east in to Machynlleth, or of course you can continue your journey south from Dovey Junction. Finally you end up at the southern-most point, Aberystwyth.

The general scenery of the route is very good, with dense patches, detailed stations (Aberystwyth looks particularly good!), people dotted around the route either watching the trains from the track side, standing on stations or even crossing Barmouth Bridge with some sheep. The entire route is fenced in giving it a very nice closed in feeling and there are telegraph poles throughout the route - with one extra that nobody else has tried, the poles are wired together, something i'm sure most people thought would be a Trainz-only facility. Granted, it was nothing like as easy to do as it would be in Trainz I am sure, never the less, the overall quality is outstanding and the wired telegraph poles to contribute this very well.

Class 101 DMU in Blue Class 101 DMU in Blue Class 101 DMU in Blue / Grey Class 101 DMU in Blue / Grey

The route is far from flat so you will be challenged to keep your train within speed limits and meeting time tables. You won't find this route a 'screensaver' where you just set the train going and sit back to watch it for 30 minutes or more, expect to actually take part and drive your train!

Included in the scenery for the route is a stretch of the Vale of Rheidol Narrow Gauge railway, although there are some quite nasty bumps and jogs in the track (For example at Aberystwyth station) that do detract a little from the look, however you won't be driving on this track and all the track you can drive on appears to have been laid to a good standard as I didn't see any bumps or jogs as I drove the route.

Class 101 DMU in Blue / Grey Class 101 DMU looking out over the coastline from the passenger view Class 101 DMU Night Cabview 45xx Steam Cabview

The route contains plenty of scope for activities with refueling points, freight yards, passing loops, and plenty of passenger stations. It is primarily a single track route so you won't be seeing a lot of other AI traffic on your journeys however there is plenty of scope for interactions at passing loops and in stations.

The stock included in the product is completed to a very high standard, one thing that we have come to expect from 3DTrainStuff. You will find three variations on the Class 101 DMU and three variations on the 45xx 2-6-2 steam engine in the product.

45xx in BR Green 45xx Hauling freight, showing the guards van 'Passenger' view from the guards van 45xx coming out of the sidings at Barmouth to head for the bridge

The Class 101 DMU is by far the best one that I have seen, with excellent sound effects and a custom cab view, a passenger view and a different driving mechanism to the one that is currently available for download on UKTrainSim. It is supplied in three different liveries, all blue, blue and grey and green. It is great fun to drive, the addition of the gears makes it that little more involved than the one you can download on UKTrainSim (or was supplied if you obtained Mid East UK).

The 45xx Steam Engine is probably my favourite bit of the package, but that would be simply because I am a steam nut, I find it a lot more enjoyable to drive steam than I do diesel, especially a DMU. There has been some discussion on the UKTrainSim forums about whether the steam engine is as accurate as it could be however I am not a particular buff on this loco and it looks ok to me from the photographs that I've compared it to - I've provided plenty of screenshots of various aspects of the 45xx so you can make a decision yourself about this however. One neat touch that I appreciated was the right cab view actually faces to the rear - given that this loco is used for freight activities this makes perfect sense, allowing you to shunt a little more realistically without always using external view 2 or 3.

45xx coming out of Barmouth station 45xx over the beach bridge 45xx about to enter the tunnel before the main bridge The rear cab view from the 45xx

The 45xx is supplied in three different liveries, BR Green, GWR Green and BR Black. The loco also has a custom cab.

Along with the 45xx there are a number of items of freight stock covering a fairly wide variety of types. There are some brake vans also, which feature a guard in them and set up a passenger view so that you can become the guard and watch the scenery go by as your train wanders down the tracks. Very nice.

Another nice addition to the cabs supplied are night versions. These can be selected via the consists and make the night activities a bit more enjoyable as the cab is generally darker as you might expect so the ambience of the dark night isn't ruined by a daylight cab.

45xx coming out of the tunnel near Barmouth bridge 45xx Crossing Barmouth Bridge 45xx Crossing Barmouth Bridge 45xx Crossing Barmouth Bridge

A good number of activities are supplied with the product, anybody that is familiar with the freeware activities by MartinH for routes such as Mid East UK will instantly appreciate the quality of the supplied activities on this product as he did them. You will find numerous multi-part activities that have you filling up with water, shunting wagons in the right places, taking trains from one place to another and so forth - these aren't just "go-stop-go-stop' activities. If we discount the TGV route from our memory as this was only marginally a UK route and primarily a French route, Cambrian marks the first commercial product to enter the market with a UK focus and it does so with a lot of style, managing to please a large number of interest groups - it's not just steam and it is not just diesel, so top marks for the clever choice of including the two types of locomotive and both passenger and freight operations.

What's left of Barmouth Triangle junction - not much! Pulling through the station 45xx in BR Green 45xx in BR Green

Overall I have to say that I couldn't find much to fault with the product, the UK team involved with creating it are all well known to the freeware community including (but by no means limited to) well known people such as Richard Scott (many stock items), Peter Holton (Graphics Design), Martin Heywood (Activities) and Vern Moorhouse (Far North Route and many more) - so there's already an expectation of good quality before you even look at the product just based what we've seen from the team members in their other work.

At 23.50 from us, and $29.95 direct from 3DTrainStuff, it's excellent value for money too.

My final score for this product is:

98%

45xx in BR Black 45xx in GWR Green 45xx in GWR Green

GWR Brake Van Alternative GWR Brake Van Guards View



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