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Review: Great British Steam Locomotives
Developer: Contact Sales - UK Publisher: Contact Sales
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 1 July 2004


This add-on is the first in the Heritage Collection series of 'Great Locomotives' packs, following on from this is Great British Diesel Locomotives and finally Great Electric Locomotives (note: not British, more on that in the review for that pack!).

In the box you get a collection of steam locomotives, passenger coaches and freight wagons and nothing else, there's no route in this pack - it (and all the other Great Locomotives packs are purely loco packs).

Immediately disappointing is the lack of activities, but even more disappointing is that there are only three consists provided so before anyone can really get any use out of the vast majority of this pack they are going to have to use the Train Simulator Tools to create consists - this is a barrier for many of the less technically inclined users as getting to the consist editor in Train Simulator is no easy job, while instructions for doing this are provided in detail in the enclosed manual I feel that every add-on should at least come with enough consists to enable people to enjoy the product properly without having to dig out the toolbox - if they then want to put other consists together themselves then that's up to them.

Stock included is a mix of classes from the different operating companies as well as a mix of uses:

  • LMS Class 5MT 4-6-0 'Black 5'
  • LMS Duchess Class 4-6-2 'Duchess of Buccleuch'
  • BR (GWR) Castle Class 4-6-0 'Earl Barhurst'
  • BR (GWR) King Class 4-6-0 'King John'
  • BR (GWR) 1366 Class 0-6-0 Pannier Tank
  • BR Class A1 Peppercorn 4-6-2 Pacific
  • BR (LNER) Thompson Class B1 4-6-0 'Impala'
  • BR Standard Class 5 4-6-0
  • SR Battle of Britain 4-6-2 Pacific 'Fighter Pilot'
  • SR Schools Class 4-4-0 'Cheltenham'

Some of the stock is done by the same guy that worked on the Nene Valley add-on and indeed the style is quite obviously spotted. These loco's have one characteristic I didn't like on the Nene Valley locos too - they have bright white rods, I find it much more realistic for parts of the locomotive such as this to be much dirtier, even the cleanest most well kept preserved loco isn't going to have bright white shiney rods. The rest of the features of these locos however are very good and instantly recognisable to the class of loco they are representing.

Other locos are done by other well known authors from the freeware community such as the 1366 loco from Paul Gausden, the Schools from Kim Durose and the King and Castle from Robin Howell.

It is worth noting that while the stock from the freeware authors is available for download already from UKTrainSim, the stock on this pack has (as far as I am aware) been updated and improved so it is slightly different and newer than what you will be able to download from the same author.

The sounds on all but one of the locomotives are simply the default scotsman sounds, the only exception is the LNER B1 and that has the same sound set that it did in the Nene Valley Railway pack - it's so distorted and noisy that you're better off re-aliasing back to the scotsman sounds quite frankly. There isn't even any standardisation in the way the sounds are configured, some of the locos have a complete copy of the Scotsman sounds set in their SOUND folder, some have a set of aliased SMS files in their SOUND folder and some of the ENG files directly alias to the Scotsman SMS files.

The overall quality of the locomotives visual appearance is very good indeed.

Passenger stock included:

  • Mark 1 Blood and Custard BR
  • Mark 1 Maroon Midland Region
  • Mark 1 Brown and Cream Western Region
  • Mark 1 Green Southern Region

Coaches are provided in TSO and BG versions only. They have got interiors and share a passenger view that has a faily limited range of view, but serves the purpose never the less.

The coaches are just reskins of the ones that are included in the Nene Valley Railway add-on and suffer the same 'bright red axle' issue - while I happily will submit that the axles might be bright red upon leaving the paint shop, I don't think it takes more than a few tens of miles for that to start disappearing in grime so I would much rather have seen these a much more dirty colour.

Freight stock included:

  • 25 Ton 'Queen Mary' Guards Van
  • 7 Plank Private Owner Coal Wagon 'John Perry & Co', Empty and Full
  • 14 Ton Fuel Tanker 'Shell BP'
  • 21 Ton Six Wheel Tanker 'Double Diamond'
  • 12 Ton SR General Purpose Box Van
  • 12 Ton LMS General Purpose Box Van
  • 7 Plank Private Owner Coal Wagon 'Mid Suffolk', Empty and Full
  • 7 Plank Private Owner Coal Wagon 'Camerton Collieries', Empty and Full
  • 21 Ton Six Wheel Tanker 'United Dairies'

Once again owners of Nene Valley may experience a little 'de-ja-vu'. The wagons look very nice indeed, unfortunately their physics leaves a great deal to be desired - as with the stock in Nene Valley they all have default weights - even the loaded and unloaded versions of wagons all weigh the same, and what is quite obviously unfitted stock is all configured to have fairly powerful brakes - while this is all quite easily fixed it shouldn't have to be done by the end-user. Incidentally, one related point but one that applies to a great many add-ons, there are usually loaded and unloaded versions of models where there is a visual difference but how many people have gone to the extent of loaded and unloaded versions where the difference is purely weight? Driving a train of 20 full tankers is a very different task to driving a train of 20 empty tankers and yet this pack and many others fail to capture that aspect.

Overall I have to say that this pack disappoints me a great deal, as a Steam fan myself I was looking forward to this but with such little attention paid to the physics it looks almost as though cosmetics are all that have been catered for and these days I demand a little more out of Train Simulator than just looking pretty.

I speak to a lot of people at exhibitions that give me the impression that a great deal of the audience for Train Simulator have no idea about computers and so forth - their interests lie with Trains, not PC's. When you have an add-on that is on the Internet it can almost afford to expect a little extra help from the user to install and use it, they've got this far they can't be afraid to roll their sleeves up a little, though even that is turning out not to be the best assumption that you can make. When an add-on is on the shelf you absolutely cannot make any assumptions - the user should be able to install and use the add-on without requiring any additional complications or steps, and for me that means consists for use with 'Explore the Route' and activities to provide an actual number of hours entertainment out of the product before setting the user loose. Besides, what better way to showcase the new purchase to a customer than to provide half a dozen activities with busy AI traffic making use of all the stock in the pack so they can see it all in action immediately?

The stock all looks good, so if it appeals and you are happy and willing to fix all the bits that are wrong, or there are specific items on it that you can't get from elsewhere then go for it, but I would find it hard to recommend this add-on to anyone else. Final Score:

50%



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