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Buy it Now!
cover
German Railroads Vol 1
£15.82 From SimWare
Review: German Railroads Vol 1, Along the Bigge Lake
Developer: Freudenreich & Tollnaepper GbR, Publisher: Freudenreich & Tollnaepper GbR
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 10 August 2002


ETO Software brought us the very useful 'Activity Analysis' application, you can find a review for that one on the site elsewhere so I won't go in to detail about it - suffice to say that when Ernst (the author) told me they were working on a route I immediately told him to put me on his notification list for when it was available!

3 Axel coach also showing off superb scenery in the background
BR 211 BR 211 with more superb scenery 4 Axel coach complete with detailed interior

German Railroads Volume One focuses on the DB in the 1970's covering two primary lines (Finnentrop-Olpe-Betzdorf and Ople-Diering-hausen). This route isn't a high speed main line but a more local line with some stretches at single track winding around tight bends, over bridges and so forth. Consequently you can expect fairly dense scenery and loads to keep your eye out for as you drive - but we'll get to some of that as we go through the review.

Looking at the technical aspects first, in the box you'll find a ton of information about the route in PDF format ready to print out (there's a manual that has some of it too but the PDF's is much more detailed including gradient information and so forth). Once installed you'll have about 100 km of route, 6 driveable locos, 2 driveable railcars, a massive 48 freight cars, 9 passenger cars and approximately 49 activities to keep you busy.

Silberlinge pulled by 212 - can use push mode too, Passenger view is set up for push mode driving.
BR 212 heads out with 2 car Silberlinge BR 217 showing off a bit of Specular Lighting A couple of bits of freight

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

I found the locomotives were all completed to a very high standard, the detail of the interiors on all locomotives was much higher than i've seen on most other loco's. The textures are all clean and crisp, inclding the larger container wagons which often are the victim of some blurring as textures are stretched a little.

All the loco's have custom cab views which are very good (optimised for 1024x768 I think) and the custom sounds with all of the stock are definitely a good addition - winding the railcar up the gears sounds awesome :)

I found that the brakes on the little BR323 shunter were less than useful - going around 20 km/h approaching a red signal I gave myself 2km to stop, after 1km I had barely slowed down so I put it on 'Continuous Service' and was still doing 10 as I came within visual of the signal - some forward drive was needed to finally bring it to a halt just in time, and no, I was running light - no wagons!

Note from the developer:
The Köf without waggons have to be braked by the loco-brake and not the train-brake. Than it works fine. You can read it in the README after the installation.

Complex trackwork and detailed scenery are two big pro's for this route
More of the varied scenery as our 217 swings right to cross the river Yes folks that's a an airplane in the sky and it's moving! BR 217 Cab View

While we're on the subject of the 323, I found this a cute little loco. The cab view is different to most as the normal "front" view is actually left facing and then looking forward or backward requires you to look right or left appropriately and then affords you a fairly clear view of the track in either direction so you can see what you're doing.

I was very impressed to see that, for the first time in a commercial product (or at least the first time i've noticed it) we have a loco that has Specular Lighting enabled (the BR217). It's something that people have been doing for a while now in the Freeware world but it's definitely good to see this feature being used in commercial products, as you can see from the screenshots of the 217 it looks particularly good with the light reflecting off it.

The little 323 Shunter
The little 323 Shunter The little 323 shunter heads into a valley Another 323 shunter, this time with different freight behond it.

Passenger cars don't really have passenger views as such - they've cheated a little with those as the passenger view is more "head out of the window". It's certainly not due to lack of effort, there is an awesomely detailed interior to all of the coaches so I guess they just wanted to go for the head-out effect on some of them. Other coaches do have a good interior view to look around, including of course the DMU's.

The 48 freight cars are quite impressive not only in their sheer volume but also in the variety. I was quite amused to see a train of brand new tractors and excavator shovels (screenshot is included in the review! :) ). There's the usual staple of containers, tankers and flats etc with varieties of loads on them too. All of the cars that I looked at were again very high quality with very fine detailed textures on them.

Driving the rail cars can be quite a lot of fun, they are all geared so there's more to worry about than just forwards and backwards!

Final 323 Shunter, different freight again sits in a gap between two tunnels
In Bigge Lake you can see a pair of yachts, they're animated and having a race! Another fine bit of scenic work - notice also how the yachts are in this shot too! The odd way that this loco has the cab view facing left certainly adds variety!

Route

Up until I saw this pack I have to say that I thought Pro Train 2 was going to be a hard act for anyone to beat but it hasn't taken long at all. It's a different route in a different time period so whether it "beats" it or not is perhaps irrelevant but I will definitely say that the route is top notch. The detail of the scenery is very high with a vast number of custom objects that have been made for it. The attention to detail goes down to the level of a real enthusiast and other than Pro Train I have only seen this kind of care and attention on freeware routes in the past. As you can tell, I am very much impressed.

Whether the route is anything like the real one that it represents I have no idea, the manual claims that it is a pretty accurate copy within the confines and limitations of Train Simulator and adds that they have decided to put in a few extra industries to bolster up the potential for activities.

Our 795 RailCar sits at the station.
Cab view of the 795 Rail Car Passenger view from the 795 Rail Car Our Rail Car crosses a bridge and we see plenty more scenic work here too

You'll find a vast number of detailed stations along the route and an equally large number of industries and yards, so the scope for people to write activities is very good indeed. I see that with some third party support in the freeware community that this route/pack could well have a very long life indeed.

There are even a few very nice surprises along the route - I've included a couple of screenshots of them in the selection on this review. I was coming out of Olpe with the 217 and as I noticed the specular lighting effect I saw something at the top of the screen - I stopped the train and checked - sure enough, that's a Cessna up there flying an advertising banner, and yes it's animated and flying! Later on I spotted a couple of yachts having a race on Bigge Lake, also animated and going around their course. Very good indeed and only serving to add to the view that these people really have put some effort in to this add-on.

Given that it is a more country route than a main line route you won't see cities, you'll see towns and villages and stations of varying sizes from medium to pretty small. You'll be next to lakes, along the sides of large hills and much more, there's so much to look at as you drive this route you're likely to suffer the same problem I had with Pro Train 2 - too much looking at the scenery and not enough at the speed limits and signals :)

A road crossing
Another station

All of the signalling is new with a pretty complete implementation of the German Semaphore signalling system. Don't worry if you have never seen it before either, there's a lot of detailed information included in the pack to help you learn it and an Activity supplied specifically teaches you all the signals as you drive down a short part of the route. Well worth doing, you'll learn that there are some road crossings that are un-barriered and you'll need to blow your horn as you get to them or the activity you're in will immediately end. You'll learn that there are signs telling you about upcoming speed limits and then other signs signify the start of the new limit - in fact i'm fairly sure that with all the signs and signalling they have provided, the alert cab driver should be able to drive the route perfectly comfortably without ever having the Track Monitor switched on.

There are no default objects (at least none that I could see), just loads upon loads of new custom objects so you can look forward to lots of new things to see.

I did think some of the winter textures were a little odd but they weren't "oh yuck" odd, they are perfectly acceptable.

Activities

The 49 activities supplied are extremely wide ranging both in the amount of time they take, the type of activity and the difficulty. You'll be doing some shunting, some freight work, some passenger hauling and so forth, there's something in there for everybody regardless of which aspect of the railways you particularly like. I ran half a dozen or so of the activities and had a great time with them.

Summary

As you can tell, I'm impressed with this one. Just as with Pro Train I have been trying to find some things wrong with the pack and about the best I can come up with are the few points mentioned already and the fact that some of their custom cars seem almost cartoonish (mostly due to their very clean and lined nature more than anything, dirt is something often forgotten in computer games!).

A look at some of the freight, tractors are certainly unusual!
Tankers Containers

It's extremely good value for money - SimWare have it available for just £15.82, click the link at the top of this page to order it from them now.

Who is going to enjoy this pack? I'd say anyone can enjoy this one, but if you are in to German Railways or just don't mind where they are as long as they're railways then this pack is definitely one for the collection, plenty to do out of the box and plenty of scope for future activities to be developed. The authors also mention that it is their hope to make additions to the pack available such as more loco's.

I'm going to rate this pack one of our highest ratings:

99%



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