This review has been done using the original German release.
I have been informed by Contact Sales that a version with Activities
in English will be on the shelves in the UK by the end of November 2002.
A Microsoft Train Simulator add-on of a section of the Swiss Railway -
Rhatische Bahn - that runs from Landquart in the North West to Klosters
and then on to Davos. The CD includes the route, 8 activities,
4 locomotives - Ge 4/4 II, Ge 6/6 II, Ge 4/4 III and Gmf 4/4 and some
appropriate rolling stock to run with them. What the manual doesn't tell
you is that the package also includes a Steuerlok. This is the Swiss
equivalent of the UK Driving Brake Second Open (DBSO) as used originally
by ScotRail and now by Anglia Railways. It comes with its own cabview (key 1).
The associated locomotive can be located at the opposite end of the train
or, as in one of the supplied consists, in the centre of the train.
The manual identifies and explains the 8 activities, however, there are in
fact, 12 activities.
Heidi Express is delivered in the large box format which contains an
enveloped CD and the intruction manual. As this review is of the
original German version, I will mention that the manual is in three
languages, German, French and English. The manual introduces the route,
identifies how they built it, explains some of the compromises they
have made to keep frame-rates up and finishes off by mentioning why certain
signals have been omitted.
I will say right now that this is the hardest part of getting the
Heidi Express Add-on running. Put the CD in the drive and if you have
Autorun enabled it will start the installation. If like me you have
Autorun disabled then you will need to explore to your CD drive and
click on the 'setup.exe' file in the root directory. You are first
asked to select your setup language - German, French (Standard) or
English. Having selected your setup language the install shield wizard
starts and on completion a second box appears. This is where the
installation problem exists. Aerosoft have chosen to use a software
protection method referred to as Page, Line, Word. You NEED the manual
to identify the word required to be input to continue the installation.
And that's not all. It may sound simple enough to pick a word out of the
manual and type it in. First of all, is the protection CASE sensitive?
Second when you count the lines, do you include title lines and blank
lines in your count? It could take you a number of attempts to pick
the right word. The installation aborts after 3 failed attempts and
you have to start the installation again. I could go on.
It is unfortunate that Aerosoft have chosen this method of protecting
their product as it is one of the easiest for Hackers to disable. So
the only people that they are stopping installing and running the software
are the genuine purchasers of the software, which is a big negative
point against this package.
If you are fortunate enough to hit the right word then the installation
will continue to completion and you will have Heidi Express installed.
The route itself is a single track end to end of 50 kilometres. There are
passing loops at most stations but very few sidings for those that like to
create freight activities. The main stations, Landquart, Klosters and Davos
offer more scope with a number of platforms and sidings so that you have the
opportunity to create activities that make up a train and then drive off to
The terraforming and landscaping has evidently had some
considerable effort put into it as it is extremely good. However, inadequate
time has been put into the tracklaying. There are too many locations where
the track is bumpy (like the UK speed bumps on roads) that cause the whole
train to lurch up and down. I also identified two locations between Klosters
and Klosters Platz where the track is above the ground. Not by any great amount,
but sufficient to make it look totally wrong. It is an unfortunate pity that the
extra time wasn't spent getting the track right. It would have made the
difference between what is now an average route into a great route.
There are 8 included activities identified in the manual but as you will see
in the Route and Activity Selection screen there are in fact a total of
12 that have been programmed using the real winter 2001/2002 timetable.
1. Introductory Train Ride.
The purpose of this activity is to introduce you to the whole of the RhB route
and to show the different signals that you will encounter along the way.
As is to be expected there are a considerable number of message windows
that pop up as you drive along to explain the different signals and the
need to sound your horn at unmarked crossings. Unfortunately they are all
in German which detracts somewhat from the whole purpose of the activity
for non German speaking users. This should have given Aerosoft the opportunity
to have 3 activities in the 3 different languages and to have loaded the
appropriate one based on the language selection at install time.
If you can ignore the messages then this is a good activity for exploring
the route and ample opportunity to get the feel of the Ge 4/4 II over
the undulating terrain of Switzerland.
2. Duty Train 9037.
This activity has you driving the Gmf 4/4 shunting loco. Make up your train
at Buel and then drive it to Klosters. This is a little bit tricky to start
with. You have to collect the 4 ballast trucks in the Buel Yard before you
set off. Two of them are behind you in the same siding and the other two
are in an adjacent siding. Because of the terrain in the sidings (it drops
behind you and then rises again before you get to the trucks) it is very easy
to try and couple at too high a speed. Once collected together off you go
3. Goods Train 5051.
Drive the Ge 6/6 II from Landquart to Fideris with a freight train. Picking
up and dropping off along the way at Schiers, Furna and Fideris. A good
activity for learning the vagaries of the Ge 6/6 II.
4. Train 335.
Driving the Ge 4/4 II again from Landquart to Klosters. Look towards the rear
of the train and you will see this consist has the Ge 4/4 II driving but
with the Steuerlok on the back. This is a stopping passenger service that
runs to a tight timetable with a target arrival at Klosters of 11.31. You
need to have carried out Activity 1 to get a feel for the route and the
handling characteristics of the Ge 4/4 II before doing this activity if
you want any hope of arriving in Klosters on time.
5. Train 380.
This activity sees you driving from the cab of the Steuerlok on a night train
service from Klosters back to Landquart. Watch your speed as you leave
Klosters Platz heading for Klosters Dorf, it is so very easy to exceed the
50 Kmh speed limit here.
6. Goods Train 6035.
Back to the Ge 6/6 II again with a freight train from Schiers to Buel. Slightly
more difficult now as it's autumn and the autumn rain is gently falling.
(Wet leaves on the line)!!
7. Train 15.
The Ge 6/6 II again in this activity with a novel twist. It is low season and hence
morning goods train does not run. Therefore the goods trucks are coupled to the
back of your passenger train. One piece of advice here. You are driving a mixed
traffic train and the speed limits are governed by the freight you are hauling
and not the passenger stock. An opportunity to travel the entire route from
Landquart to Davos with the Ge 6/6 II. It is early morning and dark so take
8. Train 60.
Our first sighting of the Ge 4/4 III. An ideal opportunity to get the feel of
the handling characteristics of this loco as you take the afternoon passenger
service from Davos to Landquart in the rain.
And don't forget to sound your horn at the unmarked crossings - failure to do
so results in an instant Activity Ended - Failure to provide adequate warning!
9. Train 65.
This is a rerun of the Introductory Train Trip from Landquart to Davos without
the annoying message boxes and a shorter train. Another ideal opportunity to
learn the handling characteristics of the Ge 4/4 II with a short train.
Activities 10, 11 and 12 are for seasoned drivers on the Heidi Express Route.
They are difficult to say the least but very rewarding when you succeed.
Don't expect to get it right first time, but you will get there with practice.
As I have said before, use one of the easier activities to get a feel for the
handling characteristics of the locos and then try these ones.
10. Goods Train 5032.
You are driving the Ge 6/6 II again with a LONG freight train, hence a HEAVY
freight train from Davos to Landquart.
You will need your wits about you as you throttle up to
climb the hills and you may even need EMERGENCY braking on the downhills to
stop the whole train going runaway. I would recommend you run Activity 3 at
least once before attempting this one to get the feel for the Ge 6/6 II.
11. Sports Train 928.
You drive from the Steuerlok again from Davos to Landquart. A lot of winter
tourists travel on this train which will make the activity much more challenging.
I recommend trying Activity 5 first to get the feel for driving from the
Steuerlok end of the train.
12. Train 31.
This is the SNOW activity and thus proves to be extremely challenging. To make
it just that bit harder there are additional coaches added to this train to carry
all the skiers heading for Klosters. The journey is from Landquart to Davos using
the Ge 4/4 III. Again, I would recommend running an easier activity (No. 8) to
get a feel for the handling characteristics of the Ge 4/4 III loco.
Keeping to the timetable with this activity is a nightmare and thus I would rate
it Extremely Difficult.
This could have been such a good all round package. It has a good choice of location
for the route, Landquart via Klosters to Davos in Switzerland; the terraforming and
landscaping are excellent; the choice of locos and rolling stock is very good;
the activities are numerous, well thought out and make for some excellent driving
skills to be learned.
1. The inclusion of a software protection that is so easy for the hackers to break
and difficult for the genuine buyer to understand and install makes this overall
experience a bad one from the outset. Perhaps I'm just a Klutz and can't count,
but it took me 18 attempts to get it to install the first time round. To see
if there were any changes with the different language installations I have
since re-installed it three times. On each occasion it has taken numerous attempts
to find the correct word to continue the installation. A less interested user
may well have given up and taken the product back the retailer for a refund!
Overall score reduced by 10% for not thinking about the genuine user of the product.
2. The poor attention to detail in the tracklaying, bumps too numerous to count
and 2 locations where the track is above the ground seriously detract from the
Overall score reduced by 16% for poor tracklaying. It greatly reduces the experience.
3. In a few locations the scenery is in mid air, most of which do not provide
too much distraction but one particular item stands out like a sore thumb -
The station buildings at Davos Platz, at the far end of the line, stand well
above the platforms and it looks hideous.
Overall score reduced by 7% for bad scenery placement.