The Rhine Valley add-on is the name for the UK released version of
the original 'Pro Train 1' add-on, newly released and on the shelf in the
UK as part of Contact Sales new deal with Blue Sky Interactive. This
review was done using the original German release and has been updated
with comments from Contact Sales regarding how the UK release will differ.
The UK release date for this product is late October and will have an RRP of £19.99
A Microsoft Train Simulator addon of a section of the German Railway
along both sides of the Rhine Valley from Frankfurt, up one side of
the Rhine Valley via Koblenz to Cologne and back down the other side
of the Rhine Valley returning to Frankfurt. The CD includes the
route, 12 activities, the ICE3 HST, DB103 in 2 liveries and Intercity
rolling stock to run with them.
Rhine Valley is delivered in the standard DVD style case
which contains the CD and an instruction manual.
The manual has now been fully translated from its German
original in to a full English version. The manual covers the usual system requirements, installation and
de-installation instructions and then goes on to cover the operator keys
for the ICE3 and the DB103. This is followed by a section on the
signalling and speed limit signs used on the German Railway.
The final section gives a brief description of 6 of the 12 Activities
that are included on the CD. In this UK release, all of the activities
have been translated in to English as well so you won't need to keep
referring to the manual (or your German-English dictionary) to work out what
is going on.
This is straight forward enough. Put the CD in the drive and if you have
autorun enabled it will start the installation. If like me, you have autorun
disabled you will need to explore to your CD drive, select the folder Disk1,
and then RUN setup.exe.
The installation will take a while to complete as this route consumes around
850 Mbytes of your hard drive.
Once installed you are ready to explore the route or drive an activity.
From Frankfurt on the right, through Mainz, on to Koblenz,
north up through Koblenz and Bonn and into Cologne (Koln), south and
then east returning to Frankfurt.
This is a very extensive route through the Rhine Valley. On the 'Route and
Activity Selection' screen, select the 'Rhine Valley' route and then
click on the 'MAP' button.
The route as said above is very extensive and could take you a number of
hours to do the complete round trip (Activity 1 in the ICE3 - 5 hours or
Activities 9 followed by 3 in the DB130 - 9 hours). That said, it is a very pleasant
and interesting route to drive.
The scenery is excellent and there are
some interesting additions. A number of the ground textures you won't
have seen before; the track texture is extremely dark and looks wider
than the standard texture; a considerable number of buildings
and bridges are unique to this route and the trees are novel in all the
different seasonal textures. The last addition worth mentioning
are the sound effects. As I tend to ride on the roof of the loco I got
to hear some very different trackside sound effects: Birds twittering;
Dogs barking; Building works sounds - steam hammers, dump trucks etc;
Church Bells; Chickens, all of which add to the experience. If you sit
in the cab driving then you probably won't hear the sounds above the
ambient noise within the cab.
There are a considerable number of lines that diverge around this route with
the main line. The majority of which go absolutely nowhere but a set
of buffers a half of a kilometre to a kilometre down the line.
Take a look at the associated pictures and you'll see shots from the
route showing the ICE3, the DB130 and the DB130 TEE.
There are twelve activities with the route, all of which provide
an excellent driving experience.
The longest and most difficult is the 2 part activity, 'Lokfuhrerschict'.
This has you acting as an engineer (driver) on a FULL NINE HOUR shift.
Part 1 (Activity 9) using a DB103 has the scenario of you taking a
regional train from Cologne to Bonn; jump train to another regional
train from Bonn to Koblenz; jump train again to another regional train
from Koblenz to Frankfurt at which point part 1 terminates.
To continue your shift you then run Part 2 (Activity 3) which takes
you from Frankfurt back to Cologne. A very challenging and time
consuming activity, just great for that miserable wet Saturday when
you have nothing else to do and fancy a shift on the DB.
Frankfurt Platform 8 to Frankfurt Platform 7 Time 5:00
This is a complete round robin of the route using the ICE3
Sit back and enjoy the scenery as you travel up one side
of the Rhine Valley and back down the other. Watch the
timetable though or you could be late getting back.
2. Sonderzug durchs Rheintal Time 1:20 No. 4 in the manual
Mainz to Koblenz
The first activity to use the DB103 TEE and it is a special.
This trip from Mainz to Koblenz is a sightseeing tour for the
lovers of the Rhine Valley and opportunities must be provided
for photograph stops. Rapid acceleration and deceleration
should be avoided at all costs as many of your passengers
are standing in the corridors with their cameras. After
driving the ICE3 this made a refreshing change.
3. Lokfuhrerschicht (Part 2) Time 4:00 No. 5 in the manual
Frankfurt to Cologne
See first paragraph of activities
4. Morgenzug Koln Frankfurt Time 2:25 No.1 in the manual
Cologne to Frankfurt
The morning train from Cologne to Frankfurt. Keep a close
eye on your time as you stop at Bonn, Koblenz, Mainz,
Frankfurt Airport and finally Frankfurt. There is AI traffic
in the form of Regional Trains and you could run against a RED if
you are too early or late on the route especially as you are in
control of the ICE3.
5. Nachtzug Frankfurt Koln Time 2:20 No. 3 in the manual
Frankfurt to Cologne
This activity has you driving the Night Regional Service in the
form of a DB103. Very little AI traffic but watch out for the
deer that emerge from the heavy woodland areas into your headlights
as you drive in the dark with falling rain. USE YOUR HORN!!
6. Schneetreiben Time 3:30 No. 2 in the manual
Frankfurt to Cologne in the Winter Snow
This activity has you driving a Regional Train in form of the
DB103 TEE as an additional service because of the heavy show.
You will have to stop at EVERY station along the route to pick
up and drop off passengers who have missed connecting trains.
Make sure you use your sand wisely on the gradients and allow
extra time to slow and stop at the stations, the ice is wicked.
Activities 7,8, 10, 11 and 12 are short activities but still
provide adequate opportunity to get a feel for the route.
7. Eurocity Basel Berlin Time 1:10
Mainz to Ehrenbreitstein
A good medium length starter driving the DB103 TEE around the
eastern end of the route. Watch your speed on the curves.
8. ICE Koblenz Koln Time 1:02
Koblenz to Cologne
This is the third activity in the set to use the ICE3. It is
however probably the best starter activity to get used to the
handling characteristics of the ICE3 over the route from
Koblenz to Cologne.
9. Lokfuhrerschicht (Part 1) Time 4:30
Cologne to Frankfurt
See first paragraph of activities.
10. Noteinstatz Time 1:30
Remagen to Mainz
This is another scenario activity that is extremely difficult.
It appears that the original Intercity from Bonn to Mainz has
broken down and you are the replacement service. Can you catch
up to the original timetable and arrive in Mainz on time.
I would suggest you try one of the other DB130 activities first
to get a feel for the handling of the loco before attempting this
11. Performance Test ICE Time 0:30
Frankfurt to Mainz
This is one very difficult activity. Not for the faint hearted.
It is more a test of your ability to drive the ICE3 to its limits
AND keep to the speed limits, rather than a Performance test of the
ICE3 itself. Extremely demanding and well thought out.
12. Stellwerkfehler Time 0:41
Mainz to Frankfurt
The final activity is again a short one and an ideal starter to
get a feel for the DB103 handling characteristics.
An excellent addon overall but with its minus points which I have left until
now as I didn't want to spoil the overall picture on the way through the
Minus Points: Trackwork over 99% of the route is top quality but there are a
couple of locations where the tracklaying has gone awry. It doesn't affect
the driving experience but it does look a bit strange. Finally, and you can
take this as a plus or minus point, the textures are a little blurry at
times. This I suspect is intentional in an attempt to keep up frame rates.
I would thoroughly recommend this addon as a complete and well put together
package. A good choice of route, good choice of appropriate rolling stock
and very well thought out activities.