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TGV Train Sim Pack
24.77 / €39,95
Review: TGV Train Sim Pack
Developer: EuropeanBahn (and others), Publisher: Just Trains
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 26 May 2002


(Some of the screenshots show the Eurostar, which does not come with this product, it is available on the Euro Loco product available separately)

All of the screenshots have mouse-over tooltips, just hold your mouse over them for a moment to read the description.

I've had a copy of the TGV route now in both its original form ('Northern European TGV') and it's new form (the JustTrains TGV Train Sim Pack). This review is specifically for the JustTrains pack.

Departing Lille on a cold Winter morning Departing Lille on a cold Winter morning Departing Lille on a cold Winter morning Departing Lille on a cold Winter morning

This is the first substantial route that's been made available on-the-shelf for MS Train Simulator, so kudos to EuropeanBahn and JustTrains for making it happen, hopefully we'll see more packs where the focus is on the route with a bit of stock for you to run on it supplied as the extra.

One of the more novel additions to this route is the Eurotunnel, EuropeanBahn have extended the original Northern European TGV route to come out of Calais, through the tunnel and all the way to Ashford in Kent via Folkstone, so there's a lot of route for you to explore here.

Some areas of the scenery do get a bit sparse, but this provides a welcome 'framerate break' between busy stations Amentieres Over in the distance you can see the local line that follows and weaves around the main line, this provides some good 'distant' scenery and AI traffic rather than just all of the scenery next to you Merris Sud

If you have the original Northern European TGV and you enjoy it, is this one going to be worth considering or not? Well, I would recommend that you read on as personally I do find the newer version of the route much better than the original - so if you enjoyed that, then you're highly likely to enjoy this one.

Packaging
The manual contains a description of how the route progresses from one end to the other (Lille in France to Ashford in the UK). This is a good addition and it means that you immediately understand that there are some lines that are there for completeness (ie. don't go anywhere) and many are there which are quite usable - but we'll get on to the route itself in the next section.

Going under a bridge Hazebrouck Hazebrouck is behind us, directly behind that structure we just went under Back out in to the icey wilderness, the other two track line gets close briefly, providing another opportunity to see AI traffic on our high speed journey

The Route installed on to my machine without any problems, it is crucially important to note that you must have all six Microsoft routes installed on your machine or this one won't install. This could make the overall installation size of this route massive for you if you perhaps only have one or two of the original Microsoft routes on your system. The reason for this is that this route uses a lot of the original textures and shapes that are supplied out-of-the-box with Train Simulator so these must be copied over. They can't be distributed on the CD due to obvious copyright problems, indeed, some people I've spoken with are concerned that even using them on a commercial route might not be within the terms of the EULA. I have attempted (7 times now, via different methods) to contact someone in Microsoft who can clarify this point and have been completely ignored on every attempt so I'll have to go with the conclusion that they obviously don't care that much so why should anyone else.

Once installed the route will consume approximately 470 Megabytes of disk space. A 'reference' file is not provided with the route so you cannot use a tool such as Route-Riter to try and reduce that either, unfortunately. Remember you need all six default routes installed, so keep that in mind when deciding if you have enough space to install TGV on your system.

The numerous lakes provide an interesting break in the scenery Going under another bridge on the way to Arques Pulling in to Arques station Stopped at Arques

Default RouteSize
Settle and Carlisle170 Megabytes
Innsbruck and St.Anton200 Megabytes
Tokyo and Hakone200 Megabytes
Hisatsu Line189 Megabytes
Northeast Corridor89 Megabytes
Marias Pass283 Megabytes

Once installed you have a new route, plus two TGV trainsets from Clem Tillier and an SNCF BB7200 plus Co-Rail coaches from ChrisTrains. The package also installs ten varied (though all Passenger services) activities for you to use as well, though I was a little disappointed that they didn't optionally include more acitivities for people that had bought both this and Euro Loco - given that most places are providing an opportunity to purchase them both together, it would have made an even better reason to obtain both packages if one or both of them had included activities for the pair of them together (for example, taking the Eurostar from Calais to Ashford and seeing TGV and BB loco's on the french side, and HST's on the English side would have been marvelous!).

Response from EuropeanBahn and JustTrains:
There was a very practical issue about not including these kind of activities, namely that a user firstly needs both the ELP and TGV pack for these activities to work without error messages in MSTS and secondly if the user un-installs either the TGV OR the ELP pack, once more the activities will not work causing error MSTS messages. However, prompted by the reviews desire for such activities we will upload to our website six "joint pack" activities for the ELP Eurostar and HST125 using the TGV route, with appropriate instructions and warnings covering what I have just explained in the near future.

Changing to a different TGV for the trip to Calais and going for a summer afternoon, we head out of Arques Departing Arques Passing Tattinghem, over on the local line After tattinghem

There are some spelling mistakes that weren't picked up such as 'Thalys' showing up in some consist names as 'Thylas'. It's not exactly going to destroy your opinion of the package but it is a shame that when so much effort has gone in to something like this that it falls over at the last hurdle and silly mistakes get through.

Response from EuropeanBahn and JustTrains:
That was unfortunate but as you say not exactly show stopping. We will issue updated files to correct these two spelling errors.

There is also a problem with two of the activities as supplied. It looks as though directory names have been changed just prior to packaging up for CD duplication and the consists and activities have not been updated to reflect these changes which renders those two activities unusable.

One of the many times the local line crosses the main line Blasting through Tourneham Sur La Hen After Tourneham Sur La Hen, the local line once again crosses over Once again, having the two lines means that you tend to get some very nice distant views from the main line.

The activies with a problem are 'JT_Commuter Express Thylas Daytime' and 'JT_Lille to Tournenhem Stopper'.

They are looking for stock with these folder names: JTSNCFBB7200, TGV_4534_V1, TGV_531_V1 and CORAIL_CARRIAGES. They are presented on the CD as 'JT_' at the front (the first one is just missing an underscore). Using Activity Analysis this problem is very quickly fixed but if you don't have such a tool and you're not comfortable editing the .ACT file yourself, then just delete activities 2 and 5 from the 'ACTIVITIES' folder and you won't accidentally choose them and cause yourself problems.

Response from EuropeanBahn and JustTrains:
I and others have loaded both these activities out of the box and have not seen these errors. Can you un-install TGV Pack and then re-install TGV pack a-fresh and then retry them once more. You should not see any errors. I have checked and Just Trains technical support have received no reports whatsoever of these errors.

Update from UKTrainsim:

We've been working with JustTrains to try and find out what's going on here as the Activity does indeed seem to work fine in Train Sim despite these errors.

It turns out to be a side-effect of the way that Train Sim has been developed that means this error is actually not important as it gets 'fixed' later on as the activity is loaded.

The end result of this is that this is largely a non-issue. If you test it with something like Activity Analyser you will see the error, if you try to edit the activity and edit one of the incorrect consists you will get an error but if you just try and run the activity in Train Sim you won't have any troubles at all.

Given that the use of the activities is not impaired by this problem and thus 99.99% of users won't have any problems, i've raised the score from 75% to 78%.

My final comment about the general packaging of the product is that it does not state anywhere on the advertising, box or manual that you're getting a fictional rendition of the route. It does not accurately represent the real route - the Eurotunnel depicted here has many turns in it and Sellindge is represented as a TGV station on the line when in fact it looks to me more like a small village from a quick look at Autoroute.

I should clarify that I am not marking the product down because it is a fictional route, but the fact that I have heard from a couple of people now who are disappointed because they bought the product in the belief it was a replica of the real world route.

One of the many large yards that you'll find as you travel the route Some of the curves on the local line are fairly harsh Going past an International Freight depot After the International Freight Depot

The Lille-Ashford Route and Activities
After a mostly smooth install we can then start looking at the main focus of this product. The route.

As I said earlier, I had the initial version of this product quite some time ago and was looking forward to seeing what EuropeanBahn had done to advance it - users of the original will be able to recognise places from it in this new version but they will also quite clearly be able to see it is far more than just a bit more track. Large amounts of the route seem to have been reworked and tidied up quite nicely.

For those that haven't seen the route at all, let's talk about what we can see. The screenshots I've taken show the entire route from Lille through to Ashford. I've used a variety of Loco's and i've also changed the season and time of day as I've gone along just to provide some variety.

Coming in to Calais Departing Calais in the TGV For a bit of a change, we jumped in to the Eurostar provided by the Euro Loco pack and set it to a summer dusk at 5pm for the trip to England Once again, departing Calais!

From Lille to Arques the route is a two-track mainline with another two-track line that wanders around a bit to the left and a local line in the distance wandering from left to right. When you get to Arques it goes to a four track line with the local line wandering from left to right. Things drop back to two-line again after Calais and in to the tunnel before you come out in to the UK.

There's a lot of track to drive on in this route. There's also a good amount of variety. If you want to do High Speed running, taking a TGV up to the speed limit and screaming through some stations then go for it. If you're in to the more pedestrian (like myself!) then take the BB7200 on a meandering country run along the local line. If you're more interested in looking out the window that staring at the speedometer to see if you can make it go faster, the local line offers tons to look at. You're constantly crossing the main line, wandering out to some distance, going in to a small station and then back over the main line again - sometimes you go over it, sometimes under it.

Heading for the tunnel in the Euro Loco Eurostar Some of the structures in TGV aren't placed level and in this instance, it looks like the buildings are falling backwards Approaching the Eurotunnel Entering the Eurotunnel

The track work on the main line is nicely laid and I didn't catch any bouncing of the train (when track is not laid carefully you can get areas where the train jolts over a joint, these can cause broken couplers and even derailments) as it went the distance of the route. I was a bit concerned at the radius of some of the curves on the main line - if I'd been in a real train I think i'd have wanted to be going considerably slower than the speed limit (under half!) to get around some of them safely. I must admit I did my testing with Derailments switched off so it's quite possible that the TGV is capable of staying on the track quite happily but even so, you'd want to warn the passengers to put their drinks down :)

During the Newmarket Exhibition, the TGV route got a lot of exercise, most of the people that came and saw it (and many had a go at driving on it) were very impressed by it. Unfortunately, one time took a BB7200 in to the Eurotunnel on an 'Explore the route' and when we came out the other side we only had one coach - so there must be a dodgy bit of track somewhere in there but it's very difficult to know where, certainly the TGV's and Eurostar didn't have any trouble.

Inside the Eurotunnel.  That's all there is to look at for 20 minutes or so! Almost out of the tunnel, England is in sight. We're out the other side, in England We're out the other side, in England

The local line has a lot more potential for error, there's a lot more to see and the track winds around all over the place, including going up and down hills. However some of the turns and gradient changes are quite steep - going from an uphill gradient straight in to a downhill one not only doesn't quite look right but in some cases the bottom of your train will 'bottom out', or you'll go from straight and level to a fairly steep up-hill in one shot. Had these been smoothed out it would have made the local line an absolute dream to drive on.

Finally, on the topic of track work, i'll add that there are also a fair number of yards and other sidings present and the odd 'industry' is also available for use so the scope for Activity designers is quite large - especially given the two-country aspect of it.

Moving on to the scenery. There's not much new modeling that I could see beyond the large land marks, it mostly seems to be the default scenery that comes in the other routes (which is why you need them all installed). It does look a bit off-putting when you're supposed to be in a French station and you have lots of japanese writing an 'Shinjuku' written on one of the larger buildings! Indeed, station name signs haven't been changed either and they too don't always reflect where you are, they are just part of the station model that's been used for the route.

I don't personally have a big problem with commercial routes using the default scenery (unless of course the EULA prohibits it, but as I said, I can't get an answer on that from Microsoft) as long as it is all generic scenery that's used. Using tree's, houses and so forth seems like a good way to save a large amount of time and reduce the cost of putting a route together, but I still think that the stations should all be custom modelled and not use any of the stock models (unless they're generic of course), proper name boards and so forth add to the realism even on a fictional route.

The positioning of the scenery items is better than it was in Northern European TGV but it still has a way to go before it's "right". The gantries are often at an angle, some of the buildings I went past looked like they were the victims of land-slips as they precariously leaned backwards and some of the signals weren't straight and on the ground properly - though again, it's a lot better than it was in the original.

Moving on to signaling, for the most part I didn't have a problem with this, it seemed to all work as it should. On the Local Line doing an activity I did notice that I was going through a whole bunch of red lights - that showed up on the Track Monitor as green lights, so i'm not quite sure what was going on there. The other side of the track was showing the same problem but the AI trains seemed to be taking notice of that and I was just going past a load of stationary AI trains. Perhaps that was how it was intended, but it didn't seem right.

It's an almightly climb out of the Tunnel entrance on to the main line level Cruising through England Cruising through England, some construction is taking place A nice Lake with yachts in it - unfortunately the flying tree lets it down

There are some framerate issues in the built up areas but they don't last long at all and for the most part you can enjoy some decent framerates and still have plenty to look at on the route.

The final point I'll make about the route is that some of the paths that are provided are non-functional.

For example, Arques IC -> Calais doesn't take a left switch right outside the platform and you go shooting off a non buffered bit of track moments later. Paths are chosen when you choose a 'start' and 'heading towards' pair - they are defined by the person who does the route (and activities) so that you can pick a place to start exploring in a given direction and (hopefully) know that you'll get there without having to know the track work yourself or manually go in and create paths in the Activity Editor.

Unfortunately there are some paths present that will take you in to buffers and off ends of track so you might want to go and check all the paths yourself to make sure that they work and remove or fix those that don't.

Response from EuropeanBahn and JustTrains:
The main idea of the many explore route starting places included with TGV Pack was to allow users to have independent fun and discover and explore the side paths. As we clearly state in the manual, unfortunately it is impossible to include a printed map in the manual due to the enormous size of the route, but we specifically have given explicit instructions on how to view the whole route in close-up detail via the MSTS route editor tools thus allowing you to have knowledge of where you are driving.

Update from UKTrainsim:
On further inspection, it would appear that the path named here specifically is actually fine in the Path Editor. So even though I have specified a Start and 'heading towards' which uniquely identify a path, Train Simulator has only really taken any notice of the Start point and which way on the line it should point you. I had always thought that it would set the points for you, it would make exploring a route much easier - however this is not a problem with the JustTrains TGV Train Sim Pack, it's a misunderstanding or 'opportunity' within Train Sim itself.

My mistake, and my apologies to everyone that's read this bit!

I have been fairly negative about the route so far, which isn't fair - but the point of this review is to tell you what to expect and there are fewer things wrong with it than are right, so it's easier to list those!

Finally arriving in Ashford Finally arriving in Ashford Cab view from the SNCF BB7200 Sitting in Arques on the Intercity line, the BB7200 awaits departure

The Activities provided are quite entertaining, though they're of course all Passenger activities as that is all that has been provided on the disc in the way of stock. It almost negates the Eurotunnels existence in terms of 'feel' when you come out of it in to the UK and you're still seeing French trains, for all intents and purposes you might just have gone through a big tunnel in France. This could have been easily solved by just including some activities that the user could separately install if they had the Euro Loco pack as well, perhaps an update will be made available or people will produce activities on the Internet to boost the realism of this area.

Rolling Stock
The stock provided is excellent. With Cab Views, Passenger Views and full interiors on all the units they are a real treat to drive. The TGV's are newer versions of the ones that we've reviewed elsewhere on the site and the BB7200 looks much like the BB15000 that comes with the Euro Loco pack.

Overall Conclusion
This has been a hard product to review and it's taken a lot of time to run it up and down a few times and get a good feel for it. It is also hard to find quite a few problems with the route when over all it's actually an excellent piece of work. There's always plenty to see, there's a ton of variety, scope for activities and local and express trains, with the three loco's provided adding an extra touch of class.

Do I recommend the route to you then? If you want a realistic route, so that you can relive your journeys in this area - no, it's not a realistic rendition. I've spoken with a couple of people that have bought this package for this purpose and they expressed their disappointment to me about it and described some of the areas where it is quite obviously fictional.

Passenger view from the Co-Rail coaches as we depart Arques Exterior view of the excellent Co-Rail coaches with full interior etc

If you're looking for a new route with plenty of variety, an excellent (and long) high speed line coupled with a scenic local line then this is a very good route to look at, provided you can over come some of the visual deficiencies such as wonky gantries then you'll enjoy it a great deal.

Response from EuropeanBahn and JustTrains:
Both I and Just Trains have never said that this is a true, real world representation of the real world route from Ashford to Lille, in fact to avoid any possible confusion we went to great lengths to ensure that TGV pack was not portrayed as a true route and the tunnel was not called the "Chunnel" or "Channel Tunnel" etc. Both the Just Trains website and box text say the following:

"A great depiction of a high speed rail route between Ashford, Kent in the UK and Lille in France, capturing the atmosphere and excitement of driving such a route, including passing through an authentic looking tunnel under the English Channel".

Which clearly makes no claim to TGV Pack being a real world route. The description is true and accurate. It is not misleading or incorrect. The reviews comment about not using the word fictional in the description is like saying that a car that is blue in colour is not red in colour I.E. There is no reason to say it is fictional as the descriptive text does not make any clam that it is a real world route.

The reason for the slight turns in the tunnels was to make it more interesting to drive. Driving in the dark with no turns for 20 plus miles was deemed quite unexciting.

As per Just Trains guarantee if any user is unhappy with TGV pack they are welcome to return it for a refund or exchange to Just Trains as long as they comply with the fair Deal conditions that say the following:

"We provide a satisfaction guarantee on all our own published products (no matter where purchased) and a money back guarantee on all products bought directly from us whether faulty or otherwise. If you are unhappy in any way with a product you have purchased directly from us (or a product published by Just Trains purchased elsewhere) then please write or e-mail us and tell us why within 14 days of receipt. We will then provide details of how you may return the product (at your cost) for a refund or exchange.

When we have agreed to refund you, we will return your money within 30 days (generally much sooner) of our satisfactory receipt of the goods you are returning."

I hope that the above clarifies the situation. You can be assured that TGV pack is only one of several more to come and as with any new host product the quality and innovation will continue to grow as knowledge of the host sim increases.

We hope to be able to issue an update to address some of the above issues as soon as possible.

Over all, our score for this route is:

78%



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