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Review: Tornado for RailWorks
Reviewed By Matthew Peddlesden
Date: 11 December 2009

(Thumbnail images can be clicked on to view the full size version at 1680x1050)

If not already the most famous locomotive in the world, the A1 Steam Locomotive Trusts' pride and joy: Tornado, is surely destined to hold that crown sooner or later.

This model fom represents the loco exclusively licensed from the A1 Steam Locomotive Trust, in the very same form that you can now see the loco steaming around the countryside on various rail tours. Visit the UK Steam Tours Info site for up to date information on when the various tours are happening (not just with Tornado) and get yourself booked on a tour now, help support the various locomotives and have a great steam train ride on the national rail network to boot!

Ok, stepping back from the real loco for a while let's spend a little time with our virtual counterpart and see how it handles.

For your 11.99, out of the box you will get the A1 Tornado locomotive in the current Apple Green livery, along with Brake 1st Corridor Mk1 and First Corridor Mk1 in All Maroon livery, plus First Corridor Mk1 in Crimson and Cream livery. You also get four standard scenarios and one free roam.

First impressions of the loco are the sheer beauty of the model. This must be one of the highest detail models currently available in RailWorks, with immense detailing all over. It doesn't seem to matter how close you get you'll find new details in there to look at. The smoke effects are much nicer, more in line with the new techniques that have been employing since the Challenger release; so you get a much more pleasing gentle smoke rising from the loco as it stands rather than that silly big ball of smoke that is commonly seen above the default loco's. I do hope we'll see many of the changes shown in this release ported back to the default loco's.

As we move off a number of other things become apparent. The biggest thing that hits you and will continue you do so as you make your first drive with this loco is that the sounds really are the best i've ever heard on RailWorks. Coming to a halt in York station in one of the scenarios I heard a nice breaking squeal effect, then as we brought up speed on the journey to Newcastle you hear a wind rushing sound that gets more and more forceful. Cut the regulator and coast and the remaining sounds seem very appropriate, with the locomotive obviously doing less work but still lots going on. Flipping between Head-out and Cab view I also observed the tone of the sounds changing a bit, with more rumble and bass internally, which is something I don't think i've heard before on many other locomotives in RailWorks. I love the Whistle and indeed the secondary whistle (press the B key to toggle it), they seem much more realistic and in character than the default ones, which now sound as out of place as the original MSTS Flying Scotsman one does these days. Overall, the sounds are absolutely fantastic, a real tribute to both the real loco and RailWorks itself.

Smoke effects continue to be used in new way too; not only does it do the chuffing that is new with RailWorks it also has working smoke emitters for the cylinder cocks and the two whistles, so a marked improvement there that now starts to make the loco you're driving feel more like the one you're driving and less like a 3D image that represents what you're driving... if you catch my drift!

Driving the Tornado is also a great experience and one that you're really going to need to learn to drive Steam engines properly to get the best out of. I only ran the scenario from York to Newcastle and while it's green's all the way you can set yourself an additional challenge to really get the best out of the loco and hit the speed limits all the way. I got in to Newcastle something like 16 minutes early without breaking speed limits, so it's possible to really get some power out of that beast.

I found that you have to be much more careful balancing the cut-off and regulator against the gradients, for example in a couple of cases I was nursing a lower boiler pressure to bring it back up one minute and then some day dreaming out of the window and a moment later the pressure release valve is going off - we're going down hill now and the boiler pressure has shot up, so it's time to re-apply the throttle and resume accelerating. I think my top speed was something like 86mph on the down hill in the last 125mph stretch in to Newcastle but I think I spent quite a bit of time over 80mph throughout the journey. Overall, a fun loco to drive if you have a route you can really open her up on that has gradients and speed limit variations to keep it challenging.

In the one scenario that I tried (the inaugural run from York to Newcastle) I noticed that a great deal of effort had been made in placing additional scenario specific scenery along the entire length of the route. Most of it was down to crowds of people on bridges and platforms and I also noticed as I flew past one road crossing, a police car holding everyone back and keeping them in check :) The scenario specific scenery really adds some variety and extra value to scenarios, it adds to the general feeling and immersion of a scenario that says everyone is excited and watching you if there are actually loads of people watching you as you go. It's good to see it being used so effectively.

Most of the scenarios are a fairly standard affair. One irksome thing with RailWorks is where you only get the AWS buzzer noise while specifically in the cab view. While this is great for diesel and electric locos where I tend to spend most of my time while driving anyway, in steam loco's there's nothing to look at and not much to see from the viewpoint through the window. With Steam Engines I tend to spend most of my time hanging out in head-out view but you won't ever hear the AWS buzzer like this and consequently if you're attentive you'll be able to see there's a ramp coming up and duck in, hear the alarm go off and then clear it. If you don't, then the only thing you'll hear is the brakes go to emergency application and the train grind to a halt. Still, it's all about the challenge and once you get the hang of it it's quite rewarding to realise you're actually paying real attention to what's going on as you drive rather than daydreaming.

I did find one bothersome bit at the beginning of the York scenario but it's more down to general problems or limitations with the scenario system in RailWorks than anything related to the Tornado add-on. I pulled in to York but obviously took a bit long in doing it, so I loaded passengers but was late doing so - once the passenger loading was complete I was told 'Instruction Complete: You didn't load any passengers at York'. This is obviously misleading (and indeed quite wrong) however it's because the scenario is set to be tightly timed so I have technically failed that instruction. The wording of this really should have reflected all the possible causes of failure other than the obvious.

Lastly on this topic, as I pulled in to Newcastle I was quite confused about the route I was taking and you'll see in one of the latter screenshots in this collection why; my train is routed all over the place across and back to the right line again. It doesn't affect the running of the scenario but it does look odd.

I haven't mentioned the cab yet so it's time to move on to that. Wow. What an amazing feat of 3D modelling that is, every bit the counterpart to the model of the exterior of the locomotive, you will find such amazingly detailed pipework, valves and so forth. Even the simple act of pulling the handle to blow the whistle causes numerous interlinked bars to move around.

I think that's about all there is to say really! You can get it from Steam as an item of DLC, search for it on http://www.steampowered and it will set you back 11.99. Note that the loco represented is specifically Tornado and not the general A1 Class so while I'm sure the reskinners will have a go at some different liveries, styles and numbers, in fact they won't be quite right down to some specific modelling detail that won't be appropriate for original members of the class.

Overall I have to say that I've found this one a really enjoyable loco to drivem, much as I did the Challenger. The sounds are, for me, the standout feature, but then that's more because I've become accustomed to outstanding artwork from so seeing another example of them doing their job superbly is less impressive than the sounds - which to date i've always been a bit concerned with... but, no longer.

Scottish Central PLUS




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