At one point in our lives, we have all been fascinated with trains. From the steam-driven locomotives of yesteryear, to the powerful diesel engines and electric ones of today. As children, we have played with toy trains, such as the OO gauge Lionel trains, the HO gauge and even smaller table-top trains. I remember one Christmas when I received my very first train; my mother and father had made a setting with an alpine mountain that the train ran through. The fun I had was immeasurable.
Today’s train sets are very sophisticated and crafted lovingly by many adults as a hobby. The detail presented is a wonder by itself. There are events held where these hobbyists show off their layouts. Some of these can run into hundreds of dollars or more, depending on how extensive these layouts are. You can find hobby magazines that display and show how to build simple to large layouts. Advertisements offer reasonable pricing for that first-time buyer to more expensive equipment for that professional builder.
For the rest of us who admire the work of these hobbyists but can’t afford to spend a ton of money or don’t have the space available for that track layout, there’s Trainz Simulator 2009 — World Builder Edition. Developer Auran, who runs Planet Auran for Trainz enthusiasts, has developed a pretty formidable simulation for those who want to ride the tracks or produce their own layouts on the computer.
I started Trainz Simulator 2009 by running the tutorials once I clicked on the Driver button. There are three tutorials you can play with: Controls, Waybills and Cab. Controls basically gives you simple controls to run your engines in a three-quarter view mode. The more advanced Cab mode actually lets you sit in the engine and drive it while watching the countryside go rolling by. Waybills shows you how to accept orders and deliver goods by rail. The scenarios, called “sessions,” offer a pretty extensive array, from moving freight to running passenger train schedules.
The meat of the simulation, though, is designing your own layouts in Surveyor mode. Clicking on the Surveyor button brings up a menu and a blank area where you do all of your design work. This can be small to large layouts with simple to complex track development. You have up to 100,000 plus items to add to your layout — from buildings to roads to tracks — with different train types and rolling stock. Scenery such as trees and increasing or decreasing the terrain also is possible. Adding rivers and bridges are among the endless possibilities that the Trainz community has contributed to this simulation. There are also rules that provide commands to run your trains, including speed controls, scheduling for pickup and delivery. Some of the 100 AI commands route multiple trains and can order decoupling and coupling instructions ... among just of the few listed. There are quite a few menus that help your creative juices in designing that ideal layout.
I tried my hand at designing a simple oval track. One of the problems I found is that the size of your design versus the actual running program can be a disaster. I had the train running, but the track layout was very small compared to what I thought was a larger track. The budding designer will have to make corrections when first starting out compared to the pro who can whip out a balanced layout.
The graphics are quite good and remarkably realistic. Depending on your system, the more powerful your computer is, the better the system can handle larger layouts. The minimum requirements can make for a slow show depending on what you’ve added.
On the whole, I had fun messing around with Trainz Simulator 2009 and was very impressed with what this software can do. If you’re looking for help, the online community is a good source and a helpful one. And, we will see Trainz 2010 coming out eventually. If you like trains and don’t necessarily have the space for a real set, I suggest getting this game. It’s not something I’d recommend for kids or someone looking for a substitute for Thomas.
My knowledge of the industry mostly evolves around beta testing games, such as Earth & Beyond from EA, Saga of Ryzom, and companies like MSN and Acolade. Self taught web design is another interest I have. Family life is entertaining at times. It also can get weird as well, after you have been married 31 years.