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The Colton and Northern - It's Not Just a Route!


  • The Colton and Northern - It's Not Just a Route!

    Review: The Colton and Northern - It's Not Just a Route!

    By Thomas Pallen
    4 May 2009

    MSTS devotees know Richard Garber's name thanks to Canton,
    Cumberland, Ohio Rail, and East Metro: routes that provided
    entertainment as well as many hours of great railroad simulation.
    Fans who also enjoyed Rail Simulator waited and wondered whether
    Garber would ever convert his MSTS work to the new program on the
    block. Rather than repeat himself, however, Garber began creating
    brand new routes and scenarios for RS, the first a somewhat tentative
    but intriguing entry called the Rascal & Cottonwood.


    Now there's the Colton & Northern. Like the R & C, this route
    resembles a multi-layered pretzel on RS's 2D map, but C & N
    represents a considerable leap ahead. R & C featured a lot of
    detail, most of it new to the RS community; C & N ascends to a higher
    level (although foliage still follows that X-form MSTS style), with
    lots of industries, three working turntables, numerous freight yards,
    large and small, and what seems, at least, millions of trees. Just
    about the only thing missing is road traffic, but since we do not
    have to watch cars and trucks appear and vanish at RR crossings or in
    the middle of traffic, its absence becomes a blessing in disguise.
    The route comes with a package of 22 scenarios, far more than the
    paltry number that accompany RS's original routes. Their quality
    varies, but nearly all are interesting for diverse reasons. The
    first ten resemble the tutorial runs found in Garber's MSTS routes
    and are intended to teach the operating procedures of this fictional
    railroad. Some players may find these scenarios tedious, if they
    even bother to follow the instructions, which include numerous stops
    (in addition to typically named tracks, the C&N includes a lot of
    numbered "Destinations", mostly located near switches). The stops,
    however, do have a purpose, or at least so it seems to me. They
    simulate the need to stop before and after switches as someone hops
    off the train, throws a switch, and gets back on. They also
    establish a rhythm quite different from that of almost all previous
    RS scenarios, which typically allow the player to dash along,
    accelerating and braking hard, with little regard for the "reality"
    that the same players claim to be absent from this simulator.
    Scenario 7 provides a little more complication, but true puzzles have
    to be solved beginning with Scenario 11. This one and the next five
    require thought and reasoning from the player-driver; the Pause and 9
    keys become good friends! Standard running returns for the final set
    of scenarios, including some long runs along the line that I found
    rather uninteresting after the puzzles of the middle set.


    So much for the route itself, but that is only part of the overall
    picture. Within weeks of the R&C's initial release, its scope began
    to expand. First, Dick Cowan, whose freeware and payware reskinning
    kits for three diesel engines had already hit the RS market before
    the C&N and which feature a fictional "Family Lines Central" livery
    similar to one that had appeared in the rolling stock that
    accompanied Garber's MSTS routes, came out very quietly with a
    payware package that deserves a lot more attention than it has so far
    received. Cowan's "FLC Pack" includes specially prepared versions of
    his GP9 and SW1200 diesel engines in FLC colors, each sporting an
    added C&N emblem. The SW1200 switcher is in and of itself very
    welcome in the RS world, and the hearty rumble of the GP9 shakes
    everything within range. In addition, the package contains a full
    fleet of new rolling stock: five 40-foot boxcars; three tank cars;
    two 40-foot refrigerator cars in two versions each (hatches open and
    closed), one from a root-beer company for another reminder of
    Garber's MSTS routes; a hopper car in empty, coal, and lime versions;
    loaded and empty versions of a gondola; a flatcar available either
    empty or in four different loads (one of which will be very familiar
    to fans of the MSTS scenarios); and a caboose. Thus, a total of 14
    different freight cars and two diesel engines, all highly detailed.
    The hopper, gondola, and flat cars cannot be loaded and unloaded,
    which while disappointing is suitable to the route, which does not
    feature any loading-unloading points.

    The third C&N prize is Kevin Wilson-Smith's Colton & Northern
    Schematic Pack, an extensive guide to the route. MSTS users are
    accustomed to downloadable track plans, but they are thus far very
    rare in the RS community. This guide goes well beyond anything I
    have ever seen published for any railroad simulator. The first two
    sections deal with "Track Schematics". More than just plans, these
    diagrams include symbols for all of the routes many industries and
    maintenance facilities. The thoroughness of these plans, with all
    symbols explained in a separate Notes section, goes far beyond
    anything I have ever seen for a railroad simulator. The 23 pages
    show every track of the route and all of the labels that appear in
    the game, plus additional labels useful to scenario designers. They
    are joined, in the manual's next section, by thorough indices of
    track names and of industries and "facilities where goods may be
    delivered or collected by rail". The next two sections are, to the
    best of my knowledge, unique in railroad simulation: a "Goods Flow
    Chart" that indicates in detail the types of goods suitable for
    delivery and pickup at each industry or facility and a chart of
    "Goods and Rolling Stock Combinations" showing the various types of
    freight cars that might be picked up or dropped off at each industry
    or facility. As Wilson-Smith writes in his introduction to this
    valuable manual, "The inclusion of the Industry Index and Goods Flow
    Chart is aimed straight at scenario developers - hopefully these will
    encourage and assist developers, as well as provide the basis for a
    whole lot more varied and realistic activities based on the features
    of the Colton & Northern." This very valuable manual is nicely
    illustrated with sepia-tone screen shots from the C&N route.


    Additional scenarios for the C & N have already started to appear
    on the Train-Sim site and more will surely follow as enthusiasts
    discover the complex possibilities of this route.

    The Colton & Northern Route can be purchased from AllAboard Rails
    for $17.00 through PayPal or $22.00 via SWREG


    It requires the RSDL Foliage Pack

    ( $6.00),

    as well as the free or payware versions of Rural Landscapes and Scale
    Roads from 3DTrains


    The FLC Pack can be bought from Cowen Enterprises


    for $9.00. The Colton & Northern Schematic Pack can be downloaded
    free of charge from Rail Sim America's File Library page


    All prices are in U.S. dollars.

    Thomas A. Pallen

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