• Burlington Northern Over Marias Pass

    Burlington Northern Over Marias Pass

    By Curt May (12 June 2003)

    First off I would like to apologize to Nels and 3D Train Stuff for taking so long, but I had family matters to attend to. I would like to take a minute to say hello to all of you and to let you know a little about me. Nels and I go back a few days on the FlightSim.Com side. I did reviews and aircraft design over there since about the day the site opened. Sometimes when I call him I make the comment about how quiet it used to be and how he could get a days uploads done in a few minutes that now take the better part of a day.

    I grew up in the Midwest with the likes of CNW, BN, SOO, Milwaukee Road, ICG and CN all passing through town. I was a tick over a half an hour from one of Milwaukee Road's major yards and ten minutes from one of Chicago Northwestern's main car and engine shops and yard. Many a night I heard the deafing clang of a wheel being taken off its axle.

    Anyway a long while back when MSTS came out ol' Nels was on to it right away. I remember the morning I called him up and he had it running when he answered the phone and the first thing I heard was the sound of a diesel locomotive and its horn. I asked him what the hey it was and he told me all about it and said I should get it and that I would like it. I told him thanks but no thanks, I already had a full plate of aircraft and enjoyed cruising at altitudes so high that the tracks weren't even visible and at speeds that left even the French TGV in the dust...so to speak. Well every now and then I would give Nels a call and chew the rag a little and he would make the comment about MSTS and that I would like it and that I should get it and I would tell him maybe some day. Well a while back that someday arrived and Nels was right about cruisin' the countryside on rails, although I still head for the blue now and then just to stay current. I now have MSTS and have been steadily downloading some of the best locomotives and cars one could ask for from here at the site, keep up the great work all you freeware builders, you're doing outstanding work.

    I think it was about a month ago I told Nels that if he needed a review done or a product tested to give me a shout and I would give it a go. It wasn't a day until I was asked to give 3D TRain Stuffs "Burlington Northern over Maria Pass" a once over thoroughly. So after a tough month here I am and it is.

    Now from what I can tell 3D Train Stuff does quite a bit of building and from the looks of their web site screen shots it looks like quality stuff so I got ahold of a copy and went about installing it, which is dummy proof. All you have to do is click on the .exe file and away ya go. After you get it installed you will find that you now have four GP20's and some fresh rolling stock in Rail Box, GT and Penn livery. The activities use either the fresh rolling stock or the default rolling stock to make the consist. The level of detail on the locomotives is very good as illustrated here in the screen shot.

    While 3D Train Stuff did a very good job on the level of detail, in the animation department they left out the rotating roof fans, which to me is a gotta have when you take a look around on the outside. This is a personal preference of mine since if you look at a real locomotive that is under a heavy load on a hot summer day the roof fans will definately be a spinnin'. That is my only disappointment on the eye candy and other than that the eye candy is sweet. The cab is another piece of eye candy that has been done really well. You will need to run it at the maximum resoulution that your computer can handle without shrinking the screen size down to the size of a postage stamp as possible to really appreciate it what they have done. The view down the tracks is very good and even though it is quite detailed I didn't notice any drop in frame rates. All the levers are animated and move smoothly. At lower resolutions the gauges become a little hard to read, but, with the handy track monitor that you can pop up just to double check to make sure you should not have any problems.

    The activities that come with it are a nice balance of easy to being a real challenge to engineers of all levels. The only problem that I had was with the grain consist out of Shelby to Cutbank and what it amounted to was not enough muscle on the nose. Using the activity editor to add another unit made all the difference.

    The lumber activity is dandy to the uninitiated in the fact that some would look at the train and think that because it isn't loaded box cars or a coal drag that it is going to be a snap to get moving and keep moving. On the contrary, the guys over at 3D Train Stuff have this one set right at the limits and you really have to pay attention to the gauges and the sound of the engine to accomplish the activity.

    As you can see here the log train in the Shelby yard looks right at home. I tried the different consist out first in the explore route mode to just get a "feel" for the load and to get in touch with the way the locomotives are set up and to say the least they are very good in both "feel" and predictability. It is easy to keep a load under control with these engines, which was surprising because usually what I have found with some of the freeware older smaller locomotives is that even with a short shuttle behind me and being under the safe limit for the locos I sometimes find myself fighting the locomotive and the consist going down a hill or a mountain and I have had a couple get away from me and the last thing I saw out the windshield was the curve in the track that I should be headed on going by the side window heading away from me and a rock wall or a large gulch heading at me at a very high rate of acceleration with the usual ending of the entire train all in one place in a nice haphazard pile and the "train derailed activity ended".

    The lighting is very realistic and shows the talent of the folks over at 3D Train Stuff. Now I know that everybody who builds either a locomotive or a box car always tries to do the best that they can and sometimes ya just miss something by just a tad. My other disappointment was the locomotive engine sound and the horn. I had the misses come in and take a listen just to make sure it wasn't my ears playing tricks on me (too much jet noise from flying MSFS) and she said the same thing. To her it, as she put it "sounded more like a diesel truck instead of a locomotive". I have to say the same thing, although to make it better and more realistic the sound folks over at 3D want to "re-mix" it and add a little bit more of the deep sounds (I guess that's one way to put it) to give the locomotive sounds more depth. The air compressor sounds and the pressure relief valve sounds are a hit and are very realistic and add to the entire package. The horn is another item that needs a little attention. I know the sound that they are after as I have heard it so many times I can hear it in my mind and don't get me wrong, they are very close to the sound they are after, they're just not there...yet. The horn needs depth...that's the only way I know how to put it.

    It sounds like a horn that is being sounded through a tiny tweeter speaker mounted in a tin can at 50 yards instead of the ear shattering heart stopping right on top of you get out of the way sounding horns that the real GP20's in real life have and that some of the freeware horns have. Where is Mike Hambly when ya need him?

    Out of the entire add-on those things that I mentioned were the only things that I found that in my personal opinion didn't quite measure up to what most of us have come to expect from 3D Train Stuff. Other than that, I found the add-on to be very good and a good challenge and worth the dinero (money). So all you Burlington Northern fans of the BN green or GP20 fans or those of you who just gotta have something small to take care of the yard with or to get those shuttles over to the next town then this is most definately worth the price and a gotta have for you.

    For the folks over at 3D Train Stuff, with the exceptions mentioned you have again done an outstanding job in the art of locomotive building and activity packages and my thanks to Nels and 3D train Stuff for allowing me to review it.

    Curt May
    [email protected]

    Visit 3D Train Stuff.

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