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Thread: Nope, wasn't going to bite this time ...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    785

    Default Nope, wasn't going to bite this time ...

    That is, I wasn't going to buy yet another SLI/TS Rocky Mountain route - especially a single track one. I like trains, buddy - LOTS of trains - and I like them passing each other on opposing tracks and filling up huge yards and, in general, looking like the mainlines I remember as a kid (Erie, DL&W, NYC and LV). It's not the era or the ownership of the route that bothered me - I'm fairly catholic in my trainsimming and railfanning tastes - but more the character of the route

    I'd purchased all of SLI's previous efforts and all of the new TrainSimulations.net's efforts as well, so thank you very much, I have all the western routes I need. No need to mull over a Mullan Pass ...

    That is, until I read Seagoon's (Bruce Kennewell) big thumbs up review for the route and, equally important, got the 30% off flier in my email box the other day. Hmmm... Well, you know, I really like EMD SD70ACe's, and this route has no less than two railroad's worth of them. And I like to support vendors who have thrown their hat into the ORTS ring (all two of them - TS and Erich Cantu's NAVS), and ... [will weakening] ....

    Roughly covalent in time with these musings I'd been looking to get back into model railroading, my original rail hobby love from way back in the 1960's. I'd lost touch with the hobby after leaving a stint with Caboose Hobbies in Denver in the mid-1970's (now it's simply "Caboose" after a change in ownership) and so began to do some research (i.e. googling) and came in for a real shock: a Bachmann Erie Decapod - a plastic model, for pete's sake - cost over $500!! What?!? That was brass price territory last I knew. But some comparison shopping showed me that brass models now went in the thousands, and what I had considered to be typical brass prices for mainline locos was now the average for plastic engines ... holy Toledo.

    Since I'd have to mortgage my retirement income to have even a small fleet of plastic locos the price of Mullan Pass seemed downright penny pinching! So I sent Digital River some info and before I knew it the MRL was on my hard drive.

    Looking to drive an MRL ACe I chose as my first activity "MISSLAU East" (Missoula to Laurel Yard in Helena). The act starts just before daybreak and you have assemble your train from pre-assembled cuts in the yard, so it starts out with a bit of a challenge and that immediately peaked my interest. The activity explains that there will also be some switching to do at Garrison, so there's that to look forward to, too.

    And I'm glad the activity designer included that, because sure enough driving for miles and miles on single track and meeting a couple of other (BNSF) opposing trains caught in the hole is not exactly, as I outlined above, my idea of excitement. Perhaps I was too hasty ...

    But I quickly forgot that when I got to Garrison, as it took me a couple of tries before I got all the very satisfying switching done and began the last leg to Helena, birthplace of Myrna Loy. As it turned out, the eastern portion of the route goes through some very beautiful terrain. I got caught at a red at Blossburg on the Continental Divide - an 0.4% grade - and getting the monster of a train I had assembled at Missoula plus Garrison made for some tricky starting once the BNSF manifest west had passed us. I broke a few couplers there before I got the hang of it.

    Coming into Laurel in Helena witnessed some very nicely timed AI trains passing us on double track - just like I'd described above in my "wants and druthers" - and the icing on the cake was the station that I'm certain Myrna saw multiple times in her lifetime: it looked, as did the yard, just like the yard in my own hometown.

    As I pulled up to the end of the east portion of the yard and tied up I got one of the few feelings I've gotten playing any kind of video game before: what I call the "being there" feeling. What I mean by that is that I stop looking at the details - any Flintstone wheels here? - and simply live in the simulation as if it was real life. I felt as if I had really done a day's work on this railroad, and now it was time to grab some beans. This is a HUGE achievement, and one I've rarely had with a trainsim. In other words I completely suspended my disbelief and experienced the events as if they were really happening.

    Really really looking forward to the rest of the activities and highly recommend this route to anyone with even a passing interest in trains.

    Dave

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    Location
    Sandwich, Illinois, USA.
    Posts
    22

    Default

    The very reason I returned to virtual railroading due to the price and logistics of model railroading. Trainsimulations has taken OR and made it so incredibly desirable that I really enjoy the hobby once again. The amazing details in to the latest Mullan Pass makes the simulation surreal.
    With you on this one Dave....
    Kevin Kelleher

  3. #3

    Default

    I, too, very much like Mullan. Knowing the Rockies very well (grew up around them), this route is one of the better ones about having the scenery pretty close to reality. Since I have worked in the railroad industry, I like to run my activities as prototypically as possible. This method can drive gamers crazy because running prototypically can mean sitting around for long times waiting for brake reservoirs to charge, making brake tests, figuring in the time for the crew to "lace up" the train, connecting hoses, etc., waiting for meets--all of that. But, if you want "immersion," that's what it takes.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Location
    Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, USA
    Posts
    785

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by wwhall View Post
    I, too, very much like Mullan. Knowing the Rockies very well (grew up around them), this route is one of the better ones about having the scenery pretty close to reality. Since I have worked in the railroad industry, I like to run my activities as prototypically as possible. This method can drive gamers crazy because running prototypically can mean sitting around for long times waiting for brake reservoirs to charge, making brake tests, figuring in the time for the crew to "lace up" the train, connecting hoses, etc., waiting for meets--all of that. But, if you want "immersion," that's what it takes.
    In the interest of brevity I didn't outline how I handled the cuts in the two yards (Missoula and Garrison), but I too attempt a prototypical lashing up of the cars: I couple and uncouple manually, and even walk the length of the cut as I use the Car Operation Menu (in conjunction with F5) to open and close angle cocks, connect and disconnect brake hoses and set and release hand brakes. Because you're right - if you want immersion, this is what you have to do ... sometimes.

    I say "sometimes" because towards the end of the Garrison switching I began to feel a little bit of what wargamers call "rules paranoia" - the hunch that even though you and your opponent had memorized a 32 page rulesbook with 7 point font in two to three columns per page and with rules sections like "21.1B2," that there was a hole or a contradiction in said rules that would bork your game after you'd been playing for 7 straight hours.

    In this case, my concern that I had taken so much time moving and coupling cuts that the flow of AI traffic would either a) have run out, or b) caused a standoff somewhere. So with the last cut at Garrison I abandoned prototypical play and just initialized the brakes to get moving as quickly as I could.

    However, and a very special kudo here to the activity designer, I shouldn't have worried as there were no standoffs and the parade of trains as I was pulling into Helena underscored the fact that the activity designer had programmed AI trains late into the day to cover the various speeds with which train simmers would play the activity. Again, this route package is really well done. Full marks, guys.

    As an aside, and to encourage more prototypical play, I wish that the OR designers would perhaps create a brakeman/conductor that you could move (and view either 1st person or 3rd person) so that walking up and down the length of the train was easier. Also, I'd much rather actually click on brake hoses, angle cocks, and hand brakes manually such as I can do with couplers than to have to fiddle with the F9 Car Operations Menu. Just a thought ....

    Dave

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