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Armstrong Powerhouse recently released its first package of freight scenarios. Like their two previous packs (Variety and Intercity/NSE Era), these scenarios run on Rail Simulator's Paddington to Oxford route. However, this one requires the Newcastle to York route, as well as RSDL's UK Wagons Pack 01 and Class 66 add-on, plus the MK2 Upgrade Patch.
The package includes 6 freight scenarios for the Paddington-Oxford route and the Freightliner Class 66 diesel locomotive in 3 liveries. A free "extra stock" file that must also be installed is available on the order page. This is an EXE installer file, so figuring out what stock it contains is practically impossible.
The scenarios fall into two basic types: yard switching combined with a longish run (2 scenarios) or long haul from one yard to another. Without giving too much away, here's a summary of the scenarios:
AP3 6V91 Earles Sidings - Theale: Not much going on here; just a longish haul from one yard to another. There is a lot of AI traffic at the beginning of the scenario that makes the first part of the trip a bit challenging and interesting. This is a good tutorial in a sense for handling the Class 66 engine.
AP3 5C37 Old Oak Common - Barton Hill: Another straight-forward, long-distance ride down the tracks. For much of the distance, the player train is trailing an AI train, so yellow and red signals alternate with greens. Listen for the AWS, which can be heard even from outside-the-cab views in these scenarios. I never realized before that a lowering of the speed limit is often accompanied by an AWS squawk which, if ignored, results in enforced braking to 0 mph.
AP3 7B05 Hinkelsey Yard - Cholsey: This very fine scenario begins with some nicely complex switching to make-up the player train. The presence of brakemen in the yard to "guide" the engineer to the correct tracks is a good touch. Unfortunately, RS doesn't allow one brakeman to move around the yard (be careful you don't hit any of these fellows). The Freightliner Class 66 engine has stepped acceleration, making coupling a bit tricky (and thus more interesting). The last addition to the player train is another Class 66 that is called for in an instruction box, but there is no Consist Operations Instruction for this maneuver. Its purpose is to become the train's lead engine, and an instruction box tells the player to switch control to this added engine; it does not note that this requires two presses of the CTRL+= or CTRL+- key combination. This appealing switching is followed by a long drive to Cholsey, made interesting only by the need to maintain a 60 mph speed limit (required by an instruction box, not by the HUD, and therefore not actually enforceable). A couple of yellow and red signals may occur and ignoring them will lead to imposed emergency stops by the AWS signaling system. Once at Cholsey, the player train is ordered to move on to Goring & Streatly; here there are workmen stationed along the way, one of whom just may be relieving himself over a bridge embankment. Remarkably little AI traffic here in comparison with other of this pack's scenarios.
AP3 6O12 Carlisle Yard - Eastleigh Yard: After a brief run from Carlisle through Oxford to Hinksey yard, some quite interesting and complex switching takes place (without brakemen, this time). There's lots of AI traffic, but you'll miss some of it as you study the 2D map and set switches. Follow the instructions carefully. The scenario concludes with a long run to the Eastleigh yard. Departing Hinksey yard for that long run, be careful which track you select: one of the two possibilities results in an eternal red light.
AP3 6M68 Hayes - Stud Farm: Some interesting action begins this scenario, followed by a long run. Not far from the final destination it becomes necessary to save the scenario, exit, and reload it. Mr. Armstrong informed me that this was due to a signalling difficulty.
AP3 6Z09 Slough Engineers - Acton: Another yard-to-yard run. Several of these scenarios were interrupted by game-ending AI crashes. In every case, restarting the scenario or even continuing it removed the crash, although in one instance continuing a scenario that had not been ended by an AI crash led to one! Since these crashes, which I have encountered in other commercial packages that include a good deal of AI traffic, seem to occur randomly, they are obviously the fault not of the scenarios' programmer, but of a flaw in Rail Simulator's signalling and pathing system.
Summary: this package provides a lot of value for its £4.99 cost (about $7.50 U.S. at current exchange rates), especially for those who already own the UK Wagons Pack 01 and the Class 66 add-on. The scenarios offer good play with plenty of AI traffic and the Freightliner 66 engines are a good addition to the stock available for Rail Simulator.
Thomas A. Pallen email@example.com
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