This walkthrough is copyright Matt Brand (Der Nazi) 2003.
This walkthrough should detail all that you need to know about Sid Meier’s 1990 classic simulation Railroad Tycoon. If you have any queries/threats/insults/praises please email them to me at [email protected].
If you are really stuck, let’s start at the basics. Firstly, if you’ve been trying to install this game on a relatively modern PC, don’t. It won’t even work over DOS Prompt on Windows 95. Believe me, I’ve tried. However, the deluxe version (Which is an entirely separate game anyway), released one year after the original will work over DOS Prompt on Windows 95, 98 and ME. Neither will work on XP. You can only REALLY use MS-DOS (version 6.22 works best) or Windows 3.1/3.11. So, in other words, if you want this classic to work, use a PC that is pre-1995, runs on steam and doesn’t have much RAM, disk space or anything else for that matter. In other words, use a classic PC for a classic game.
When you first go into the game, you have a set of options. It’s best to select VGA-256 colour graphics, mouse and keyboard, and proper sound. To select these, type 121. If you don’t want sound, type 122. If your computer doesn’t even have VGA (Where have you been for the past 15 years?), select EGA or whatever graphics your old-fashioned, steam-powered PC you use for classics runs.
Once you have selected your difficulty (It’s best to start as an investor, because then all cities will accept all traffic and it’s very easy in general) and map at the screen with the businessmen playing poker, it’s time to start building your railway. Try to find an area where there are lots of large cities, so you can make plenty of cash from goods, and possibly some harbours (Which will supply plenty of cargo, but it depends on what scenario you are in to get certain goods). Start by spending some of your £1,000,000/$1,000,000 on building some track in-between your two selected cities (Full sized cities, not small towns or collections of villages), and build a station at each end. To build track hold down CTRL or ALT and use the numeric pad/ arrow keys for direction. It’s best not to use the arrow keys for bends in track unless it is absolutely necessary, because these tighter curves make trains slow down, and therefore lose you money. It’s best to start with stations because they’re cheap, and can then upgraded to terminals and have stuff added to them when trade increases or the city grows in size.
Then, build your first train. Go into build, and select ‘new train’. If you are using the ‘Eastern America’ or ‘England’ scenarios, use no more than 3 cars per train: At the start your locomotives will be very underpowered, so it may be best to run two trains. If you are using the ‘Europe’ or ‘Western America’ scenarios you can build one train of a longer length because locomotives were far more powerful by the time these scenarios were set in. Once you start reaping the rewards of tycoonery, build more track and stations to increase trade. A good tip is never to go below £50,000/$50,000- if you don’t you’ll lose money far quicker, and when you least expect it. And when you’re ‘in the red’ you can’t expand.
TRACK, BRIDGES AND GEOGRAPHICAL FEATURES
Building track is easy enough, but what if you come up to a hill? If possible, avoid it. But if it isn’t, you’ll have to go over it or build a tunnel. The tunnel is an automatic response (Thanks, Microprose programmers) if you try and build track on a high gradient. The only bad thing is that tunnelling is very expensive, although it is extremely quick. A top tip is to never go much higher than the foothills before you get to the 1860s (You won’t have any locomotives powerful enough to scale large heights), and not much higher after that. It is pretty dumb to build track on gradients of over 4%, because any more and trains are slowed down severely. If you’re not completely sure, use the geographical survey option to show some of the details.
When you get to a river, you are faced with yet another problem: What type of bridge to use? Because of changes of technology in the nineteenth century, you won’t have the chance to use iron bridges at first: Only stone, or wooden trestle. It’s best to start with wooden trestle bridges, because they’re cheap to build. The only problem is that rougher rivers wash them away very easily, so upgrade them to iron or steel when you first have the opportunity, otherwise you will lose large amounts of trade, because if people or get injured die on your railway from crashes when trains come off bridges, you will not be very popular, and people will not trust you or your company.
If you want to use your railway over a sea or lake, you can open a ferry to transport your train across. This is a good way to increase trade to other areas (such as the UK in the Europe scenario) but only start this service if it is absolutely necessary: It costs £20,000 per area square to start a service, whereas it will cost far less to build track on land. It is also very slow, with a 15 miles-per-hour speed limit installed.
To cut track-building costs even more, try not to build in areas where there are lots of people living: Building track inside a city will cost £10,000 per section. Avoid it if possible, and try to build track through areas that are cheap when possible, such as foothills, farmland, marshes or deserts.
If you have a section of track used by two or more trains, it’s best to make the section double track. This way trains will not have to wait in sidings while another goes past, and revenues on these routes can be increased.
STATIONS AND UPGRADES
There are several types of station. Signal towers (£20,000 to build) Depots (£50,000), Stations (£100,000) and Terminals (£200,000). They all have different uses. Signal towers aren’t technically stations, but are included in the ‘Stations’ section of the ‘Build’ menu. They are used on sections of track that are quite long and have several trains running on them. In other words, if you have a section of track that has a lot of trains running on it, build a signal tower: They will help speed up trains on this section by improving communications, and limiting time spent waiting in sidings.
The others are used according to area coverage: A station for a small city or large town, a terminal for a city or an area of several small towns and a depot for a small area. All of these come with double track as standard to speed up movement. If you have an area with a harbour and a few villages, use a depot: It will be best for the large amounts of freight and smaller passenger and mail traffic.
If you want to make more money from a station, or want to increase traffic in a large area, it’s time to upgrade it. Just click on the station, and the select ‘Upgrade Station’ from the Build menu. There are several options, but to get the right money, you have to select the right ones. If a station is handling cattle, you should add in some livestock pens. If it’s handling goods that may require to be kept cold, add cold storage. General non-passenger and MGF (Mixed general freight, not a classic British sportscar) goods require goods storage, and so on. If you want to increase mail traffic, add a post office, and if you want to increase passenger traffic, add a hotel, café or restaurant.
When you want to start trains at a station, you must add an engine shed, so locomotives and carriages can be added. A maintenance depot can also be added at stations on a long-haul route to reduce the number of breakdowns. Also, if you want to lower time spent turning trains round and loading/unloading, add a switching yard.
In any era, freight will make up for a lot of your revenues. Depending on difficulty setting, stations will either accept all goods, or just those required by local industry and mixed general freight. But if you want to make large amounts of money, it’s best to transport raw materials to factories, have them processed and then transported off for sale. An example of this would be the making of beer in the ‘England’ scenario. Hops are bought in from docks (for example at Hull, Dover, London or Gillingham) and then sent off to a brewery. Beer tankers are then sent off to where they are required. If an area produces small amounts of freight then freight can be added onto the end of passenger and mail trains. If not, then separate trains must be produced. On these routes it is best to use double track.
Occasionally you will be required to send ‘Priority shipments’, for example beer for an international football match. These can put on a new train, or they can be added onto trains already in use as ‘primary cargo’. This is a separate column in the train data below the normal cargo changes at each station, and will be cleared when the shipment has been undertaken. It is a good idea to try and accomplish these shipments because they can result in bonuses of in the £/$ hundreds of thousands.
Some areas will produce large amounts of goods, such as docks. If these areas produce ridiculous amounts, try to have several trains coming out of these stations, all going to different destinations. Separate locomotives can be used on for these trains, such as the ‘DX goods’ in England and Europe. These engines should not be used for passenger trains because they are slow, but are perfect for goods because they can maintain a steady speed, and are quite powerful.
In some cases, a station will not be within reach of vital factories or processing areas that can be used to generate extra money. If you want to reap the rewards, you can build factories and industrial buildings. However, don’t try this until you have several million £/$ because it can be very expensive buying land and constructing the buildings. It’s best to build this right next to a station to maximise trade, and keep within range.
In all the scenarios (Except the Western USA one, where you start in 1866 and Europe whne you start far later on) you start off with pretty basic locomotives. The best tactic is to replace the most basic engine you have (The Grasshopper or Planet) at the first opportunity. In the Eastern USA scenario, you should always replace the Norris locomotives with 4-4-0 ‘Americans’ as early as possible as well, because they are a huge leap forward in technology and will be usable for many years to come.
Most locomotives can be used for multiple traffics, but some are best suited to one type or another. For example, TGVs and A4s should only be used for passenger and mail trains because they are fast and cannot pull large loads. They should really only be used on primary long-distance routes because they are fast and generally quite reliable. Some locomotives, however, such as the DX Goods and the Beyer-Garrett ‘Big Boy’ should only be used for freight because of their low top speeds, although they can be used for passenger trains in high-gradient areas due to the way they can retain speed on hills.
If you want to keep your money working for you, then it’s a fantastic idea to use engines that will not become out-of-date quickly; The ‘Crocodile’, ‘American’ and ‘DX Goods’ will all prove their worth to you in this way in their respective scenarios.
In the game, there are four different scenarios: Europe, England, Western America and Eastern America. Eastern America and England both start in the early days of the railway, and so give you a chance to progress through the eras, whereas the other two are set later in the nineteenth century, giving you more advanced technology to play with from the start. They are also easier in this respect.
Cargoes differ a lot in the scenarios, but the main industries in each one will get you the most commercial gain: Oil in America, Wine and weapons in Europe and Beer and textiles in Britain. In all of the scenarios steel is a major source of income. Also, in the American scenarios the competition for shares and control of areas can be far more cutthroat. Terrain is also much different, and several areas of Western America can be very cheap to build on.
Terrain is also far different in each scenario. If you want to cut the costs of acquiring construction rights whilst building your railway, then it’s best to build track in areas where construction rights are completely free. In the American scenarios deserts, forests, marshes, hills and mountains are free to build on, whereas in England and Europe it’s free to build on mountains, forests, hills, marshes and tundra.
FINANCE AND RIVALRIES
The game revolves around rivalries, especially in the American scenarios, where you have men such as Vanderbilt buying your shares, and trying to take your trade. This is rivalry, and if you select cutthroat competition as an option at the start, then this’ll be happening all the time. Rate wars, share buying and general nastiness will all contribute to your downfall if you’re not careful, but if you are careful, they could play into your hands.
If you want to kick a rival out of town, then you can start a rate war: Build track into one of their stations, and let battle commence. Whoever gets the most trade out of this, and provided the most reliable service wins. However, it’s only best if your rival is seriously weak. This is very hard to do against a large rival because they will have several routes, and will bring the most money in: Whoever brings the most money into the town gets a monopoly of the local area (The town’s council has the ultimate decision). If you lose a rate war, you can never come back. ALWAYS save the game before trying this, so if you fail you can have another swing at it.
If you want to take another railway over, you can buy the owner out by purchasing all the shares. This is costly but it can be worth it, bringing in much wanted revenue. If you want a few hundred thousand pounds, then you could sell off some of your shares to the public; however, this is not always a good idea because the more shares you have given out, the fewer you own: This makes it easier to be bought out. If you’re really short of cash you could buy another bond (loan). However, you have to pay interest, and it is advisable to sell off your bonds as quickly as possible so you have free reign of your finances.
Every year there is a financial report, showing how you are performing against rivals. If your board are unhappy with this, you could well be fired. However this report does have a positive side: It can tell you where you’re making money, and can give a lot of positive feedback. During the game you can call your broker for advice and balance sheets, and he will also provide you with much needed information. There is also a volatile economic climate: A boom will see low interest rates and cheaper building costs, but a panic will see higher rates, and you will therefore suffer because of share prices and revenues fluctuating due to the devaluation of currency. If a panic does occur, then it’s best to look after the pennies.
In every game, you will encounter problems. You may run out of cash, come close to being fired, be forced into duelling with a rival for business, or even be sold out. However, there are things you can do in these situations.
If you run out of cash, you could buy another bond (loan). You start off with a loan of £1,000,000/$1,000,000 at the beginning of the game, and you have to pay interest on it. You can buy more, and supply yourself with a cash injection. However, you should only ever do this if you will be in the position to pay off the bond(s) soon afterwards because you are charged money until you pay back. You can also sell large amounts of shares, but be warned; lose too many, and you lose control of the company. If you are almost sold out you can quite easily buy back shares. Also, if you want to gain a bit more cash, then you should invest money in a rival’s shares, and gain some money by waiting for them to go up in price and then selling them. However, don’t buy too many or the price will drop. Share prices increase when your (or any other competitor’s) railway expands.
Of course, if you really are desperate, you can retire. Every time you exit the game, you are shown what job you would have gained had you not exited the game, but retired permanently. When you retire from your job, with references and pay, you can gain a number of positions, ranging from president or prime minister down to hobo or chimney sweep. It all depends on what you’ve done.
Well, that’s it. Hope you found this at least slightly informative. If not, contact me by the email address at the top.
Matt Brand, October 2003.