Dovetail Games release a new expansion for Train Sim World 2 that celebrates a half century of the Bakerloo Line’s current trains.
Every Londoner has an intimate relationship with the Tube system, but that relationship can be complex. On the one hand, we love it: it’s a source of great pride as the oldest and most venerable underground railway in the world. However, we are also forced to acknowledge that it has issues – never more so than now, as it’s starved of necessary government funding in the aftermath of an unprecedented pandemic.
We all know that the Tube has to make do with ancient technology and we try as hard as we can to make allowances for that. It’s a situation which is highlighted, in an unexpectedly heartwarming manner, by the latest expansion pack for Dovetail Games’ Train Sim World 2, entitled New Journeys.
Train Sim World 2 might not sound like the most exciting game you’ve encountered. If you aren’t into trains you may struggle to locate its appeal. But even if you aren’t a fully paid-up, card-carrying trainspotter, you might be surprised. Its success is beyond debate: just the core game alone, available on multiple platforms, has been downloaded by 7.9 million people. And New Journeys is the 53rd add-on.
Priced at £8.99, New Journeys is not an expensive purchase and executive producer Matt Peddlesden confirms that Dovetail Games has designed it to appeal to pretty much anyone who plays the game: ‘We get a lot of requests from players for more to do on the routes they’ve already got.’ So for New Journeys, Dovetail Games focused on three of the lines in the basic game: ‘Sand Patch Grade in the US, the Koln-Aachen line in Germany, and the Underground – everyone has those.’
‘We looked at each of those to work out what would be fun upgrades for them. So, for example, with Sand Patch Grade, we added the original SD40 loco, versus the newer one that’s in the package. It has an older cab. It just gives players a different way of driving on the route, because it has got different controls in the cab, different behaviour and so forth.
‘For Koln-Aachen, we added a different train entirely into the route: an S-Bahn train, to run the commuter services, because it was felt that, previously, the route focused on the high-speed and regional trains, but didn’t really look at the S-Bahn, which is quite busy in Cologne. We’ve added over 100 new services into the timetable, which makes it feel a lot busier.’
The most eye-catching addition that New Journeys brings, takes place on the game’s virtual rendition of London Underground’s Bakerloo Line. Peddlesden explains: ‘The challenge is that there’s not much you can add in terms of new trains to the Underground, because each line just runs a train. What we did was look at what liveries the Bakerloo Line trains have been in; that was when we realised the 1972 stock used on the line is 50 years old this year, and that seemed like too much of an opportunity to pass up.
‘We added the silver version of the 1972 stock, as if TfL had decided to do a 50th Anniversary celebration and repaint one of the current trains in the livery it first launched with. We did that as a heritage rail-tour type thing. This pack adds three scenarios for each of the different routes, and we tried to be a little bit extra-creative; I gave the team some extra freedom to flex their creative muscles.
‘So, for example, we’ve got some fun rail-fans that will flash cameras and so forth along the way. In one of the scenarios, on the American route, there’s a big fireworks display at the end. And then the extra trains really give people a reason to come back to these routes after they’ve been playing newer trains.’
Creators Club: customise your trains
Concurrently with New Journeys, there’s a free upgrade to Train Sim World 2 designed to take the customisation that the game’s audience already revels in to new heights. It’s called Creators Club and essentially it’s a development of Train Sim World 2’s Livery Designer that operates across the different versions of the game, regardless of platform.
Peddlesden says: ‘We deliver Train Sim World 2 now to seven platforms, including the four types of consoles, plus the Epic Games Store, Steam, and the Microsoft PC game store. We wanted it so that if you upload from any of those platforms, any of those platforms can download that content. We made it so that our players are just sharing with each other, rather than in silos based on the platform.
‘You can make a livery on a PC and seconds later, it can be downloaded to an Xbox or a PlayStation. One thing I’ve seen is one person uploading a livery, and another person on a different platform making a scenario based on that livery and sharing it back up. It’s all free content, so players who have built collections of locomotives, routes and so forth will find that Creators Club allows them to use those collections so much more, and in much more creative ways.’
Creators Club certainly has a nice, logical feel to it, with its main hub screen presenting the most popular and most recently uploaded liveries, most of which are spectacularly elaborate. We challenged Dovetail Games to make a GameCentral liveried train and you see it in the pics accompanying this article, running on the track just up from St Pancras.
Technically, Peddlesden explains, the current version of Creators Club is a beta, but he adds: ‘In order to call it a release version, we’d want a little more depth to some of the features – the search engine, for example, is really basic at the moment. We’re going to keep iterating and adding to it.’
Ann Gavaghan: chronicling the Bakerloo Line
Prompted by New Journeys’ revelation that the trains used on the Bakerloo Line have now been in operation for 50 years, we spoke to Ann Gavaghan who, as TfL’s Customer Experience Manager is the Tube’s leading heritage expert.
She clearly has a soft spot for the Bakerloo Line, pointing out that it once extended all the way to Watford: ‘The Bakerloo is an interesting line, because it originally started as that short line from Waterloo to Baker Street. Then you had its initial extension out to Paddington in 1913, and more stations built after that, such as Queens Park in 1915. But the Metropolitan Line was also building stations out there, so the Bakerloo actually took over some of the Metropolitan Line’s branches in the 1930s, which is where you get to Watford from.
‘When the Jubilee Line opened in 1979, the Stanmore branch, which used to be on the Bakerloo Line, went over to the Jubilee Line. So the core of the Bakerloo – that deep Tube part – has been operating for over 100 years, but some of the extension bits have changed over the years.’
Gavaghan has worked as a Tube driver and is full of insights about piloting the Bakerloo Line’s 1972 stock, as replicated in Train Sim World 2’s New Journeys expansion: ‘It’s an amazing design: it’s a fantastic train. I did stock training on the 1972 stock, and the thing that’s really enjoyable about it is that you learn how to detect faults, but you can often fix them by popping open a compartment on the train or underneath the seat and tweaking it yourself to help get the train moving again.’
According to Gavaghan, they are quite physical to drive: ‘A lot of the train operators have pride in driving on the Bakerloo Line, because they feel it’s really driving. Since they’re shifting the gears, the dead man’s handle is there, and you’ve got to be pressing it. I spent a little bit of time on the line, and when I came home from work, after being in the cab, my arm would be killing me. You apply a lot of pressure at first, just so that the emergency brakes don’t cut in, and then you learn how to modify it. But it really does take some skill.’
The smell of the Bakerloo
‘When you’re operating the train: you’re in a tunnel section and looking at things like a slight change in colour on the tunnel wall, to be a signal for when you should start braking in a station. In what I’ve seen from Train Sim World 2, it’s darker than it actually is when you’re in the tunnels, but it is a very realistic experience. The only thing it doesn’t quite capture is the smell. There’s nothing like being on the first train out from Elephant and Castle around five in the morning, which means you’re up at Harlesden around the time the McVitie’s plant is pumping out its best smells. It’s wonderful to have the sun rising and the smell of biscuits as you’re at the front of a train: it’s the best way to start a day.’
The conversation turns to the iconic moquettes: the ultra-durable fabric designs that have graced the seats of Tube trains over the centuries: ‘All sorts of mad things have been made out of old Tube seats. At one point, one of our directors was presented with a suit made out of moquette. I’ve been told it was extremely uncomfortable and hard to walk in, because it was so stiff. Each moquette tells a story, and I have two particular things I like about the moquette.
‘First about Barman, the moquette we’re using now. It’s named after Christian Barman, the assistant of Frank Pick, who used to be the head of the Underground and was known for his focus on design. The Barman moquette has symbols of London hidden in it, which I really love – it’s got the London Eye in there, Tower Bridge, the dome of St Paul’s. So if you look at it, you’ll be able to find those, but it’s kind of a little secret for Londoners to know.
‘The second thing I really like about the iconic moquette designs is the fact that so many of our moquette designers were women. If you look at people like Marion Dorn, who did a lot of fabric and textile design in the 1930s and 40s and designed the beautiful Leaf Colindale moquette that was used on the Northern Line, for example, there are some really fascinating stories about the role of women in design that can be found through moquette.’
Somewhat unexpectedly, Gavaghan has an American accent, but reveals a link between her US hometown and the London Underground: ‘I am not originally from London. Like Charles Tyson Yerkes, the financier of the Bakerloo Line, I am originally from Philadelphia. But American public transport is not the best. If you love public transport, you want to be in a city like London, where there is just a plethora of things to love.’
Yerkes was a fascinating character: even the of him describes him as ‘unscrupulous’ and ‘controversial’. Yet he was arguably the key figure in establishing the Tube as we know it, bringing electrification to the system in the very earliest stages of the 20th century and buying up various fragmentary proto-Tube lines and local bus companies to create something approximating a unified public transport system.
Yerkes electrified the District Line in 1905 and was instrumental in creating the Baker Street & Waterloo Railway (which later became the Bakerloo Line), which opened in 1906. Plus, he created the Great Northern, Piccadilly, and Brompton Railway, running from Finsbury Park to Hammersmith with a spur from Holborn to Aldwych – it also opened in 1906 and you may recognise it as what we now know as the Piccadilly Line. Additionally, he conceived and built the deep-level Charing Cross, Euston & Hampstead Railway, which opened in 1907 as the Hampstead Tube, but is now, of course, known as the Northern Line.
Gavaghan says that the 1972 stock trains on the Bakerloo Line, ‘Have recently gone through a mid-life refurb.’ Mid-life? They are already half a century old; how much more life do they have in them? ‘They still do have life in them. Looking at our 1938 stock, it didn’t go off the railways until 1982, so there is a precedent for having long-life stock on the lines.’
She points out that the Bakerloo Line, ‘Still uses the traditional railway signalling, so if anything does happen, it would likely be tied in with a bigger project. But those take time and funding. However, I am not in transport planning; I’m the person who really focuses on celebrating the heritage of our railways.’ With TfL having to weather a savage funding squeeze it looks like those Bakerloo Line trains will have to carry on doing what they have for the past half-century, at least for the foreseeable future.
By Steve Boxer
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