Rails: Minsk Must Have Its Mustard

Every May Day weekend here in the UK, Network Rail, the company that owns the railway infrastructure, rotate all their track 180 degrees to promote even wear. Travellers caught up in the ensuing chaos are forced to use slow, crowded, substitute transportation misleadingly called ‘replacement buses’. It’s a miserable business. Which is why I prefer to stay home and do my train travel through fine freeware like Rails.

Rails is Eurorails in .exe form. You get rich or go broke by freighting cargoes around a map on lines you’ve constructed yourself. Routing these lines wisely is half the game. With tracks over rivers and mountains, and into cities, costing a small fortune, it pays to think hard before committing to major network extensions.

Train upgrades, sharp AI opponents, and a rather wonderful events system (individual rivers can flood, winter storms can close mountains passes) thicken the stew, but it’s the marvellous map generator that has kept the game installed on my system for so long. Turn down the handmade American and European venues and Bret Mulvey’s clever code will cook up a landmass – with attendant commodity net – every bit as interesting and credible as anything you’ll find in commercial strategy offerings. Lovely stuff. Pretty friendly too, though be sure to read the page of instructions and tick the automatic trackbuilding box before laying your first sleeper.


  1. Jim says:

    Been in the mood for a rail sim type game lately, considered Railroads!, Railroad Tycoon 2 and Transport Tycoon, but I just can’t get satisfaction. Shall try this. :D

  2. TelefonHonda says:

    Looks interesting, but I’ll probably stick to OpenTTD when it comes to transport games.

  3. Cooper says:

    Looks like it might’ve filled a couple of hours, but I can’t seem to change the resolution or the size of the wondow. Currently away with my 1024×800 notepad, and am coming across this issue quite often… Back to DosBox, then…

  4. Anthony says:

    The question here really is, how do you get railway workers to come in on May Day?


    “Come in on May Day for 1.5% overtime, and you keep your job”

  6. Stella Q says:

    I’ve wondered how ugly a game has to be before I refuse to play it for purely superficial reasons, and I believe I’ve recieved my answer.

  7. spinks says:

    Oh wow, I LOVE eurorails but it takes like three weeks to play! Must go check this out.

  8. OJ 287 says:

    What platform is this on? PlayStation?

    *gets coat*

  9. Novotny says:

    Did this item commence with a fib? Call me out for being a black-hearted cad if you must, but – they rotate all the railtracks of a weekend? A weekend in which people traditionally use the transport networks more than other weekends?

    I fear our collective leg has just been forceablly yanked.

  10. Alex N. says:

    Novotny: nope. This is the British transport system. They also close down most of the Tube (London’s subway system) every weekend for renovation and maintenance. Their rationale is that people don’t actually need it outside week days, since they’re not going to work.

    I don’t think any other subway system world-wide is that rubbish.

  11. Novotny says:

    My goodness, that’s mental. I hope there’s some sort of logic in there that I’m failing to detect, surely there must be?

  12. Impossibly Daft says:

    This is an organisation where I’ve been threatened with being fined for not being able to pay as all their ticket machines are broken. I don’t know about the accuracy of it, but they don’t require logic. At all.

  13. Timestamp1 says:

    To be fair, our trains are used quite a lot in the UK, especially the tube, so there is NEVER a good time to close it down for maintenance.

    And statistically there is less train travel believe it or not. If your travelling by train on a bank holiday you do one journey one day, then another a few days later. On a normal weekend or week day people often do 2 train journeys in one day, to and from work.

    Plus everyone knows not to get the train on a bank holiday weekend!

  14. NegativeZero says:

    Mustard is fine, but what about miniature giant space hamsters?

  15. Alex N. says:

    To be fair, our trains are used quite a lot in the UK, especially the tube, so there is NEVER a good time to close it down for maintenance.

    The Parisian subway system seems to get along fine without any closures related to maintenance, as does the French railway system.

    I say pah! to your privatisation, sirrah.

  16. Timestamp1 says:

    I’d be slightly concerned if my trainline was never closed for maintenance…..when does it ever get maintained!

    However baring in mind the UK is still running the same century old lines, refusing to actually update them and instead taking a policy of “we’ll give it a once over every couple of months…things will be just dandy”.

    Also your right, privatisation was one of the worst things to happen to our rail network…especially when something goes wrong and it takes months to sort as everyone decides to pass the buck of responsibility around!

    Phew…rant over :D

  17. Sam says:

    It gets maintained without closing it down – during periods it isn’t being used (at night, for example), or by shifting traffic amongst redundant lines. This isn’t a hard thing to design for…

  18. drewski says:

    I caught the train today fine. It’s not like every single rail network in the country is shut down, they still run trains. Just not as many and not on as many lines.

    Sam – it’s not the whole tube they shut down, just specific sections of specific lines. You can usually get around via alternate routes or the dreaded rail replacement buses. And they do work at night, too…

  19. Ginger Yellow says:

    I must be really dim. How do you build tracks?

  20. pepper says:

    Looks like a fun game! Will definitely give this a spin, also for those that enjoy transport simulation games:

    link to simutrans.com

  21. Vanguard says:

    Place your train first (button on the top right) then select a startingpoint (city) and drag your track.

  22. Tim Stone says:

    Or if you’ve selected auto-track building, middle-click at start and destination to have the CPU construct using the most economical route. The daily spending limit is only 20e, so long extensions have to be done in sections.

  23. mashakos says:

    this looks so boring

    we don’t have trains where I live, so I cannot see what’s so fascinating about this. Might as well tell me a freeware game about falling snow is great fun :/

  24. Okami says:

    @ Alex N. : Ughhh.. I remember. I was in London with my school… ummm… twelve or fourteen years ago? And I stayed with a crazy host family on the very outskirts of town, but I I really wanted to go to a proper London goth club while I was there, so I took the train to the city on a saturday night, figuring that if I stayed until 5 a.am. I’d still make it home early enough to get a change of clothes and a shower and still make it to my school’s meeting point in time.

    Little did I know, that there were no subway trains running until 8 o clock in the morning. Add to that a host mother with a serious drinking problem, who’d forgotten that I told her, that I might not make it home in time for breakfast the evening before and who called my teachers when I failed to turn up in the morning. They almost kicked me out of school for this little stunt.

  25. Will says:

    No matter how I click or drag (including right clicking after selecting train, as doc says) or what keys I press of where I look, I’m missing the way to actually make the bloody train move. Come on… It’s got to be something really obvious I’m missing right?

    Edit: YES! Edit is back!!

  26. pepper says:

    mashakos, just the same as every man dead inside still wants to play with toy trains, were grownup(wa?) boys, just with bigger toys.

  27. Tim Stone says:

    Will, have you run out of turn time? Some actions like requesting a new set of contracts instantly advance the clock 24 hrs, using your entire turn. Right clicking on a destination always works for me.

  28. Will says:

    It still didn’t work, even when showing 24 hours left! Re-downloading it made it work, however. Extremely odd!

    Kalingrad has it’s copper.

  29. Out Reach says:

    I built a railroad from moscow to glasgow. I arrive in glasgow to discover i forgot to pick up the oil. DOH.

    But awesome game :)

  30. Theoban says:

    Ooh I’ve been looking for something that would please me like Transport Tycoon did. Trains ahoy!

  31. Cooper says:

    Yes, May Bank Holiday does actually see less travel than normal:
    link to nationalrail.co.uk

    Most people who are travelling on Bank Holiday tend to do so by car. Not sure what came first though; people using cars allowing rail work, or rail work forcing people to use cars and not considering rail on a Bank Holiday…

  32. Jeremy says:

    Probably won’t play this again, it is always worth at least one try though if it gets a mention here.

  33. pepper says:

    Just won my first game, although it was against only one opponent and i had the maglev a dozen turns earlier.

  34. Andy says:

    I’m sure this is great but…the whole time I’d wish I was playing openTTD

  35. pepper says:

    Andy, yeah but you dont need to micromanage now, and you dont have to spend 20 hrs laying down a basic line, whilst micromanaging your trucks and making sure you dont have any traffic congestion.

  36. Pani says:

    I’m really enjoying this game but it’s a toughy, if anyone needs any advice, let me give you this:

    It’s all about the first handful of moves, where you set up and how your first track is placed. Try to make your main line all the way across the map to give you access to the big 50 mil contracts when they appear. It’ll take a few turns to get this perfect.

    Don’t ever go in debt (unless you’ve thought about it very carefully) – you get masses of interest.

    Don’t bother with more than 2 carts (unless you need it for a particular series of jobs). It’s generally not worth it – I very rarely do 3 jobs in one go.

  37. Tim Stone says:

    I’m with you on the trans-map line Pani, but not so sure about the ‘don’t bother with more than 2 carts’ advice. Although, yes, you’re rarely in a position to make three deliveries on a single run, having three or more wagons can be very useful. It gives you that extra bit of security in case of derailments, and allows the loading of extra ‘speculative’ cargoes. Lets say I’m down in Lisbon picking-up cork for Moscow or St. Petersburg. On my way back, if it’s convenient, I might try and grab some Spanish oranges, just in case the cork deliveries unlock an orange contract. It is a gamble, but the pay-off can be huge.

  38. DanJames says:

    I disagree with the two cart thing. When moving back and forth across the entire map, it’s always worth trying to grab a few commodities that aren’t available where you are headed. Sometimes you will get a 40 mil delivery only a stop away.

    Edit – And Tim said what I wanted to say, but with an eloquence that was a few factors of ten higher than mine.

  39. Out Reach says:

    only problem is AI never uses your tracks, So there is no point filling up a bottleneck on the map with track as the AI will just avoid it.

  40. AMP'd says:

    Out Reach – you can still take the least expensive position in a bottleneck, or close off a city by radiating track around it, because the AI will never use it

  41. Out Reach says:

    What’s the fun in building a wall, if people won’t pay to go over it.

  42. pepper says:

    i agree with what is said above, take 4 carts on a 40 mil delivery, 4x 40 = 160 mil. Fast track to winning! Although you need to click really fast, otherwise it wont count them. I’ve easily made 400 mil on a 250 game with bots, the game doesnt end until you extend the tracks.

  43. Alan Monroe says:

    Can anyone reach the Rails homepage as of mid-July 2009? I just get a “site temporarily unavailable” image. I really want to try the game!

  44. James Hsieh says:

    I’ll second that request. Rails looks good. Maglev? Contracts? Sneaky track placement? WAKE UP WAKE UP WAKE —–