Recent months have seen two new releases from Cambridgeshire-based Just Trains, with an update to Auran's popular Trainz Railway Simulator series being joined by stand-alone simulator Train Driver which is set on the preserved West Somerset Railway.


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Trainz Railway Simulator 2006
Since the original version of Trainz was released by Australian developer Auran a couple of years ago, there's been numerous updates, and the 2006 version continues the trend with improved physics including coupler breakage and wheelslip, alongside more functional features such as the Content Manager Plus programme which removes the need to visit the clunky Download Station to find free add-on's for the simulator.

As with TRS2004 the Surveyor route creation system is pretty much the same, with the familiar and fairly easy to use (once mastered) set of tools boosted by a large number of new objects, including several useful new Interactive Industries, animated points, and dozens of new Rules which can be used to set the specifics of each session.


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The only real disappointment with Trainz Railway Simulator 2006 is the number of included routes which are only demo versions, giving you just a brief glimpse at what members of the community have developed using the surveyor tool, and because there's a larger number crammed on to the disc than in previous versions they've had to offer just samples of some of the bigger and more advanced routes.

Whilst all of the additional routes add a great deal to TRS2006, it's a great shame that some such as Modula City are only demo versions, especially when just as you're getting in to the journey on something like the German ICE route and have passed a couple of stations, you're faced with an advert placed across the end of the line telling you that you've driven the demo route and for more you'll have to buy the add-on - if only Auran had of included the full route in the game and TRS2006 would have been a seriously impressive simulator.


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Further "gameplay" is added with the new iPortal which lets you send and receive trains from your route to another by sending them in to a tunnel-like portal which transports them over the net and sees your train drive out of another tunnel on your friends route. An online chat service built in to TRS2006 also allows you to pre-warn friends that a train is due to arrive on their map, and also gives you a way to simply pass some time whilst driving some of the longer more time-consuming routes.

Train Driver
The West Somerset Railway is a fairly laid-back affair, with you trundling along in a diesel multiple unit, steam engine or Hymek diesel loco at around 25mph - it's certainly far removed from high speed lines which you'll find elsewhere in the world, but with such excellent use of line-side scenery, the slower speeds make the experience all the more enjoyable.


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All 23 miles of the line from just north of Taunton to Minehead are modelled, with everything from picturesque farms and harbours to busy town centres and the Butlins holiday camp. An impressive amount of detail has been included, with modern traffic driving along the roads, and buildings dotted across the countryside for up to 2km from the track itself.

Scenarios take place in a number of locations along the virtual route, with some seeing you running the full length of the line with a passenger service, whilst others are local activities involving a specific task such as rescuing a broken down train, or preparing a rake of coaches ready for another train to take out - a number of additional sessions give you basic training on aspects such as signalling, and you can also take part in a "sightseeing" journey to get an idea of the landscape which the West Somerset Railway winds its way through.


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One of the more fun (or challenging!) aspects of Train Driver involves the collecting of blue WSR wagons from various locations along the line - sidings, stations, passing loops and engine sheds are just a few of the places you'll have to look to collect every one, but it's not quite as simple as just that - you'll also find numerous shunting manoeuvres are required so your engine is at the right end of the train, or simply not snookering yourself by driving a consist in to a siding which simply isn't long enough to accommodate your whole train.

Trainz Railway Simulator 2006 and Train Driver work excellently as a pair, and ideally if you're buying one you'll want to buy the other - Train Driver for an example of the sort of immersive route which can be made, and TRS2006 so you can either give route creation a go for yourself or simply download some of the routes made by other Trainz owners.

TRS2006 - Overall score: 7 out of 10
Publisher: Just Trains
Recommended Price: 29.99
Buy Trainz Railway Simulator 2006 from Amazon or directly from Just Trains.

Train Driver - Overall score: 8 out of 10
Publisher: Just Trains
Recommended Price: 19.99
Buy Train Driver from Amazon.co.uk or directly from Just Trains.