The First Freight Route
On “Easy” mode, you get a very small $3,000,000 to start your rail empire. Each million of debt costs you $60,000 in debt servicing charges every year. So, while you can borrow more, you really don’t want to … that $60,000 can pay for two more pieces of rolling stock every year.
You are going to be hard pressed to find a freight rail route that is profitable in its first year. So, spend no more than two-thirds your capital on getting started. Keep the rest to absorb losses until the line goes profitable.
Find your most populated town via the information toolbar, bottom left of the screen. Since high population means high demand for Goods, this is the heart of your nascent empire. Go to that town, and start look around for local industry. Go to that industry and start looking for a source of Resources.
Now, save your game. You are about to start laying track, and this a bit of a black art. You will possibly have to throw out two or three attempts before you finally get what you want. I keep three save-games on the go at all times; Milestone, Rail Development Start, and Rail Development Progress. This ensures that if something “goes weird” with a section of track or something that I can drop back a step and try again.
You may see Resource tokens moving along the road to the Mill by themselves. You may also see Goods tokens moving along the road as well. That’s no problem, it just means that the supply chain is already established and you won’t be starting from zero. You’ll be likely to go profitable more quickly under these conditions.
If you don’t see this, don’t worry about it. As long as you get 1 run per year, then your capacity will fill by itself.
Build your track first from the Town to the Mill or Refinery. Freight is very hard to get to move fast; stick to low-speed track; it has a maximum speed of 120kph, but is much cheaper both to buy and maintain than high-speed rail.
Build the fright platforms next as sidings on the rail line. Unless the platform’s location is surrounded by mountains with only one way in or out, or it is wedged into a corner of the map, build a 165m 2-track platform.
Why build on a siding? As your rail network grows, it is possible that you may have trains that need to pass this station without stopping. For example, a freight train cannot stop at a passenger platform, and vice-versa. A train will not enter a section of railway unless there is nothing already there. The siding allows a train to go around the station without waiting for the train that is there unload and loading to clear out of the way. It’s a simple trick to shave precious minutes off your trip times.
Now build another siding and put your Train Depot on it. Check the Goods demand for the town. Divide that number by two; that is the amount of Goods your train needs to move. Buy a train and enough Goods rolling stock to cover the number you just calculated.
Create a new line, title it “‘Town Name’ Goods”, and assign the train to it. Congratulations! You’re on your way.
Watch the run time for your new line. If it’s around three minutes, send your train back to the depot and adjust the number of cars down. If it’s more than eight minutes, adjust upwards.
Once the train is profitable, extend the line from the Mill or Refinery to the associated Resource site. Build another freight platform here on a siding. Add another train that runs between the Resource site and the Mill; balance the number of freight cars the same way as before.
You now own the entire supply chain for the town, and money should be coming in steadily.