TSW2: Arosalinie: Chur-Arosa & Rhb Collection


Experience the ups and downs of a mountain railway with Arosalinie


Well if you like high-speed trains and fast, flowing curves you'd better step off right now. 

The Chur–Arosa railway, also known as the Arosabahn, Arosalinie or Aroserbahn is a 25-km long route that climbs a winding path from the streets of Chur (592m Above Sea Level), the oldest town in Switzerland, all the way up to Arosa (1775m A.S.L.)–which seems pretty high to me as I live somewhere that's about 10m A.S.L. when the tide is out. 

The Arosa line only features one type of locomotive on its narrow gauge (1m) track; first built in 1973 and overhauled in 1984 and fully modernised in 2004, the electric RhB Ge 4/4 II which can pull a consist of 4-8 passenger carriages and/or 2 freight wagons up the extremely steep gradients. The RhB Ge 4/4 II is an unusual locomotive as its throttle and dynamic brakes are controlled with a large wheel on the dashboard, which looks to all intents and purposes just like a steering wheel, which can cause both confusion and merriment with people who aren't familiar with the control system. You rotate the wheel clockwise to add power, anti-clockwise to slow down and apply the dynamic brakes, although it also has air and train vacuum brakes–and needs them during the downhill journey from Arosa back to Chur. 

The RhB Ge 4/4 II locomotive has an unusual control system...

Visually, the basics are all there, the topography is mountainous, the spectacular drop-offs and bridges... but it's all a bit of a facade. The pop-up of distant ridges, relative lack of foliage (and foliage that pops-up close to the train), identical sets of 2D trees on distant mountainsides and low res textures (and I mean N64-looking low res!) really don't compliment the highly detailed locomotives and rolling stock. These look great with a good snow effect and very realistic windscreen build-up. The trees near the track look good, and the wooden logs on the cargo wagons are worthy of mention too; but this is because they're SO lacking in detail they're almost perfect cylinders that actually have a shine, I had to zoom in close to make sure they were indeed supposed to be wooden logs and not steel pipes! 

The other thing that disappointed me is the jerkiness of the RhB Ge 4/4 II–which, again, may well be realistic, but I doubt it. No matter how delicate you are with the control wheel it jerks as you take away, and I imagine all the passengers needing support collars and whiplash treatment at the end of journey. Maybe that's why Switzerland has so many good hospitals! 

A train stopped at Arosa station.

Apart from the well-documented problems with the timetables, most of which seem to have been sorted out, Arosalinie has a few other bugs that I won't go into here, needless to say they can all be infuriating, and should have been fixed long ago. It also has a thing that I haven't come across before; red lights that only change when you move the train!? You could literally sit there forever as the signaller tells you to "proceed as signals indicate", and only ignoring these instructions and "proceeding" changes the red light to yellow or green! The Arosa route also has the most annoying red lights in TSW2-Almost every time you change direction (for instance when shunting or running around the coaches for the return journey) you'll get a red light! The designers of the various scenarios also couldn't make up their mind as to what a checkpoint apply to, the driver (which is standard in TSW2) or the end of the train, which can also obviously cause accidental SPADs (Signal Passed At Danger) and unsurprisingly, annoyance.  

A spectacular aerial view of the Langwieser viaduct

My final gripe is about the "safety" system (ZS) that will bleep four times in around four seconds and if you don't slow down or acknowledge it in time it'll stop you  dead–sometimes in dangerous places (across points) or on one memorable occasion in a spot that rendered the scenario impossible to complete!

The actual purpose for this review of Arosalinie is the Rhb (Rhätische Bahn or Rhaetian Railway) Anniversary pack which was released just before Christmas. While the standard RhB red livery is still present across the fleet, 5 locomotives have been decorated with promotional designs that celebrate the long heritage of the Swiss railway network and towns along the route. Locomotive No. 619 features Bernina, No. 620 has Bever-Scuol, No. 630 is Chur-Disentis and No. 627 the 100th anniversary of the Arosa Line, and there's a special 125th anniversary loco for the RhB Network itself. RhB’s white and yellow observation car has also been added, along with 5 new seasonal ("Christmassy") scenarios and a new timetable. 

I was disappointed that the aussichtswagen (observation car), which would presumably be a major attraction, isn't populated by any passengers on most services–but maybe this is just realism, and when I did find a service on which it was full I was delighted! 

The Anniversary Pack added a bit of a shot in the arm to the Arosa Line,10 new timetable services mixed in with the 84 reworked originals which makes a total of 178…But I feel it's still a route for TSW2 completists and Swiss mountain railway fans only. Unsurprisingly it's very limited, consisting of hour-long runs from Chur up to Arosa and back down, with a few 'run around' shunting scenarios in which you organise the train to travel in the opposite direction. I think it's fair to say that despite the views and the steep gradients Arosalinie doesn't exactly get the blood pumping.

Several views of the Chur-Arosa railway

But hey, the Arosa Line is nearly a year old and it's still unique among all the other TSW2 routes, as it initially runs along Chur's streets with cars running alongside it's almost like a tramline! As long as you don't look too closely the scenery is pretty, and coming down the mountain to Chur and controlling the brakes is always challenging.

Thanks to Rivet Games, Dovetail Games and LickPR