Ever wondered what it'd be like to drive a train through the heart of one of the busiest cities on the planet? On the Harlem Line you'll be transporting commuters, tourists and shoppers in and out of the iconic Grand Central Terminal station across Park Avenue all the way out to the leafy suburbs.
The Harlem Line was originally a streetcar route built in the 1830s by the New York and Harlem Railroad to run between the original city centre in lower Manhattan to the suburb of Harlem. The line stretches 24 miles (39 km) from the massive Grand Central Terminal to North White Plains which lies to the North-East of New York City. The branch line at East 153rd Street (the stop for the Yankee Stadium) is also included.
The route is run by Metro-North operating with the M3A and M7A EMUs. New York has been featured previously in TSW2 (originally in TSW 2020) in Long Island Rail Road, but the Harlem Line really captures the look and feel of the city–graffiti and all, although having watched some real cab ride footage for reference everything is too clean and there's not enough junk and detritus alongside the tracks. I must say I really like the small local stops that are only long enough for part of the train–which explained the "passengers wishing to exit must be in the front two/four cars" announcement frequently heard on cab ride footage, although announcements are still sadly missing from the game. One thing's for sure; the Manhattan skyline and the elevated sections will evoke memories of countless movies and TV series' set in "The Big Apple."
While the M3A (built by the Budd Company) and the M7A (Bombardier) have similar control layouts and are cosmetically similar, the M3A has just four notches on the combined throttle/brake control while the newer M7A has ten notches on the throttle side and ten notches + emergency brake for speed control. This obviously means you have more control over the M7A, particularly on gradients where low speed limits have to be adhered to–like the long drag in and out of Grand Central Terminal. As well as the standard 'dead man's' pedal there are three additional safety systems that can be used independently or in combination with the others; ATC, ACSES and the Alerter—it really depends on how many warning beeps and flashing panel lights you want nagging you during your run.
With the Alerter on, this is basically the MTA control centre making sure you're alive and alert. When you hear a beep you have to press/pull the 'Acknowledge' lever, or press 'B' on your controller or 'Q' on a keyboard. Fail to do so within a few seconds and the train will stop automatically.
ATC (Automatic Train Control) works in conjunction with other systems and advises the speed required to maintain a safe gap to other trains, and this may include stopping to re-establish a safe gap to the train in front if you've been going way too fast.
The ACSES system (Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System) corresponds to the signal speed limit, which advises on infrastructure like stations, curves and points/switches, railroad maintenance crews/repairs as well as other trains (blue mark on the outside of the speedo HUD which is reflected on the control panel) rather than the track limit (standard red mark). If you overspeed you'll get some frantic beeps as a warning and if you don't swiftly apply the brakes and acknowledge the warning the train will come to a halt. A YouTuber trainsimulatordriver, a really nice bloke called Paul, did an excellent tutorial on these systems if you need more info.
Both the M3 and the M7 are easy enough to drive as long as you remember to keep the brakes charged. Lose pressure (by braking hard enough to hit the Emergency brake setting) and nothing will work until you've pumped the pressure back up to 90psi or more. You do this by either holding the button on the dashboard panel or 'LB' on the controller while the control lever is in the 'Max Brake' position.
You will be tasked with dozens of passenger services on this bustling route. It may not be quite as hectic as London Commuter but you never travel far without passing another train, and uniquely may arrive at a station right behind another train. One crazy timetable service (presumably delivering fans to a Yankees game) will have you driving a train from Grand Central Terminal to East 153rd St. and back, stabling the train on the far side of the underground yard, walking across the virtually pitch dark terminal (you'll be very glad of your flashlight), boarding another train and doing it all over again! But worry not, it's a good-looking route and the scenery varies more than any other in TSW2.
The Grand Central Terminal feels like a massive underground cave, and from a thousand yards out the speed limit is 15mph dropping to 10, and crawling through a "mile" of tunnels is a chore in anyone's books.
Although you'll see freight wagons in sidings along the route (these are drawn from Sand Patch Grade, Sherman Hill and the brand new Horseshoe Curve) the Harlem Line is all about passenger traffic and there is no freight locomotive or shunting/switching to do. There is a nice "cameo" appearance by a CSX freight train which crawls under the Harlem River Bridge on the NEC track that runs alongside the river, so lots of kudos to DTG for that.
Despite being focussed on passenger traffic there are a few different types of service, from local (all stops) to express trains, to shuffling the units around the rail yards in preparation for the next day's services. You have a full set of route tasks (collectibles) to do, and can even just ride around as a passenger. It may be rather limited but it's quickly become a firm favourite and is without doubt one of the best passenger routes TSW2 has to offer.