TSW4: Blackpool Branches: Preston–Blackpool & Ormskirk


Is this TSW4's best route yet?


Blackpool Branches: Preston–Blackpool & Ormskirk is a 48-mile network from Preston to Blackpool North & South, Ormskirk in the South and the Burn Naze line to the North that forks off at Poulton-le-Fylde, while Blackpool South is reached via a branch line that splits at Kirkham & Wesham.

Set in 1986 it includes Timetable services for the included Class 142, the Class 08 and the Class 47/4. We were amazed and delighted to discover that we also had well over a hundred services layered in for the Class 101, the Class 20, the Class 31, the Class 40, the Class 45/1 and the LMS Stanier 8F collectively (these are dependant on which other TSW DLC you own.)

The Class 142 DMU Pacer is the main workhorse of the route, and was designed as a cheap and temporary replacement for heritage DMUs like the Class 101. An unusual design without bogeys, many design features were actually derived from Leyland National buses. The “Pacer” would serve regional networks for over 3 decades, with its bouncy, lurching ride characteristics polarising passenger opinion throughout its life.

The Class 142 DMU Pacer and its"defining ride characteristics" have been simulated quite well as you seem to bounce up and down a lot and feel every track joint and switch (if you have the vibration turned on.) The 142 may not have been a pleasant ride in real life, but despite an initial tendency I had to brake too hard and hit Emergency (it has a 3-step brake lever) it's a pleasure to drive. It may be no ‘looker’ but the detail is remarkable and it has no less than 10 liveries available as I type! Another feature I was delighted to see is that if you click on the phone handset on the left of the windscreen a voice announces the next stop over the 142's PA system.

The Class 47 was one of the main workhorses for BR (British Rail) during the 1960s and '70s, used to pull both passenger and freight trains. Despite the introduction of more modern types of traction, a significant number are still in use, both on the mainline and on heritage railways and 76 locomotives still exist. The '47 gets 100 services and a couple of scenarios to play on Blackpool Branches, an excellent mixture of passenger, freight and shunting.

Since their introduction in 1952, the Class 08 is the standard BR general-purpose diesel shunter, the class became a familiar sight at major stations and freight yards. A quirky but easy-to-drive shunter, the Class 08 gets 12 services (split between Blackpool and Preston) and one scenario to drive.

The only issues I had on this wonderfully typical English route are where passengers enter but don't leave the Class 142, they simply vanish! The passengers were a welcome addition back in TSW2 and it's good to see them pulling out umbrellas when it rains and carrying light luggage, but they still need a lot of work in terms of looks, realistic behaviour, movement and variety in terms of physical build and not just clothes or race.

Just Trains have done another superb job as regards the rich look and level of detail on the route (you can even enter a signal box) and continue to show TSW's other third-party developers how it can be and should be done…

Many thanks to Just Trains, Dovetail Games, Focus Entertainment and Lick PR