Trains… i seem to write about them, or the intricacies of rail travel an awful lot; possibly because i do spend an inordinate amount of time in rl it seems either waiting on platforms, or taking the train from A to B, (also Q and Z, on the occasions i’ve climbed aboard the wrong ones!)
It’s just as well that they’re by far my preferred mode of transport: less stressful and boring than motorway driving, more convenient than buses, and more relaxing than a whole host of other methods of getting around. Certainly they’re by no means perfect, but what in life ever is? If nothing else, rail travel can be character-building! Also, train journeys are often as much about enjoying the journey as they are about getting from a starting point to a destination.
As if to prove my point, i’m currently writing this whilst waiting for a train, which – it has just been announced – has been cancelled, and the alternative service, which leaves in about thirty seconds, requires a half mile sprint and the negotiation of several flights of stairs. See what i mean – character building!
That aside, the other attraction of rail travel, as far as i’m concerned anyway, (remember, i’m a bit weird), is the inherent romance it conjures up. Perhaps ‘romance’ is too strong a word in this day and age, yet if i make the effort even the most mediocre and lacklustre journey can evoke thoughts of the Orient Express, the hill railways of India, or a bygone age where every journey was a symphony of steam, smoke, smuts and the thunder and hiss of locomotives that were as much works of art as works of engineering.
Whilst i can’t, in all honesty, say that the railways of sl have quite the same feeling about them, they still manage to fascinate me and – much like their rl equivalents – seem to have links to the glory days of the past. The skill that goes into building and scripting those creations inspires me and i’ve always had a secret hankering to try my hand at becoming a virtual Casey Jones, (please note, i didn’t say i aspired to be a virtual Fat Controller!)
It’s a plan that’s never quite come to fruition – in fact, the budding virtual Brunel is likely to find that the obstacles posed by sl are sometimes more complex than those posed by mountains, rivers and natural obstacles in rl. The golden age of virtual railways seems to be long gone from sl, as have the enthusiasts behind them: most of the trains that i’ve come across inworld have been old, very old… so old that their creators disappeared from the scene many years ago, leaving no means by which the budding railway tycoon might secure any rolling stock or trackside equipment.
At least, that’s what i’d thought until recently, when i came across a sim where not only did i discover a whole range of trains, tracks and other related treasures, but also a store where i could purchase them. A distinctly retro-looking set of rolling stock caught my eye and i had to have it – at last, a train set for Christmas! Then, unexpectedly, the creator turned up – an equally retro-styled, 10-year old elf, who looked like he’d just stepped out of the Beta Grid!
We had a very interesting conversation – he’d seen a lot of changes in sl over all those years, one of which was a decline in numbers of the trains on the Grid. He told me there used to be over 300 of his trains throughout sl, now that number is closer to 100. The cause, he felt, was mostly down to a decline in land ownership – people today choose not to own large swathes of land that railways tend to need if they’re to be worthwhile undertakings, (or they can’t afford tier on that sort of scale). My own view is that those who do aspire to decent sized land holdings are much more likely in these cash-strapped days to commit them to making money, either through business concerns or parcelling up for rentals – there’s just not the capacity or resources to support what is mainly a frivolous use of land any more. The result is fewer trains, less interest and a decline in this venerable mode of sl transportation. You can’t help wondering how many other fun things may have gone the same way over the years.
So, it seemed to me that someone has to continue this great tradition – i needed no further encouragement, and now, after much hard work, preparation and a fair amount of virtual civil engineering, i can proudly say that the SWR – Seren’s Wonderful Railway is open for business!
Yes indeed, i now have my own little narrow gauge railway that winds its way around and above Nowhere Land, with scenic views over the Penny Lane sim and – i like to think – with a special charm and quirkiness that you won’t find outside sl. So, if you fancy a spot of old-fashioned, steam-powered journeying, why not pop along to the station, grab a ticket and jump aboard? You’ll be very welcome!
Ninety tons of thunder
Lighting up the sky
Steaming red hot pistons
See the wheels flash by
Hear the whistle blowing
Streaking down the track
Saxon – Princess Of The Night