Empire Building in the Golden Age of Railroads
November 22, 2006 4:25 AM   Subscribe

Sid Meier's 1990 DOS game Railroad Tycoon has been released as a free download. There's no need to worry if you don't actually have a vintage DOS machine available, as it's packaged with an Windows installer that includes the full game, PDF manual, and DOSBox emulator. [via]
posted by Rhomboid (31 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Ah, one of my favorite games. Frankly, the latest version sucked eggs, in my opinion. I got it from my dear bride for xmas after asking for it and I played it three times or so. I played the heck out of the previous version.
posted by maxwelton at 4:38 AM on November 22, 2006

Max, they just shipped one last month, Railroads... is that the one you didn't like?
posted by Malor at 4:46 AM on November 22, 2006

Apparently Christmas come early in the maxwelton household, but the new version of Railroads is pretty bad.
posted by hugecranium at 4:50 AM on November 22, 2006

The hours I spent planning my strategy, laying out my lines, buying engines... planning cargo routes, upgrading stations, then watching all my plans unfold.

And in the end, it just didn't mean anything. Just like real life.

Good times, man, good times.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:54 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

I prefer Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe.
posted by PenDevil at 4:57 AM on November 22, 2006

I can't believe I spent money for this, when I should have just waited sixteen years.

I started to get really analytical the more I played it. Their planning interface was so limited in what it showed that I built spreadsheets that would give me historical information and calculate percentages for me.

Back in the day I had the Avalon-Hill game Rail Baron, and in college our favorite "pick-up" game in the lounge was British Rails (with its damnable limitations w/r/t Scotland and Wales).
posted by dhartung at 4:58 AM on November 22, 2006

i wonder if this version will run better then the the copy on cd i picked up in the late '90's at a toy store. it was selling for 99 cents then ... but doesn't run very well on my xp machine.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 5:18 AM on November 22, 2006

lester, if you have a reasonably fast machine, it should run very well. DOSBox is very, very good. It's slow, because it's translating the x86 instruction set, which is complex and hard to emulate. It's also having to simulate the sound and graphic cards as well, with their various quirks. Using straight interpretation, even a fast modern PC will have trouble exceeding about 25 million emulated instructions per second. There's a less compatible 'dynamic' core that uses recompilation to speed things up quite a bit, but many games don't like it.

This is two orders of magnitude slower than native code execution, but it's very compatible and runs almost everything.

XP also has a built-in DOS emulator, but you have to understand how DOS worked to get it running really well, and you often need an Intel chip. AMD chips don't emulate an old type of DOS expansion memory called EMS when running in Windows. If you have both DOS knowledge and an Intel chip, XP's native DOS support is extremely fast, and will let you run the old stuff at nearly the full speed of your processor. It just takes a lot of tinkering.

DOSBox is a lot easier, and overall works better, if you can take the relatively slow execution. For this game, it's perfect, because RRT was designed for 8Mhz machines.
posted by Malor at 5:42 AM on November 22, 2006 [2 favorites]

Sid Meier's Railroads is the new one. The first release (1.00) suffered from a lot of bugs. The patch (1.01) still suffers from a lot of bugs, can't run Windowed without crashing due to memory issues within 15 - 45 minutes (I have 2GB in my laptop) but at least doesn't crash to desktop if the AI can't figure out a route for you or you do one of 3 dozen other things that made it crash to desktop without warning.

Regardless of this, the new one is a lot of fun, I think, if you remember to save often.

I also want to throw a shout out in here for Transport Tycoon Deluxe, which doesn't run well on my XP machine, but if you do manage to snag a copy, I recall there being privately-produced reverse engineered patches that allowed running OK on XP and introduced a lot of new functionality (like 1-way signals).
posted by kalessin at 6:32 AM on November 22, 2006

P.S. Your link to fileshack doesn't work for me in that it eventually takes me to a page that in Firefox 2.0 at least just doesn't lead to anywhere I can download anything.
posted by kalessin at 6:32 AM on November 22, 2006

I can't defend fileshack's page design, because often the correct thing to click on is not at all obvious, but the link worked just fine for me using Firefox 1.5. You usually just have to scroll down and click on the free server option. You will probably need JS and cookies enabled, and download managers might not work.
posted by Rhomboid at 6:54 AM on November 22, 2006

Oh, okay, I was clicking on the wrong links. Thank you. Yes, I think the NoScript plugin was also interfering with correct functioning, now that you mention it. :)
posted by kalessin at 7:08 AM on November 22, 2006

For those who are worried about the performance of emulation: you could always just use Parallels / VMWare and one of the free DOS implementations, right?
posted by rbs at 7:13 AM on November 22, 2006

The last time I tried to use VMWare to run DOS games, it was useless. What little sound support was there was so screwed up that the games were unplayable.

I/O in general is very slow under virtualization; every time the program wants to read or write a byte to or from a protected address space (which is pretty much anything that looks like hardware to the virtual machine), the virtualization software has to trip a special error, jump out of the virtual code, figure out what the virtual code is trying to do, do the sequence of steps required to emulate that read or write, and then jump back into the program code.... which will likely then immediately read or write another byte, causing the same thing to happen again.

All this overhead means that I/O in general from any virtualized OS is very slow, but DOS I/O is just glacial, and few programs work correctly.

The new virtualization support in the very latest CPUs will probably make this better, but I wouldn't hold your breath. This isn't VMWare's focus at all, so I doubt they'll ever do it well. The Parallels team might; they're young and hungry. But I think their focus is likely to be current Windows games before old DOS games.
posted by Malor at 7:36 AM on November 22, 2006

Agreed, PenDevil. (Open)TTD(X|Patch) is the Total Annihilation of transport sims.

Still, it's always nice to see abandonware get de-orphaned.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 7:36 AM on November 22, 2006

You can also get railroad tycoon and many other old dos games at Abandonia.
posted by citizngkar at 7:37 AM on November 22, 2006 [1 favorite]

Malor and hugecranium, maxwelton undoubtedly meant Railroad Tycoon II, which came out in 1998, or RRT 3, which was released in 2003.

I don't think that Railroads! can be considered a direct sequel, but I haven't played it.
posted by dhartung at 7:56 AM on November 22, 2006

I bought this game ages ago. It was so damn fun, but very easy to exploit the other companies.

I'd buy shares of a company until I controlled it, then I'd bleed it dry for cash. I'd sell 10,000 shares to give back control of the company and it would immediately take out a half Million dollar loan presumably to recover. I'd take that too once I bought those 10,000 shares back (and repeat until the company borrowed as much as it could).

Once the company was bled dry, I'd order it to build a railroad from one coast to another. There was a $25 Million bonus for the first railroad to do that. So I'd forget about the company and quite awhile later I'd get the message that the line was finished and I was $25M richer.

Ah, the good old days.
posted by ODiV at 8:21 AM on November 22, 2006

There is a boardgame version that is pretty fun.

The free download area told me I needed something called Mercury...
posted by mecran01 at 8:30 AM on November 22, 2006

No, you don't need Mercury. Just click on "standard / get in line".
posted by Rhomboid at 9:32 AM on November 22, 2006

Rhomboid rocks.
posted by shmegegge at 10:53 AM on November 22, 2006

Ah.... Railroad Tycoon Deluxe...

I'm a train nut so it was a mandatory purchase when it came out. I could kill a whole Sunday afternoon setting up an empire and managing schedules, manually regulating signals, building hotels etc...

I didn't do too well on the financial part of the gameplaying, just loved to run trains.

The newer RRT is also fun (and very pretty) , but doesn't let me run the trains to the same extent. I haven't tried railroads yet.

So, thanks for the link!
posted by Artful Codger at 10:54 AM on November 22, 2006

Malor, it was RRT3 that I disliked. I loved RRT2.
posted by maxwelton at 11:03 AM on November 22, 2006

For what it's worth, I tried the new Sid Meyer Railroads! demo, and *hated* it. On the other hand, when I bought Chris Sawyer's Locomotion! (a few years back) I played it for so many hours I can't even believe the time I wasted.

If you're a fan of this genre, I strongly recommend picking up Locomotion!.
posted by davejay at 12:40 PM on November 22, 2006

I was addicted to Railroad Tycoon as a kid. It was the first game I got into after my family bought a blazing fast x286 Tandy PC (we were an Apple household beforehand).

The game I REALLY miss, however, is A-Train. It's a shame later versions were never brought over from Japan...

I keep meaning to check out Open TTD... need to find my original TTD disc, though. I remember going through a period in college where I played a lot of TTD; my crazy roommate would sit there and watch me play for hours. He thought monorails were the answer to everything.
posted by jal0021 at 12:43 PM on November 22, 2006

A-Train pretty much invented the isometric 2D viewpoint later used in Civ II. I used to buy Japanese game mags in the late 80s, early 90s, and the A-Train screenshots would simply blow my mind.
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 1:59 PM on November 22, 2006

maxwelton: I've not really liked ANY of the sequels that well. Each new version I've liked less and less.

If you're into the switching and routing more than the business of running trains, then as davejay is suggesting, check out Locomotion. I had a lot of fun with that for a week or so, but now I never want to touch it again. :)

I've played the demo of Railroads, but it just hasn't grabbed me, and with all the gaming goodness out right now, I haven't picked it up. Maybe in the Spring doldrums sometime.
posted by Malor at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2006

By the way:
If you want to skip the stupid splash screen and the web ad, you'll want to edit the fild RDX.BAT (add the bold bits to those lines):

rem 2k_intro.exe

rem start endslate/endslate.html

and RDX2.BAT:

rem intro

This doesn't solve the stupid copy protection (for a FREE game! guess they didn't want to (or couldn't) open the source code).

Anyway, I now remember how annoying parts of the game were, like the music. This doesn't have the Super Mario-esque animations, but otherwise it's just the same. I always, always ran up against the maximum station limit (really, I wish there were a solo play mode). And I turn off all the extraneous messages, but I can't turn off Bill Doolin and his train robbin' ways, or other economic distractions like wars and panics. And the year-end stuff always pops up just when I'm in the middle of something.

Oh, the DOSBox thing doesn't have good awareness of the state of the NumLock key, so you may have to toggle it before you can lay track 9at least diagonally). Other annoyances are the very non-standard use of clicking and right-clicking (this was pre-Windows era, basically).

I think I'm gonna try the OTTD thing (assuming I can find ... er ... my copy of TTD).
posted by dhartung at 11:27 PM on November 22, 2006

That's rather cool. For those looking for more free games like this: simutrans, which is free-as-in-beer and multiplatform.
posted by musicinmybrain at 5:59 PM on November 23, 2006

YAYYYYY!!!!! Whoooo hoooooooo!!!! AWRIIIIGHT!!!!!

O wait. I have a Mac.
posted by The Deej at 9:35 AM on November 24, 2006

O wait. I have a Mac.

DOSbox is available for many platforms, including Mac OS X.
DOSbox downloads

And if you have an Intel processor, you should be able to run DOSbox in the faster 'dynamic' emulation mode. But for this old title that is probably not necessary...
posted by ae4rv at 2:04 PM on November 24, 2006

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