Welcome to a Insider Review of the recently published West Somerset Railway Member's Edition from steam guru Steam Sounds Supreme.
The West Somerset ME version is a much enhanced version of the currently available Member's edition available on the steam workshop by David Seward, who is a resident trainee guard and ticket inspector on the preserved railway. Being a local resident one could only assume that David would have a keen insight into how the railway should look in its digital representation and found it solely lacking and thus the Member's Edition was born.
Now anyone who has used the Steam Workshop knows of the vast limitations imposed upon a route developer, you are limited by the DLC published and used by Dovetail Games thus the decision was taken to partner up with Steam Sounds Supreme and create a truly near accurate representation of the route in digital format.
Matt Walmsley, owner of Steam Sounds Supreme, has created routes in the past which include the well recieved Great Central Railway and current projects of the Seven Valley Railway so an ideally suited developer to deal with the modification of the WSR M.E.
West Somerset Railway in Brief:
The WSR began operation in 1862 between Taunton and Watchet later to be extended to include the seaside town of Minehead in 1874 by the Minehead Railway. It was designed and used as a single track line and over its life required sigificant improvement leading up to the twentieth century due to the increased tourism traffic which was seen on the line. The line's ownership eventually became that of the Great Western Railway and later when the big four were merged into British Railways then became a BR tourist line. British Railways eventually closed the line by 1971 but a movement was already in progress to change the line into a hertiage line and just 5 years later it re-opened to the public in 1976 as the hertiage line you see today.
WSR is one of the longest hertiage lines available in standard guage in Britian at 20.5miles long and on special occasions this goes to 22.5miles with the inclusion of Norton Fitzwarren where there is available connection to Network Rail.
What has Changed with the WSR E.M.E?
A great deal of detail and tender loving care has gone into the new edition of the West Somerset Railway with overall enchancements including new ambient sounds where appropriate, new under bridge sounds and appropriate crossing sounds. Sounds are not the only department in which the route has been enchanced. Crossings have recieved repeaters and bells, point rodding as been provided in most parts of the line, appropriate and correct adjustments to terrain and cuttings have been made.
But this is not all, Crossing warning signs, AWS warning signs and nessessary deforestation have been done in the route to bring it into a more realistic look aswell as the route in general recieving a subtle echo system which was first pioneered as doable on the Maerdy Branch by Meshtools.
Further to the above the following additions have been made to the various spots on the Railway:
- Pylons added.
- Ballast heap.
- Loco compound added
- Deep cutting on approach
- Demo broad gauge track on platform
- Old dock platform
- Yard details added
- Speed limits adjusted
- Filled empty space behind platform
- Added car park
- SDJR Trust site completely rebuilt
- Track layout changed
- Small narrow gauge railway put in
- Deep cutting
- Station now in a proper cutting
- Caravan site extended
- Bungalows brought closer to the track
- Footpath along beach added
- Extra non-passenger platforms added
- Footpath to crossing
- Seaward way level crossing rebuilt with extra detail
- Footpath to town added
- Coal digger for coal fuel point
- Reworked loco yard
As you can see a great deal of additional changes have been made to enhance the route and bring it into a true digital representation of the route and it with both thanks and gratitude to all those involved that we are be presented with a outstanding and much needed enhancement to the route.
GWR "Mogul" 9351 by Kris Harding:
But that is not all which has been added to the already superior enhanced version of the member edition. In association with Kris Harding who was brought on by David Seward we have the controversial conversion of the Large Prairies 5139 into a "Mogul" class GWR 2-6-0 a design which never officially ran on GWR metals and never made it beyond drawing board to in the preserved era this new build was created.
Kris has gone to the efforts to recreate this locomotive in the simulator and what a sight it is to behold and you will be able to see some various in-game shots at the end of this review. The locomotive in question has a distinctive flair to it, having the looks of a Mogul class not to dissimilar to other Moguls from other companies having the smaller driver wheels and the partial looks of the Large Prairies.
For one of Kris's first creations for the simulator the attention to detail is quite outstanding on the locomotive, this includes but not limited to full rivets across most of the locomotive, correctly shaped and modeled safety valve, detailed buffer beam with number and appropriate included pipework and buffers, detailed handrails as well and running board with great detail upon the cylinders and connection rods. Further to this boiler and smokebox are shaped closely to that of the real thing and the cab end is especially well detailed giving a much needed Mogul like profile.
Detail is not solely limited to the model work, livery and application of both the GWR lettering, the cab side numbering and the buffer beam number are equally as good and further to this a fully working light system which includes both the front of the locomotive and the tender as fully operable and configurable on-the-fly via keyboard controls.
Further to on-the-fly keyboard controls which are controlled via the ctrl+1-4 and ctrl+shift+1-4 there is included appropriate lamps which range from oil lit, to red to high intensity light which is seen on modern rolling stock.
Further to these additions is a host of headboards which are provided both on the smokebox as well as the tender these include the following:
- The Qauntock Belle
- Dunster Castle Express
- Santa Special
- Santa Express
- Somset Coast Express
- Steam Engineman Course
Also brought as a additional enhancement to the already superb model is Steam Sounds Supreme's Sounds which feature all the sounds you know and love as well as the wonderful scripting and smoke effects which have been a staple of SSS releases.
Words cannot do full justice to both the West Somerset Enhanced Member's Edition and the included 9351 Mogul, the effort and attention to detail done by all included parties has taken what was to some a lacklusting attempt at a preserved railway in the simulator and fully changed it to be something that just bit better and that little bit closer to blurring the boundaries between reality and digital format.
I hope you have enjoyed this Insider Review of the WSR E.M.E and will enjoy the following in-game shots of 9351 and a few highlights of the changes at Minehead.