Suburban Routes: an 1825 T-Train Variant

by Lou Jerkich

Rationale for the Variant
In 1825, the 'T' (Tank) trains have become expensive versions of their non-Tank cousins. A 3-train costs £300 and a 4-train is priced at £430. The 3T goes for £370 and the 4T for £480. One ends up buying one of the latter types not so much for their advantages as T-Trains but because one wants another train and cannot afford something more expensive.
 
The 4T engine depicted in the 1825 Advanced Trains is a GCR Class 9N 4-6-2 Tank Locomotive designed by John G. Robinson for the GCR in 1911 and also used by its LNER successor (as LNER Class A5) until the last one was removed in 1958. This was Robinson's last passenger tank design, intended to pull trains in suburban service out of the GCR's Marylebone Station in London. Under the LNER, some of these engines were used in Bradford and others out of King's Cross Station in London.
 
The 3T engine in the 1825 game's Advanced Trains is Dugald Drummond's M7 class 0-4-4T mixed traffic steam locomotive.  In all, 105 M7 locomotives were built for the London & South Western from 1897 to 1911.  Upon their introduction, several were assigned express passenger routes between Exeter and Plymouth.  Eventually it was commonly used on local main lines and branches as well as on London Suburban services.  The M7s survived the grouping into the Southern Railway in 1923 and eventually all but two lasted into the conversion to British Railways in 1948.  In May of 1964 the last of the M7s were retired.

Since the historical tank engines depicted on the 3T and 4T train cards were used for suburban services and not in remote outlying areas where only small towns are common, it occurred to me that a T-Train variant could be designed to incorporate this concept of suburban service.  Moreover, it would have the advantage of making the T-Trains more distinctive in their capabilities so that they wouldn't be (for the most part) merely more expensive versions of the game's 3-train and 4-train.  To make the suburban service a reality, I decided to violate a general rule of 18xx games that forbids more than one train from using a given stretch of track to run a route for income purposes.

Variant Rules for the T-Trains

1. In addition to their normal usage of starting or ending at small stations and using halts, T-Trains are also entitled to run on two contiguous tiles or hexags shared with another train that is not also a T-Train.  [Note that this variant is an exception to 1825's rule 4.5.7.]  This ability is only possible when running on plain track or from certain eligible cities. 

2. A single T-Train can never share track with more than one other train and it may never exceed the limit of two tiles or hexags.  In order to abide by this rule, a given T-Train must of necessity either diverge from the other train's route within each tile/hexag or it must begin its route at an eligible city station within one of the two tiles or hexags.  In open terrain away from cities, the two trains would have routes that merge in one tile or hexag and then diverge in an adjacent tile or hexag.  When the two trains begin sharing their routes from a city station, the T-Train's route is called a "suburban route."

3. A company with a 3T or 4T train may run it on a suburban route only from an eligible major city. The company must have a base token in that city and the suburban route must start at that token. A suburban route may share the track on the city tile and one adjacent tile or hexag with another train of the same company.  On that adjacent tile or hexag, the route must diverge onto track that it does not share with any other train.  Each company is limited to one suburban route per eligible city.  In other words, there may never be more than one T-Train running a suburban route that starts from a given city base token.  The non-T-Train that shares part of a suburban route with a T-Train does not necessarily need to begin its run at the same base as the T-Train; it could start in a more distant city and then pass through the base shared with the T-Train. 
 
4. The eligible cities are London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and OO cities (the yellow hexags containing two large cities that can be promoted to type #52 or #10 green tiles). A company may run a 3T train on a suburban route from a russet or grey-tiled eligible city, while 4T trains may only be run as suburban routes from grey-tiled eligible cities.  Note that Bristol is not an eligible city.
 
5. One consequence of these rules is that the only minor company that can run a suburban route is the Taff Vale Railway, and then only if Newport/Cardiff is promoted to a grey tile.  The minor companies may still have their T-Trains share track on two contiguous plain tiles or hexags. 
 
6. T-Trains do not have to be run on suburban routes. Indeed, it is possible to run a T-Train from a base in a major city while sharing plain track with a second train  running an ordinary route that does not include that major city.  T-Trains retain their other special abilities, even when running on suburban routes.

7. A practical effect of these rules is that these shared routes will of necessity require either brown hexags or track tiles that have been promoted beyond yellow tiles.  The suburban routes are limited to starting at russet or grey tiles as noted above.


Examples of Suburban Routes
A. Let's suppose that the L&Y has a connection from its base in Manchester to Liverpool.  If it has only one train, there will be no suburban service since it can't share a route.  If it has two trains, and one of them is a T-Train, that T-Train can share a route with another train provided it follows these variant rules.  Let's say it is able to run a 5-train from Liverpool to Manchester to Preston to Burnley to Bradford.  It also has a 3T train, so it runs a suburban route from Manchester, where its token exists, to Liverpool and on to Holyhead.  The shared track is only the Manchester-Liverpool section.   Sharing track would also be fine if the 5-train also began at Manchester, ran to Liverpool, and then diverged north to Preston, Burnley and Bradford.

B. The LNWR has a base in London.  It may run one non T-Train from London to Birmingham, Walsall, Crewe, Liverpool, etc. while a T-Train starting from the same London base runs a suburban route that diverges on the adjacent tile (e.g., immediately northwest of London) and then heads toward Cambridge.  Or the GWR could have a main line from London due west to Bristol, but a branching route run by a T-Train would leave London and in the adjacent hexag would diverge south to Portsmouth.  In both cases, the LNWR and GWR would have had to buy bases to place in London in order to make the suburban routes viable.


Commentary 
Since the historical T-Trains appearing in the game were used for suburban service or runs between large cities that were not too far apart, it makes sense that they would be based at a major Station. Requiring the base token to be present to make use of the suburban route also means that a company will often have to invest a bit more in its Stations in order to get this suburban route advantage, thereby preventing London from becoming overly significant as a source of revenue had there been no such limitation. Only the GER and the LSWR have Stations starting there.  The GER could certainly use the help the suburban T-Train route would provide.  The LSWR is already somewhat favored in the game, but the limitation of one train per company using the suburban advantage will limit its effect.   Among other companies, the L&Y is favored by a starting base in Manchester, and the NBR, GSWR, and Caledonian all begin with bases in Glasgow.  For any other companies to get the advantage of suburban routes, or for any company to get them in another location on the board, they would need to build new bases.

This rule also precludes the T-Trains owned a priori by three of the Minor Companies (North Staffordshire-3T, Maryport & Carlisle-3T, M&GN-4T) from using their T-Trains on a suburban route, since they have no extra token to create a new Base in one of the above specified cities.  Depriving the T-Trains owned by the Minor companies from receiving this advantage prevents those companies from becoming a more significant component of the game than they already are.  However, the rule still allows them to share a contiguous portion of plain track, just as the other T-Trains could do.  As mentioned under the above variant rules for the T-Trains, the Taff Vale's home base of Newport/Cardiff would meet the requirements for a base in a grey tile in an OO hexag.  The question that remains is whether this makes the Taff Vale with its 4T Train far too strong as a Minor Company in comparison to the other Minors.  Only further play-testing can resolve this, but the fact that Newport/Cardiff would need to be a grey hex limits the Taff Vale's benefit from the T-Train variant until late in the game.  Besides, the base hexag for the Taff Vale permits it to use two different trains easily without needing to have overlapping routes.

Exclusive of the trains owned a priori by the Minors, in 1825 there are seven 3T trains and two 4T trains.  To permit so many trains to run concurrently with another normal train out of London would be to make them too powerful an asset and would probably interfere with the game's play balance.  Thus this variant permits only one T-Train of a company to run a suburban route from a base in a given eligible city.  Although in its original form this variant limited the 4T trains to suburban routes starting only from London, that has seemed to be too much of a limitation and not really necessary for play balance.  Instead, their suburban use is tied to grey eligible cities since the 4T trains only appear in phase 4 when grey tiles have become available.  If players still think this is too restrictive, they may optionally permit a 4T train to run a suburban route from London (but no other city) when it is a russet tile.

In order that the T-Trains might have some usefulness in out of the way places such as Wales or portions of Scotland, the T-Trains were given more of a bonus than just the suburban routes by being permitted to share track with one other train on any two contiguous hexags or tiles over the course of their entire route, even in plain hexags or tiles  The route might start and end at different locations from other trains, but over some middle portion of its line would share track for a few miles with another train.  Because of the nature of the track patterns, to share track on one tile inevitably means also having to share a portion of track on one adjacent tile.

Given the historical use of the 3T and 4T engines, using them for suburban routes makes sense, and this rule incorporates that without denying players the use of large trains for long runs, such as London to Edinburgh.  Having two trains use the same track for runs violates the usual 18xx rule that forbids this, but it certainly makes  competition for these T-Trains much higher.  Playtests with the above combination of T-Train rules so far have produced the desired results.  The T-Trains have a role that is different from other trains but the impact they have on the game is neither extreme nor unbalancing.


A Note on the 2+2 Train in 1825
1825's 2+2 Train from the Advanced Train Kit K2 is actually another Tank Engine.  It is D. E. Marsh's Class I3 Atlantic 4-4-2T locomotive.  It too was a type used for suburban express services.  However, it has unique abilities as a 2+2 train that are not held by the 3T and 4T Tank engines of the game.  The Minor company, the London, Tilbury and Southend Railway, has an attached 2+2 train that is quite appropriate for its suburban London route.  Likewise, the Marsh I3 4-4-2T's used by the LB&SCR (and depicted on the 2+2 train card) would have had a similar use in real life.  They clearly are designed for this type of suburban service from a major city center, such as London.  The type works well as designed for the game and no change should be made in its use, regardless of the fact that it is a cousin to the tank engines of the 3T and 4T variety.

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Special thanks is owed to Dave Berry who converted my original "recommendations" into a more formal set of rules and inspired me to upgrade this variant page.  To him is owed the term "suburban routes" which takes the place of my original "city advantage."  He has also made suggestions that helped clarify these variant rules.


Return to Lou's Game Corner: Rail Game Links     Return to the 1825 game page
This page was first posted on 16 July 2008.  A statement of favorable playtest results was added 15 September 2008.  The original 'Recommended Use of the T-Trains' rule was slightly modified on 17 September 2008 to permit the 4T trains to use cities other than London.  A note on the 2+2 Trains was added 28 October 2008.  Slight changes in wording were made on 25 March 2009 and some issues concerning the Taff Vale were added on 12 April 2009.  At the prompting of Dave Berry and by making use to a large extent of his improved wording for the actual variant rules, this page was significantly revised between 10 July 2009 and 14 July 2009.

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