Review: JustTrains Clan Advanced|
Reviewed By JaneRachel Whittaker
Date: 18 June 2014
Joining the Clan
There is something special about the BR Clan Class (BR Standard Class 6). Perhaps it is because only 10 saw service, working trains across western Scotland. Perhaps, it is the sheer majesty of Pacific class locomotives. It could be both of these things, but ask those who crewed these remarkable locomotives and they will tell you it is because they have personality! Those who worked the class regularly built up a rapport with the Clans, whilst visiting crews found them difficult and temperamental. These girls demanded a special relationship with both the driver and fireman that only time and expertise could give. In short, the Clans were quality locomotives but only in the hands of quality crew.
It seems fitting that Just Trains (JT) are continuing their line of advanced steam locomotives with a Clan. The JT advanced locos cry out for time to be spent learning their nuances. There is no five minute mastery; rather time spent in study is the only way to follow the track to success. Ultimately, they prove to be the most rewarding locomotives in TS2014, offering a real sense of achievement. There is a simple mode available, using a switching tool, which makes the Clan just as easy to drive and fire as other TS2014 locos but you really are missing out on all the fun!
The Clan Project
JT have developed the Clan package in association with “The Clan Project” a group of enthusiasts who are scratch building 72010 Hengist. Had original plans for a further batch of locomotives gone ahead then Hengist would have seen service on the Southern Region, but she and the rest of the batch were never constructed as steam gave way to diesel and electric traction. The new Hengist follows the original blueprint for the locos but will feature modernisations, including air braking.
The JT package includes all of the original 10 Clans, plus a rendition of Hengist with her revised layout. Adding further to the mix, the locos are available in pristine, weathered and intermediate versions. This also holds true for a selection of tenders, which are provided both with early and late BR logos. The option to operate with or without AWS and speedometer also maximises versatility when choosing your preferred era of operations. No longer will you be hauling freight like transporting royalty in a gleaming loco! Alternatively, the pristine versions can find a home on heritage railways where eager volunteers spend countless hours polishing and cleaning their locomotives with loving pride. Believe me, after a few short journeys in this Clan, you too will share that pride in the superlative simulation on offer.
Spit And Polish
Speaking of polishing and cleaning, your day as a driver/fireman starts at the depot in preparing your loco for the rigours of the work ahead. Unfortunately, due to a limitation in the core simulation it is not possible to light the fire from cold, so some unavoidable liberties have been taken in preparation. That said, the smokebox door can be opened for cleaning, along with animations for disposing of the ash. Filling the sandboxes is beautifully animated as is the process of lubrication. A good blow down will finish the job, expelling all impurities. At the end of the day, disposal at the depot involves emptying the firebox. This all may sound like visual effects, but the loco responds to good servicing. Performance can be seriously degraded by not cleaning out the boiler, parts can run hot without lubrication and forgetting to fill the sand boxes can lead to an embarrassing wheel slip when the sand runs out! When the loco is ready for the road, take some time to admire her lines. The developers have created an exquisitely detailed model with stunning textures. The Clan is going to be the pride of your personal engine shed!
Stepping on to the footplate the high level of functionality is immediately apparent. There has clearly been a tremendous effort by the developer to imbue the Clans with pitch perfect physics. Monitoring the water level in the glass is an object lesson in gravity. When travelling up or downhill the water level is skewed by water being sloshed around the boiler. Brake hard and just watch the effect of all those gallons of water hitting the front of the boiler with sudden force. This also means that great attention has to be taken to avoid priming. You really don’t want to overfill the boiler or force water to escape due to extremes in driving and gradient. If you do, expect serious cylinder damage and a dramatic visual effect of water being ejected from the chimney and all across the cab windows!
Driving the Clan is both a joy and a challenge. There is a real sense of power as you open the regulator, as you might expect with a type 6 pacific. Yet, that power brings responsibility. Both the regulator and reverser have to be carefully managed. Abuse her and she will lose her footing, an occurrence all too common to 4-6-2 pacifics. A dramatic animation complete with sparks is a vivid reminder of your driving gaffe. You are going to be thanking yourself for filling the sandbox as the loco has custom rail adhesion physics. Drive over wet rails on a rainy day and you will experience the loss of traction; something I have never seen before in the simulation and another first for JT. Restarts on a gradient in heavy rain is guaranteed to put your driving skills to the test. I should also point out that the loco also features reverser creep, where unless you remember to lock the reverser it will rattle its way out of its chosen notch. It has caught me out once or twice! This is a loco that likes to rattle and shake, with extremely convincing vibration!
You are also going to learn a great deal about firing a loco. The old lazy trick that many of us use in TS2014 where we stoke the fire high so we can leave it alone for a good while is simply not going to work. The Clan features a full thermal simulation. Overloading the fire will have a detrimental effect on heat and hence reduce boiler pressure. This will also be immediately noticeable by belching out less than environmentally friendly thick black smoke due to poorly combusted coal. Alternatively, let the fire reduce beyond the optimum fire mass and boiler pressure fades away again, complete with the telltale light plumage from the chimney. Care also needs to be taken when adding water to the boiler. The influx of cold water has the immediate effect of cooling the boiler. This is certainly less than desirable if struggling for pressure on a steep gradient! If this all sounds like a balancing act, it is. Many footplatemen will tell you that firing is much more of an art than the actual driving! The Clan allows you to be a practitioner of that art. I find that the Clan, like me lives best on a diet of little and often!
14 Enthralling Scenarios
The package would not be complete without scenarios. I have a pet hate of seeing locomotives released with very few or uninspiring scenarios. I am not a scenario builder, so I want plenty to chew on when I purchase a new loco. When I first heard that the Clan was in development I created a mental wishlist of what I consider to be ideal scenarios. That wishlist has been matched and exceeded, with 14 fantastic and engrossing scenarios. The designer, Mark Walker really needs to stand up and take a bow!
Seven of the scenarios are for the “West Of Scotland Lines – The Port Road”, Keith Ross’ incredible recreation of the Stranraer to Carlisle route. That half of the scenarios are devoted to this route is no great hardship. If you are serious about British steam locomotives then the route is a must-have purchase. Not only is this what I consider to be the finest route ever created for TS2014, it fits hand in glove with the Clans, who had their real-world home here. In fact, many of the Scottish scenarios are based on the real 1963 timetable, operated by Carlisle based Clans! You are going to be doing everything from driving the “Northern Irishman” from Stranraer to Carlisle, to running school specials and transporting fish and oil. Some scenarios also take place in the dark, but fear not, a working Bardic lamp will illuminate the footplate for an atmospheric experience. The developers have included as a bonus to the package a set of period Mark 1 coaches in crimson and green which are put to good use here. A neat touch is the escape of steam from the coach heating pipes. If you are looking for the ultimate in period operations, then look no further. A Clan waiting patiently at the platform at Stranraer, steam drifting across the station is incredibly evocative and a fitting tribute to a class of loco that failed to make it in to preservation.
Pristine In Preservation
Yet, what if examples of the class were preserved? The scenarios take care of that too, with scenarios for the Mid-Hants heritage railway, offering a couple of hours of trundling down their tracks. Railtour fans are fully catered for with the multi-part “The Royal Dutchy” which affords the opportunity to drive from Bristol to Newton Abbot, courtesy of JT’s own Bristol to Exeter route and the newly released Riveria Line. It is hard for a steam fan not to get excited by belting along by the sea wall at Dawlish! There is also an opportunity to explore another JT route (Bristol and Avonmouth) with a railtour along the Severn Beach. London to Faversham also features with a drive from Gravesend.
The real highlights for me, Scottish scenarios excepted, are likely to stir the blood of any steam fan, with a fantastic opportunity to drive Hengist from Carlisle to Settle (Settle and Carlisle route) and conquer the long climb to Ais Gill summit. When you have completed that, how about attempting the notorious climb to Shap Summit with Hengist under the wires on the West Coast Main Line (West Coast Mainline Over Shap route)? These torturous routes are also a perfect testing group for the loco sounds. How often do we see a mighty locomotive in TS2014 only to hear sounds with a disappointing hiss and gurgle that seem sampled from my kitchen kettle? These sounds set the matter to rights as the Clan is gloriously noisy, totally authentic and awe inspiring, from the synchronised chuffing to the ear piercing release from the safety valves and double whistle.
There is simply something for everyone, with intricate scenarios that have been carefully thought through, both for their realism and appeal. There are no fish out of water scenarios here, with over 20 hours of driving. The loco and routes chosen come together beautifully with credible and challenging activities that are deeply immersive and satisfy the soul of steam fans! Please JT, can we have a further scenario expansion pack to continue the love affair with the Clan?
It seems almost superfluous to say that the Clan package is the most realistic steam loco simulation yet for TS2014 but it really has to be said. The modelling, physics, scenarios and sound come together in a fantastic fusion that recreate the Clan’s personality to perfection!
(reviewed with service pack installed)
[AUTHOR] Jane Rachel Whittaker