All Pumped Up!

Written by: Gary Dolzall

With a bit of holiday-season fun in mind, the legendary pump car (also frequently called a handcar) is out now for Train Simulator as a free bonus to registered members of TS Rewards and to owners of TS2016 on Christmas Day!

Who needs diesel, steam, or even horse power?
Get ready to flex your muscles with the free
Pump Car for Train Simulator!

America’s first common carrier railroad, the legendary Baltimore & Ohio, was chartered in 1827 and opened for revenue service three years later. Within a decade, the still-youthful United States was consumed by railroad-building fever, and by 1854, rails stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the wide Mississippi River. With California having become a state in 1850, a transcontinental railroad became the ultimate dream of America’s railroad builders, and amid the dark days of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act authorizing railroad construction to the continent’s Pacific Ocean shores. With the driving of a golden spike at Promontory Point, Utah, the meeting place of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroads, on May 10, 1869, all of America was linked by rail.

Even before the transcontinental railroad was stretched across the vast American west, railroad mileage in the United States has grown to more than 30,000 miles of trackage. And to build – and maintain – all those miles of track required thousands of workers, track gangs, and gandy-dancers. And that, in turn, required a means – simple, reliable, and inexpensive – to transport the work crews along the rights-of-way.

The solution: A set of flanged wheels (usually four), a platform on which to ride (usually wooden), and a metal mechanism to translate human muscle into forward motion. Enter the much beloved (and often cursed) pump car!

And now, with a bit of holiday fun (and muscle building) in mind, the pump car (also frequently called a handcar) is out now for Train Simulator as a free bonus to registered members of TS Rewards and to owners of TS2016 on Christmas Day.

Pump cars became a standard fixture of American railroading in the 1860s and it has been estimated that more than 10,000 of the little creations likely were in service during their nineteenth century heyday. Many handcars were built by the individual railroads, but manufacturers such as Buda, Kalamazoo, and Sheffield actively promoted and built handcars into the early twentieth century. Handcars varied in design, from simple push carts to cars operated by a hand-crank mechanism, but the most familiar and famous of the cars were “powered” by riders pushing down and/or pulling up on each side of a see-saw-like set of arms, known as a walking beam. Brakes (if you could call them that) for the pump car were typically provided by a wooden foot pedal.

Depending upon their intended use, car size varied from small, single-person, three-wheeled “velocipedes” to cars capable of carrying a dozen workers, but most cars were designed to carry a typical section crew of four to six workers. The pump car is most synonymous with vintage, nineteenth century American railroading, in part thanks to its appearance in countless Hollywood movies ranging from the 1926 edition of “The General” starring Buster Keaton to Mel Brooks’ 1974 “Blazing Saddles.” But in truth, the handcar was a nearly universal tool of railroaders that could be found around the globe, from Canada to Siberia to Australia.

In the early twentieth century, with the advent of small internal combustion engines, the human-powered handcar quickly made its way into the history books as far as regular railroad use, but acquiring, restoring, riding, and even racing pump cars has since emerged as a hobby.

And, so, it is entirely fitting – and utterly fun – that the pump car makes its way to Train Simulator! Whether you wish to use your pump car for a leisurely ride along a scenic Train Simulator route, to test your driving (and muscle) skills, or to try your hand at some delightful and occasionally tongue-in-cheek Train Simulator challenges and contest we have in store, it’s time to get pumped up! – Gary Dolzall


Recreating the pump car which, quite literally, helped build and maintain railroads in America and elsewhere around the world, the new Train Simulator bonus model will require you to “put your back into it” while working the walking beam (above and below). Screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

With a bit of extra fun in mind, the pump car comes with a trailer cart that is equipped with an American-style knuckle coupler for latching onto some rolling stock and trying some heavy-totting challenges. Note: Screenshots depict content still in development.

Although used across the globe in the formative years of railroading, the pump car is perhaps most famous and synonymous with the great American west, where it played a role in helping to construct the transcontinental railroad which remains vibrant today as Union Pacific’s Sherman Hill route (above) and fabled Donner Pass (below).

“So, let me get this straight, you say General Grenville Dodge sent you….?”

“Beautiful scenery up here on Donner Pass, but I wished I’d brought a heavier coat ….”

“The dispatcher told me this coal gon has to be at Bailey Mine by dawn ….”

“I hope the division superintendent is enjoying his ride back in the caboose, but at least it’s now all downgrade to Gilluly …”

“The station sign ahead says Wolfsbergkogel, so I’m thinking I really took a wrong turn at Altoona .…” In truth, whatever your favorite route, on whatever continent, the free bonus Train Simulator pump car promises lots of fun and light-hearted railroading!

Profile photo of Gary Dolzall

Gary Dolzall

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