Written by: fringestalin
In my last reviews I covered East Coast Main Line: London Peterborough and some add-on content for the route. Now I head north of the border to cover one of my personal favourites, West Coast Main Line North.
The West Coast Main Line is the busiest mixed-traffic railway in the United Kingdom with around 2,500 to 4,000 trains using the line everyday carrying between 30 and 75 million people per year. The 401 mile (645km) route runs from London Euston and winds its way through the Watford Gap, Trent Valley, the Pennines, the Lake District, and the southern Scottish lowlands before finishing the epic twisting journey at Glasgow Central. Its primary and so far only franchised intercity operator is Virgin Trains.
Developed by Keith Ross, WCML North covers the 102 miles (164km) of track between Carlisle and Glasgow Central along with some of the commuter lines around Glasgow and Lanarkshire and other areas, with no less than 26 stations on the whole route with speeds of up to 125mph (200km/h) on the main line. So does this wind its way between stations perfectly, or does it only serve to wind you up?
West Coast Main Line North covers the very long stretch of track between Glasgow Central and Carlisle along with some suburban lines on the northern part of the route. Default stock includes some of the standard classic European add-on trains like the Class 37 and 47 with some passenger and freight consists, with the primary train being the ever complicated but very rewarding Class 86 electric locomotive. This route is set in the early 1990s during British Rail’s final years with stations having changed very little since this time period. Additional DLC includes the Class 325 and Class 390 add-on packs along with several others.
The first thing you will notice about this route from my images and the minute you enter it in-game is that it is filled with an incredible amount of detail. Every little thing from trackside signs to station models are done with maximum effort and as much attention to detail as possible. It’s a real pleasure to simply look at this route. Whether you are finishing the last hour of your journey on the Down Fast, or starting the first hour of your journey on the Up Fast, it is a real joy to watch the world go by. Bearing in mind that you should mostly be concentrating on what’s in front of you, but that in itself is another pleasure to the eyes.
The add-ons available for this route just add a great feel to it. I own both the Class 325 and Class 390, and both blend in with the route really nicely even despite it being set in a pre-privatisation era with the latter train introduced after privatisation. Most British stock never looks too out of place on this route, if they look out of place at all.
One other thing that makes this route worthy of praise is that it was not only built mostly by one individual, Keith Ross, but it was also built WITHOUT custom assets. Most of the assets you see on this route are existing assets either used again, or repainted to look like new assets. Only certain assets such as Glasgow Central have been newly built for the purpose of the route, not done by Keith Ross but by other people. Everything is used to full potential on this route, and it serves the game very well.
Good news, this route has very few cons. Bad news, they’re still cons. First thing is the fact that the Class 86 is very difficult to drive for newcomers to the route, and I have been unable to find a tutorial in the game for it, and so most players are left on their own to figure it out for themselves or look for a tutorial online. If you own West Coast Main Line Over Shap and have played the Class 87 tutorial, then you will have a very good idea on what to do, but because this route came first, most players went a long time without a tutorial for driving such a complex train, and I believe it wouldn’t have killed to include a tutorial in game.
Another problem with this route is its Quick Drive routes. In the Up Direction it’s simple and straightforward (unless you want to count the big curves) with no diversions. However, in the Down Direction there is some diversions. You travel onto a small 40mph line used to probably park small freight trains to allow fast trains to pass on the approach to Lockerbie, and you are diverted onto a slow 40mph line probably used for the same reason through Polmadie. This serves to just slow you down, and there is no reason that it couldn’t have been straightforward.
Finally, while the route length isn’t an issue, it’s the stations. On the main line, there are only four stations, Motherwell, Carluke, Carstairs and Lockerbie between Glasgow and Carlisle, and they are quite the distance apart, especially Carstairs and Lockerbie being about 62 miles (100km) apart. This is fine if you love express passenger trains like me, but if you love stopping passenger trains, then you are mostly confined to the suburban lines on the northern part of the route, which is great fun in itself. Keith Ross only built what was presented to him, so the lack of stations is not his fault really, so let’s just say it’s a kind of natural problem.
Despite the problems with this route, it’s very easy to forget them once you are fully immersed into the beautiful Scottish countryside. I really cannot recommend this route enough, even without additional content it can be fun to drive. It’s much better with other DLC of course like every route, but I’m sure you can actually live without it for a little while.
All in all, the route has a lot of potential for local stopping passengers around Glasgow or long distant express passengers down to Carlisle. With freight yards included like Shieldur or Kingmoor, freight has just as much potential for this route too.
Winding its way through Scotland and England without winding me up too much, Fringe Stalin gives 4.7 out of 5 Stars for West Coast Main Line North by Keith Ross. Cheers for checking out this review and let me know what you think.