It’s been just over a year since Rail Route released into Early Access here on steam… and also nearly a year since this curated list started up! Not since we’ve started doing these highlights, of course, but it’s still pretty mind-blowing to see how far the game’s come in just a year’s time.
With all this time behind us, why don’t we take a peek back in memory lane and see some of the oldest levels in the curated list?
This is the second oldest map in the list, being released all the way back in December 2020! The other, Central, has a version of it – titled “Iron falls” – in-game. Though that map does have more history to it, being in the first version of the game EVER, its inclusion in-game means it’s already got its fair share of recognition.
Bridgeport is the second original map created by, well, the person writing this article. Arguably one of the most influential community members of all time, but I won’t compliment myself to the point of narcissism. The reason this point is important here is because of the map’s release date – December 2020. This was a period where two maps being published in a month was a miracle, and the game had only eight maps, seven of which have since been scrapped.
In the midst of all of this, one creator found their creative spark and honed it in HARD, not just figuring how to make good maps, but specifically why those maps were “good” in comparison to others. It wasn’t a process that happened overnight – Rome wasn’t built in a day – but this was one of the first maps that really pushed forwards the quality of levels created for this game, both officially and unofficially.
…Yes, not quite the first. Sue me! Two of the prior maps are already in-game and the third is similar to one of the other two, and this just seems more interesting.
When the game’s steam release was approaching, we hosted a couple of external contests – One for playing levels, and one for making them. The first was a giveaway where two lucky winners got the game for free after proving their serious interest (by beating 10/10 official levels at the time), and the second was a mapmaking contest where the winners would get their maps into the game.
Dunstable actually got first place in that mapmaking contest… but it didn’t get into the game. There were several metrics which these levels were judged on, and while Dunstable got the popular vote, it had plenty of flaws that limited its inclusion in-game. There was one massive thing that held it back: Its size.
For what it is, there’s not much going on, yet you need to zoom in pretty far due to the map’s sprawling track layout. Unfortunately, the distances between stations aren’t right for autoblocks to fit in in most places, and redesigning the level to fit on one screen would have hindered the creator’s original vision. Part of this contest was involving the community directly in the game in an engaging way, and by altering the level too much, we would have ruined the creator’s original vision, disconnecting their involvement with the level’s creation.
Don’t get me wrong – the level won the popular vote, rightfully so, as it is a fun map – it just wasn’t quite up to the in-game standards visually, and restoring it to that standard would have ruined the creator’s connection to the map.
In the end, though, you’re still capable of playing it here on the workshop, uploaded by its original creator!
Honestly, I’m surprised we haven’t seen more maps that utilize switchbacks. Like, seriously, it’s a really clever way to create conflict for a map. Kinda a shame creators haven’t tried the idea out more.
This map was made by a creator who used to be prominent in the community when the game first came out. Their creations were often a bit experimental – for example, the switchbacks on this map mixed with the ridiculously slow train speeds – but often entertaining regardless. A small selection of their maps are available here on the workshop, though most of their legacy is kinda lost to the old level sharing methods.
DHR mini is a great representation of their creativity, with an entirely single-track route littered with switchbacks and weird loops, representing the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway as it climbs back and forth up the mountainsides. The limited speeds, single-cab trains, and short station platforms really help sell the region.
We’ve also added some new levels – yes, new, not things around a year old – to the curated list:
Blairfort & Millings
NEC New York Penn – AM Rush
And last month’s weekly contest seeds + maps were:
May 30th-June 6th – Karabo – axonaa
6th-13th – Den Haag – amstdm
13th-20th – Oven Hightide – freght
20th-27th – Gare du Nord – ttolai
June 27th-July 4th – Steel Bridge – lgtral