Bossman Games have become very well-known in the Train Simulator world for their highly advanced steam locomotive add-ons, starting a few years ago with the LMS Black 5.
This is a review of the original, streamlined Merchant Navy locomotives, including what they are like to drive in Train Simulator 2021.
What’s in the SR Merchant Navy Class pack?
The Bossman Games pack replicates all 30 members of the class as they originally were. The locos were built in three batches, Series 1 to Series 3, and each is included in the Bossman Pack to faithfully replicate each engine.
Six liveries are included in the add-on, which are the Southern Malachite Green, Southern Wartime Black, British Railways Malachite Green, as well as British Railways Green, Express Passenger Blue, and Experimental Blue with Red Stripes.
Various tender types are also part of the pack, with 5,000, 5,100, and 6,000-gallon examples included. You’ll also find 40 headboards, nine scenarios, 80 quick drives, and custom locomotive numbers in the package.
The Merchant Navy class comprised of 30 locomotives, which were built from 1941 to 1949. Initially built with air-smoothed casings by the Southern Railway, they were designed by Oliver Bulleid, and all 30 were latterly rebuilt into a more conventional form by British Railways.
Built as fast express locomotives, 11 examples have survived into preservation in rebuilt form, although one group is aiming to restore No.35011 “General Steam Navigation” into its original, air-smoothed form.
How to drive the original Merchant Navy class
Bossman Games have really gone to town on replicating the realistic performance of these locos as best as they can – what with us not having any modern data of the engines in their original forms.
Bulleid’s Pacifics, of Merchant Navy and Light Pacific form, could be quite light on their feet if driven too aggressively and if power was applied too quickly – which is shown by the highly accurate wheel-spin physics.
If you gently open the regulator to increase the power, you will pull away from most stations with ease: even with a long, heavy train. The steam chest is accurately simulated, with this being the delay from when you open the regulator, which allows the steam to pass into the cylinders.
Once on the move, you will soon be able to wind in the reversing gear to reduce the piston stroke of the locomotive. Think of this as going into a higher gear on your car and lowering the revs, except we are lowering the usage of steam. The reverser is steam-operated, a novel feature that Bossman have replicated in this package.
You will find firing and driving tricky in Train Sim, but it is possible, and you will be grateful that, as in real life, the free steaming characteristics of the locos have been replicated brilliantly. When you get to grips with the class, they are very forgiving to drive.
Inside the cab itself is beautifully detailed, with each control accurately modelled and textured, and the cab comes complete with a 3D firebox, too. The gauge glass levels alter depending on if you are going up or down a hill, and the gauges themselves, be it the speed or boiler pressure, vibrate as you pick up speed.
How detailed is the original Merchant Navy class?
It might sound a bit mundane, but talking about the detailing of the locomotive itself is still important. Each series of locomotive is faithfully recreated to the highest detail, such as the different cab fronts and the cutouts around the driving wheels.
All of the various bits of pipework are very accurately recreated, and you can even see the damper and brake blocks moving as you open and shut the damper and apply the train brakes.
Texture-wise, each livery really does pop out, with crisp and sharp colours that are also quite kind to the game’s frame rate. The menacing wartime black livery is a particular highlight, and the red-striped blue livery is certainly an attractive design.
Does the original Merchant Navy class replicate the real sounds?
At the end of the day, if it doesn’t sound like what it’s replicating, an add-on isn’t going to stand up well in Train Sim 2021.
Bossman Games, however, have done a superb job with the sounds, particularly because the original locomotives probably had a subtly different sound in their rebuilt forms. The sounds have been recorded from rebuilt survivor No.35028 “Clan Line,” a locomotive that is preserved in the finest condition.
The Merchant Navy pack replicates the three-cylinder beat of the engine beautifully, with a soft but crisp exhaust that maintains a good sound loop as you pick up speed. There are various whistle sounds, too, ranging from shorter blasts to longer ones, with the sometimes chilling sound of the Bulleid whistle really immersing you in the experience.
The noise in the cab is quite loud and hectic as you get faster – exactly as it would have been in real life on the mainline – and even simpler things such as the sound of the firebox doors opening and the injectors being used add to pitch-perfect replication of a bygone era of our railways.
The engine also has sounds for the electric generators that powered the cab lights on the locomotive, adding a pleasing whirring sound in the background. Also, the distinctive sound that a Bullied makes when its train brakes are released is present.
Is the Merchant Navy Train Sim DLC worth getting?
When it comes to value for money, Bossman Games have knocked it out of the park once again.
One could argue that the £19.99 price tag undervalues this creation, given the number of hours and money that will go into the research, obtaining drawings, sound recordings, and everything else that goes into making a Train Sim add-on.
Bossman Games have produced a highly detailed, accurate, and most importantly, immersive representation of a fascinating class of locomotive. It is a very satisfying and rewarding experience when driven successfully, and it absolutely sets the standard when it comes to steam locomotive add-ons in Train Simulator 2021.
This is certainly a five-out-of-five locomotive pack.
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