Bossman Games are one of the best producers of content for Dovetail Games’ Train Simulator franchise, specialising in British steam locomotives. All of their add-ons are highly advanced, none more so than the Rebuilt Merchant Navy class engine pack. Here, we are going to take a deep dive into the pack’s contents and how it drives.
The Rebuilt Merchant Navy pack
As was the case with the SR Merchant Navy pack, the Rebuilt pack contains every member of the 30-strong Merchant Navy class. This time, though, the engines are covered in their later condition, when British Railways rebuilt the class to ease maintenance – which also gave them a much more conventional outline. Due to the engines taking on one new form, as opposed to the Series 1 to 3 styles of the original class, there isn’t a lot of variety between each class member, bar name and number.
However, 35028 ‘Clan Line,’ one of the lucky 11 to be preserved, is represented in its own guise as it is today, with modern braking features for its mainline running. Plus, her support coach has been featured. The 35018 ‘British India Line’ is included in its fictional BR Black testing livery, whilst the BR Express Blue that ‘Canadian Pacific’ has carried in preservation is also included, with the ability to renumber the engine to any other Merchant Navy class member.
A total of 30 examples were built of these engines from 1941 to 1949, and they were originally all built in an air-smoothed casing style before they were rebuilt into this conventional form. None have been preserved in their original guise, although No.35011 ‘General Steam Navigation’ is being un-rebuilt to recreate an original example.
Five different tender types are included. These are the 5,000-gallon, 5,1000-gallon, 5,250-gallon, 6,000-gallon, and Clan Line’s modern tender with air braking equipment. As with every other Bossman Games pack, the driving physics are highly advanced, and the engine has realistic sounds recorded from ‘Clan Line’. There are also 35 headboards stretching from service life to preservation, and weathered examples of the class are included with both nameplates on and removed, as they were near the end of their service lives.
Driving the Merchant Navy in Train Sim
In terms of driving the rebuilt examples of the engines, they are very similar to the original versions of the class in their air smoothed form. More modern data is available from preserved members of the class to replicate how they are in Train Simulator. Again, the class is quite light on its feet, so initially, you should take some care when opening the regulator and applying the power. The realistic adhesion and wheel spin physics are a testament to this.
Once you have got going and traction is good, you can start to open the regulator further and wind in the reverser to reduce the engine’s piston stroke and effectively go into a higher gear. Unlike the original class, the rebuilt engines had a regular screw reverser with a lock, whereas the original engines had the novel steam reverser. The engines are still very free steaming in rebuilt form, although perhaps not quite as much as they were originally. Still, more attention must be paid to getting the water feed settings for the injectors right whilst on the move.
Firing and driving at the same time is tricky, but of course, in real life, there are drivers, a fireman, and not just one person on the footplate. So, don’t be afraid to turn on auto-fireman and concentrate on the driving side of things, but you must also sort out the injectors, even with auto-fireman on. Once you have got to grips with the class, it is quite a forgiving and powerful engine, and you can admire the beautifully detailed cab. The gauge glass levels wobble on the move, the firebox is 3D, the gauges wobble as you get faster, and there are more modern braking features on show in the ‘Clan Line’ cab as well.
The detailing on the Rebuilt Merchant Navy class
There is, perhaps, more detail to be seen on the rebuilt locomotives over the streamlined versions as a lot of the features on the class are more exposed now that the casing has been removed. These are features such as the mechanical lubricators, which are on show along the running board of the engine, and fully animated as the locomotive is on the move.
The texturing and detailing is superb; the basic model itself really representing the clean and attractive proportions of this class well. The weathered examples are a particular highlight, showing off just how dirty the engines were towards the end of active steam on British railways. It’s easy to forget just how filthy these engines could get, with heritage railways and mainline operators.
The sounds of the Merchant Navy
Bossman Games have captured the sounds of these iconic locos beautifully, and it is abundantly clear that the sounds are from the real-life locomotive. The iconic three-cylinder Bulleid Pacific beat, clearly heard as you’re driving along, with various long and short whistle blasts that are also recorded from ‘Clan Line’. It’s a soft but crisp exhaust sound that emits from the locomotive’s chimney, and the sounds get even better inside the locomotive.
There is plenty of noise as you pick up speed, replicating just how loud a steam locomotive cab could get in the days of British Railways – when steam once reigned supreme. The distinctive ejector sound that the Bulleid makes when its brakes are released is also present; the pleasing hum of the electric generators for the various lights inside the cab is beautifully recreated as well.
We gave the original Merchant Navy class pack, in their air-smoothed form, a five-out-of-five, and the same can be said for this pack too. Again priced at £19.99, this pack perhaps undersells just how good of a job Bossman Games has done at replicating one of the most powerful express passenger locomotives ever seen on Britain’s railways. It’s a highly accurate and immersive representation of the ultimate in Southern Region steam and is ideal for anyone’s virtual railway in Train Simulator 2021.