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Developed by the WHOOP GROUP and Published by EXCALIBUR GAMES 'TRACKS' is the nearest most of us will ever get to having an indoor Model Railway like the super pop/rock star Rod Stewart. His attic-built million-dollar train set has been in the news recently as one of the, if not actually the, largest home train sets in the world [2 photos below courtesy of the internet - all rights belonging to the owner].

Now I am not saying that you can recreate Rod Stewart's amazing set up, but at just under £17.00 TRACKS is a much cheaper option and is also easier to change around, just a few left or right button clicks on your mouse.


Beginning with a blank sheet you select Track Building from the top right menu, and then off you go placing tracks in 'straights' and 'curves' including raised and lowered tracks and tracks running side by side, everything done by just a few clicks, as I said.


WASD or the ARROW keys act as your camera, showing you all possible angles of your build. There is no selecting straights or curves it is literally just the way you move the mouse whilst laying the track. As you see the track onscreen one left mouse click puts the rail in place, a right mouse track deleting the previously laid rail whatever its  shape. Continually pressing the rmb will continue to remove laid tracks. Once you have created a linked track, or have even just laid tracks on the floor that do not connect, you can obtain an engine by clicking on the icon; you'll find it just to the left of the 'build track' icon top right.


The engine will appear on your tracks, you just need to go to 'Train mode' and press W to go forward or S to go in reverse [arrow keys also work]. Pressing W or S continually is like putting your foot on the accelerator (if this was an actual railway you would be adding more fuel and opening up the steam power) so that the train speeds up.

If you forget to link the railway or decide not to, and you run the train, it will literally 'go off the rails' when it reaches the end of the line. However it will not stop then, it will continue to chug-a-chug across the floor and you can still control it. Not many home built model railways can do that!


When you are happy with your knowledge of building and running a railway set it is time to stop playing on just the plain floor. There are many buildings, such as Stations, Banks, Stores, Houses etc plus Trees, Bushes, Lampposts, Fences and so many more street ornaments that are available to you at the click of a mouse button, until you have created your own Village/s, Town/s, Cities etc through which you can either build your railway, or you can place them alongside and/or around your previously built train lines.


Not only can you create your own country/suburban scenario railway system but you can also set your design in and around a home or office environment - chairs, cupboards, tables etc. In my screenshot below you can see a home office setting. I started the railway on the first storey of the odd-shaped shelf unit [in the foreground] and ran it to the left (as you look at it). When I got to the edge of the shelf, which appears to be about 12 inches high, I expected a support column of some sort  to automatically drop and hold up the rail line, descending as a slope to the floor. Instead of a supporting column nothing happened, the track just sloped down, held up by fresh air (okay it's an office set so the air might not be so fresh) and yet still rigidly strong enough for a train engine to run along it.


As you progress you can run more than one train, you can decal your train/s, you can build your personal trainset almost to the limit of your imagination. It's not what I would call a 'great game' but then I was never a model railway enthusiast, I liked toys such as Scalextric where you could build a track and race cars or motor-bikes around it. I like the building aspect but I also want it to do something when it's completed. Trainset building is fabulous but there's no actual end result other than seeing your train/s choo-choo around and around.

I will admit again though that the actual building of railways - I made more than one and played for hours - gave me an enormous amount of fun and satisfaction. On saying that, I think I have hit the nail on the head. This isn't so much a 'game' per se, but more of an exercise in design gratification and contentment. With that in mind as the goal, TRACKS takes on a totally different perspective and becomes a lot more playable.


Special events, such as Christmas, are taken into account (see above) and add a little more light entertainment to your enjoyment, delight and fulfillment.


© Chris Baylis 2011-2015