The Micro User

Evening Star

Author: Nev Astly
Publisher: Hewson Consultants
Machine: BBC/Electron

Published in The Micro User 5.10

Sounding very much like a local newspaper, Evening Star is the name of the locomotive in a new railway simulation program from Hewson.

In your joint roles of fireman and driver you must traverse 70 miles of undulating countryside from Bath to Bourne mouth - safely, economically and, above all, on time!

For a railway enthusiast this is a daunting task - for an absolute novice it's damn near impossible. Thankfully those frightfully nice people at Hewson have built in a multitude of options which allow you toassume varying degrees of control over the Evening Star.

Evening Star

The instructions consist of two leaflets: The first is entiled "How a steam locomotive works" and covers each of the engine's controls, its function, and any associated safety factors. Leaflet number two details the keyboard controls and the eight game options available.

The simulation usesa comprehensive yet easily read display. The Evening Star moves against a line drawing background - stations, tunnels, and bridges are all drawn in perspective as you approach. To the right of this is a profile of the next mile and a half of the route - this enables you to take a run at the hills or prepare to brake on the descents.

The left half of the screen shows the status of the next signal, your current speed, and the state of your coal and water reserves.

Evening Star

Before starting any run you are asked what degree of control you wish to have over the proceedings. Selecting the easiest option you control the regulator, cut-off. and brake.

As your ability increases you may add blower, whistle, firing and injector - gradually building up to total control. At any point during a run you may call up a timetable which displays the stations on your route, the scheduled time of arrival, and the actual time ofarrival for any stations you have passed. From the timetable screen you can access the events log, which provides an up-to-the-minute list of all your blunders.

Having always been a doer rather than a thinker I gave the instructions a cursory glance and then plumped for option two - the training run. This is a straight forward blast from Bath to Evercreech junction - the only constraints being that you pass through each of the intermediate stations on schedule and stop in the correct position at your terminus.

Evening Star

The next two options are based around the same short route but with additional problems: The first sees the appearance of speed limits on the route, the second expects you to stop at stations and obey any signals you may encounter.

Option 5 is similar to the previous run. but is carried out over the full 70 miles. A chance to get your name in the record books is on offer in the sixth option - a non-stop sprint from Bath to Bournemouth.

Evening Star has that special something which separates the simulators from the games - realism!

Nev Astly

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