Railroad Tycoon

Publisher: Microprose
Machine: Amiga 500

Published in Zzap #73

Railroad Tycoon

If you've ever fancied being a pioneering railway chappie like Isambard Kingdom Brunel, J Edgar Thompson or Casey Jones, then Railroad Tycoon is just the (railway) ticket for you. The 19th Century was a time of great expansion, and as a budding tycoon you have four possible 'play areas' in which to build your railroad: East USA (1830), West USA (1866), England (1828) and Europe (1900).

Once the location is selected you must choose one of four difficulty levels ranging from investor to Tycoon. This dictates how much is earned with each delivery, and how many years you can play before retirement. You then select the reality level, the factors here are No Collision Operation/Despatch Operation, Friendly Operation/Cut-Throat Operation and Basic Economy/Complex Economy. Finally the difficulty factor affects your retirement bonus and tycoon rating at the end of the game.

After identifying a random locomotive from the huge 180-page manual, you are presented with a geological map of the relevant play area and the fun starts. So pick a starting point and build. You begin with a one million pound loan from investors but be careful because the cash is soon gobbled up. Once two cities are linked by tracks it's time to build a station, there are three types on offer - depot, station and terminal - with a signal box also available to make sure that you don't have any nasty accidents (if the collision option is enabled). Trains are the next consideration. Depending on the time period, locomotives range from the likes of Stevenson's Rocket to modern electric-powered monsters.

Railroad Tycoon

Along the top of the screen are five pull-down menus:

  1. Game (shows news reports, train messages, etc)
  2. Display (used to zoom in and out of the map)
  3. Reports (to call up balance sheets, train incomes, stocks, etc)
  4. Build (trains, stations, industries, etc), and
  5. Action (call broker, survey, name railroad, etc)

Of course, the whole point of the exercise is to make money, so it's best to scout around and take note of what natural and man-made resources are available. For example, by transporting cotton to a factory and then a town or port, the cotton industries grow. Also, take note of the news bulletins that regularly appear on-screen - they either warn of rival railway companies encroaching on other territories (usually yours), or the economic climate which dips and rises regularly. At a bad time the investors will become very worried and this reflects badly on you if you ain't doing your job properly. Boom periods are highly desirable but (typically) these aren't as common as bad periods.

Your time as a railroad tycoon can come to the end of the line in one of four ways:

  1. you are replaced by the shareholders,
  2. rival railroads launch a takeover bid,
  3. the amount of years you chose to play are up, or
  4. you retire voluntarily.
Railroad Tycoon

Your funds are then totted up and you are offered a replacement job ranging from Tramp to Prime Minister!


Hang on, if I build a line between Ludlow and Birmingham perhaps I'll be able to get to PR launches a bit quicker... oh sorry, you caught me in the middle of a game of Railroad Tycoon.

I managed to sneak a few games in on the PC version when TGM (RIP) reviewed it a year or so ago and I'm still hooked now. The strange thing is that the graphics on the Amiga are very similar to the PC's, so why the long wait?

Railroad Tycoon

Not that I'm complaining, this is one of the best strategy games around: the play areas are so large and there is so much to take into consideration that you can live out your childhood dreams and be an engine dreams and be an engine driver.

Even on Investor level with the difficulty set low, there is enough to keep you absorbed for ages, but add to that train collisions, unfriendly competitors etc and the game soon becomes very taxing. Even at thirty quid it's an essential purchase.


Ever since I played the PC version to death I've been waiting for the Miggy version of this ultimate in capitalism, and I'm well chuffed it's here! Who cares about the trendiness of the subject matter when you've got a million dollars in your pocket and an entire country to railroad over? My Sacremento-Reno line has seen me glued to the game into the early hours - I'll never ridicule a four-eyed train spotter again!

Railroad Tycoon

Even at its most basic level with no collisions or aggressive companies to worry about, Railroad Tycoon is constantly demanding, utterly compulsive and addictive beyond belief. Building rail routes, seeking out new areas for a profil and just trying to keep the whole network in the black (or is it the red? No wonder my railroads kept going down the tubes!) makes Sim City look positively simple by comparison. Oh, and didn't I mention the fact that you can actually manipulate the industries of the cities through the expansion of your rail network? After playing this, I feel up to the task of getting BR back on the right tracks!

Throw in three other landscapes, the challenge of making as efficient/large a network as possible and the ultimate goal of becoming President of the United States and you've a game that's gone straight into my all-time fave game list.


Presentation 93%
Informative 180-page manual. Nice in-game presentation screens add to the atmosphere.

Railroad Tycoon

Graphics 83%
Detailed and very colourful sprites chuff around the countryside. Looks suspiciously PC-ish though.

Sound 68%
No main tune, limited but good FX.

Hookability 92%
The game instantly grabs you by the throat and doesn't let go.

Lastability 96%
With four levels of difficulty, four countries to choose from and a wide range of variable incidents, Railroad Tycoon will keep you playing for a very long time.

Overall 96%
Brilliantly addictive and wonderfully implemented, Railroad Tycoon is the bee's knees of "empire building" games.