AirToob Lightning
I like looking on the bright side. I relate very much to the Mediterranean extended-family, take-it-slow, money-isn't-everything outlook on life. I'm not a great cook but I like cooking, especially Mediterranean food (my recipe page is here). I'm interested in environmental issues. My main hobby is flying (on a PC simulator).

The people I admire most are those who see no end to pain, illness, grief or disability and who still retain a sense of humour, people who spend time making life better for others in any way, and people with toxic parents who have "broken the chain" in bringing up their own children.

I also greatly admire people who put their own lives on the line for what they believe in (so long as they are not inspired by religious hatred), and people who defend us against the darkness of anti-science and the growing political assault on facts.

If you like my pages you will probably also enjoy my web site - do visit! You can get a quick flavour of it here.

PS: I'm a refugee from StumbleUpon. I have copied all of my old SU reviews (the ones containing images) here, except for some not-so-good and outdated bits.

As Michelle in 'Allo, 'Allo might say, please read the following very carefully - I shall write it only once!

I'm a great believer in tags. SU restricted you to 5 tags per post (and then only for site-review posts), but here you can have as many tags per post as will fit into about 200 characters, so I have tried to take full advantage.

For example, you can select from this blog (if you want to) only posts to do with arts, science, entertainment, books, movies, music, environment and so on.

If you're feeling down (or even if you aren't), try this selection of things to enjoy in life, which is pretty much what these pages are all about.

You will find a larger selection of my favourite tags here (or click the White Rabbit below).

The main thing is: if you like something about one of my posts, try clicking the corresponding tag at the top of the post. If you keep doing this, you may find yourself navigating down some nice paths through this blog (for example, this one or this one).

Among these tags you will find the name of a Categorian or Stumbler if their work features in that post, so if you click one of those names (e.g. expressioniste or johnshaven) then you will get (hopefully) a nice selection of that particular person's work as it appears on my blog.

You can find my posts that introduce other Categorians if you click the Cat... then if you like one of the posts that you find, click that Categorian's tag on that post to see everything that I have snaffled from that person! (And you can do the same for ex-Stumblers if you click the image to the right.)

There are plenty more tags to choose from. Enjoy your visit!

WHITE RABBITS - If you're pressed for time, and you would like a quick sample of what I think are the best of these pages, or help in finding quickly what you need, then go here or click the White Rabbit!

Click the cat to chat!

OK, so you're in a hurry and missed the White Rabbit... Just to point out that there's a lot of (hopefully) good stuff hidden in the back pages that most people don't see. If you want a fast sample that jumps you in at different points, try clicking the Coyote!

Once you're there, you can follow a sequence by clicking the chevrons >> at the end of a post, or try clicking a tag you like at the top of a post.

Have fun!

Brian's miscellaneous rambles...

... with words (thoughts on Life, the Universe and Everything) - click the image to the left

... with pictures (my photos and photoblogs) - click the image to the right!


For essential Categorian help, just click Help at the top of your screen - and don't forget to make Help your "friend", that way you can easily see when new help information has been added.

It can really, really help to know something about HTML and web pages, if you don't already.
Try here for pointers to some good stuff (even for complete beginners), and also the web design utilities that Matt lists here - and don't miss Karenak's Guide for Categorian Beginners and Borderline's Categorian Help.

When you look at someone's awesome web page and wonder "How do they do that?" then (if you know at least a little HTML) try looking at the source text ("Page Source") for that page. You can do this from the "View" menu of browsers (or Ctrl+U on Firefox or Chrome) - some later versions of browsers hide it under "Web Developer" or similar.

My own Categorian Help posts will be found here, and my Computer Help posts will be found here.

Do you want your reviews to be noticed by other users?

Do you want to find other users who share the same interests as you?

Do you want to be notified of new site reviews for topics that you like?

The Categorian Library is your key to all these things... if you need some help with it, you might find some useful stuff here (or click the image).

HERE BE TREASURE - or my archive pages, anyway:

1 (Oct 2007) | 2 (Jan 2008) | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 (Jan 2009) | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 (Jan 2010)| 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 (Jan 2011) | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 (Oct 2011) | Nov | Dec 2011 | Jan 2012 | Feb | Apr | May | Jun-Aug | Sep | Oct | Nov | Dec 2012 | Jan 2013 | Feb | Mar-May | July | Aug | Sep-Nov | Nov-Dec 2013 | Jan-Feb 2014 | Jun-Jul | Aug-Sep | Oct-Dec 2014 | Jan 2015 | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | July | Aug-Sep | Sep-Oct | Dec 2015 | Jan 2016 | Feb-May | Jun-Sep | Oct-Nov | Nov-Dec 2016 | Jan 2017 | Feb-Apr | May-Jul | July-Aug | Aug-Nov 2017 | Nov 2017-Feb 2018 | Mar-Jun 2018 | Jul-Oct 2018 | Nov 2018-Aug 2019 |

Archive pages 1 to 34, and part of 35, come from my StumbleUpon blog. Dates in brackets refer to original post dates on SU. Because I transferred the blog manually, dates in my Categorian blog prior to October 10th 2011 (unless marked as original dates) are the date of the transfer.

Archive pages present posts in increasing-date order (oldest first). This is the opposite direction to the "normal" blog pages which are in decreasing-date order (newest first). One effect of this is that the contents of a given archive page (page 5, say) always remain the same, unless you delete something, whereas the contents of a given page on the "normal" blog keep changing as you add stuff to the front.

In August 2017 I had to go back through all of my pages, rescuing them from Photobucket. It turned out to be a rediscovery of favourite memories going back to early StumbleUpon days in 2007. They were a nice reminder to me, so I gathered them into a 2-part post - maybe they will bring back nice memories for other people too.

I call them “A stroll down Memory Lane”. Click the old gramaphone, or go here, if you would like to come along...

Annie's Farmhouse, near Florence, where we stayed with our extended family many moons ago
(from my web site - click the image to visit)

This is a kind of picture-postcard to tell you that my web site has had to be moved to a new place.

The home page is now here, and the old web site will be deleted in a few days' time.

“All the Colours of the Rainbow - Solar Phlox” by Claudia Shifferova, whose other work is well worth checking out

The world is horrified by the coming to pass of everything that Trump and the GOP stand for.

I can do nothing but send you flowers, and a reminder that there IS a good world to be enjoyed, unlikely as it seems right now.

Click the picture if you would like to see my best-of-the-best retrospective going all the way back to StumbleUpon days (which you can also reach by clicking the old gramophone in my banner).

It may cheer you up.

Be well.

Lockdown Blues...

From the wonderful cartoon collection of moonshadow68 - don't miss the rest!

“Shepherd's Cottage, Firle” by the painter, designer, book illustrator, wood engraver and official WWII War Artist Eric Ravilious (click the image for more)

Landscape © by James Lynch, much of whose work is inspired by hang gliding in England's West Country, and who is often compared to Eric Ravilious

An Introductory Guide to Transport Fever 2

Did you know someone (maybe you) who had a model railway set up in the attic (or elsewhere), where they used to play for hours?

A great modern equivalent is the Swiss-made computer game (a simulator, really) Transport Fever 2, TF2 for short, apparently a major step up from its predecessor. Click the image to visit the game's description on Steam.

It's much more than a virtual train set, and you can essentially play with it for ever.

A quiet edge of a German town in 1904, from one of my games


This is a long post. If you want to skip to my previous post, click the chevrons >> below.


Main Game Features ~ Getting Started ~ Financial Strategy (Basics) ~ Profitability, Income & Expenditure ~ Line Management (Basics) ~ Towns, Sims & Bus Lines ~ What About Trams?~ Tram Line Mechanics ~ Streets vs Country Roads ~ Dealing with Road Congestion (*)~ Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance ~ Industries ~ Managing Production Chains ~ Date & Time, Frequency & Rate ~ Railways ~ Terminals & Platforms ~ Railway Signals & Switches ~ Dealing with Rail Congestion ~ TF2 vs Real World Train Operation ~ Airfields, Airports & Air Traffic Congestion (*) ~ Map Editor ~ What's the Point of Your Headquarters? ~ Performance (*) ~ Mods (*) ~ Useful Links
(*) = latest updates

Main Game Features

* Pretty much every locomotive, railway wagon, airplane, ship, bus and lorry developed from 1850 onwards, modelled beautifully, as well as many private vehicles used by people in the game (see here for a full list that begins with American vehicles).

* An infinite variety of beautifully-rendered landscapes and towns, choose or develop your own.

* Develop transport systems that meet the needs of people and industry (the only "game" aspect is not going bankrupt at the beginning, and then making sure you are staying profitable).

* Thousands of people (Sims) are part of the simulation, dressed appropriately for the historical year, going about their daily lives. Your job is to help them get where they want to go to work or shop, and to develop the towns and cities that they might want to live in or visit.

* Towns and people change as the years progress and new vehicles become available, or you can pause history in any particular year

* The big set of tutorials (Campaigns) give you a fascinating insight into the role transport development played from the steam age onwards, in countries all over the world.

* Watch what's going on from above, or else choose "cockpit view" for any vehicle and see what the driver sees, as in my screenshots above and below. It's a great way to enjoy the game. You can also do this for people (Sims) and even flying birds!

Another quiet town outskirt in modern China, from one of my games

Getting Started

If you're interested in playing TF2, you should expect a long and enjoyable learning curve (which I am still on).

My main learning resources were the "Campaign" tutorials (an essential starting place), the many online TF2 guides, and the very helpful TF2 Steam Discussion Forum.

The tutorials and guides taught me a lot about game mechanics, but still left me with a whole lot of questions. This introductory guide (available here on Steam) tries to answer those questions in one place. I hope that others will find it useful.

Financial Strategy (Basics)

When you are playing the “Campaign” tutorials you don't have to worry much about money.

In the Free Games, however, you start with a loan of $5,000,000 (which you can extend to $10,000,000), which doesn't go very far. So your first question is likely: “What do I invest in first in order to make enough profit to keep going?”

Many answers to that can be found by clicking the Dollar icon to the right (most images in this guide are hyperlinked to useful relevant stuff).

One useful tip: try to find a so-called golden route (great info) for cargo, where one round-trip journey can earn money on as many of its stages as possible.

Another useful tip: when you're not currently using the loan, repay most of it. Saves you paying interest.

My own startup strategy from 1850, FWIW, usually goes something like this:

1. Pick a town that will be easy/profitable to supply with one of the products it needs (see Industries below), but don't actually supply it yet.

2. Develop a first level of public transport within this town (see Towns, Sims & Bus Lines below, and in 1850 consider using horse-drawn streetcars instead of carriages, see What About Trams? below). This is relatively inexpensive and may cause the town to grow slightly, either in population or in demand for products. It may also (but needn't) make a small profit of its own at this stage of development.

3. Supply that town with a product it needs, which will increase its population as well as earning more serious money.

4. Pick another town, not necessarily the closest, and repeat steps 1. to 3.

5. (Optional) Wait patiently for money to come in, repaying the loan that isn't needed at the moment.

6. Connect these two towns with passenger transport (not road transport if possible since this will lead to congestion problems from private transport, as I describe here). This should be profitable now, and will also increase somewhat the profitability of each town's internal transport.

Financial success, however, really depends on knowing the following:

Profitability, Income & Expenditure

Your annual profit, naturally, is the difference between the annual income you get and the annual expenses you have to pay out. “Annual” here relates to a Fiscal Year , your basic accounting period, which is just over 12 minutes of playing time at 1x speed (click the link for more info).

Your only source of income is the sale of tickets, which are how you charge for transporting a unit of freight or a passenger between two points.

The ticket price you charge per unit depends on (at least) two things:

1. The straight-line distance between the start and end points (not the actual distance travelled).

2. The maximum speed of the slowest vehicle on the line.

An implication of 1. is that you may have to decide (say) on a longer route around a mountain, or a tunnel straight through it. As can be seen below, the answer may well be to tunnel straight through. See here also for an interesting discussion.

** Another implication of 1. is for a route where the distance that must be travelled is much longer than the straight-line distance, e.g. a mountain route with long zig-zags or a water route turning sharp corners. Such routes may be profitably subdivided into several straighter lines, e.g. A→B, B→C, C→D, D→E, where the lines are connected by intermediate road/rail stations or harbors.

Note that a line such as B→C can start from a different station than the one at the end of A→B, providing that the two stations are in each other's catchment areas (the areas white-highlighted when you click a station).

The money you earn in this way is shown in two ways:

1. Blue numbers flashing up on your HUD Display whenever a journey reaches its end point.

2. As the annual total for each mode of transport, shown as blue numbers in the Finances tab in your Company Finances sheet.

As in real life, you have several types of regular expenses:

1. The maintenance (running costs) of your vehicles (more on that in Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance below). This is a big item.

** Useful fact: Vehicles waiting for other vehicles to move cost exactly the same to run as vehicles moving normally. Vehicles actually waiting at a terminal (e.g. a train at a platform, or a truck at the front of a Truck Station queue) save 60% of their normal running costs.

2. The maintenance of your roads or tracks, obviously for road or rail transport only, which is higher for tunnel or bridge sections. I have found this to be a relatively tiny item (usually less than 4% of vehicle running costs, see this post).

3. The maintenance of your infrastructure, which (as it says here) comprises your rail stations, road stations, airfields, harbors, bus/tram stops, truck unload stops, depots (including shipyards), signals and waypoints. I have also found this to be a relatively tiny item for ground transportation, not so tiny for water and air, see this post).

An implication of 2. is that if it saves journey time, don't hesitate to build bridges or tunnels or to lay dual tracks.

An implication of 3. for water or air transport is that harbours and airports have less overhead if each is shared by more than one line, or at least has many vehicles using it.

The expenses you pay in this way are shown in two ways:

1. Orange numbers flashing up regularly on your HUD Display, which are for vehicle maintenance (running costs) and infrastructure maintenance. These numbers are flashed up once per “tick”, approximately a “fiscal month” (more on that here).

2. As the annual total for each mode of transport, shown as orange numbers in the Finances tab your Company Finances sheet.

Also as in real life, you have several types of one-off expenses, basically stuff like buying vehicles, laying tracks, building railway stations etc.

One-off expenses are investments that don't affect your long-term profitability, quite the reverse, and so long as you can afford it are almost always both necessary and desirable.

Don't be afraid to take out a big loan, either - the interest payments are quite small in the grand scheme of things!

Line Management (Basics)

You will naturally create Lines for each route that your vehicles will follow, using the Line Manager Tool.

A good tip: name your lines systematically, as you'll eventually have lots of them. You will find good advice here (or click the lightbulb icon).

Most other things in TF2 can also be renamed. It's very useful, for instance, to rename Road Stations with meaningful names, as this can also make Lines connecting with those Stations easier to follow.

A common decision to make is: when picking up cargo or passengers, do I wait, and if so for how long?

At the start of a production chain, or when waiting to deliver cargo to buildings that arrives in batches (e.g. by ship), it might be sensible to wait for a full load before departing. But everywhere else, I suggest your first option to try is not waiting at all (why? see the useful fact above).

Also, production chains and passenger routes take a while to get established. Running even the first load in the chain on empty, as it were, can help to get things started.

The option to wait for a time period (e.g. 1 minute), is very misleading BTW. It refers to the time between successive arrivals, NOT to the overall waiting time!

It's also worth getting to know about Filters. These let you control how much of a product (if any) you pick up at any point on the Line. I have found them especially useful in two situations:

1. In a ship or plane with multiple compartments, each compartment can carry a separate type of cargo (if it's a type supported by the vehicle).

In a two-compartment ship, for example, limiting the pick-up to 50% of the capacity will ensure that the other compartment remains available for other cargo (or passengers, which are actually also a type of cargo). Otherwise once a compartment gets some cargo, that's the only type of cargo that that compartment will hold.

2. Sometimes a pick-up point is located such that it can actually acquire unwanted cargo from other adjacent points, which can really mess things up. You can filter out this unwanted cargo.

**Tip: you can clear all the ticks in the Load column by clicking the word “Load” in the filter window.

Towns, Sims & Bus Lines

How to Grow Towns (Basics)

The game starts with a selection of towns at some particular period of history (default 1850). The game will add Streets, buildings and population if you help the town to grow, which you do by providing public transport (as described in this section) and by supplying the town with the products that it needs (see Industries below).

You can also add and upgrade Streets yourself (but not buildings). The game will demolish and rebuild buildings automatically to reflect the town's growth and to keep in period as the years go by.

The Life of Sims

When providing passenger transport, it really helps to understand what Sims want to do and how they go about doing it.

Each town has 3 Districts: Residential (where Sims have permanent homes), Commercial (where Sims go to shop) and Industrial (where Sims go to work). These are shown in green, blue and yellow respectively in the game's Land Use Layer (overlay).

Initially Sims do most of their travelling within the town where they live, but as towns are connected and transport improves a Sim may cover the whole Map in their travels.

A Sim's home is in a particular Residence. They may decide at some time to go shop in a Commercial District somewhere (not necessarily in the same town), spend some time there and return.

Another time they may decide to go to work in an Industrial District somewhere (not necessarily in the same town, and not always in the same workplace!), returning eventually to their residence.

Summarising: Sims make only two kinds of journey: Home → Shop → Home or Home → Work → Home.

One implication of this is that twice as many journeys start or end in a building in a Residential District as go to or from a building in either of the other two kinds of District, a fact which influences how passenger transport lines are developed.

And when a town has passenger links to two or more other towns, it gets more interesting.

Say for example that our town has two railway stations going to two other towns:

A Sim arriving at a rail station in our town may be either (a) just passing through, heading to the other rail station, or (b) returning to their Residence in this town, or (c) arriving in this town to shop, or (d) arriving in this town to work. In the case of (c) and (d) their next journey is always to return to wherever their home is, but they will not necessarily take the same route home!

** IMO it's helpful to follow a particular Sim on their long-distance travels, much as you would follow a vehicle. I did this once when investigating some curious behaviour in the China Mega City campaign, and wrote up my results in the Steam Discussion Forum as Some Days in the Life of Willow Smith. The comments before and after this post helped me a great deal, and might help others also.

** Curiously (but usefully), in a town that has not yet had any products delivered to it, Sims will still go shopping or go to work in buildings which have no products for them to buy or work with. The arrival of products in the town has no effect in this regard except to increase the population of Sims. See this discussion.

Bus Line Strategies

There are many approaches to bus routes in Towns - go here (or click the bus icon) to see them.

In order to keep Sims happy, as discussed above, the strategies should all be trying to do several things:

1. Make transit times between external passenger links as short as possible.

2. Connect external passenger links as directly as possible to the Residential District.

3. Carry Sims from the Residential District to the Commercial District and back again.

4. Carry Sims from the Residential District to the Industrial District and back again.

5. Help Sims make long distance journeys by minimising their travel time in this town.

** Doing these things will make towns grow quite rapidly, so whatever strategies you use will have to evolve over time.

A Bus Stop has a Coverage Area, outside which Sims won't use that Bus Stop.

That being so, my usual approach places a few Bus Stops that cover the whole town, allowing for growth, and then runs bus services both clockwise and anticlockwise between these stops. The service should be frequent enough to attract Sims to use it and not have too many passengers waiting at any stop.

I insert intermediate stops if the ones I have already are spaced more than a few blocks apart, and add some sort of cross-over between two sides of the circle, with at least one stop in the middle.

I am also having some success with a variant of this approach, replacing the circular routes with two mirror-image figure-of-eight routes for large towns, overlaid on top of each other. The Lines cross straight across the middle, sharing Bus Stops as usual, and then continue in the lower half in the opposite direction. This is particularly effective if a Bus Stop on the crossover joins up with an external transport link (which it will usually do at a multi-platform Bus Station, to avoid congestion).

However I do it, I end up with what I call my ring route, with some crossover(s) through the middle that will usually serve external transport links.

In a large town there will be quite extensive Residential suburbs and outlying areas of Industrial and Commerical buildings lying outside my ring route.

Rather than modify the circular routes to thread these, I add additional “suburban” or “outskirt” lines, concentrating on the “suburban” routes first. These lines can run at a slower frequency than the ring lines.

The example below adds a suburban extension (blue line) to the circular routes (red and green lines), joining up with it at a couple of points.

These outside services won't make money. But as soon as I start constructing the line I often notice new buildings going up almost immediately, and other town statistics (worth checking on regularly) improving slightly.

Actually, the whole bus service within a town is not really intended to make money - in fact, it may make a small loss. Its main purpose is to connect with other Lines running between towns (whether bus, train, ship or aircraft), as long distance travel is more profitable, and helps each town to grow. (Click the lightbulb for the source of this tip.)

Once I realised the truth of this, I stopped worrying about over-optimising town bus routes. I'm happy if (a) they cover the town, (b) don't have overloaded bus stops, (c) connect OK with external transport links and (d) deal with the Congestion issues described below.

What About Trams?

A tram in 1949 Germany being used as an airport link, from one of my games

One of the first questions to come up is: “Are trams better than buses?”, the answer to which depends among other things on what year we are talking about.

Many answers to the question can be found by clicking the above image.

** BTW: Much linked information about trams comes from TF1, but is generally good nonetheless.

It surprised me to learn that trams (horse-drawn streetcars) were available in 1850. The one shown here has a larger capacity than the horse-drawn carriage of the time and moves slightly faster. A very interesting discussion about this, and the development of vehicles generally that are represented in TF2, will be found here.

Later, I wanted to work out whether a particular tram was more cost-effective than a particular bus in 1949 Germany.

I used my formula for the cost per unit-mile of transporting a unit which was discussed here, with much useful input from experts.

The forumula (subject to caveats) generates a number which is proportional to the cost per unit-mile:

Running Cost / (Capacity * Speed)

which is a figure that gets lower as the method of transport becomes more cost-effective.

** The above formula should be treated with caution, especially for vehicles other than buses, trucks and trams, as discussed here. One of the caveats is that the ticket price for a journey depends on the maximum speed of the vehicle. I recommend following the link.

For a high-maintenance Saurer Tuscher bus in TF2 the number is ~63. For a high-maintenance Type T1 Tram in TF2, which has a much higher capacity than the bus and is slightly faster, the number is also ~63. There is no clear financial advantage in this case (other than a modest increase in ticket price), especially as the tram spends little time at its maximum speed.

However, because this tram has a higher capacity it can replace the buses with fewer vehicles, which I feel is an advantage in reducing congestion and emissions. The higher capacity also makes it better at shifting large numbers of passengers to and from external transport links.

I don't like the idea of replacing all the buses in a city with electric trams, though. This is partly for aesthetic reasons - I feel that trams are OK in a city centre, but not running around the quiet suburbs.

Horse-drawn streetcars in 1850, on the other hand, seemed a great way to get around!

An interesting real-world model for what seems right to me is the Nice (France) Tramway 2020. Our favourite city had two crossing tram lines, supplemented by buses. It has recently extended one of them (partly underground) from the airport on the west to the commercial dock on the east, removing several bus lines as no longer being necessary.

If you're interested, click the image for a map and good info.

See also this nice example of mixed bus and tram lines in TF2.

Tram Line Mechanics

A combined bus and tram station in 1949 Germany, from one of my games - easy to create, see below

The mechanics of laying tram lines (which you can do from 1850 onwards) are quite straightforward.

You lay tram lines using the Modifications Tool. Doing this in TF2 is quite inexpensive.

Bus stops alongside the tram lines will automatically be converted to bus/tram stops.

You can remove tram lines using the same tool. Click on a section that already has tram lines and they will be removed, at no cost. You might want to do this either to correct a mistake, or e.g. if you used a horse-drawn streetcar right at the beginning of the game and are now intending to return to using normal road vehicles.

You convert a bus/tram station to tram use simply by laying tram lines up to it.

Streets vs Country Roads

The difference is that Streets belong to Towns, and TF2 will automatically add buildings to Streets if the conditions are right.

TF2 will also extend Streets in various directions but again, only if the conditions are right. Streets also have Street lamps and other suitable decorations.

None of this applies to Country Roads (Roads for short), which only you can mess with!

Sometimes you may want to stop TF2 adding more Streets to existing Streets. You can do this using the Traffic Layer (overlay), which shows tiny icons on Streets, Roads and Junctions. Click an icon on a Street to toggle it to a white “padlock” symbol. This won't stop buildings being added to it, though.

Using the Traffic Layer, you can also click an icon on a Junction to add or remove the Traffic Lights there. More on this below.

Dealing with Road Congestion

Problem approaching - click this image for many links on dealing with the problem

From the mid-1920's onwards, Sims increasingly take to using cars for private transport. Unless steps are taken to prevent it, towns will quickly become congested and your important Road vehicles will grind to a halt.

Here is some advice on preventing that (mostly gathered from experts on the Steam Discussion Forum). It falls into two groups:

1. Reducing the amount of car traffic:

Begin by providing good public transport within towns, which will dissuade many Sims from using cars. This is one of the earliest steps to take.

Then provide good public transport between towns.

** Where possible don't have direct Road connections between towns for cargo or passengers, because Sims will also use these for cars. At some point break the connections using rail, ship or air transport.

If it isn't possible, provide a good inter-town bus or tram service.

2. Easing the flow of traffic through the town or city:

** Where possible, avoid having trucks follow a Line that includes bus/tram stops, because buses/trams make more frequent stops than trucks.

In the mid 1920's, when congestion starts to be a real problem, a new range of Streets and Roads becomes available (more lanes, higher speeds, availability of bus/truck lanes, one-way Streets).

You can upgrade an existing Street/Road using the “magic wand” Upgrade Tool (expensive in Towns, as buildings will automatically be demolished or moved). You can add bus/truck-only lanes using the separate Modifications Tool (relatively inexpensive).

Bus/truck-only lanes are normally provided on 4-lane Streets or Roads. Both buses and trucks will use these lanes, although you should try not to have both running on the same Streets or Roads.

You can also add bus/truck-only lanes to a 2-lane Street/Road. This will prevent any car traffic from using it, but ONLY if the cars have another route to get where they want to go. Otherwise civil disobedience breaks out!

Although you can see what's happening quite easily from above, I find it good to climb aboard one of each kind of vehicle and ride “cockpit view” through the town. It's often very instructive (and enjoyable).

Concentrate improvements on where your transport Lines run. Make sure that every Street on a Line is at least Medium grade, as some original Streets are very slow to run on.

Use the Traffic Layer to identify congestion hot spots (although a “cockpit view” ride through town will tell you much of what you want to know).

On your Lines, use the Traffic Layer to remove Traffic Lights from every 3-way junction. They just slow things down. Experiment with removing every Traffic Light on your Lines. An interesting discussion on the benefits or otherwise of doing this can be found here.

If you add a Road Station or a Road Depot to a 4-Lane Street/Road a junction will be created with Traffic Lights that you cannot remove. If those Traffic Lights cause congestion, I know of two ways of resolving this problem with Road Stations:

1. Change just the bit of the 4-lane Street/Road to which the Road Station is connected to 2-lanes. The Traffic Lights will be removed, or you will now be able to remove them yourself.

2. Add the shortest possible section of 2-lane Street/Road heading off the 4-lane Street/Road at right angles. Then add the Road Station to THAT section. You will get Traffic Lights on the junction, but they are now removable.

If a Road Depot is causing this problem, it can be easily relocated!

Vehicle Emissions & Maintenance

You soon find out that various levels of Maintenance affect the running cost of a vehicle, but make a difference to its level of Emissions as time goes by.

Emissions, it turns out, refer (mostly?) to the noise that a vehicle makes, rather than to pollution. That's why an electric tram can have nearly the same emissions as a diesel bus.

With the default Maintenance Level of Normal, the condition of the vehicle will degrade over several years. It will end up looking dilapidated and with higher emissions. “So what?” you wonder, and the answer is: “not really that much”.

What matters is actually noise in Residential Districts, either from vehicles driving through town or aircraft taking off or landing above them, which affects the willingness of citizens to live there. Naturally you will try to minimise routes through Residential Districts, and avoid take-offs and landings over them!

** For me, minimising routes through Residential Districts just means keeping cargo vehicles out. Providing public transport to Residential Districts is vital to keeping Sims happy, greatly outweighing (it seems) any unhappiness they might feel because of bus or tram emissions in their neighbourhood.

You can see the degree of Emissions by using one of the Layers (overlays) in the game.

If, when the vehicle is new, you set the Maintenance Level to High, running costs will increase 25% but the condition of the vehicle will not degrade below the medium point of Mediocre.

If you set the Maintenance Level to Very High at any time the condition of the vehicle will gradually improve to its “as new” level, but running costs will increase 50%.

So is it worth it? Personally I just use the default Normal Maintenance in the early stages of a game, when money is in short supply. The vehicles will be replaced anyway as time goes on. Later on I keep High Maintenance on vehicles going through or near Residential Districts.

** However inter-town buses and trucks delivering cargo into the town need only Normal Maintenance, provided that they unload at the edge of the town with High Maintenance vehicles taking over on resident-affecting internal lines.


A quarry in operation in one of my games - as always, the developer's attention to detail is awesome

Buildings in the Commercial District of a town require either Tools, Food or Goods to sell.

Buildings in the Industrial District of a town require either Construction Material, Fuel or Machines to support people's work.

All of those items require industries to produce them, so your (profitable) job is to connect a chain of industries to the buildings in a town that need them.

Also, supplying these items attracts citizens and helps the town to grow, which generates more traffic and more requirements and hence more profit.

As shown in my chart below, a simple chain to produce Construction Material starts with a Quarry, whose product must be transported to an Construction Material Factory, whose product must then be delivered to buildings that need them.

Some industries (e.g. the Saw Mill) require two items of the input type in order to produce one item of the output type.

The right-hand edge of the following chart shows end-products that need to be delivered to towns (blue for Commercial Districts, yellow for Industrial Districts).

Chart showing Transport Fever 2 Production Chains with requirements and products of each industry

A chain may involve a mixture of vehicles, usually including Trucks (careful! not all types of Truck carry all types of cargo) but also any other type of suitable cargo vehicle.

The final delivery is usually by Truck to one or more Truck Unload Stops. As with Bus Stops, each Truck Unload Stop has a Coverage Area, within which deliveries to buildings are made automatically. If a significant number of buildings needing those items won't fall within one Coverage Area then another Truck Unload Stop may be needed.

When delivering end-products to two or more Truck Unload Stops, you may find e.g. that the truck's entire contents are delivered at the first stop, with none left for the other stop(s). This is because the capacity of the truck is too small to allow effective dividing of products between different areas of the town.

In this case, I split the final delivery into several similar lines, each one picking up from its own Terminal within a Truck Station and delivering to a different Truck Unload Stop.

In a small town, a railway station's own Coverage Area may include all or most of the District wanting an item, in which case the final delivery could be made by train to the railway station, from which delivery to covered buildings is automatic.

Click the above chart for more information on Production Chains.

Managing Production Chains

As with all chains, a supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

You can find out that a town currently has a requirement for (say) 376 tools per time period (actually a “Fiscal Year”, see below). Then ideally every transport link in the chain should be able to carry up to that volume of cargo.

Various factors (such as not enough industries to feed all requirements) may limit this ambition. The important thing is that each link in the chain should be able to carry approximately the same volume, or in TF2-speak have approximately the same Rate (see below), except where two industries feed a single industry, otherwise it's like having a 2 Amp fuse in a 30 Amp circuit!

Different vehicles in the chain have different capacities and move at different speeds, so it's something of a balancing act.

** Most industries can produce 400 products per time period. They don't start off with that capability, though. They don't do anything, in fact, until they have their required inputs (if any) and the transport chain to their next industry or town is complete and in operation. They then gradually ramp up production through four levels as deliveries are made.

The info on the right tells you that the Tools Factory is about to move up to Level 3, where it can produce 300 items per time period. “Shipment” tells you how many products are being delivered at the end of the chain, “Transport” tells you what proportion of the needed transport capacity has been provided, and the “Suppliers” and “Consumers” tabs tell you a lot about how the neighbouring industries or towns in the chain are performing.

Finally, one industry may have capacity to feed more than one town, in which case its output is divided amongst several chains.

Date & Time, Frequency & Rate

In managing production chains, and in much else, you need to know what things like “Rate” and “Fiscal Year” mean. I pestered kind experts about them and posted a mini-guide here (or click the stopwatch icon).


Entering a passing section on a one-track Line, where the train on the left is waiting - another “Cockpit View” from one of my games

The most enjoyable aspect of TF2 is probably building and operating the railways, and then (for me, anyway) riding them in “Cockpit View”.

Luckily, there are plenty of guides available, many of them videos which are well worth watching (click the image above to see them).

Here are a few things I still found difficult to understand:

Terminals & Platforms

Railway Stations, like Bus Stations and Truck Stations, may (and often do) contain more than one Terminal, which is basically a stopping-point next to a platform. I have added some information about that to my discussion post here.

Adding Cargo Platform(s) to an existing Passenger Station (as distinct from creating a new Cargo Station) is often very useful, but can be confusing. You must do it with the Configure Station tool, and you must use the same tool (not normal track laying) to add track(s) next to the platform(s).

Railway Signals & Switches

Good information on real world railway signalling will be found here.

And a great deal of information about signals and switches in TF2 will be found here (or click any image below).

The basics of train signals are that two signals protect a section (block) of track between them. A train can't pass the first signal until there is no train on the protected block (the end of the earlier train must have passed the second signal). With multiple trains running on a dual-track Line, signals spaced at least as far apart as a train length keep traffic moving safely.

Note that the signal icons are part of TF2's HUD display - a closer view would show the real signals

On a single-track Line with one passing place, however, there must be ONLY two signals, placed at the forward end of each track in the passing place, and nowhere else. Otherwise the single-track blocks will not each be protected.

This is the passing place in a cockpit-view image that was shown above, BTW

Dealing with Rail Congestion

Whenever a train is held up for any significant time, showing “waiting for free path” as here, your profits are being seriously eroded, for reasons discussed in Profitability, Income & Expenditure above.

As usual, click the image to the right for info about how to deal with this problem.

Part of the reason for rail congestion is that TF2 has to unrealistically scale distances w.r.t. the length of trains - in the extreme, a departure and arrival station can be separated by only a few train-lengths!

FWIW, my own approach to this problem is simply to use larger maps (which don't in themselves give rise to run-time performance problmes, I believe) with fewer towns. I can then have more realistic (and more profitable) distances between towns.

I have also learnt that the additional cost of laying dual tracks, building tunnels etc. is always worth it if it saves the costs incurred by held-up trains.

Click the lightbulb for an explanation.

TF2 vs Real World Train Operation

Just a few things that I have become aware of:

1. One-way signals are hardly needed in TF2. On a Line with two tracks, entering a station via a crossover switch, the path the train will take in TF2 is governed by the path established by the Line. TF2 operates points accordingly and no human error is possible.

A mistake (usually establishing your Line or placing signals) may result in TF2 warning you that two trains are “mutually blocked”. Before fixing the problem you might be able to “flip” one of the trains, but more often I have to sell one of the trains first and buy it again later.

The signal shown here will stop a train entering the station if the platform on the train's line is occupied.

Stations have “hidden” signals on outgoing tracks, BTW.

The Line overlay above shows how the train on the green line will enter and leave the station.

2. When a train needs to reverse direction, TF2 just does a “magic flip”. I understand that some purists avoid this with turnarounds, but I'm quite happy to live with it!

3. The scale of a train and platform length compared to the distance travelled between stations has to be considerably exaggerated for the game to be playable. Again (like most people) I'm quite happy to live with that.

Airfields, Airports & Air Traffic Congestion

Air traffic can become congested while planes are on the ground taxiing, or while they are in the air circling because they cannot land immediately.

The former case can be dealt with easily (up to a point) by assigning different Lines to different Terminals.

The latter case will give you a big hit in profits, and also adds unnecessarily to TF2's run-time performance load.

The first and easiest solution to the latter case is to use mods that increase the capacities of aircraft, which IMO are unrealistic in TF2, allowing you to reduce the number of aircraft by at least two-thirds. The ones that I use are listed in the Mods section below.

Airports appear to be a somewhat unsatisfactory part of TF2.

You can construct Airports once large aircraft start to become available in 1952. However, for some strange reason, you cannot add a second runway or taxiway to an Airport until 1980, and there is no way to have more runways than two.

You can find a very useful discussion about Airport problems and solutions here.

Map Editor

I think of this as TF2's World Builder, since IMO its actual name greatly understates what it does.

The “Map” that it creates (and can subsequently edit) is actually the terrain and any initial towns, industries and Road connections that is to be the starting point of one or more future games. In other words, the Map Editor builds the actual world that you (and maybe other people that you may share it with) will start playing on.

Click either image below for a good video tutorial on the Map Editor.

After choosing what climate, area of the world and other things, the first stage is to specify the terrain how you want it, retrying if necessary until the schematic looks good. Then hit the GENERATE button...

...which results in this (the start of my German Map).

The next steps let you generate towns randomly or place them individually, the same with industries, and then connect them with a first network of Country Roads.

There's a lot more to it - I recommend that you play this tutorial video.

When you have finished the Campaign Tutorials, or at least got through several of them, you will want to try a Free Game. This starts with a simplified version of the Map Editor to let you build your world before you play.

Alternatively, you can use the Map Editor to create a “Map” that you like, or select someone else's from the Steam Workshop's vast collection, and start your game using that.

Have fun!

What's the Point of your Headquarters?

It's a common question, as you'll see if you click the images.

The answer is that it's motivational eye candy. It adds nothing functionally, but evolves occasionally (keeping the same footprint on the ground) as your Company Score increases.

These are what my HQ looked like in a recent game with Company Scores of 12, 62 and 104 respectively (if you build one at the very start of a game, it's a hilarious-looking shack!). I don't know at exactly what score they changed. The tall modern building only appears after 1980.

Mods (which prevent achievements) don't appear to have any effect on the appearance of headquarters.

You can build and place one (for free) from the Company Finances window (which pops up from the big $ symbol at the bottom left of the main screen), and relocate it later if you want.

If you forget where you placed it or want to look at it quickly, the little pin icon at the top left of the Company Finances window will locate it.


You need a good PC and graphics card to get smooth performance with a heavily-populated Map, especially if you make full use of the awesome visual rendering of so much detail.

There is a lot of information about TF2 performance out there, such as you can find here.

If you are interested, you can find a summary of my own performance investigations, together with many useful comments from experts, here.

As someone who started programming real-time systems in 1970, when every line of assembler code mattered, I have to say that the performance that the developers already get out of this game is truly awesome.


Unsurprisingly, there are very many Mods available for TF2, with a major upgrade for modding in TF2's June 2020 release.

For information about TF2 Mods click the spanner icon.

One way of adding Mods to your game is to go to LOAD GAME, and then click the tiny icon SHOW OPTIONS.

You can also add Mods to your Map if you create one with the Map Editor.

I have used only a few Mods so far, mainly the first three of these:

Realistic Passenger Capacities [PLANE] (Nox)

Increases aircraft passenger capacities to a realistic level, e.g. Boeing 757-200 now carries 186 passengers, not 50.

3x capacity cargo plane (AV)

Increases cargo passenger capacities to a realistic level.

Town Building Filter (Level) / No Skyscrapers (VacuumTube)

This very useful Mod limits the height that buildings can reach.

Skyscrapers are natural for big cities, but I don't like them everywhere and find them visually obstructive when optimising town traffic.

Sandbox (Urban Games)

This allows you to make modifications in-game similar to those available in the Map Editor, but at a cost. For example, you can place new Industries or edit the characteristics of a Town.

As with all Mods, using this one removes the possibility of gaining “Achievements”, but that aspect of the game doesn't matter to me.

What I thought about before using it was whether it was in some way “cheating” and would remove some enjoyment from playing. I eventually reasoned that in the real world Towns would either grow up to support existing Industries, or Industries would be developed to support Towns.

If you start a new game from a Map that you create using the Map Editor, you can take all these considerations into account when you build your Map.

TF2 guides
TF2 Guides on Steam
TF2 Steam Discussions, the most useful place to get help
TF2 basics: date & time, frequency & rate, terminals & platforms
Real-world railway signalling
Discussion on complicated Rate calculations
Profitable bus routes
Hard Mode 1850 Start (example of using golden routes)
Cost-effectivenss of different vehicles - how to assess?
Details and dates of every vehicle purchasable in TF2, beginning with American vehicles
What is “Company Score”?
Creating and editing Maps (video)
Editing Maps (search)

“100 Years” © by Steven White

Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.

Fine photography © by the Ukrainian photographer Alexey Argentum, whose other work
is well worth checking out

I was introduced to this photographer on the very fine pages of Reflections, who has one of my favourite blogs on the Internet and is also a fine photographer. Thanks!

The cause of our awful pandemic is also a wonder of Nature (who is neither malignant nor benign, but just is).

Click the image for a seriously deep read. Unlike many scientific articles, however, this one uses humour and some great analogies to help us understand more about what's going on.

The “body” of COVID-19, the article says, is basically a genome enveloped in glycoproteins (proteins with a sugar coating), with a smear of fat and bearing the crown of spikes that inspired the name “coronavirus.”

This genome is a single strand of RNA, which tricks the infected cell into treating it as its own messenger RNA.

When a human cell receives it, it first unpacks the protein "toolkit" that the virus needs to replicate. As the article says: “Making this toolkit is a little like downloading an installer for new software.”

The rest of the genome contains “structural” proteins which the “toolkit” uses in its work. One of these proteins produces a shell of subunits that, among other things, acts as a cloaking device to hide the viruses from our immune system.

There is much more in this article, a flavour of which comes from this section heading:

“A Fish, A Bat, and A Human Walk Into a Seafood Market …”

A slow read, but an entertaining and instructive one - highly recommended.


From the wonderful cartoon collection of moonshadow68 - don't miss the rest!

Signs of the Times

It's strange that so many of the people we value the most at the moment are the least well paid.

By "we", I mean practically everyone in the UK (and a good part of the rest of the world, except the USA).

In the USA "we" seems to exclude Trump, the GOP and (with honorable exceptions) the very rich.

With COVID-19 acting as Nature's stupidity filter for the planet, it's probable that more of Trump's supporters are now feeling the same way too.

COVID-19 will change the world for the better in many ways, I believe. It is already changing our working habits, greatly reducing the CO2 we are pumping into the atmosphere this year, and making us re-think what we really value in life.

Anyhow, we shall see!

I hope you are safe and well, wherever you are. If you want to remind yourself that there are still good things in life, see my personal selection here.

Lockdown Britain - Are We Downhearted? (updated 17th April 2020)

In normal times we Brits are notoriously a nation of grumblers and nay-sayers.

In times of adversity, like the dreadful virus that the whole world is suffering from right now, we seem transformed.

We look out for each other, we look on the bright side of what is far from bright, and we really appreciate everyone working to help and support others, especially (but not only) those on the front line of our National Health Service.

As an example of great British humour in adversity, it would be hard to beat the Marsh Family's viral-video adaptation of Les Misérables.

The original video is no longer available, it seems, but if you click the above image you can play a version with only a little bit clipped off the front (which included the family having a hilarious argument before settling down to singing).

I guarantee that you will fall off your chair laughing, and maybe wipe your eyes afterwards.

Then there's this:

It's an established event now that at 8PM every Thursday, the entire country unites around #ClapForOurCarers - click the image above to see this phenomenon in action.

Originally a one-off gesture of appreciation for our frontline NHS staff, it has grown each week into a national "thank you" to everyone who supports other people, especially those who are sick or in isolation. We lean out of our windows or balconies or wherever we can, and give them all a well-deserved round of applause.

We are also thanking people using their home 3D printers to create masks and face shields, the people who worked like Trojans to construct the two massive Nightingale Hospitals in a few days (bigger than Heathrow Terminal 5) and many, many more.

Many young people (among others) have volunteered in their off-duty time to do a whole variety of things, from taking food to the isolated elderly to helping out on sanitation vehicles to assisting nurses with anything that the nurse doesn't have to do herself or himself.

When this is over, their stories should be enshrined in some kind of memorial.

And then, there is the astonishing story (still ongoing) of one of Britain's oldest inhabitants, the veteran Captain Tom, who decided to try to raise £1,000 for the NHS by walking 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday at the end of April.

As I write, the total has passed £4,000,000 with donations from around the world. Tom has passed his target and is still working on improving it.

He has truly inspired the nation. If you click on one thing today, click his image to the left for the most uplifting story you will have heard in a long time.

When we win the war against COVID-19, and we will, I hope that BBC Breakfast (whose excellent featuring of this story added more than £1m of contributions in a few hours) receives some kind of medal also, for their so-positive contribution each day to national morale and information.

Update 17th April: Tom reached his 100th lap yesterday, and was treated to an honour guard by members of the regiment that is a descendant of the one in which he fought.

He also had a special call from our William and Kate, surely the nicest Royals on the planet. Oh yes, and a day after I first posted this, the total raised is somewhere in excess of £18,000,000!

As before, click on the image below if you would like to see BBC Breakfast's coverage of this wonderful event.

And then, there's the great British sense of humour, never better than in a time of crisis.

And if you're in need of a pick-me-up, there's lots more COVID humour here.

Britain isn't alone, of course (and no better place to get a good world view of what's happening than watching Al Jazeera, as we recently discovered).

Our neighbours in Europe have suffered greatly in different ways, and for different reasons. Italy, for example, is a country of gregarious and affectionate people, and dealing with COVID-19 has been particularly painful for them.

If we look across the Atlantic to our friends there, we can only count our blessings that our government, for all its faults, is doing its damndest to help people rather than corporations, and is basing all it does stricly on science.

From the latest daily government briefing, which is so different from the Trump version that it makes the eyes water:

If the madman in the US White House, who has spread and is still spreading lethal disinformation about COVID-19, encourages or compels a premature return to work, and the people who support others and save lives are overwhelmed, then America is lost.

We can only pray for sanity prevailing and his removal from the office that he has disgraced.

The good news is that we now have a succinct way to sum up all the wonderful people fighting COVID-19, saving lives, and helping others:

They are absolutely everything that Trump is not.

There can be no higher praise.

“Last Christmas”

We have a collection of golden Christmas movies, which we get out at this time of year to watch yet again.

This one has pretty much gone to the top of our list. We liked it SO much better than either the reviews or this trailer suggested.

Apart from being very funny (painfully so at times) it has the true spirit of Christmas running through it, which we could all really use at the moment...

Another very nice Christmas advert, this one from John Lewis (you can find more here)

Christmas Card Art

The best Christmas cards can have some great art. I particularly liked these two (click either image for more by the artist):

“Homeward Bound”, a digital painting © by Carla Vize-Martin

“Winter Run” © by Giuliana Lazzerini, much of whose work is influenced by the Tuscan landscape and her childhood memories

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas, and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!

“Winter Time”

I woke up one day after a power snooze on the sofa (to recover from the rigours of getting up) and the low light coming through the blinds was just catching my spouse's artificial-flower arrangement.

Just thought it looked nice, so I grabbed my phone!

“Monet's Playground” © by John White

John writes:

“This scene is from France in the town of Honfleur, in the Normandy region. This is a small fishing village where Monet frequented with his friends to paint the bright colors and vivid scenery that was so different from his home. I painted this early in the morning before the crowds made their way to this absolutely gorgeous spot.

“This was done on site en plein air and is an unframed 9"x12" original oil painting.”

Thanks yet again for this one to Jerry, and for all these other treasures that I have gratefully snaffled from him over the years.

Norwegian “Slow TV” at its best...

Click any of my screenshots below to play.

A few days into the voyage we leave Molde, the “Town of Roses” with a jazz festival, on the way to Kristiansund

Arriving in Kristiansund, which turns out to be a fascinating place. Many of its inhabitants are descendents of Scotsmen. It was settled as early as 8000 BC, and is the home of an important opera festival.

If you would love to take some or all of this long trip, which starts in Bergen, takes in the Gerainger fjord and Ålesund among other places, and goes right around the top of Norway inside the Arctic circle, but (like us) may never be able to do it, then this one-hour video is the next best thing to being there.

The commentary is truly excellent, the scenery is awesome, and you can enjoy some great music along the way.

If you like this...

[The Hurtigruten Shipping line]
[Slow going: why 'slow TV' is catching on fast - Channel 4 News]
[More Slow TV]

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