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in Suggestion by (380 points)
edited by

NOTE: This is a very long post; if you don't like reading long posts, the TL/DR bits are in bold.

So first of all, I'd like to say that trains are awesome. They get rid of a lot of the tedium and reliability issues surrounding trucks and automating those - recording paths, refueling, AI drivers going off cliffs; plus, they look and feel great.

That being said, with the current state of the game, it feels very hard to get decent utility out of them, and there are several factors compounding this issue:

1. Train stations are huge; that's epic and all, but there are few places suitable for building very large stations, and even fewer where it's feasible to build multiple train stations without significant terraforming in the form of building foundations either very high up or out of bounds. That would be manageable if not for the following issue.

2. The way things are designed now, you need one train platform + freight car per freight type on the network. There's no going around that in a safe manner. This leads to a need to make rail networks very specific to certain production chains and thus limited in the number of distinct wares they carry; but that to a great extent negates the advantages of trains over trucks (i.e. easy to reprogram routes, easy to create new routes on an existing network)

3. Railways block vehicles trying to cross; even the explorer, making bases covered by your rail network excessively hard to navigate by car. This issue can be solved through extensive engineering work, but this increases costs in resources and time, and makes the following point worse.

4. Stations cost 50MW each; trains 25-100MW; conveyor belts are free. Sure, they cost resources to build but after that point they are free. I guess irl they are not and that's why we have trains and trucks and ships carrying goods as opposed to having built the trans-Atlantic conveyor network. While it may be tricky to balance the game around conveyors requiring power, their existence does mean that transportation vehicles need to be quite efficient and reasonably cheap to be worthwhile. This could be the case if the rail network was flexible enough, but at the moment it's not.

So here are my personal suggestions on addressing these issues:

1. Add railway poles; this should help with laying out track as well, and will make it easier to suspend tracks above ground without building clunky and impractical foundations for the purpose.

2. Add rail crossings - would be nice if empty platforms had ramps and a collision volume such that vehicles could easily get over the rails.

3. Make train stops programmable; that is, instead of having freight platforms configured to load/unload, you would ideally be able to program trains to load/unload specific wagons at each stop. The idea would be to have a diagram of the train in the timetable window under each stop, where you could select for each wagon if it should load, unload or do nothing at that specific stop.

3.a. Optionally also allow an offset to be set for each station in the timetable, so for example you could order a train to stop 1, 2, 3 wagons short of a station; it's a bit silly they can't. Currently, you can solve this by chaining stations, but I'm not sure the extra 50MW and wasted platform space actually make the logistics problem solving more fun or just more annoying.

3'. If you won't go for the programmable trains approach, it would be nice to at the very least add a dead car for trains, like the current empty platform for stations. Currently, an engine can be used for this but that's silly.

4. Add programmable round-trip time for trains. Obviously this can't prevent delays, but it should ensure the train makes at most one round trip during the said period. This gives us something else to optimize and allows for perfectly balanced production rates to allow for safe and more efficient network usage (by allowing for assumptions such as platform x should be empty when the train arrives)

P.S. I'm aware there are multiple topics discussing most of these issues already; unfortunately none of them seems to have individually garnered very much attention; hopefully a more aggregated topic might?

by (1.7k points)
Technically, we have railway poles in the form of foundation columns. It's not pretty but they sort of serve the purpose. And they definitely allow making train-truck crossings in the form of elevating the rail so the truck can pass under it.

What we actually need - at least I believe - is ability to attach rail endpoints at any valid slope, not just slope given by the terrain or the foundation/ramp used. If railway poles came with this feature, it'd be great. Without it, they'd be just aesthetical variant to foundations.

I agree there's some struggle with using trains since they lack many abilities the real trains have. In particular ability to rearrange freight cars in the train or to move them between trains. While it is possible to make a train carry multiple different materials in different freight cars, you need to design a set of stations just for such train so that they fill/empty the cars appropriately. It's impossible to carry multiple resources in a car and only unload one of them in the station, it's impossible to use a car for different resources in sequence and to make sure it's empty before loading a different resource. The system lacks flexibility.

Personally I found the best utility in using single purpose trains - one enegine, one car, dedicated to single resource. It unfortunately means I need a lot of stations with just one freight platform, and a production line that converts four materials into one needs five such stations which definitely takes a LOT of space, sometimes more space than what the production line needs itself. The other problem with this system is that trains will keep executing their timetables blindly, regardless whether the delivery is or isn't needed. As result, my base is full of fast moving trains doing nothing useful and I can't even see if there's any problem in the production because it doesn't affect their pattern. Not mentioning they waste power.

What I'd like to have is some sort of demand-driven delivery planning. Having a pool of generic trains and stations dedicated to set materials, either for sending or for receiving. By default trains would just sit at some parking spot. Only when a there's need for a resource at some receiving platform, a train would pick some suitable sending platform with that resource and perform the delivery, returning to the parking spot if there's no further work for it.
by (380 points)
W.r.t railway poles and foundations, I'm aware you can use foundations for the purpose of railway poles; however they are ugly and not really made for the purpose; they also don't help you constrain the direction the railway is going, at least not as much as proper railway poles could.

As for utility, if you have one rail line and a pair of stations per product, that's just a fancy and super expensive conveyor belt that costs you around 150MW to run and can spike over 200MW. I got the best bang for my buck so far by having network regions joined at a central hub; I can have around 4 products being shipped in or out of a region, and in between regions they need to go through the hub where they get shuffled around between stations. This avoids many bugs and is significantly more cost-effective than running one train per payload, but is a fairly intricate setup and far from cheap or as flexible as it could be.
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