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Offline Postlimit

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Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« on: January 04, 2012, 11:20:55 AM »
First of all, congrats to all developers for a nice game. I've played it for over a week now, and I enjoy it. It's bloody difficult though!

In pak128 (simutrans 111.0), I struggle with rail transport in games starting in 1930 (the default). They never seem to be profitable.
I read the forums, so I know that the optimization should be by using lines more efficiently, and that's obviously the goal of this game. Fair enough. If there were enough stuff to transport, I would happily play with multiple trains on as few tracks as possible, keeping them all moving efficiently.

But reality in 1930 is that you do not need multiple trains to haul the entire production of a factory to another facility nearby. A single train will do. And I cannot operate many trains on my tracks, because the factories are spread out.

So, assuming that I'm still learning, and there is nothing wrong with the map I play, some questions:
How do you get coal from a relatively isolated coal mine (about 250 ton/month) to a cement factory that has a contract with the mine? I use the smallest cheapest engine, with just a few cars, on cheap tracks, in a straight line, with the freight stations just 2 or 3 platforms long. And the platform at the cement factory gets used for the stones-line too (isolated stone quarry, similar tracks, trains and station). It's as minimal as it can get and I can still haul all coal/stone with this simple setup.
Can I do any better? Because the way I built it, this investment has no payback time... and a margin of zero, or even negative.

Oh, and I have no money to build transformers - and anyway, I tried (multiple times) to get the powerstations to operate, but those freight lines suffer the same problems, and fueling the powerstations only makes my financial situation worse.

So, while I can understand that a large network is profitable, how do you get started? With the initial $500,000, I can at best serve one production chain, and that does not seem to be profitable... what am I doing wrong? The only profit I have made so far is with an extensive bus network (in 1930-1935), and that too has only a tiny margin (my finances says a margin of 0%-10%, depending on the year, which in economic terms is pretty poor for a start-up company).

Connected to the previous questions: if I want to combine my bus network and the freight network and make both more efficient: Can I bring a few passengers to small stations along those tracks for those factories to use those tracks even more optimally? If yes, what's the most minimalistic passenger station I can build? Maybe I am wrong, but I can only find completely covered platforms, which have such high maintenance that it's pointless to serve small stations. There are some cities and villages in the neighborhood, and one successful busline runs close to my tracks... so I might put that on the rails instead, to use those more efficiently, if passenger stations weren't so expensive. I basically want a bus stop on rails. What can I do?

And finally: is there a way to borrow a lot more money from investors? If I could borrow a couple of millions, I could build my network, and get going (hopefully :) ). Then pay back the investors later.

Thanks!

Offline Combuijs

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #1 on: January 04, 2012, 01:03:14 PM »
Hi Postlimit, welcome to the forums.

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so I know that the optimization should be by using lines more efficiently, and that's obviously the goal of this game

I don't think that there is one goal in the game. I, for example, play in a totally different way. I want to transport everyone and everything to everywhere, not matter what the costs are. To do this I use the so called free play mode (you can enable/disable it in the players menu). You can't go broke then.

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Can I do any better? Because the way I built it, this investment has no payback time... and a margin of zero, or even negative

If memory serves right, a good way to start is to start with simple good lines. The cement chain is already complicated, but coal or oil to a power station should work. Maybe some pak128 veteran can help you with this.

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And finally: is there a way to borrow a lot more money from investors? If I could borrow a couple of millions, I could build my network, and get going (hopefully :) ). Then pay back the investors later.

You can increase the starting money in the simuconf.tab file in the config directory of the pak128 directory. There is no way to lend money in the game.

Good luck and have fun with playing!





Offline Postlimit

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #2 on: January 04, 2012, 06:37:43 PM »
Thanks for the quick reply :)
Seems this is an active forum. Good to know!

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If memory serves right, a good way to start is to start with simple good lines. The cement chain is already complicated, but coal or oil to a power station should work. Maybe some pak128 veteran can help you with this.

Yes, it's a pak128 (2.0.0) issue. In the default pak (pak64?) I can run such lines with a profit quite easily.

My problem is not so much the complexity of the chain, it's profitability. Anyway, thanks for the advice, and I will be giving the coal/oil to the powerstations another look. If it can be done, it will be done.

Offline TurfIt

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2012, 10:17:24 PM »
How do you get coal from a relatively isolated coal mine (about 250 ton/month) to a cement factory that has a contract with the mine? I use the smallest cheapest engine, with just a few cars, on cheap tracks, in a straight line, with the freight stations just 2 or 3 platforms long. And the platform at the cement factory gets used for the stones-line too (isolated stone quarry, similar tracks, trains and station). It's as minimal as it can get and I can still haul all coal/stone with this simple setup.
Can I do any better? Because the way I built it, this investment has no payback time... and a margin of zero, or even negative.
Some screenshots, or better the savegame would help in providing specific feedback. Otherwise, if you've set it up as described, that's likely as good as it gets. You should be seeing reasonable profit.  I just tried a minimal setup, 1 coal power plant fed by 4 coal mines. 1E, 1W, 1S, and 1SE of the plant meaning no sharing of tracks, and all close by so no lucrative long distance routes. Smallest cheapest engine (RVg 0-4-0T) hauling 3 cheap cars (RVg bulk wagon (1850/20)), to 2 length platforms. $53000 spent, ~$5500 steady yearly profit. Full payback achieved 1 June 1944. i.e. Net wealth returned to $500000. Rather too profitable IMHO...


Maybe I am wrong, but I can only find completely covered platforms, which have such high maintenance that it's pointless to serve small stations. There are some cities and villages in the neighborhood, and one successful busline runs close to my tracks... so I might put that on the rails instead, to use those more efficiently, if passenger stations weren't so expensive. I basically want a bus stop on rails. What can I do?
The rail platforms don't have to be passenger type. i.e. You can use a single bus stop which enables passengers for the whole station, and then a cheaper freight platform for the trains.

Offline Fabio

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #4 on: January 05, 2012, 12:18:02 AM »
You could also try with beginner mode option starting a new map. It should make the profitability easier...

Offline Postlimit

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #5 on: January 05, 2012, 07:41:29 PM »
Quote
Rather too profitable IMHO...
What, a payback time of 10 years, too profitable, when you are 100% lean? I see... I was expecting different profit margins for such a lean company. Bigger ones.
Then, with such tiny margins, a few minor mistakes, like one bad schedule with one train that always must wait for a signal can be the difference between win or lose? Is that realistic?

Anyway, I tried it again, and when the tracks and signals are tweaked so that the trains run all the time, I do get a little profit: 3000 per year from an investment of 48000. I guess the mistake I made was to sometimes make a platform too long. As I wrote, I made them 2 or 3, not always 2. And that means 72$ or 144$ per month in extra maintenance... or about 860$ - 1720$ less per year. Subtract that from my small profit of 3000, and only 2100$ to 1200$ would be left. Another such mistake, and could be in the minus.

I simply did not know it was supposed to be such a close call between life and death of a transport company. I thought of the real stuff: many tracks with cars and locomotives standing idle on classification yards, platforms almost always too long (built for the longest possible train) and passenger trains optimized for rush hours, and therefore mostly empty during the day and evenings.

Anyway, I am not complaining, I am just explaining what a newbie thinks (at least, what I thought, and why I asked my questions).
If this is the game, then I'll play it and win (win for me is to feel happy about a big network that is profitable). I guess I will just press the save button more often, and test every individual improvement.

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The rail platforms don't have to be passenger type. i.e. You can use a single bus stop which enables passengers for the whole station, and then a cheaper freight platform for the trains.
Excellent! Thanks for the answer! This means a good 600$ less in maintenance per station per month! This is huge.

Just a tip for the developers: Maybe change the name of the platform, or at least this should perhaps be explained in the help file, and maybe somewhere on the forum too (although with a little time, this thread might be found in Google, solving the problem). Right now, the help file even confirms that this platform is for freight only:

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In the corner of some tool-options an icon (used in Stations-List and Stop-Information) shows which items the station-platform allows a Stop to handle. <--Quoted from the in-game help file, under "Railroad/Train tools")
The icon shows only freight. In addition, the freight platforms are called "simple platform, 1,200.00$ (72,00$), 64 freight", so a newbie like myself simply won't try to use them for passengers. It says "freight" after all. And I've read the f***ing manual! :P Using freight platforms for passengers is only for stupid newbies (or is it? lol).

This is quite important, because the default game starts in 1930, and default towns are small, so small platforms are important (newbies do default stuff, of course).

Anyway, I am making a lot of drama, and I hope all the crap I write is a little funny. But in the end I just try to help.


So long, and thanks for all the replies so far.

Offline TurfIt

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #6 on: January 06, 2012, 03:57:17 AM »
What, a payback time of 10 years, too profitable, when you are 100% lean?
Well that for simply hauling a low value commodity (coal) a short distance to the powerplant, and then 'wasting' the plants output as the power wasn't being used. While I'm earning ~5500/month from the coal haulage, strategically powering industries (by default there's only enough power for 1/3 the factories on the map) in a lucrative product chain  and haul that boosted production could easily earn an extra 20000/month or more...

Also, there's no forced replacement of infrastructure/vehicles in the game. i.e. They never wear out. So once payback has been achieved, that ~5500/month profit is yours forever.


many tracks with cars and locomotives standing idle on classification yards, platforms almost always too long (built for the longest possible train) and passenger trains optimized for rush hours, and therefore mostly empty during the day and evenings.
Standing convois cost you no money (well a little in depreciation). Moving convois better be full else you're losing money. For freight always use wait for 100% load. For passengers, aim for an average 80% load factor.

In pak128, platforms are expensive. If a train has to wait, make it wait outside the station for a free platform. i.e. Don't build more platforms than truly needed.


Overall, it sounds like you would be happier with the economy in pak64 instead. It's much more relaxed.


Just a tip for the developers: Maybe change the name of the platform, or at least this should perhaps be explained in the help file, and maybe somewhere on the forum too (although with a little time, this thread might be found in Google, solving the problem). Right now, the help file even confirms that this platform is for freight only:
The icon shows only freight. In addition, the freight platforms are called "simple platform, 1,200.00$ (72,00$), 64 freight", so a newbie like myself simply won't try to use them for passengers. It says "freight" after all. And I've read the f***ing manual! :P Using freight platforms for passengers is only for stupid newbies (or is it? lol).
This is definitely a confusing area for newbies. At the risk of further muddying things... freight/passenger/mail type platforms merely enable the entire station to handle that type of freight. Each platform tile also adds a certain storage capacity to the station, which for the default settings is shared between all types. That can be changed such that a freight platform adds only freight capacity, a passenger platform adds only passenger capacity, etc.

Offline prissi

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #7 on: January 06, 2012, 09:56:46 AM »
This is a constant pain in the *** since 88.10.5 when it was changed. At that time only freight plaforms were available, so many many complains of users who cannot transport passengers were done.

Last time I check, coal earned you even less on pak64. AI goes regulary bankrupt on coal transport.

Offline Postlimit

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #8 on: January 10, 2012, 10:16:58 AM »
Quote
Standing convois cost you no money (well a little in depreciation). Moving convois better be full else you're losing money. For freight always use wait for 100% load. For passengers, aim for an average 80% load factor.

In pak128, platforms are expensive. If a train has to wait, make it wait outside the station for a free platform. i.e. Don't build more platforms than truly needed.
Moving convoys that are not full (enough) cost money, I understand that part. But when trains are not moving, you still pay the maintenance for tracks and platforms, which can be quite significant! I still think that the platform maintenance is really high, but if you take into account the employees (from cleaning or reconstruction to ticket sales) then I guess this is not so unrealistic after all.

If a station is crowded, do you get paid less for passengers, because they had to wait? So far, all my passenger networks have become a bit chaotic, so I haven't been able to figure this out yet.
I usually try to solve such bottlenecks, but I can also see that this automatically means my trains/buses are always full, which is a good thing... so should I be happy with crowded passenger stations, or worried?

And how is a speed bonus calculated? Is that average speed on the road/tracks, or does this include waiting/loading time at the stations too?

Quote
Overall, it sounds like you would be happier with the economy in pak64 instead. It's much more relaxed.
It sounded like I was complaining a bit, didn't it? :)
I guess I was a bit frustrated. In the meantime, I managed to create a big network that makes 50k $ per year. I learned a thing or two on this forum already, and that really helped. So, thanks to everybody who replied.

Finally, a new question/comment: why is the freight revenue on a line not determined by the distance between the factories, but instead by the distance between the stations? To me, it seems weird that if you place the stations on the backsides of the factories (thereby making the line unnecessarily long), you get paid more than when you put the stations in the front, making the line as short as possible. There's no benefit in optimizing the network in such a way... Just 2 more cents.

Offline Combuijs

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #9 on: January 10, 2012, 11:25:56 AM »
Quote
If a station is crowded, do you get paid less for passengers, because they had to wait? 

No, they still happily pay the full amount. However, buildings near a crowded station won't generate passengers anymore. And if you use the no_routing_overcrowded setting (might have a slightly different name), then no passengers will be generated that should otherwise have used this station.

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I usually try to solve such bottlenecks, but I can also see that this automatically means my trains/buses are always full, which is a good thing... so should I be happy with crowded passenger stations, or worried?

Bit of both really. You should be worried because you are missing income, but you should not be worried that they all run away...


Quote
And how is a speed bonus calculated? Is that average speed on the road/tracks, or does this include waiting/loading time at the stations too?

No, it is the maximum speed that a vehicle can reach in theory. So, a very fast train on a very slow track still gets the bonus...


Last two answers would be different for Simutrans Experimental by the way.


Offline missingpiece

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #10 on: January 10, 2012, 03:39:17 PM »
This thread helped me understand the economical base philosophy in pak128. :P In pak(64), my game before restarting on pak128, I was just happily extending stations. That behaviour obviously led to a quick and drastic end in my first attempt on pak128.

Combujis, can you point me to a thread explaining in which way the passenger transport and speed bonus is calculated differently on experimental ? As I understand experimental implementations may potentially merged to trunk ? Is that the goal of experimental that it never develops too far away off of trunk ?

Offline Combuijs

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #11 on: January 10, 2012, 03:59:57 PM »
for standard versus experimental see for instance http://forum.simutrans.com/index.php?topic=8523.0.

As for speed bonus calculation, search in the Simutrans Experimental Development board, I found http://forum.simutrans.com/index.php?topic=6790.0 for example, but I think you should really ask jamespetts. He knows what he is programming...

And I know it is a difficult name, but it is really Combuijs, not Combujis  ;) . "ij" in Dutch is one character that needs two characters on computers...

Offline TurfIt

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2012, 07:28:50 PM »
Moving convoys that are not full (enough) cost money, I understand that part. But when trains are not moving, you still pay the maintenance for tracks and platforms, which can be quite significant!
Yes.  But... you're not paying any more by having a train sit on a track, than if the track was empty. You want to minimize the infrastructure to the minimum required to do the job, but extra convois sitting around are generally not a problem. Just make sure they don't block the moving ones that are earning you money, and make sure anything moving is full when possible. (freight usually must move one way empty, but sometimes you can make them full both ways. Then $$$$. )


why is the freight revenue on a line not determined by the distance between the factories, but instead by the distance between the stations? To me, it seems weird that if you place the stations on the backsides of the factories (thereby making the line unnecessarily long), you get paid more than when you put the stations in the front, making the line as short as possible.
Internal code / performance reasons. The origin of goods is not kept in the wares packets. This allow packets with the same destination to be merged greatly reducing their number, and hence the game to remain playable on large maps.

You're correct this leads to possible gaming of the system, but overall the effect is rather minimal; Unless of course you set the station coverage to an extreme value.  ;)


And how is a speed bonus calculated? Is that average speed on the road/tracks, or does this include waiting/loading time at the stations too?
No, it is the maximum speed that a vehicle can reach in theory. So, a very fast train on a very slow track still gets the bonus...
Note: This has now changed with the standard nightlies, and hence for the next release. Ways with slow speedlimits, and overloaded convois (not enough power to reach top speed), will now have their bonus reduced, or even turn to a penalty.

Offline Postlimit

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #13 on: January 17, 2012, 09:27:55 PM »
Some more comments (don't think I should be opening more threads to say what a newbie thinks playing for the first time).
It's just my 2 cents... you veterans might not see the game through the eyes of a newbie anymore, and soon enough, neither will I.

- Please help newbies understand somehow that you need to connect a depot to the electrification before it will even show the electric vehicles! A little hint somewhere would be nice - or maybe you can just show the vehicles, and give a small pop-up error when you want to buy an electric vehicle without electrification present? But also a little text at the bottom to remind n00bs that they need electrification would help... For over 2 weeks, I thought that there were no electric vehicles (and no trams at all) in 1930! I built a tram depot, saw no vehicles, and destroyed it again. I got suspicious when I played a game in 1980, and still saw no trams. And only then I found out that there were electric trains and trolleys too all along.

- Explain somewhere (this thread does it now, thanks postlimit! :)) that the player shouldn't worry about the silly contracts factories have. You should not connect the closest mine to the power station, but instead choose one (much) further away. To a newbie, it's not immediately obvious that you get paid per kilometer, and not per delivery. Short distance means relatively high maintenance from stations, and little to no profit. Make longer lines, and cash comes. Make really long tracks, and see if you can use the tracks efficiently with multiple industries using it (over long distances), and even more cash comes.

- The financial number that matters to check if you can spend money is the Net Wealth (press f to see finances), not the account balance that the game shows at the bottom of the screen. You're bust if the net wealth is below zero... but you can be in the red numbers without much of a worry, even though the game puts a lot of emphasis on it, with a monthly pop-up and a red number. (Do you even pay interest with a negative account balance??). For a long time, I stopped spending when I got a pop-up, thinking it was of any importance. Not sure why I took that seriously. But my current best game, I've at one point hit a -2,000,000 $, and recovered quickly. The best start is to spend money on tracks and stations until you're at (I'm guessing) 150,000 in the plus keeping the rest as backup, and then spend a gazillion on freight trains, and get them going. Vehicles don't affect your net wealth - which I don't understand because I am a technical person, not economist. :)

- As mentioned above (thanks again TurfIt), freight platforms can actually be used for passengers, as long as you put a little bus stop next to it. In early games, this will be the only profitable passenger station.

- Why is destroying something often more expensive than the actual construction? Take the smallest bus stop: construction is 400, destruction is 1000. Not fair to newbies who make loads of mistakes, and ridiculous from any realistic point of view. I got the habit to save before constructions, so I can reload when I mess it up.

- And someone please explain what the failing car engine noise is? I often get a noise of a car engine that won't start on a cold winter morning (in the game, not my real car). I am guessing it's the game warning for something, but I do not know what... and I hate the sound. Does it mean I have obsolete vehicles, or cars running at a loss? As networks get larger, I get the noise every 5 seconds. Bit over the top, I would say.

Sorry once again for length.

Offline Fifty

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Re: Rail transport 1930-1940, questions and comments from a newbie
« Reply #14 on: January 18, 2012, 02:02:43 AM »

- Why is destroying something often more expensive than the actual construction? Take the smallest bus stop: construction is 400, destruction is 1000. Not fair to newbies who make loads of mistakes, and ridiculous from any realistic point of view. I got the habit to save before constructions, so I can reload when I mess it up.


For whatever reason, destroying something equals the cost of using a slope tool. I would suggest perhaps changing this -- on the 64.entropy game I increased the cost of slope tools considerably -- so destroying a bus stop cost 5,000 cr! On flat ground at least, should not cost more than to build, imo.


- And someone please explain what the failing car engine noise is? I often get a noise of a car engine that won't start on a cold winter morning (in the game, not my real car). I am guessing it's the game warning for something, but I do not know what... and I hate the sound. Does it mean I have obsolete vehicles, or cars running at a loss? As networks get larger, I get the noise every 5 seconds. Bit over the top, I would say.


It's just a sound of a vehicle departing a stop, like a train horn or whistle blowing. It means nothing other than that a vehicle is departing. You can turn off all those annoying sounds by clicking on the main menu (disk), then clicking on "Sound" and pressing the checkbox next to "Mute" sounds and MIDI music. Once networks get busy, you will hear departure sounds constantly: I always play with sound "off."

Last time I check, coal earned you even less on pak64. AI goes regulary bankrupt on coal transport.

Has something changed in the nightlies? Coal is insanely profitable in 64 111-0. After 1970, a continuously running coal train loaded in one direction makes about 1 million credits per year (two BR 234  units plus 9 60 t hoppers) :o Even in the early days, coal makes good profits.

This reminds me, I should do a comprehensive balancing commentary on pak 64 when I get some time... Still a lot of wackiness about its balancing.

Overall, Postlimit, you learn a lot watching others' tricks in this game. That's why I love netgames & savegames that are posted to the forum for me to watch for tricks.