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Video Game / Railroad Tycoon

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Railroad Tycoon is a series of games simulating the operation of railroads/railways. The original game was created by Sid Meier at MicroProse and released in 1990. Two sequels were created by other developers in 1998 and 2003 respectively, before Meier returned for a fourth installment, Sid Meier's Railroads, in 2006.

The original "Tycoon" game and the one that helped to popularize the Business Sim genre. The game was very well received when it first appeared in 1990 since it captured some of the real life challenge and competition of running a large rail company. It was also a classic example of being better than it sounded, drawing in players who weren't the slightest bit interested in trains, the stock market or 19th-century history.


Tropes present in this series:

  • Alliance Meter: In Tycoon 2, you can go into your company's information book and see just where you stand with various territories in terms of their goodwill. Every territory has a default value, but certain things can raise it (manager bonuses, reliable and frequent service) and other things can degrade it (untransported cargo loads, breakdowns, and so forth). The overall effect is that poor goodwill in a territory leads to higher costs to acquire the rights to lay track and to run trains.
  • Anachronism Stew: A minor but still noticeable case in Tycoon 2. While train cars will change appearance through different eras, the world map does not, and thus a meat packing plant or a steel mill will look the same in 1855 as in 2055. Additionally, managers are not confined to specific eras, so in the 1800s you could potentially hire a manager that gives discounts on diesel or electrical expenses, things that do not even exist yet. And of course, all these managers you're hiring variably haven't been born yet, or died years ago.
  • A.I. Breaker:
    • In the original installment of the game, railway tracks from one company could not cross other companies' tracks. Let's say some inconvenient AI player decided to start a company with its first city not far from the Player Character's growing network, threatening to go From Nobody to Nightmare in no time. The answer? Immediately (or at least very soon) build a spur line over to near the AI company's lone station and encircle it with track completely — then just leave it. The AI cannot get anywhere, and with no way to make any revenue, their company dies a swift death, with the added insult-to-injury being that the player's company is now easily positioned to take over the same now-vacated city with their own station.
    • Furthermore, AI players in the original game could not reconnect stations that had been severed by a rate war in an adjacent city. Try this: find a three-city-long AI-controlled railway line and defeat the AI in a rate war for the middle city of the aforementioned three. This leaves two isolated stations with no track at all, which subsequently leads to the collapse of the rival railway when Reality Ensues.
    • In Tycoon 2, an AI character like Jim Fisk or George Hudson will be stymied if the difficulty settings prevent them from their usual stock market manipulations, or J.P. Morgan is easier to face if he cannot invest in industries as he tends to do.
    • In Tycoon 3, some cheap station buildings maliciously placed in the right places can block the AI expansion forever, as they can't evict or bulldoze buildings of rival companies.
  • A.I.-Generated Economy: Railroad Tycoon 3 has an intricate and well developed economic system:
    • There are other rivals companies building their own transport networks like in the previous installments, but the game itself implements an alternative new method: Unpicked goods and materials are gradually moved from their production sites to the places where they are needed, following a supply and demand logic and price curves. This process is usually very inefficient, but depending on the relative locations it can actually feed industries on its own, as the cargo moves slowly inland (very slowly and possibly not at all in mountain terrain), but adequately faster via rivers and other bodies of water.
    • Processing industries tend to spawn in areas with a high concentration of raw resources, simulating private entrepreneurship. These local facilities can outcompete distant ones, as the newly generated demand will be on par with the remote one, making hauling commodities unprofitable, which is not allowed by the game mechanics. Production facilities can also disappear, but the process is very random.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: Start with 1,000,000 units of your local money, an empty region of a country, and cities demanding goods. Goal: Provide the best service, make money, defeat rivals.
  • Apocalypse How:
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • The AI in Tycoon 2 and 3 is generally competent, but sometimes they start their company between two mediocre cities in mountainous terrain with track so convoluted or direct that their rolling stock can do no better than crawl, and they are unable to choose a suitable locomotive for pulling, going instead for the most modern one. When Reality Ensues, this leads to a stunted and minimally profitable railway that you can easily out-compete.
    • The AI is extremely good at finding routes with the most absolute profit at the moment and will constantly change routes accordingly, but if and when they connect to a rival's network, they will usually run routes where most of the profit goes to the owner of the tracks, while they still have to pay fuel and maintenance. They only build stations in named cities, never in rural production centers, and are incapable of any strategic thinking, choosing the route with the most immediate profit but one that might not create added value, like the ones that fuel industries with little short-term margin but end up introducing unrivalled new wealth into the economy. This is the reason it usually does poorly in maps with limited resources that require some puzzle-like connections to get ahead.
  • Awesome, but Impractical:
    • The MagLev in Tycoon 2 is rated as having a top speed of 280 miles per hour, but it costs a boatload of money to buy, fuel and maintain, and performs very badly on grades. It's pretty much only useful on high-value passenger runs between large cities on flat ground.
    • In the same game, any industry that requires steel. Steel is only produced from a steel mill, and needs coal and iron to do so, two resources you will likely never find close together near a major town, and thus the cost of the two or three trains needed to produce and move the steel around will likely outweigh the profits you make doing so. In later missions some industries switch to aluminum for their production, and the only industries that still accept steel are Tool and Die Factories and Automobile Factories, the latter of which needs another resource, tires, to produce cargo, and tires in turn need to be manufactured from rubbernote . Good luck finding any profitable and practical route with all these factories and resources in close proximity.
    • In Tycoon 2 and 3, you can build suspension bridges across really long distances such as the Great Lakes, or in the original game or 3, you can construct tunnels through the entire length of a mountain chain. Understandably, this is highly expensive, and your board of directors will scream bloody murder at the expense if you aren't already making a decent profit.
  • Beyond the Impossible: In Tycoon 2, pushing up the throttle on trains, especially if they're older engines and/or have poor reliability, can result in their annual breakdown probability going over 100%.note 
  • Bland-Name Product: A few trains in the third game appear with names changed from their real-life counterparts. The AMD 103 Genesis becomes "USA 103" and the SD90MAC becomes "NA-90D". The "unofficial" 1.06 patch includes the proper names for these 2 locomotives as part of its changes. And then some are entirely made up, like the MagLev in Railroad Tycoon 2.
  • Blessed with Suck: In Tycoon 2, the "Basic" industrial and financial difficulty levels are this, oversimplifying game mechanics to the point that they will hinder your attempts to play.
    • On the Basic financial model, AI opponents cannot buy stock in your company, but you cannot buy into theirs, putting mergers and takeovers off the table and forcing you to choke off their railroad instead. The Advanced financial model allows buying and selling competitors' stock, and the Expert level in turn allows margin buying and short-selling for further shenanigans.
    • On the Basic industrial model, every industry in range of a station generates its respective product regardless of whether it is supplied with any required resources, meaning that if you actually incorporate the mines, farms, etc. into your system you can easily end up with way more cargo than your railroad can handle (and having untransported carloads steadily tanks local goodwill towards your company). The Advanced model actually requires cargoes to be delivered before industries will convert them, and the Expert model does the same and allows you to buy industrial buildings to take a cut of their profits.
  • Bomb-Throwing Anarchists: Tycoon 2 introduces the People Against Humanity (P.A.H.) in the Second Century expansion, who are protesting against the development of the dammed and drained Mediterranean as well as the construction of the Geocore Plant. They eventually bomb the plant, with the resulting global warming causing a Class 1-2 Apocalypse How, depending on how the player handles the aftermath.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Want to climb that wall of mountains to get at the mines you see just out of your reach? The Shay ("Three-Truck" in Tycoon 2 and "Two-Truck" in 3) has a horrible top speed (about 25 mph) but is, as in real-life, one of the best steep-grade haulers in the game (definitely the best among steam engines) and is rather cheap to boot.
    • Industry investments. For a few thousand bucks, capping at a million for the really profitable industries, you get a cut of the profits if that industry supplies any trains. The more trains supplied, the more money made. Production facilities like mines and farms can earn you tens of thousands a year for an initial investment of only a few thousand to buy them, if you happen to be running trains to them over and over. If it's a production faciliy that needs to be supplied to produce something (and it therefore has no cap on how much it could produce every year, as long as you keep running supply shipments to it), you can make back your investment into it in just a few years.
    • Station enhancements. They're invisible and you'll probably not think about them much, but many of them reduce the penalty for goods sitting at the station not being moved yet, which will only save you a few pennies at a time but it will add up over many years. Much more practical are the Saloon, Restaurants, and Hotels, which boost the profit gained from passenger routes; the latter two have a hefty price tag, but will more than make back the money invested into building them. Also useful are Telegraph/Telephone Poles, which reduce station turnaround time, because every second a train spends unloading and loading cargo is time it isn't spending transporting that cargo to make you money.
  • Cap: 30,000,000 money units in the original game.
  • Canada Does Not Exist: Some North America scenarios designate Canada as part of the United States of America. On the upside, in Tycoon 2, this has the benefit of not requiring the hated customs wait-time mechanic, since the cargo does not have to cross any borders in-game.
  • Captain Ersatz: Second Century in Tycoon 2 includes a mission where you're contacted by a small Redmond software company called "Macrosquish" who want a connection for their workers. Depending on your success in the mission, the ending message of congratulations will comment that their CEO gives you a few thousand shares as thanks, but the narration snarks "Like those will be worth anything …"
  • Cattle Baron: The player can build (in the original game) or buy (in Tycoon 2) local industries to make two sets of money. In Tycoon 3, both are possible.
  • Competitive Balance:
    • In Tycoon 2, this is achieved for all trains via their speed versus the cars they're hauling and their grade performance. Trains get exponentially slower the more cars you attach and the steeper the grade they struggle with, but attaching fewer cars means less profit. Thus any train can be a Fragile Speedster that moves quickly between stations but makes little profit for having only a couple cars, or a Mighty Glacier with a full load and high profits but sluggish speed. Naturally if you plan your routes properly and choose trains suited to the route though, you can still make any train a Lightning Bruiser, moving between stations quickly and still being highly profitable.
    • The same game also gives this regarding the three train types — steam engines, diesel, and electric. In general, steam trains have higher fuel costs and need more station facilities to keep them running properly, diesel trains have a higher initial price tag and middling speeds, and electric trains are cheap and fast but need expensive electrified rails to run on.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Specifically My Rules Are Not Your Rules:
    • In the original game, the AI can build track in ways the player cannot, like several bridges along the length of a river, or up to eight tracks coming out of a station in all directions (rather than the usual two).
    • By the time it gets to Tycoon 2, things are much more even, though the computer players still seem to be able to afford things that the human player cannot (like stock in the human player's company). And if you buy out an opponent's company, you're going to find yourself wondering how their steam engines managed to run properly for years when none of their stations have roundhouses or water towers, which are vital for steam engines to run smoothly for more than a year. Additionally, the AI is able to go into debt to buy things it doesn't actually have the money for at the time, whereas you either have the money or you don't.
    • In 3, AI companies can do business in territories in which they don't have access rights, and will issue bonds despite having an appallingly low debt classification, postponing a liquidation for a long time.
    • The purchasing power of AI rivals is more sturdy than possible. Their debt is magically reduced when they are put in a margin call situation and they will conjure money out of thin air.
  • Cool Train: Take a wild guess. From Railroad Tycoon 2, for instance:
    • Many of the older classic steam engines, like the 4-4-0 American or the 2-8-0 Consolidation.
    • Several of the late-game electric "bullet train" models, culminating in the futuristic MagLev, rated as having "instant" acceleration and a top speed of 280 miles per hour.
  • Copy Protection: The first game requires identifying a train from the manual, and an incorrect entry restricts you to two trains.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: You! The player can engage in activities such as running trusts or insider trading, transport illegal goods to make some extra cash, and make shady deals with dubious figures to get a leg up on competitors.
    • Try this in Tycoon 2: use a majority share of a rival company to elect yourself chairman, sell off or destroy all their trains, railroad and industry investments, then re-elect yourself chairman of your original company and buy out the rival company for a bargain price (again using your majority share to ensure the buy-out goes through), since their stock price will have plummeted as a result of losing all their assets. You'll not only get your rival out of the way, but the profit other players would have made off a "normal" merger is reduced to pennies since at the time of the merger the stock price was so low.
    • Alternatively, after selling all their assets, start selling your participation in the company while using the cash and bonds they might have to buy back stock and keep the price of the shares high. Resign, short-sell their stock and wait a month to "buy" it back when it hits the minimum. You can now merge with the hollow company left or wait until it dies.
    • Here is a route if you're trying to improve your personal net worth. Acquire a 50+1% share of your main company, which gives you full ownership and neutralizes the company board of directors. Resign your chairmanship and found a new company which you also control the majority of shares (which doesn't need to have any tangible assets). Re-take the chairmanship of your original company, and then buy out the new company for maximum share price (if you want you can take out bonds to increase your first company's cash on hand to afford an even higher price per share). The result is all of your company's money that goes into the buyout slides into your own pocket. Your board of directors will be furious with you for treating the company like an ATM, but there is nothing they can do about it since you hold majority ownership. In real life, this would result in lawsuits and possibly jail time.
    • A few maps have the objective of being the only railroad in operation, encouraging this sort of play to drive the competition into the ground as ruthlessly as possible.
    • The last few missions of the Second Century campaign in Tycoon 2 have you as this trope in the storyline. Sure, the world is flooding, anarchy is rampant, and food is in short supply. That just means a cunning railroad baron can make a killing supplying the people in their time of greatest need! The narrator even says on one such mission, "In chaos lies profit".
    • A pesky rival is buying too much into your company and is eating away your dividends? Wait until boom times, then issue stock several times to lower the price of the share. He'll find it a bargain below market price and will go into debt to seize the chance. Cancel the dividend and wait him out, as the economy can only go down. When the downward cycle hits, issue stock, sell some of your own and short-sell any other he may have to invoke a margin call. You can now buy back those shares in your company, but cheaper.
  • Crutch Character:
    • In Tycoon 2, the Iron Duke far and away has better stats than any other train to be available before it, and a few after it too. It'll be your go-to engine for several decades, but eventually its high purchase price, fuel costs, and terrible grade performance gradually make it outclassed by more modern engines.
    • Also in Tycoon 2, Thomas Crampton gives hefty bonuses to speed and acceleration for all steam engines, and despite this, he can be hired and employed for a virtual pittance, and he tends to show up a lot earlier than top-tier managers like George Pullman. In fact, if you really luck out in the steam era, you can start a scenario with Crampton assigned to your new company right off the bat.
  • Determinator:
    • Isolated industries and producers of undemanded raw materials can and will endure years and years operating at a loss, hoping someday transportation will come to their door and save them from being in the red.
    • Some AI rivals keep founding new companies after you buy them out. This subsequent firms should be easy to encroach, as they don't start on even terms like in the beginning of the game and have to compete against a monopolistic adversary already dominating the market.
  • Disc-One Nuke:
    • Several maps include deals to get you early access to higher-tier engines than what would otherwise be available by default.
    • In 3, buying a new and well placed industry or agricultural building will bring solid, constant profits in the struggling early years when setting up rail infrastructure is expensive, the haulage limited and the regional demand quickly met. In some scenarios, focusing on industries and not running trains at all brings much better returns than transporting stuff. This is a huge change from 2, where industrial incomes are marginal at best.
  • Divided States of America:
    • The flooded United States scenario in the Second Century campaign in Tycoon 2 is somewhere between this and Fallen States of America. Flooding is bad enough that the entire Mississippi valley is gone, along with most of the major cities. The government has collapsed into several successor states, while everything west of Omaha is an anarchic wasteland.
    • Tycoon 3's "Alternate USA" scenario exists in a timeline wherein a single Revolutionary War never occurred and instead a number of independent nations emerged over time.
    • One fan-made map allows the player to pick sides in the American Civil War, with the success of the chosen side being dependent on the player's performance in special shipping missions.
  • Do Well, but Not Perfect: In 3, if you oversupply an industry, chances are a new one will appear in the zone, which will act as unwanted competition if you owned the established facility.
  • Eagleland:
    • Probably the only reason why the campaign in Tycoon 2 starts off with the Baltimore & Ohio Railway (B&O) on the USA's eastern seaboard, instead of starting in the actual birthplace of the steam locomotive (i.e. Great Britain).
    • Also, there is the omnipresent bluegrass background music causing Soundtrack Dissonance, depending on the geographical setting of the scenario.
  • Early Game Hell: Generally, Tycoon 2 and 3 are hardest in the first 10 years or so of play: you have few stock holdings, your company probably only has enough money to lay down track for one route and run one or two trains on it, the starting managers (Tycoon 2 only) to help you out suck, and you'll probably have to take out bonds to help finance it all. As the game continues and you begin to rack up profits, however, you can expand your network, pay off your debts, buy up more stock, and so forth. The A.I.s usually go bankrupt if their first connection between two cities is not an optimal chain, but will usually do fine if they are able to connect a third.
  • Expansion Pack:
    • The Gold and Platinum editions of Railroad Tycoon 2 add the even harder "Second Century" campaign along with a whole bunch of new stand-alone scenario maps.
    • Railroad Tycoon 3: Coast to Coast adds maps such as Ireland, Spain, Western Russia, Eastern China, and the whole continental USA.
  • Explosive Overclocking: In Tycoon 2, pushing a train's throttle setting above 85% (represented by a red zone on the throttle gauge) drastically increases the risk of a breakdown. At 100%, that risk is quadrupled. New trains can handle 100% fine, but don't try to push it with any trains that are over a year or two old. Averted in the original Railroad Tycoon and in Tycoon 3, where no throttles are present.
  • Exponential Potential: You need money (and/or a good credit rating) to make money. By midgame, growth typically snowballs, as profit begets even more profit.
  • Fake Difficulty: Some missions in Tycoon 2's "Second Century" expansion have the objective for the company to have an average lifetime speed of all trains of a particular speed. This is actually a massive restriction, forcing you to be more careful with which types of engine you buy, how many cars they haul at a time, and the layout of your train routes, to ensure your network meets the demand. This also means any particularly twisting routes or track over mountains is probably out of the question because they slow trains down too much, and you'll want to take it easy when running multiple trains on the same track so they don't get in each other's way. And all of this is done to achieve a very pointless and insignificant statistic you would never care about if the scenario didn't make you care.
  • Fan Sequel: What Railroad Tycoon 2 technically is. Phil Steinmeyer, the founder of PopTop Software, was a huge fan of the first game. Upon realising that it was the only huge success of MicroProse that wasn't going to get any sequelnote , Steinmeyer arranged to buy the copyrights for Railroad Tycoon and started working on the game with his own tiny company. The rest is the legend.
  • Fragile Speedster: Some of the fastest steam engines, such as the No. 999, cannot climb very well. In addition, some similarly fast engines have alarmingly low reliability ratings.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: While its adherence to historical fact is laughable, occasionally the story rears its head to shake things up, such as wars affecting train route access or cargo available at the time they would be expected to start.
  • Glass Cannon:
    • In many early missions in Tycoon 2, the Iron Duke has speed a good ten miles or more faster than other trains of the time, making it your go-to engine for those missions ... unless you're facing a route with steep grade, because the Duke moves like a snail over anything steeper than a gentle incline.
    • Passenger-oriented locomotives tend to fall into this in general, with high top speeds and acceleration, but drastic fall-offs in speed with heavy loads or when travelling on anything above a moderate grade. Plus, that high top speed tends to come with a hefty fuel bill.
  • Gotta Kill Them All: In a non-lethal sense, a lot of scenarios in Tycoon 2 and beyond have eliminating all other companies on the map as a victory condition. Depending on the quantity and quality of the AI opponent(s) as well as the starting geography, this can be anywhere from trivially easy to virtually impossible.
  • Guide Dang It!: The concept of delay pick-ups isn't explained anywhere in the game and barely hinted in the manual, while having massive impact on the game. Cargo remains in the station for specific amount of time, then it "decays", while station owner is penalised for poor shipping. Doesn't sound like much? Certain maps can end up unwinnable because of it, as the public goodwill tanks so hard, you will be unable to buy access rights - after all, your railroad service is terrible. If that wasn't enough, town growth is affected not only by how much you feed into it, but also how much of local goods was shipped away. Thus delivering as much cargo as feasible will have a positive net effect, since it means more and bigger towns, opening new markets and providing more passengers.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: The kid from the intro of Railroad Tycoon 3.
  • Historical In-Joke/Alternate History:
    • Several historical scenarios have the player as a major driving force behind the events, for instance in the third game the German Second Reich can be based on Prussia, Bavaria or Hannover as the core power, depending on the business choices. A Divided States of America scenario also exits. Or how about the victory screen of the "Cape to Cairo" scenario which says "Have you considered colonizing Europe?" In a very literal sense, here, you can take history itself Off the Rails.
    • The Loads and Loads of Characters in Tycoon 2 can result in some amusing corporate showdowns, including people who were on the same side historically (like the Central Pacific Railway's "Big Four") ending up at each other's throats by necessity.
  • I Want My Jetpack: The MagLev was said to come out in 2008. Well in 2008, the only such train in commercial service was the arguable white elephant known as the Shanghai Maglev Train. Even more unfortunately, Germany's equivalent of this train was dismantled in 2012. And the closest we will have to a proper commercial long-distance high-speed Maglev is the Chuo Shinkansen, which is planned to open for revenue service between Tokyo and Nagoya by 2027.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Investor, Financier, Mogul and Tycoon in the original. Changed to a more flexible system for Railroad Tycoon 2 and beyond.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, and Sid Meier's Railroads.
  • Infinity -1 Sword:
    • That MagLev mentioned above under Awesome, but Impractical? Enter the Brenner — half as much to purchase, less to maintain, lower fuel cost, top speed with a full load of six cars just 20 MPH slower, significantly higher grade performance and better reliability. The drawback compared to the MagLev is slower acceleration. Okay, so your trains take a bit longer to get there and thus you make a bit less money off them, but you'll end up saving a lot more money than you lose since the Brenner's fuel cost is $70,000 a year compared to the MagLev's $305,000.
    • Tycoon 2's GG1. Highest reliability in the game, great acceleration and speed, does well on slopes, and isn't too far out of line for cost compared to other trains of its time. However, up until you get this train, the other electric trains have not been anything special and so you'll probably have to spend a fair amount of money electrifying any track you'll want to run this train on.
  • Just Train Wrong: Railroads is full of locomotives missing their tenders.
  • Level Editor: They are both available in Tycoon 3 and Tycoon 2.
  • Lighter and Softer: The apparent fourth installment, Sid Meier's Railroads departs from the serious business, hard-simulation approach and has a more toyish and simplified design. Appropriately, it lacks the Tycoon surname and breaks the Numbered Sequels custom.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Big Boy. Also, the less iconic GG1, GP18, E111 and Dash-9 also count.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Tycoon 2 has no less than forty playable railroad magnates from throughout history, along with just as many managers to be hired to help run their companies.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Two railroads crossing each other will obviously create a crossing... but only if they cross each other at 90 degrees. The map is grid-based. If you lay down your rails in what the game considers to be "diagonal" direction, and then cross it diagonally, too, the game won't recognise the connection as a crossing, thus eliminating the standard problem of who goes first and which train has to stop.
    • Unless it's a mission where taking over other companies is not allowed at all, there is no rule that states you have to stick with your starting company to win a scenario. In fact, in a lot of missions it's easier to take control of a rival's company to run it as your own, since AI companies tend to start with open access to foreign territories while you typically need to buy the access rights. Start a company and purposefully run it just to pump up your share porfolio enough to buy a majority sharehold in another company, then elect yourself chairman and play normally with your new company while your original one falls into decline.note 
    • Scenarios that want to force the player to start from a certain location do so by having a station already built there and disabling the capacity to build unconnected track. This can be circumvented by bulldozing the station and any existing track and then start wherever you want, trading just a few dollars for a new, premium place.
    • Scenarios that put a limit of how much rail cells you can lay down carefully take into account existing stock of rails, how many new are used and how many are gained down the line. What it doesn't take into account is the fact each station build by default provides you with a cell of laid-down tracks. Sure, it costs 50 thousands to build the smallest station and then another 10 to bulldoze it, but when you are few cells short from making some super-important connection, this is better than waiting for next shipment of "real" rails.
  • Luck-Based Mission:
    • Most maps have randomly generated buildings, so it's in your interest to restart missions over and over to see what you could get. One such map, if you're lucky, might give you two populous cities, one with Coal and Iron Mines and the other with a Steel Mill, creating a very lucrative route for you. Or you might end up with a Bakery at one and a Produce Farm at the other. This is very pronunciated in 3 in scenarios designed with scarce resources. If the randomly generated industries are of the type that have to share their inputs with stuff demanded by houses, nothing new will be produced in the critical early game because the towns will have a greater pull until the zone is saturated.
    • The same goes in Tycoon 2 for the manager assigned to your company when you first form your railroad corporation. It could be someone like Thomas Crampton, who is cheap to employ and gives sizable bonuses to steam engines' speed and all engines' acceleration. Or it could be somebody who gives your railroad a +10% bonus to territorial goodwill.
  • Mighty Glacier:
    • The Three-Truck Shay in 2, as well as 3's two-truck variant. It has awful top speed, likely being even slower alone than other trains with full cargo, but its grade performance and speed loss with cars is amazing, so while it is very slow it can easily power over hills and mountains while towing six cars of bauxite ore or gravel (heaviest cargo), when most other trains would slow to an absolute crawl.
    • Freight-oriented locomotives tend to fall into this in general. They don't have the high top speeds that are crucial to success on passenger and mail routes, but they hold up better when hauling heavier loads, moving over higher grades, and remaining generally more reliable.
  • Nintendo Hard: The "Second Century" campaign in Tycoon 2 presumes you've finished the original campaign and thus is appropriately a few steps up in difficulty — many missions have multiple different objectives to achieve, you tend to work in geographically and politically unfriendly territory, often have to play the stock market, and need an awareness of how industry supply lines work. You want that Gold objective? You are earning it.
  • No Fair Cheating: When using a cheat code to win a scenario in 3, the dialog box that normally shows a cutscene and a scenario-specific congratulatory message will instead read "You win, cheater …"
  • Number Two: The managers introduced in Tycoon 2, who act as subordinates to the Player Character and their AI opponents in running the day-to-day operations of their railroad companies. For varying signing bonuses and annual salaries, they impart a range of possible bonuses to train speed, acceleration, safety, security, revenue, track and station building costs, while occasionally incurring minor penalties (e.g. maintenance costs, overhead costs, lowered stock price, etc.) for balance.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: A mission in Tycoon 2 has you develop a downtown rail system for Seattle, transporting only passengers of four classifications (depending on their destination). The rule patch is that the game treats these special cars as freight instead of passengersnote  for tracking profit, resulting in the managers that give massive profit boosts to passenger travel being useless, when otherwise they would make the mission much easier.
  • Quest to the West:
    • The campaign mode of the third game is called "Go West", and requires the player to connect Boston and Buffalo. The next mission connects Cleveland and St. Louis, and the third one finally connects Salt Lake City with Sacramento and San Francisco before 1875.
    • The Western USA scenario of the original Railroad Tycoon grants a $1,000,000 bonus to the first company that completes a transcontinental railroad. Where this occurs within the map, or if it does at all, depends on the player.
    • Several of the early campaign scenarios in Tycoon 2 deal with this.
      • First, the player has to lead the New York Central in connecting New York City with Chicago.
      • Next, the player has to pick between connecting New Orleans and Los Angelesnote , St. Louis and Sacramentonote , or St. Paul and Seattlenote .
      • And after that, the player takes control of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) as they connect Halifax, Nova Scotia to Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • Railroad Baron: The player, of course, and some real life examples from history such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jay Gould, Jim Fisk, as well as engineers like Isambard Kingdom Brunel and megalomaniac rail-building world leaders such as Benito Mussolini.
  • Real-Time with Pause: You can pause in single-player but not in multiplayer.
  • Refining Resources: The purpose of the industries served by the railroads; converting raw materials into elaborated and more expensive goods, usually with an added value.
  • Riches to Rags: Be overleveraged, get caught with a margin call and say your net worth goodbye, and possibly several figures in the red for your troubles with no way to bounce back in a lifetime. You can stay chairman, but you have to pay debt interests that will put you further down in the hole.
  • Ridiculously Fast Construction: Assuming one's company has the funds on hand, continent-spanning rail lines complete with stations and trains can be built virtually overnight, especially if the game is paused while doing so. Then again, in-game time does run in months, so it's partially justified, and the game mechanics generally lead to expanding one's rail network in a gradual fashion, rather than building it all at once.
  • Sandbox Mode: Tycoon 2 has "sandbox mode" as one of its options; in sandbox mode, the player has unlimited funds, can access every train ever made (regardless of the in-game year), and can also edit terrain.
  • Shout-Out: In the third game, the newspaper includes occasional references to the island of Tropico. Both games were created by PopTop.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The locomotives in the game tend to be recognizable as real-life engines with performance ratings similar to the real things, and historical scenarios tend to be at least somewhat grounded in reality.
    • The benefits offered by managers line up pretty well with their real-world careers. For instance, George Pullman gives +25% passenger revenue and +20% car maintenance costs. Pullman is credited with the invention and widespread adoption of Pullman sleeper cars, passenger cars with fold-out beds so customers could sleep on overnight rides, and his "Pullman Porter" workers provided top quality service on trains. Presumably the addition of such luxury elements means your passenger fees are higher, and the sleeper cars are more expensive to maintain than normal passenger cars.
    • Also, the tycoon characters, at least when under the control of the AI, are programmed to act somewhat like their real-life counterparts, focusing to different degrees on railway expansion, stock market manipulation and/or industry investments.
  • Snowclone Title/Follow the Leader: Oh, Lord, yes. Every single game ending with "Tycoon" can be traced back to this game.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Soft bluegrass pervades the game in all maps in Tycoon 2, which is weird when you are not in the USA, or when it's After the End.
  • Theseus' Ship Paradox: A train setting a speed record will become famous, get premium passenger revenues, a customizable name (Town name rocket/cannonbal/meteor) if it hasn't one already and a star to single it out. This status remains even if you change the line, change or upgrade the locomotive, or replace it in time in the event of a crash.
  • Timed Mission: Scenarios usually span two or three decades. A sense of urgency is often kept until late in the game because it takes a lot of time to achieve the exponential growth that guarantees a Gold victory.
  • Trope Codifier: For the private business sub-genre of the Construction and Management Games, compared to SimCity for the local-government sub-genre.
  • Unexpected Gameplay Change: The "Second Century" campaign in Tycoon 2 really changes things up. The first segment takes place during World War II, with you running military supplies in Britain during the Blitz (so you have limited supplies to build new track and have to deal with bombing runs destroying track and trains) and run supplies to Russian states during Operation Barbarossa to prevent the Germans from advancing too far. In the second segment, you have to build what's basically a light rail transit system in major cities. The third segment then takes place 20 Minutes into the Future with an actual storyline that unfolds concerning The End of the World as We Know It.
  • Units Not to Scale: The trains seem to be a mile tall when compared to the size of the map, and their travel time spans in-game months or even years.
  • Updated Re-release: Railroad Tycoon Deluxe, released in 1993 with improved graphics, new sound effects, maps and several additions.
  • Video Game 3D Leap: Railroad Tycoon 3 features a new three-dimensional presentation. Tycoon 2 does a good job (for its day) of faking it, though; see the page image above. Released in between, the Dreamcast version of II is fully 3D, and visually feels like Tycoon 2.5.
  • Video Game Time: Naturally; it's highly unlikely real life train rides take months or years, even when cross-continental. Aversions exist in 3, which has an option in map design to reduce the timescale down to fractions of an hour instead, and several scenarios make use of it.
  • Villain Protagonist: A number of the railroad chairpersons and managers in-game were either highly imperialist, deeply corrupt, or occasionally outright dictators in real life; of course, you can play as them however you choose.
  • We Buy Anything:
    • On easier difficulty levels cities and towns will buy any goods. At higher levels commodities are only demanded if a local industry needs them, and small towns must expand into cities before they will buy passengers, mail, and other goods.
    • You can no longer haul passengers and mail anywhere in 3, since they have specific destinations. However they will be accepted in intermediate stations, provided they can work as hubs in the system.
    • Market saturation happens in 3, but only for processed goods. Commodities and intermediate resources will happily pile taller than a mountain as inputs for industries, which have infinite demand.
  • White Man's Burden: The "Cape To Cairo" scenario (and its smaller-scale 3 counterpart "Rhodes Unfinished") invokes this by tasking the player to aid in the Colonization of Africa by building rails and running trains between Cape Town and Cairo within 40 years of the start date (1890).
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Most scenarios to a somewhat limited extent, but taken literally in the Sandbox Modes of 2 and 3. Even by default, the North America scenario sets you down in the continent and gives you free reign to build the ultimate rail empire however you choose and however long it takes.


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