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.

It's so much more than a virtual train set, and you can essentially play with it for ever. You'll need at minimum 8GB of RAM (16GB strongly advised), a 64-bit OS, a good graphics card and a reasonably fast PC (see below). You can download it from Steam for less than the price of an old basic Hornby model railway starter kit, adjusted for today's money.

So much more than trains... here's a quiet edge of a German town in 1904, from one of my games (Click the image to visit the game's description on Steam )


Main Game Features ~ Getting Started ~ Financial Strategy (Basics) ~ 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 ~ Dealing with Air Traffic Congestion (*) ~ Monitoring and Improving the Network (**) ~ Map Editor (*) ~ What's the Point of Your Headquarters? ~ Performance (*) ~ Mods (*) ~ Useful Links (*)

(*) = latest updates   (**) = new section


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). You will be learning not only the game mechanics themselves, but also many aspects of train operation and the transport industry (in the same way as learning a flight simulator involves learning both the game itself and what a real-world pilot has to know).

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

** Only later did I discover the comprehensive and essential TF2 Game Manual, which has detailed and authoritative information on every aspect of the game.

I have now incoroporated links to relevant parts of the Game Manual into several sections of this guide, which people should find useful.

What isn't so easy to find (even with the TF2 Game Manual) is an overall strategy for helping towns develop into bigger towns or cities, or an understanding of all the things you need to know in order to make the mechanics work profitably for you.

That's what I am trying to help with in this introductory guide (available here on Steam) .


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, 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). This is relatively inexpensive and will cause the town to grow, both in population and 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 the product it needs, which will again 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 and 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, which is one thing you need the information in this section for. See here 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.

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 small item.

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 small item.

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?

** What you need to know is that most vehicles have exactly the same running costs whether they are waiting or moving - so they may as well be moving.

The only exceptions are:

  1. A truck waiting at a terminal in a truck station, not queueing behind another truck.
  2. A ship waiting at a terminal in a harbour, not queueing behind another ship.
  3. A train waiting at a terminal in a railway station, not queueing behind another train or waiting for any other reason (e.g. signal).
  4. A plane waiting at a terminal in an airport, not queueing behind another aircraft on the ground.
** For these exceptions only, running costs are reduced by 40%.

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 .

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) was changed some time in the past. It used to refer to the time between successive arrivals, not to the overall waiting time - but now it does indeed control the overall wait 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 in its catchment area, which can really mess things up. You should filter out this unwanted cargo.

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

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.

** A very useful discussion on factors affecting town growth will be found here.

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. 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. 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

** TF2 now (?) refers to Country Roads as Country Streets, which can be confusing, and not really consistent with the real-world meaning of “streets”.

Anyway - 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.

** You may find it useful to read my sections on The Life of Sims and Bus Line Strategies.

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, as is often the case, it isn't possible (because it would break a Main Connection), provide a good inter-town public transport service to attract car users.

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

Where possible, avoid having trucks and buses/trams following the same routes , because buses/trams usually 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, but you should have plenty of money by this time). 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.

** You may also find this discussion post useful.

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 (entirely?) to the noise that a vehicle makes, not 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 vehicles driving through them 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 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, and if all or most buildings needing those items don't fall in that 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 this case the trucks will wait for a full load at their Terminal before departing, and some trucks will wait longer than others.

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 at most 400 products per time period , although some (like Farms or Coal Mines) can produce only half that number.

** They don't start off with that capability, though. An industry does nothing, in fact, until the supply chain to that industry is in operation , and then it gradually ramps up production through four levels as deliveries are made.

** As a simple example, a Saw Mill will do nothing until it is receiving Logs , and then starts producing Planks (even if those are not being supplied to another industry yet). This means that you can start to earn revenue well before an end-product (like Tools ) is actually delivered to a town.

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.

I have gone into some detail here because this information is suprisingly hard to find, and mastering it is really the heart of TF2.


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. ** However the way in which TF2 assigns and uses terminals has changed significantly since I first played the game. Refer to the panel links above for the latest information.

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 (** there is a useful mod that creates and spaces signals automatically for you - see the Mod section below) .

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 both of the platforms are occupied.

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

The Line overlay shows how the train will normally enter and leave the station - the double crossover switch means that the incoming train can use the other platform if the normal platform is occupied by another train.

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.


Dealing with Air Traffic Congestion

There are two forms of Air Traffic Congestion:

Congestion on the ground can be dealt with, up to a point, by having separate terminals for separate lines.

It is irritating, though, that while large aircraft appear in 1952, it is not possible to add a second runway and a second taxiway to large airports until 1980.

Congestion in the air results in planes unable to land and circling, costing serious money. The simplest way I have found to fix this is to use mods to make the capacity of aircraft much more realistic, greatly reducing the number of aircraft in the sky. The two mods I use are:

Air transport is one of the weaker areas of TF2, IMO.

{Note in 2024: it is some time since I have played the game, and this is an area in which TF2 might have been improved.}


Monitoring and Improving the Network

There is a great deal of information available through the windows accessible from the bottom right of the game screen.

The information is presented in tabular form, and what makes them particularly useful is that they can be sorted by clicking the title of each column (click twice to reverse the order, as usual with tables).

As with most windows, you can also click a locate icon to go to the entity being monitored.

Just a few examples:

Line Statistics (F2)

Reverse-sort the Freq. column to identify lines whose frequency could be improved. For instance, passengers won't use a rail line if a train takes too long to arrive.

Vehicle Statistics (F3)

Reverse-sort the Condition column to identify vehicles in the poorest condition.

Station Statistics (F4)

Reverse-sort the Overload column to identify the most overloaded stations - a quick way to identify the need for more trucks in part of a truck production chain, or the need to improve one or more bus routes in a town.

Town Statistics (F5)

Some non-obvious column header explanations from the Game Manual:

Public transport (to the right of the Size column) shows the number of individual destinations (houses) which are reached with public transport.

Private transport (next column to the right) shows the number of individual destinations (houses) which are reached with private transport, e.g. by foot or by car.

Among other things, these columns give you a quick way to identify where to concentrate transport improvements (e.g. see my section on Bus Line Strategies).

Industry Statistics (F6)

Out of many uses, I find it useful to sort on the Requirements column, as it brings to the front industries that need input from other industries - but that's just me!


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 in creating your map let you generate towns randomly or place them individually, the same with industries , and then connect them (*) with a first network of Country Roads (which TF2 misleadingly calls Streets).

(*) The connection stage has a major influence on game play. When the Generate Streets option is selected, the towns are marked with small white circles. You can either select the Default option, which will establish main road connections between the towns (shown for now as solid white lines), or else click on each of the white circles and set up your own connection pattern.

Either way, after you do this you have the option to click on a connection line to remove it. The remaining lines represent Main Connections, and when you go ahead and generate the Streets (Country Roads), these routes between towns cannot be broken and car traffic will be able to use it.

Since persuading Sims to use public transport instead of cars is a major part of the game, choices you make here can have a big effect on subsequent game play.

Anyway, there's a lot more to maps - 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.

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).

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.

{Update Jan 2024} ** A very useful tip on using mods to improve the performance of a PC with TF2 will be found in this discussion post. I have added an important mod that it recommends to the Mods section below.

Also here is an important tip from the TF2 Game Manual, from the section Simulation of Residents:

If (like me) you aren't experienced in tweaking graphics and other computer settings, then you might find this post useful, if only as a checklist of things to try. The author received a number of comments, some of them unnecessarily sour IMO, but they are worth reading also.

** I reached my own limit in a Medium-sized Map with a 2:1 ratio (the German Map shown in some of the images above), which until recently was smooth enough at 1x speed, gave regular short pauses at 2x speed and was very jumpy at 4x speed.

Adding an additional bus route to a town suddenly broke that, and now 1x speed behaves like 2x speed used to.

Lowering graphics settings (currently high) makes no difference, and neither does the use all cores suggestion in the above discussion post link.

My feeling is that the number of vehicles is now just too much for the CPU to run around fast enough, although I am not in a position to try adding additional memory.

** For reference, the game that broke my limit has 12 towns, 1,806 vehicles and a population of 24,777 (average 2,065 Sims per town), or a total of some 26,500 moving objects (while travelling in a car, a Sim is of course still just one moving object), and a Company Score of 168 . Sims travel pretty much anywhere from anywhere using public transport.

** I subsequently ran into the same sudden limit again, this time in very mountainous terrain with 2,040 vehicles (mostly trucks and ships) and only about 3,000 Sims.

My specs (not top-of-the-range by any means) are:

** The update to TF2 in June 2020, which was mainly for modders, removed almost all the jerkiness but instead throttled the performance, so 2x and 4x speeds became no faster than 1x speed, and all speeds became slightly sluggish.

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.

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 these Mods so far, two of which are provided by the game developers (Urban Games) themselves:

1. Sandbox (comes with the game)

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.

2. Vehicles No End Year (comes with the game)

When vehicles reach the end of their historically-available period TF2 removes them from the list of what's available to buy, although you can still clone existing old vehicles.

This has been a problem for me on a couple of occasions when new cargo ships were too big for my harbors and/or rivers to handle, which is the only reason why I use this Mod.

3. Town Building Filter (Level) (VacuumTube)

If you don't like skyscrapers developing in your towns, this 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.

** This mod allows 3 different height limits (including skyscraper height), and points you at another mod that allows you to control the AI's creation of buildings from different eras .

4. Auto.Sig² (Enzojz)

** This mod automates the placing of train signals , which on a long length of track is a real time-saver.

5. Town Tuning (lollus)

** This multi-purpose mod is (among other things) a great aid to improving performance, e.g. it can reduce the population of sims across all towns.

It adds a “tuning” tab to the town menu, which allows you to modify characteristics not only of that town, but also some characteristics of all towns, past and future.

Its functions overlap those of some other mods listed here:

  1. It disables the town editing tab in the sandbox mod, since it duplicates that function.

  2. In addition to town tuning, you get switches to control the AI (accessible via the Load... Settings... Mods menu):
    • avoid new skyscrapers (new buildings only),
    • set the eras for town building styles (new buildings only),
    • build roads with non-square corners (new roads only),
    • develop towns more frequently,
    • limit the geometry settings to increase performance,
    • alter the chance that sims seek new destinations.

6. Realistic Passenger Capacities [PLANE] by Nox

7. 3x capacity cargo plane by AV

These two mods help with air traffic congestion by making aircraft capacities much more realistic, so that fewer aircraft are needed.


The TF2 Game Manual (essential!)

    Camera controls (keyboard and mouse)

    Rotating Stations when placing (using keyboard, which also applies to rotating Depots)

    Street/Road Bridges and Tunnels

    Rail Bridges and Tunnels

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

Golden 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)

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