TS21: Introducing Searchlight Simulations & the AC4400CW!
Coming soon to the Steam and Dovetail Games stores is the Canadian Pacific AC4400CW in striking CPR Beaver livery. This locomotive is, we’d argue, one of the most complex and in-depth to ever hit the simulator and we thought we’d let the developer, Searchlight Simulations, present their masterpiece to you themselves:
Hi! Seeing as this is your first product to be released on Steam, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourselves?
Sure! We're a dedicated team of five, all sharing a common passion for railroading and all with unique skill sets that enable us provide extremely realistic locomotive simulations for the Train Simulator platform. Since the founding of Searchlight Simulations in early 2013, the team has steadily grown. Our team consists of actual locomotive engineers and conductors, all currently employed by various Class 1 railroads all across North America. This allows us to seamlessly transfer the real experience and feedback behind the controls of the locomotives directly into the simulator. We record the audio for all of our products ourselves directly from the prototypes as well as conduct all sorts of other research trips to ensure we gather exactly what we need from the prototype. This certainly makes us unique as we're able to replicate the locomotives as close to reality as possible, withouthaving to rely on 3rd parties. Over the years we've established exceptional contacts at various big and local railroads across the United States, providing us with even more feedback, useful research material or direct insight from a mechanical point of view. We're extremely grateful to have made this many friends at all kinds of positions at the railroads over the years and would love to continue that way.
What motivated you to start developing for Train Simulator?
We were never truly satisfied with the available content. Things didn't feel and sound like we were used to from being track-side and from operating the real locomotives ourselves. We wanted to share the depth and complexity of these engines that we get to experience every day at work with the people that may not get to have the same opportunity as us.
Out of all the locomotives you could have picked, what drew you to the AC4400CW?
I believe this question is best answered by one of our team members.
“I grew up watching trains in the Albany NY area, and fondly remember the thrill of watching fast heavy trains pulled by both CP and CSX AC4400CW's during my days of watching trains. It was a feeling I knew other people would love given the chance and that ultimately brought us to now.” - Nate DeFayette | Quality Assurance Manager | Certified Locomotive Conductor at Norfolk Southern
The CP AC4400CW has to be one of the most complex North American locomotives to date, what made you strive for such high detail?
While there are a lot of North American assets out there available for Train Simulator, coming from a railroad perspective, there were many features and things that had never been included in any simulated product before that we felt would bring a new level of never before seen depth to the simulation experience.
“I wanted users of our products to have access to the same tools I do on the real locomotives. Most importantly, I wanted everyone to experience the real challenges of proper train handling, braking performance, and throttle performance that I felt had been missing in the game for the North American market.” - Anthony Wood | Audio Engineer | Certified Locomotive Engineer at BNSF
How long did it take you to reproduce the loco to such a high fidelity?
We have been steadily working on this locomotive since 2016, improving it and our own skill sets along the way.
Can you give some examples of the unique features present in your AC4400CW?
The high fidelity in layered 3D audio and the soundscapes we created to capture the true beast that these locomotives are in reality along with the in-cab seat bounce from the air ride seats on the prototype certainly separate this product from anything we've seen before. The ability to load test the locomotive in-game is another unique feature no one has ever done before.
Is anything else included such as additional rolling stock?
Yes! Included are 8 variants of Teoli “Bathtub” style gondolas provided by our good friends at Jointed Rail, frequently used to haul coal, sulphur and scrap along with a fully functioning End Of Train Device (EOTD).
Despite the complexity, is this the sort of locomotive anyone can pick up and play with?
Absolutely! With a quick read through the locomotive manual, and a couple of practice runs, before long anyone can operate it with efficiency and skill.
Does it feature assists or easier modes?
It does. We have included the ability to disable the Alerter and to bring up the entire train information through a simple keybind. The latter only being available on our included rolling stock.
Being a highly detailed and feature rich locomotive, is there anything that players should know about before getting to grips with it?
Take care to read the manual before hopping in. There is some really important information such as location of switches and proper procedures, not to mention the ever important keyboard inputs, as well as some interesting information that an average locomotive engineer would never think about but we as enthusiasts enjoy reading.
Where can people look to find out more and learn about driving this loco?
There are several tutorials for operation available on YouTube and on various forums.
The AC4400CW is at home particularly on routes such as Canadian Mountain Passes, but is there anywhere else people can run it should they want to? And are you planning on producing other liveries in the future?
Due to the open nature of interchange in North America, we've seen these CP AC4400s all across the continent on primarily oil trains from Canada into the USA, horsepower-hours payback to other railroads for various trains, as well as run-through agreements between railroads. Therefore this locomotive could realistically be run on any modern era North American route. Other liveries are indeed in the plan book, and are being worked on as we speak.
Lastly, do you have any ideas for what other locomotives you’d like to bring up to this “study level” standard in the future?
Time will tell, but the foundation has been laid for both EMD and GE products to come to fruition with this level of detail. The AC4400 will certainly not be the first and last.
Thank you for your time, we cannot wait to experience the AC4400CW!
The Canadian Pacific AC4400CW is coming October 8th, and you can get a head start on learning the ins and outs of this locomotive so you’re ready to give it a try upon release! Feel free to check out the manual linked below:
This is of course no ordinary locomotive add-on, and as such, considerations should be made regarding your Train Simulator settings so it runs as optimally as possible. Great lengths have already been made with specific ‘trailing’ and ‘AI’ locomotives in scenarios running with less going on under the hood, and performance-expensive features such as shadowcasting lights are optional and are off by default.
All things told, Searchlight Simulations’ Canadian Pacific AC4400CW represents the pinnacle of what is possible within the simulator, so get studying in preparation for its release later this week!
Screenshots and images displayed in this article may depict content that is still in development. The licensed brands may not have been approved by their respective owner and some artwork may still be pending approval.
TS21: Introducing Searchlight Simulations & the AC4400CW!