While OpenTTD does provide you with a variety of different vehicles that you can use to build your transport empire, arguably, the most interesting types of vehicles are trains. Be it the early steam engines, the modern and efficient electric trains or the futuristic MagLevs, all of them are unique and will serve you well within their own respective time period.
Today, we’re having a close look at the diesel engines, available in the game from the late 50s all the way to the early 80s. You can choose from a total of 15 diesel engines (including the 2 toyland engines that I won’t discuss here) that all have their unique strengths and weaknesses. However, this freedom of choice comes with a downside as well: It can be fairly difficult to remember the stats of each train and how they fare in different situations. While the OpenTTD Wiki (https://wiki.openttd.org/Train_Comparison) does have a handy comparison page that I’ll be using as my data source for this article, these entries often aren’t descriptve. To fix that, I’ll try to explain the individual strengths and weaknesses of each train as well as when and where to use them. Please keep in mind that this is in no way a definitive guide – everyone plays this game differently so you’ll probably come up with your own creative ways of utilising the various engines available, and that’s great. This article is based on my own playstyle and the data from above article.
Note: All stats are taken from the base game with no adjusted settings except for the realistic train acceleration patch and no interest rate. This makes comparing the cost of each train easier, so don’t be confused if your numbers look different ingame 🙂
The Temperate Trains:
There is a total of 6 temperate diesel trains available for choosing, consisting out of 3 single-headed trains and 3 dual-headed trains. I’ll start with the single-headed ones as they are rather straightforward in their characteristics.
Note: 20 years is the maximum lifespan used for single-headed trains and the SH “125”, 13 years is used for the DMU and the Dash.
Categories (From first to last):
The Allrounders: UU “37” -> SH/Hendry “25” -> Floss “47”
The Commuter Trains: Manley-Morel DMU -> “Dash”
Intercity: SH “125”
The UU is usually the first single-headed diesel available for purchase. It is reasonably fast and powerful, though it doesn’t quite match the more powerful Floss. It is a very solid all-around choice, both for cargo and passenger transport.
This is the second single-headed diesel available in the temperate region. Oddly enough, its stats make it a worse choice for heavy workloads than the earlier UU “37”. The low price does make up for that somewhat as you can see in the top table, meaning that this engine is a very capable “secondary workhorse” for less populated tracks or situations where the speed doesn’t really matter, say, coal transportation. Just make sure that you separate these engines from you main tracks, or they will cause slowdowns due to their slower speed.
The fastest and most powerful single-headed diesel train available. A significantly stronger engine and a higher max speed make this train a good choice for heavy workloads. If you are willing to wait for a little bit longer once the UU is available you can use the Floss as your main workhorse for most of its useful lifespan, assuming you don’t want to completely electrify your network once the SH “30” shows up. Even so, the Floss is a very competent engine that will easily deal with almost anything you throw at it.
This is a bit of an odd engine. It is the first diesel engine available, but it is slower than even some steam engines, doesn’t have a lot of power under the hood and its lifetime is laughably short. But it makes up for that by offering a total of 76 passenger seats within the train heads themselves – only 4 seats less than if the entire train consisted solely out of passenger carriages. This makes the DMU a good choice for tracks with short stations but lots of passengers, say when building a circle-line around a city (HINT: Coupling multiple of these engines is a very effective strategy when the power of a single engine isn’t enough, but it is rather expensive). It is also useful for connecting smaller towns with each other, as its low cost and short length means that you can build the accompanying infrastructure very cheaply. Don’t use this train as your main engine though – the low speed will slow everything else in your network down and the low power means that this engine will have issues climbing hills or carrying longer trains.
Very similar to the DMU in terms of price, power and intended usage. The main culprit of the Dash is its late arrival date – in 1984 most of the small towns that you previously connected by the DMU will probably have grown significantly, requiring longer, more powerful trains. Of course, you can always strap several of these engines together, but then you might as well purchase a more powerful engine like a SH “30”/”40” and call it a day. This means that the Dash is only useful for connecting previously untouched towns with each other or on small, short, enclosed tracks with short sections that can’t be expanded and need to transfer tons of passengers, such as a circular city track. Its slightly higher speed limit and higher power output don’t really make too much of a difference in everyday application
The big bad boy of the diesel engines. With a maximum speed up to 201 km/h, this is the fastest diesel train and also one of the few dual-headed trains in the game to carry cargo, though only 8 mail sacks. Keep in mind that the more powerful T.I.M arrives only 6 years later though. That engine has a significantly higher speed limit and more horsepower under the hood, so it might be worth waiting if you plan to electrify your network. If you still want to use the SH “125”, do so on tracks that you won’t electrify anytime soon – or just skip the T.I.M. entirely. I would not recommend using them in tandem, as the 125 will slow down the TIM. Alternatively, you can create a (somewhat) separate high-speed network, use the 125 until the T.I.M. comes around and then transfer the 125 engines to your slower network where they can replace the older UU/Floss engines that will reach the end of their useful lifespan around that time.
Strategy (Summarized – in no way the only or best way to do things):
Start with the UU or the Floss as your main workhorse. Avoid using the SH “25” on your main railway network if possible, but feel free to use it in low-load scenarios. Once the SH “125” becomes available, build a separate high-speed network and start using the 125 there. The, once you get access to the T.I.M, move your 125s over to your secondary network and use them to replace the older Floss/UU trains. Then use the T.I.M as your new Intercity. Feel free to throw in some SH “30”s or “40”s if you need the higher power output – but keep in mind that they will be slower than the “125”. Use the DMU to grow several small cities or as a circle line, then later replace them with normal trains or the Dash if space is too restricted.
The Sub-Arctic/Sub-Tropic Trains:
There is a huge variety of diesel trains in the sub-arctic/sub-tropic regions, with 6 of them being one-headed and one engine being two-headed. I’ll start with the one-headed ones, because even though these engines may all seem rather similar at first, they are actually rather complex:
The Allrounders: Kelling 3100 -> CS2400/MJS 1000
The Heavy Duty Engines: CS4000 -> Centennial
Cheap and slow: MJS250
Intercity: Turner Turbo
The first diesel engine available in the extreme regions and also by far the weakest. With a max speed of only 80 km/h, this little fellow is even slower than the Wills 2-8-0 steam engine – and its max power output isn’t any better. So why does it exist? Because it is extremely cheap! Even if you slap two of these onto a single train they will still be cheaper than the Wills and actually have slightly more power, meaning that they can be rather capable. Of course, that isn’t really their intended purpose: This engine is great for flat, short tracks where it’s low speed and power don’t really matter. They are excellent for connecting nearby cities with each other while keeping costs low. Similarly, they can be used to transport cargo to and from smaller industries that don’t produce many goods. As usual with these slow engines, keep them away from your main railroad network once you get access to faster trains.
The first “proper” diesel train and also the first engine more powerful than the Wills steam engine. At 104 km/h and 1100hp, it has a both a decent max speed and power output, though it’s nothing spectacular. Really, there is not much reason to use this train later in the game, but it a very competent first engine. And it’s maintenance is cheap, so don’t feel forced to upgrade them if their low speed doesn’t bother you.
This fine piece of engineering is the first major step in terms of horsepower. At a whopping 4000 hp (hence the name) it is able to carry pretty much any freight without issues. This is particularly useful in the arctic, where you will often transport huge amounts of cargo to and from the snowy mountains, which often means that the train has to climb a few hundred meters rather quickly. Where you previously needed multiple Kellings/Wils strapped together for such a track, now you only need one single engine, keeping things simple. Keep in mind that this a very expensive train though – it’s monthly cost is almost $6000! Combine that with its slow speed and you have a train that is best used for heavy freight in steep terrain only.
The dark horse of the diesel engines. Seriously, this thing is pretty great: Its cost is laughably low, its max speed is the fastest of any single-headed diesel and even its max hp isn’t too bad at 2400. Now, don’t get me wrong: This thing will not carry eclipse the 4000 when it comes to the heavy lifting – it’s just not made for that. But it is a much better pick than the 4000 when it comes to passenger transport. 2400 hp is plenty for a few carriages and The Cs2400s way higher max speed means that you’ll have a faster network overall. Add to that its low maintenance cost and you have a train that will serve you well for the time being.
So now that we’ve seen some of the better diesel engines, let’s have a look at the (arguably) worst one: The MJS 1000. On paper it doesn’t seem that bad: Decent max speed, 2200 hp and a reasonable cost. It’s just that the CS2400 does all of these thing better than the MJS – the CS is cheaper, faster and more powerful. From what I can tell there is legitimately no reason to go the with MJS over the CS, especially because they both arrive around the same time. Just do yourself a favor and reject that offer to test this one early and instead go with the CS2400. Not even its slightly longer lifespan can save this train – best thing to do is to just ignore its existence.
Really, I’m not sure what this train is doing here in the first place. It’s just weird.
The big bad mother of diesels. If you thought the CS2400 was good, take a look at this monster: Over 6000 hp and a high speed of 112 km/h make this by far the most powerful single-headed train available in the arctic/tropic. Heck, this thing would be great in the temperate climate zone (save for the low speed, but that’s a problem that all subarctic/tropic diesels share). The Centennial is an obvious choice for heavy duty tasks, but it wouldn’t be too bad for passenger transport – just hilariously overkill. It would also cost you quite a bit: It may be less expensive than its predecessor (CS400), but it still costs over $ 4000 a month – significantly more than the CS2400. So once again, this is a heavy-duty train only – but a pretty badass one.
Finally, the only high-speed dual-headed train in these climate zones. At 160 km/h this thing will feel incredibly fast, especially if you compare it to your other trains available to you. And as usual, building a separate high-speed network might not be a bad idea if you don’t want to upgrade your full staple of trains. Upgrading everything to Turbos is not a great idea anyways, mostly due to the its insanely high monthly cost – you can run two CS2400 trains for roughly the same price as two Turbo engines. This makes the Turbo a powerful, but situational train at best. Think carefully if and where you can deploy it and if it is worth it. Still, it’s always nice to have at least some sort of high-speed train, especially if you like building intercity networks.
Strategy (Summarized – in no way the only or best way to do things):
Use the MJS 250 where speed and power don’t matter much, but avoid placing it onto your main tracks. Upgrade to the Kelling if you feel like it, but ignore it once the CS2400s becomes available. Use the CS2400 as your main engine, with the CS4000 and later the Centennial as heavy duty workhorses. Ignore the MJS 1000. Use the Turbo where applicable and reasonable – if possible on separate tracks.