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Created by Auran in Australia, Trainz bills itself as a virtual model railroad.

The original plan was to let players build model layouts, and then drive around them in 3D. In addition, players could purchase and trade limited edition rolling stock, adding to the feel of a model railroad.

However, in light of Microsoft Train Simulator and user feedback (Trainz has a ravenous fan community which has been involved in development from a very early stage) the emphasis was shifted away from model railroading somewhat and more towards actual railroad operations.

Trainz first shipped in November 2001 as a 'community edition' available only from their online store. The full retail version hit stores in February, and incorporated the first of numerous service packs released for the community edition.

Included with the package were a fairly diverse range of diesel and electric trains from around the world (no steam yet), and three sample layouts. Compared to MS Train Simulator, which included no less than six huge real-life routes, this seemed positively stingy.

However, unlike MS Train Simulator, Trainz is designed with the intention of being very user friendly (something the MSTS editors are notoriously not) and as a result, creating one's own layout is incredibly easy and also a heck of a lot of fun.

Trainz is still suffering from ongoing development. Computer-controlled trains will only drive dumbly onward, and there is as of yet no way to set proper schedules or tasks for them. As a result, prototypical operations or point-to-point layouts are unfeasible. Auran, however, plans to add features to Trainz through the release of various modules, the first and most-anticipated being Yardmaster, which many in the community believe will bring Trainz up to the level of MSTS.

In the meanwhile, though, the community is contenting itself churning out a ridiculous number of locomotives, rolling stock, streetcars, interurbans, and more. There's great potential in Trainz.

Auran's website is http://www.auran.com

Update 19/09/2002: Auran has since released Service Pack 3 which allows for Microsoft Train Simulator style activities, much longer layouts and such. This had to come at a cost, of course, which is that all user-created locomotives from before SP3 will now not be drivable in Cab mode without the author fixing the physics definition file. All my favourite locomotives no longer work, especially the stunning Acela Express which put its twin in MSTS to shame with its full 3D virtual cab. Trainz has vanished from my hard drive, as I can't really be be bothered trying to ensure all my custom content fits in with Auran's stupid reference numbers.

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