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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 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 popularise the Business sim genre. The game was very well recieved 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 Sounds; drawing in players who weren't the slightest bit interested in trains, or the stock market, or 19th century history.

Tropes present in this series:

  • 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.
  • 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 C44-9W 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.
  • Boring but Practical: Want to climb that wall of mountains to get at the mines you see just out of your reach? In Tycoon 2, the 3-Truck Shay has a horrible top speed but is one of the best steep-grade haulers in the game (definitely the best among steam engines) and is rather cheap to boot.
  • Cap: 30,000,000 money units in the original game.
  • Cattle Baron: The player can build or buy local industries to make two sets of money.
  • Command and Conquer Economy: Specially averted in the third instalment, not only there are other rival companies building their own transport networks as in the previous two, but the game itself implements an alternative 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. Depending on the relative locations it can be inefficient or actually capable to feed the industries on it's own, as the cargo moves slowly inland and even more in mountain terrain but faster via rivers and other bodies of water.
  • 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 a river, or up to eight tracks coming out of a station.
    • By the time it gets to Railroad 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).
  • Cool Train: 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
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The player can engage in activities such as running trusts or insider trading.
  • Expansion Pack: Railroad Tycoon 3: Coast to Coast adds maps such as Ireland, Spain, Western Russia, Eastern China, and the whole continental USA.
    • The Gold and Platinum editions were this to Railroad Tycoon 2, adding a second harder campaign and a bunch of new maps.
  • Explosive Overclocking: 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, where no throttles are present.
  • 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.
  • Heartwarming Orphan: The kid from the intro of Railroad Tycoon 3.
  • 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.
  • Just Train Wrong: Railroads is full of locomotives missing their tenders.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Big Boy.
  • 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.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Soft bluegrass pervades the game in all maps, which is weird when you are not in the USA.
  • Third Is 3D: Railroad Tycoon 3 was the first installment of the series in three-dimensional presentation.
  • Units Not to Scale: The trains seem to be a mile tall when compared to the size of the map.
  • 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.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: Most scenarios to a somewhat limited extent, but taken literally in the "Sandbox Mode" of Railroad Tycoon 2.