The setting is the area of Canada bounded by Lake Huron in the North and Lakes Erie and Ontario in the South and the railway history of this region is of a large number of under-financed companies getting into debt, struggling to survive and finally being swept up into the Canadian Government Railway when the authorities decided that, since laissez faire wasn't working, and since the country needed efficient railways, they would have to step in. This story line provides the theme for the game.
There are twelve public companies in the game, the CGR and eleven others, and all bar the CGR are available as soon as the half dozen private companies have been sold. The sale of the private companies is handled as in 1830, but there is nothing here to rival the Camden and Amboy: none of them come with shares or presidencies attached and the most expensive of them has a face value of only $100. This is as well, because money is tight at the start of the game -- $1500 split between the players, as opposed to the $2400 in 1830. The next thing you notice, after your cash shortage, is that you can float your own company despite it. As soon as you buy the President's Certificate you are given the company's charter and you can start to operate the company provided that, when its turn comes round, the trains on offer from the bank have a number no higher than the number of company shares that have been sold. So two shares sold at 90/100 or three at one of the lower values will see you up and running. This gets you started, but your company is immediately strapped for cash, as the capitalization of companies follows 1835 practice, rather than 1830, in that the company only receives its money as the shares are sold. With only about $200 to spend, with 2-trains costing $100 and 3-trains $225 and with private companies you'd like to sell to the company -- the latter not just to help your personal cash flow, but because their properties make them more useful in company hands than in private ones -- you are already thinking in terms of a loan from the bank. These are available, but there is interest to be paid each operating round and if you have loans that you can't pay off when the first 6-train is sold, your company will be swept up into the broom wagon of the CGR on terms that are not in your favour.
Other novel features include target destinations for each company and the ability to both upgrade and downgrade small towns in the later stages of the game. The target destinations are only about four hexes away from your home base, but that can be further than it sounds and the company doesn't get the second half of its share capital until the destination is reached.
The components are attractive to look at and of good quality -- not quite as good as 1835 but better than 1830. A special word of praise is due for the rule book and its writer, Jay Tummelson. I have never before come across a complex game with a rule book that was as well laid out and as clearly explained as this one. All rule writers should have it on their desk as an example of how the job should be done.