Ever since a friend showed me the game, the goal I’ve worked toward this entire time in Satisfactory is unlocking the monorail. I finally got there, I have two working rail loops now, and I have some thoughts and advice for newcomers. Load up the cargo, release the parking brake, and let’s steam forward, shall we?
Right off the bat, it’s worth noting that trains are expensive and finicky, which means you may need to talk yourself into even taking on a rail project at all. Here are my top selling points:
- It’s the fastest way to get lots of material from one point to another available in the game at this stage of development (Early Access Update 4 isn’t due for another month or so as of this writing). It certainly beats stringing conveyor belts along the ground, since the fastest belts are expensive as heck and introduce logistical issues the more materials you try to run along a particular path. To put it in networking technician terms: A train has high latency but huge bandwidth, in much the same way that carrying a 2 terabyte hard drive from home to office can be the fastest way to transport your digital music & video media library to your work computer.
- If you need to deliver electrical power to a new remote resource and/or factory location, building a rail line to the site first might be a better use of your time than stringing a bunch of power poles along the ground since the monorail track functions as a power line. Convenient!
- A train is also a transportation vehicle for you in addition to the cargo. You won’t need a Hyper Tube link if you can just wait for the next train and hop aboard, and it’s certainly more scenic. It also avoids the weird jarring camera movement every time you hit a Tube line’s support points.
- You can click the left mouse button while riding the train to sound the horn.
As should now be made clear, trains are cool and you should use them in your Satisfactory game. But what about the “expensive and finicky” bits? I’ll try to help with some of that.
A locomotive engine requires several complex products: Computers, Heavy Modular Frames, and Motors. The train station (where the engine comes to a stop during loading/unloading, and where you configure the train’s routing logic) also needs Computers and Heavy Modular Frames. Freight platforms where the loading/unloading takes place? Just like the engine, they need Computers, Heavy Modular Frames, and Motors.
All of this is to say that you’re going to want automated production of all three of those products before you embark on railway development. Luckily, getting to the point of unlocking this technology in the Hub involves the production of all of those items anyway. All I’m doing here is reminding you to automate, automate, automate. (Which you should be doing anyway.)
Laying track itself is relatively cheap if you have a decent operational steel production facility, because a chunk of rail costs one Steel Beam and one Steel Pipe. To keep things smooth and neat you’ll want to lay the track on foundation tiles, so there’s a Concrete cost as well… but by the time you’ve unlocked trains you already know that there’s no such thing as “too much Concrete production.”
Now for some of the finicky bits.
Good Alignment Is Good Aesthetics
To get a nice straight smooth ride that doesn’t spike your electrical usage too badly, you’ll want to lay track on a nice flat run of foundation tiles.
(Technically, yes, you can just throw track right on the ground and it’ll try to hug the terrain as best it can. There are cases when this will be your best option, in fact. But for the sake of this document we’ll assume that we’re building up and over the rough terrain like proper engineers.)
You’ll always start with your train station. The track-laying interface wants to snap to existing track of some kind, and your station is the best option for a new line. Keep in mind that the station platform is a one-way interface! Note the “output” arrows when placing it, because that direction is where an engine in that location needs to be facing in order for the autopilot to initiate the next trip.
There are a few ways to design your train and its stations, with interconnected lines and complicated delivery logic. So far I’m sticking with point-to-point two-station lines. Even so, there are a couple of options. You can make a train with an engine at each end (pointing opposite directions) in order to make a simple “back and forth” line. At least, that’s what I’ve read, but I haven’t tried it. I’m sticking to simple two-station lines, but with an arrival loop at each station so the train can be facing the correct way when it comes in. This saves me the space requirement of the extra car’s worth of train length, though it does make the rail laying trickier.
(More on that, shortly.)
Placing your train station correctly is very, very important for the smoothness of your tracklaying. You need five foundation tiles of width for the station platforms (plus some space off to one side for your loading/unloading) and you want to make sure the “rail” element of the station is exactly centered on that middle of the five tiles. What’s more, you want to make sure that the leading edge of the station is exactly on the tile boundary, not off by one notch either direction.
It’s time for pictures. Here’s a station I placed… incorrectly. (The view is of a freight platform at the back of the complex.)
What’s the big deal? Who cares? If you’re laying a perfectly straight track with no corners whatsoever, it doesn’t matter. But since the game world will almost certainly require you to build corners along the route even if you aren’t doing the loop thing at each station, misalignment has consequences. Allow me to illustrate:
That wiggle? It manifests as soon as you turn a corner and it’s hard to get rid of once the game’s decided that You Did It Wrong. Nearly every bit of track at this end of the line has it, and the only way to fix it is to join up with a length of track that started from a properly placed station.
Like this one:
Starting with a station like this makes everything just come out nice and neat. Your 90-degree bends line up neatly, your straight stretches are smooth, everything’s as groovy as all get-out.
To be clear: There’s nothing actually wrong with having a wiggly track. The game doesn’t really care. Heck, the train will cheerfully pass right through some terrain features. But let’s be honest, if you’re playing a game called “Satisfactory,” achieving a certain level of build aesthetics certainly improves the satisfaction, doesn’t it?
In the next image you can see where my “wiggly” track merges with my “clean” track. If I really wanted to I could rip out more of the “wiggly” track and make the merge happen closer to the other station, but honestly? I have other things to do. Some day I’ll get bored (and/or annoyed) enough to fix this… but today is not that day.
For nice, smooth, 90-degree corners that (as a bonus feature) set up for easy ingress loop juncture building, what you need is a 3 by 3 foundation tile area with a piece of placed rail that ends exactly on the foundation tile boundary going into that area.
This is a bit tricky to describe, so let’s have some screenshots.
Run the track entering the corner right up to the edge of that initial outside tile of the grid. Always make sure you’re hitting the boundary exactly!
Then, from just past the exit position, lay the next track starting from the previous bit and curve it until it’s at the boundary at the edge of the “exit” tile of the grid.
And with that, you have a nice smooth corner with a nice smooth track “face” to start your nice smooth straight length of rail from. It also helps later when you need to build a loop.
It’s worth noting that if you’re going to make another curve just afterward, there’s a two-foundation-tile minimum length on straight rail sections. Since you want to make sure track segments start and end on foundation boundaries, keep this in mind. The game gets cranky if you try to do back-to-back 90-degree turns to make a loop so it tends to just work out better if you factor eight foundation tiles for a full 180 direction change or a zig-zag: Three for the first corner, two for a short straight bit, then three for the second corner.
Loops And Merging Rail
This is the other finicky bit I wanted to cover. The way to make a station with an ingress loop goes something like this:
- Plan ahead for where your ingress loop will go. The train is going to use the loop portion to arrive via the “back” of your platform in order to be facing the right way for the next leg of the run.
- Get your main platform set up, with train station and cargo platforms and what-have-you.
- Build the foundations where the exit track will go and well out toward the other station. Don’t lay track yet!
- Build the foundations and lay track for the ingress loop.
- Lay the track all the way out to the main run of tiles toward the other station.
- Lay the track out the front of your station to meet up with the ingress loop track you just placed.
At that point it should snap into place and create the switch. If it doesn’t… well, tear up some track and fiddle around with it until it works. The reason I recommend the above operational order is that it’s hard to get the curved bit (the ingress loop) to snap to a straight bit (the exit run from the station). But if you have the curved bit placed first then there’s a convenient snap-to point. (Hence the previous section about 90-degree cornering.)
The snap-to point is going to be at the joins between laid sections of track. Look for the tiny seam, that’s where it’s going to go.
If you do it right, you’ll get the nice smooth junction with a track switch control flag off to the side. Job well done!
Things That Aren’t Obvious
I didn’t realize at first (and the game doesn’t go out of its way to teach you) that each cargo platform has a toggle for whether it’s meant to load material, or unload material. It can only do one or the other, so plan your stations accordingly!
(If you want to avoid empty cars and have your trains deliver material in all cars in both directions, you’ll basically need two entire stations at each end… one for offloading, and the next for loading. It shouldn’t be hard to do, it’s just a matter of putting in more build time and configuring a slightly more complicated time table. Have fun!)
Also, you can bring up the time table programming interface from inside the engine with the ‘V’ key (if you’re using the default key binds). A friend pointed this out after I’d spent days hopping in and out of the engine to enable/disable the autopilot so I could get to the next station.
Last but absolutely not least: If you’re going to build far above ground, I cannot stress enough the value of equipping the Jetpack. I hate losing the mobility gains from the Blade Runners, but I love not falling to my death from great heights. Note that this will require you to have Packaged Fuel production going. Everything needs everything else all the time, doesn’t it?
And that’s that. So many words about building trains in a video game. I hope they help you make more (ahem) satisfactory rail lines at the very least.