Pocket Trains Strategy Guide

Below are some tips for Pocket Trains (iOS version 1.0.6), serving as guidance from level 4 through level 20 with expansion to the North American continent. An enjoyable and engaging interactive experience with some geography lessons for good measure.

Getting started:
Aim to build and operate five railroads between 11 cities in Europe. This is sufficient to fund the start up phase.

The Jobs button leads to a list of available cargo to haul, grouped by city, mixed with items parked in the yard. Upgrade the station to increase the yard size. Each prospective shipment has a coin-number assignment (1 through 4) to indicate relative value of the job. Maximize profit by prioritizing selections in the following order: bux, crates, event cargo, 4-coin, yard cars. Choose 3-coin and 2-coin only if the higher priority shipments are not available. This strategy might involve hauling a few pieces in the opposite direction temporarily. Choose to haul as many cars as possible. Don't bother with 1-coin offers unless there's no better option and it is delivered at the next destination - storing single coin cars clutters valuable yard space.

Let's take a closer look...

Note: if two engines are at the same station, cars in the yard are common and seen by both trains, but the jobs offered are different. This can be frustrating because one engine may be capable of heading directly to the destination city, yet there is no way to select the job presented to the other engine. Be careful selecting items from the yard; it's easy to mistakenly delete the cargo - tap to the far right of the item.

Cycle through the railroads and keep trains moving. When all trains are running, catch bux and crates while en route. Tap the train itself to see the cargo manifest and honk the horn. Also, be aware that if a shipment is returned to a city, it is not put into the local yard. It could be lost...better to park it somewhere else or send it on a circuitous route. Do not refuel...save bux for opening crates and expanding yards. Buy fuel cars for every engine when possible.

Repair steamer trains if steamer parts are available (except the Carbon) or else they operate at half speed. Choose to use coins to repair only as a secondary option, especially if saving for a license. This changes at higher levels when revenue increases and train parts for faster trains are harder to find.

Westward expansion:
After saving 50,000 coins, buy a license for another continent such as North America. Actually, it takes more than twice that amount to reach the new world because of the requirement to connect everything together. To get there, build track from Bordeaux to Madrid to Lisbon. This makes the route to New York visible.

Another 56,250 coins are necessary to build the underwater track from Lisbon to New York. It is not necessary to claim that track section until trans-Atlantic shipments are desired. However, 11,181 coins are required to open a 6th railroad and place an engine in New York. Sell off some of the crafted steam engines acquired during the saving phase. Keep faster engines and fuel cars for the western growth phase. Consider converting bux to coins if the exchange price is acceptable at the Bank. (144 coins per bux one day, 398 the next.) 

The down side of expansion...When a city is visible on the map, there is a chance the daily event can take place there. For example, building track from London to Glasgow reveals the route to Reykjavik. Naturally, the next daily event is held there. The catch is that it costs 23,400 coins to build track between these cities, and there better be a fuel car on that engine or it won't reach.

To haul cargo between the ports of Lisbon and New York, claim the track section for 17,016 coins and use a fuel car (or the new Pumpkin Steamer). The cross-Atlantic jobs pay on the order of 4-8 bux a car and 363-668 coins per car. Keep in mind: the 7th railroad costs 14,697 (that's 31% more than the 6th); the 8th costs 18,521 (26% more); and the 9th costs 22,628 (22%). Upgrade the engine/fuel car later to haul additional cars faster.

Going further:
After several days, note the increasing revenue line in the stats graph. This leads to all sorts of graph theory questions. What are the optimal strategies for setting up a network of train routes? Star formations around cities? Lattice networks across cities east to west and north to south? Circular paths? Should a simulator be built for this simulator to compute an optimized configuration? What are the best tactics for a smooth logistics operation? Should one train wait for a cargo transfer or is best to keep rolling? When enough parts are available, would it be better to buy a fuel car or an extra engine?

Although this game is full of initial charm, how could it be altered to remain interesting after level 12? In contrast, Pocket Frogs falters after reaching level 30. Wouldn't it be great if Pocket Planes and Pocket Trains were combined into one system and cargo could be routed by air and by ground? What about sea ships or perhaps rockets to other planets?

Seriously, what if level 13 unlocked the ability to hire a logistics officer at a city for temporary help in keeping trains moving. Perhaps once in a while an officer goes rogue and sends cargo in the wrong directions, thus a sub-objective would be to locate the offending officer and fire them. Additional challenges might be: inclement weather or buffalo herds slow down a route; perhaps remove the use of bux to instantly "boost" a train to its destination and instead offer the ability to upgrade a station to allow nitro fuel to be purchased for a 10-20% boost in train speed. Finally, custom painting of engines and fuel cars would help differentiate railroads.

Down the road:
At level 15, assuming the operation of 9+ railroads is growing monotonous, perhaps it is time to experiment with a new simplified-distance strategy. Begin by cutting down on big payout cargo and focus instead on delivering all yard cars. Once the map is clear of pending shipments, start selling off rail lines and close railroads except those lines that connect the most distant cities. Next, focus on the 4-coin jobs for the remaining serviceable cities. At level 16, operating only 4 railroads from Honolulu to Volgograd yields enough funds to open up all of the continents. Push into Asia and then down toward Oceania. Job offers over 1500 coins per car contribute toward increasing revenue. By level 17, just 7 railroads create the longest possible route, stretching from Hawaii to New Zealand. Watch for yard clutter...it is easy to get caught up thrashing about trying to deliver goods along the routes while new cargo piles up at the ports. Remember, this is supposed to be fun.

Thus far, the game mechanics appear to favor an equitable balance between bux and crates. In other words, these two balances work against each other and most of the time they net to zero. At level 18, however, a sudden increase in the number of jobs-for-bux was observed with a lessening in the number of crates. Was this a streak of luck? Is this a built-in game rule? Has anyone else encountered this phenomena? A continued focus on the profit priority can help push the on-hand balances to over 400 bux (with few crates to open) and 1,000,000 coins. (4 of 6 licenses owned) At level 20, cross-Atlantic cargo can reach 16 bux per car.

About the screenshots:
The image below demonstrates a backbone configuration in Europe. On the blue arterial line, a "Regional Express" engine swiftly collects and distributes shipments to/from the port of Lisbon. The image at the top of this article reveals the underwater connection from Lisbon to New York...note the shark, the coral, the curved glass-tube graphic effect, and a lovely 8 bux-per-car payload. An additional image has been appended to indicate the marked increase in bux on-hand encountered at level 18.



  1. Thanks for the article! I really like this game, I'm glad people are writing about it!

  2. Instead of going to americas immediately, head toward southeastern asia. The standard locomotive set is excellent for the longer disatnce railroads. That is what i did on my second time through and i think conquering asia is much more fun so far. My first time i went to the americas and had all of europe, north and south america. Then my iphone got destroyed.


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