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A Beginner's Guide to the Railroads of 1870

by Louis Newman

winter 1996/Vol. 3 No. 3

1870 is my favorite of all the 18xx games. It has a lot of space to expand and the rules modifications reduce the amount of robber baron behavior so prevalent in some other games. The following historical and play comments are offered in order to give people a head-start in playing 1870. The 10 railroads in the game are listed in an order of general starting order preference.

1. FRISCO - (St. Louis-San Francisco Railway) By definition, this is the first railroad in the game as the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway private company allows the railroad to operate immediately without the sale of additional shares. This feature makes the private company very valuable and it is generally sold for a substantial premium over the $140 beginning price. At the beginning of the game, build to Kansas City and place a station there. Since the railroad historically was blocked from getting further west, migrate to the Southeast any way that looks feasible.

2.KATY - (Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad) The private company of the same name has a 10% share and therefore this railroad is easier to start as only 50% needs to be purchased. Since the FRISCO will be running, these two railroads can work together to build track. An admirable goal for the KATY is to try to get to its destination with a three train. Historically, the destination for this railroad should be Galveston and not the Southwest. This railroad was one of the first to go to Texas and therefore carried a lot of cattle. It can make good use of the Southern Cattle Company private which is worth at least a $5 bid above the par cost of $50.Beware of owning a minority share in this railroad, as it tends to be sold off by the owner to raise funds.

3. SANTA FE - (Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe) The early operation of the FRISCO and the KATY make this railroad desirable as it can cooperate in track laying. This is also a good railroad for the Cattle private and its token. The Santa Fe should be able to get to its destination as fast as possible since there are several other railroads that can be hooked into it. The complex possibilities make this a poor railroad for a beginner to operate.

4. COTTON BELT - (St. Louis Southwestern Railway) To start this railroad early, the Mississippi River Bridge Company private is essential. The Bridge allows a tile lay across the Mississippi which is then followed by two yellow tiles into Little Rock and a station there. The central location of this railroad allow for strategic play options and control of the middle of the board. Consequently, the Bridge is a highly desirable private that is worth several bids. The Fort Worth destination is easily and quickly attainable if the railroad is started early.

5. MP - (Missouri Pacific Railroad) Historically, the MP started off from St. Louis and headed towards Kansas City along the Missouri River. It then built from St. Louis around the Ozark mountains through Little Rock on its way to Dallas. Who cares about history! Chicago is the place to go in this game. If the Bridge has been built, or you have it, cross the Mississippi and head for Chicago. There are many profitable two and three train runs; this railroad makes a lot of money for its owner early if run well. Lay tiles to prevent anyone else from getting to Chicago.

6. GMO - (Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Railroad) The chewing gum (gummo) line works well with the the Gulf Shipping Company private that has the Port token. The port can be placed in New Orleans or Mobile and adds $20 to the value of that city. A nice network of short runs can be constructed between the cities around the gulf, and a token is suggested in Baton Rouge to keep the other guys out of your Port. This feature makes the GMO a very profitable railroad early in the game and a good choice to own a few shares to make some money. The Port private is worth a couple of bids at the start of the game.

7. IC - (Illinois Central Railroad) Some people like the IC; some people think it is appropriately named. In real life, the IC started in central Illinois and eventually headed south. Its most famous train was named the "City of New Orleans". The owner should work with the GMO as both of these are headed in the same direction. Chicago is a must since that destination gives double the best payoff on the board. Beware of competing sneaky track lays that try to keep the IC out of Chicago.

8. Q - (Ft. Worth & Denver City Railway) This railroad started in Ft. Worth; the Colorado and Southern started in Denver and the two met somewhere in between. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (the Q) then acquired it sometime later. This is a dull railroad to operate; there are no features or towns along the route. If it starts late in the game, it can run back up the tracks laid by the KATY and the SANTA FE. It might as well start with a high par value for its stock, buy a big train and travel a circuitous route to get to Denver.

9. TP - (Texas & Pacific Railway) The Toilet Paper, as it is sometimes referred to, is actually liked by some people. Originally, it started in Dallas and headed west to El Paso where it got cut off from further progress towards the Pacific. It then headed in the other direction to New Orleans. It didn't do well in that direction either, and the MP purchased the bankrupt line. Some reader out there must know what to do with this railroad; any advice is welcome.

10. SP - (Southern Pacific Railroad) The SP is a great railroad in California, but a crummy one in Texas. It is completely isolated at the start of the game, and the historical direct route to New Orleans goes across the swamps of Texas. Forget that idea, and head for Dallas-Ft. Worth where a tie-in can be made with the other railroads such as the TP that are headed somewhere towards the east. As the traditional last railroad in the game, the par value should be $100 to have a large treasury for train purchasing. Those three station markers can cause trouble by blocking cities along the way.

Louis Newman ( Andy Newman ( Emmy Newman (

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