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One of the most unconventional weapons in the wasteland, the railway rifle is a pragmatic tool designed for using the ubiquitous railway spikes once used to fasten rails. Their availability has led to the emergence of multiple independent designs across the United States, primarily on the densely urbanized Eastern Seaboard. Commonly using compressed gas for projecting the spikes, some inventors have tried using alternate methods of propelling spikes: Seagrave Holmes of Rivet City wrote of trying to design a weapon using large rubber bands.
It is constructed with a crutch as the weapon's buttstock attached to a steam gauge assembly, which serves as the weapon's action; a pressure gauge on the assembly displays and regulates the amount of pressure built up within the pressure cooker, which uses a fission battery to heat water into steam. The trigger releases this pressure, propelling the railroad spikes from the steam gauge assembly. Railroad spikes in a stripper clip are inserted into the ammunition slot, beneath a latch.
The gun uses railway spikes as crude flechettes. Though only moderately damaging, it is very effective at dealing limb damage (due to a 3x limb damage multiplier), able to cripple limbs often with just one shot. On the killing shot, a spike may tear off the struck limb or head, and possibly pin it to a fixed object, for example a wall or the floor. While it has a low amount of spread, its accuracy is not perfect and the rifle will often miss at long range. However, its projectiles have much more mass than bullets, making it more effective at short to medium ranges, and most effective in V.A.T.S. where its limb-destroying effects can be put to precision use. It is also remarkably effective at disarming enemies, as it will often launch their weapons a substantial distance on a V.A.T.S. hit. It has a high critical multiplier stat that, depending on your base critical chance, may make the railway rifle one of the best non-unique Small Guns.
The railway rifle can fire a total of 222 railway spikes before breaking.
- Laszlo Radford uses the railway rifle, he is a random encounter who may be found at certain "random encounter" locations throughout the Wasteland, but only after you obtained at least 1 schematic of it.
The rifle is built from a crutch that comprises the stock and grip part of the gun, a pressure cooker that acts as a firing chamber, a fission battery that acts as the firing pin and a steam gauge assembly that comprises the grip, ammunition storage and barrel of the gun.
- Seagrave Holmes' computer terminal in Rivet City contains an entry about his failure to create a weapon that fires railway spikes. The entry describes his attempts at using rubber bands as a propulsion system (similar to the surgical tubing on the dart gun), and possibility of making his contraption steam-powered, hinting that he is, possibly, the original inventor of the railway rifle.
- The stock of the railway rifle seems to be an actual weapon stock, similar to that of a combat shotgun, instead of appearing as a crutch like the schematics intended. The hand grip of the crutch can still be clearly seen under the barrel section attached to the piston.
- Curiously, railway spikes do not create ripples when fired into water.
- Oddly, all of the components for the railway rifle add up to a total weight of 27 pounds even though the weapon's weight is only 9 pounds.
- The pressure gauge by the barrel of the railway rifle will indicate high pressure until it is fired once, then low pressure until it is reloaded.
- The reloading animation also only shows one spike being loaded rather than the eight that end up in it, suggesting that it was originally a single shot weapon before being given an eight magazine for balance purposes.
- Fallout: New Vegas includes a brief appearance of the railway rifle, seen on the far wall of the "hidden" weapons room in Mick & Ralph's. This version of the weapon is a non-interactive static mesh (i.e. a decoration) rather than a working weapon. Most of the other resources for this weapon remain in the game's files, but no actual, working version of the weapon exists within the game itself.
On the PC, you might rarely run across a reload bug, which will make the railway rifle fire without ending the reload sequence, if you keep firing, more strange bugs will start occurring with the weapon like shooting multiple shots at once or stop shooting and still hearing gun fire noises...
- This only seems to happen on the unpatched version and is not confirmed on all PCs since it rarely happens.