Once all cities are joined by railway tracks, the second part of the game starts. Players race their trains along the tracks between randomly-chosen pairs of cities; just as in real life, players must pay other players to use elements of their track if they don't have a complete route of their own. The choice of routes raced is random; each city is used one or more times. Money is awarded to the trains that arrive first and second, and the player with the most money when all routes have been raced is the winner.
In the 1980s, the game was formally published first by Butehorn and then by Schmidt Spiele (from 1981), both in Germany, and won the Spiel des Jahres in 1984. But it was the mass-market Games Workshop edition that brought it to many people's attention. The GW game board was made of laminated card, with a map of Central England on one side and the Western USA on the other; pens, dice and small plastic trains were also included. The game has subsequently been republished under its German name, Dampfross, initially by Laurin (1990) and then by Queen Games (1995). In 1998 Watts sold the rights to all Rostherne Games to Theo Clarke.
Initially, the towns on the maps were indexed by the 36 numbers 11-66, allowing a town to be randomly generated by rolling two standard dice. Some towns could have more than one index number associated with them; for example, on maps that included London, it was usual for London to have 4 or even 6 index numbers to reflect its size. As Watts' experience increased, map design got more complex. It became standard for a map to have six "special runs" to destinations at the edges of the map, or special classes of town (for example, sea ports). The first digit of a town's number was considered its "sector" and in postal games GMs would ensure that in the racing phase each sector would see one race to each other sector and one to a special run, to ensure a uniform distribution of the races. In the game's late-1980s and early-1990s heyday, Watts appeared to target a more "gamer" than "family" audience, producing maps on larger hex sheets and with 52 towns indexed by cards rather than the 42 given by the towns + special runs. This led to games taking longer to complete; this appears to have been unpopular with the market, as from 1992 on new map designs in general went back to having 36 towns + special runs and using smaller hex sheets. At this point Watts began to make more use of "small towns", towns which shared their index number with one other town and only scored 3 points rather than 6 for the first player to connect to them; this seems to have been a compromise to allow him to encourage the development of historically occurring tracks without lengthening the game.
The original maps are now out of print. Nevertheless, hundreds of after-market maps have been developed for Railway Rivals (including one for Middle-earth), and they can be developed straightforwardly by enthusiasts. It is also interesting to compare the results of games of Railway Rivals with the way that real railways developed in a particular area.