Reflecting on two posts here.
Tim Shorts mentioned playing a bad railroady game.
I realized that, to me, railroads are bad if you don't like where they are going.
The A-series modules are pretty railroady. The A1-4 supermodule wasn't any better, although it did a better job of connecting one set of rails to another. But the thing about them is that no group I ran through them wanted to get off the rails. The trip was entertaining and they wanted to stop at all the stops and get to the destination.
Where railroady adventures fall down in my experience is when they're either diverting from places you'd rather go, or forcing results on you.
Th end of A3 is kind of like that, with a false choice - either scripted ending is fully scripted. Either you get captured (the setup for A4), or you fight. If you fight, you win and then get captured (presumably as part of a power play by the capturer, who wanted you to clear out his rivals) or you lose and get resurrected for questioning and end up captured. Kind of lame, although the fight itself is really fun. It could have been executed better. Yet the part that galled people I ran through this series was "your stuff is gone!" and not "you are captured!" My takeaway is that people dislike auto-failure and auto-defeat more than a clear statement of "there is one path." At least in general.
So railroady adventures can be good if you're all on the same page about what's fun and where to go.
Wide-open adventures are cool if your choices matter and you have some means to determine which choice is what. Where railroads are fun is when the choice doesn't matter and you don't want to make the choice anyway. Which is partly why false choices are kind of annoying.
Eric Treasure felt the same way I did about Dungeon Robber. Very fun, but when you're faced with four direction choices and all of them are random, it's a useless choice. It's not agency. It's like having someone offer you four choices for dinner - chicken, chicken, chicken, or chicken. Why ask? Just serve me the chicken. You can't make any choice better or worse, and none of the have any different results.
I once got work edited by someone, and he "suggested" a change. I said no, because I disagreed. I was overruled - which annoys me decades later. Yet I cheerfully send in manuscripts to SJG and tell Steven Marsh and Sean Punch to change whatever they feel needs changing without asking. They do me the courtesy of not asking for my approval on things I don't have any say on. I realized that a false choice feels kind of disempowering, like you're a kid again. "Do you want to do A or B?" "B." "Well, we'll do B some other time." Yeah, thanks.
I think that's what's nice about a clear railroad vs. a false choice - if you don't even pretend there is a choice, and you make the single path clearly and fun, it's not a bad thing. It may not be the Platonic ideal of gaming perfection, but it's a good way to spend an evening. Nothing but not-fun choices on a path is about as fun as false choices - it's being stuck on a tour bus seeing sights you don't want to see.
No great insight in the above, I know. But this was rattling around and I felt like it made sense to write it down.