Some of my earliest childhood memories are of trains. Not the lumbering giants belching steam and rumbling across the landscape, but tiny trains, locomotives that fit in the palm of my hand. My father was a model railroading fanatic. Even now, years after his death, I have a basement still full of his books, magazines, railroad hardware, and the like. And upstairs, in a tiny box full of cotton padding, an engine. It’s exquisite, a small flatbed locomotive with a young hayseed leaning against a crate on its deck. He’s got a pike in his hand for rolling logs, and though you need a magnifying glass to see it, the crate is stenciled with a miniscule address, and even the chalk marks of someone who had to do some quick math calculations. And all of it made by hand by my old man, from brass stock, plastic, and balsa with the precision of a master jeweler. Trains run in my blood.
I bought the original Microsoft Train Simulator not long after it was released, mainly for the “Microsoft” and “Simulator” parts. Although I love model trains, I know next to nothing about real-world rail operations. It seemed like it might be fun to venture over into Dad’s world a little and dabble with consists and grades and the like, so I tried it. I quickly discovered that riding the rails requires a whole lot more patience than plying the skies, and ended up not using the sim very much, but I could see the potential. I promised myself that at some point I’d return to Train Sim and see if there wasn’t something more of interest there.
And now Microsoft have announced that they’re once again stoking the boiler for another run at it! The new Microsoft Train Simulator was just recently announced, and this time it’s said to be built atop the FSX platform, a move I think is exactly the right way to go. So I say, bring it on! Especially if the same capacity for third-party addons and modifications exists in TS that we all love so much about the FS franchise. I’m keeping my ear to the track, just waiting for the hum to get louder, so I can take another stab at railroading.