Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vintage Autos For TRS2004

I don't normally comment on the many, many items that show up at the various train sim download sites. In fact, I only see a small fraction of those items. I DO want to take note of the beautiful vintage autos that recently appeared at the Trainz Download Station. There are 14 in all: 5 color variations of 1947 Buicks, 5 1955 Oldsmobiles and 4 1955 Buicks.

All are by Kee8tiviT and have the KUID 404071. Since they were created for TRS2004, they should work with TRS2006, Trainz Classics and TS2009.

-- Al

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Gotham Tower article and DL at VR Reading Room

See our newest article "Action At Gotham Tower" at the VR Reading Room. It's a rapid transit train watching sim using the animated signal box (aka switch tower). The route and session are for TRS2006 with SP-1, but should work with TS2009.

You can also download the route and session from the VR Downloads page. Everything you need is included except the scenery. We're letting people add their own. Let us see what you come up with.

-- Al

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New at the VR Reading Room

I know, it's been awhile. John D'Angelo has come through with another of his great articles. This one is titled "Let's Bring Life to You Signal Box." Read it here.

-- Al

Monday, July 13, 2009

NMRA National Convention Show

The National Model Railroad Association National Convention took place last week in Hartford, CT. The hobby show part began on on Friday for members only and continued on Saturday and Sunday for the general public. I dropped in on Saturday since Hartford is only an hour and a quarter from my home. That gave me a chance to chat with old friends still on the train show show circuit and also had a chance to see the show. (I missed last year's show in Anaheim for obvious reasons.)

First let me say the Connecticut Convention Center, where the show was held, is extremely easy to get in and out of. It's right off Interstate 91, a stone's throw or two from the I91-I84 intersection. The center itself is new, clean and attractive.

Several things jumped out at me. First, there were more beautifully built modular operating layouts than I have ever seen in one show. They were certainly a high point, ranging from Z-scale to tinplate and Leggo. Participants came from Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New York State. There was quite a lot of Z scale this year. Noticeably more than I've ever seen at a show before. There was also a dearth of large scale. (Is it the economy, stupid?)

One constantly expanding presence is that of electronics - control systems, sound systems and lighting. I've said it in the past, and I'll repeat it: sound adds more to realism than any other sensory factor. (I can't comment on smell since we haven't figured out how to do much of that with our virtual models.)

Where does VR fit in? The only presence was Chris Cordes, who is the US rep and distributor for Auran Trainz. No other train simulator was represented, nor was RailDriver. Chris, who is a friend from past NMRA shows, was doing a good business, though I didn't see the customary lines of kids waiting to get on a terminal that you see at some shows. To be fair, I wasn't at Chris's booth for that long, since we had time after to the show to congregate. I am struck by the fact that Trainz was selling for $25 a copy. By comparison, junk HO freight cars (used and in varied condition), were selling for $10. Decoders for sound go for $99 and up. A beautiful O scale tug boat kit - had me drooling - was going for $98. If there's a money shortage out there, maybe no one was buying much. I think they should have noticed what a bargain Trainz is.

-- Al

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Doug Johnson completes his P-scale steam locomotive cab simulator for MSTS and RailDriver

Doug Johnson completes his P-scale (aka Prototype scale) steam locomotive cab simulator for MSTS and RailDriver. This is an amazing project. Read about it at the VR Reading Room.

-- Al

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Never Ending Operation

John D'Angelo's latest article at Virtual Railroader, "The Never Ending Operation," describes how he modified his United Central route in Trainz for operation that spans multiple sessions. While he was at it, he updated the route for Train Simulator 2009 and made the route available at the VR Downloads page.

-- Al

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

OpenBVE has arrived

OpenBVE stable version was released by Michelle, its creator, on 24 May 09. In my brief testing, I'm happy to say it works beautifully. I tested it with Steve Green's Northern Line route and 1995 stock, both updated from BVE4 for openBVE.

For those unfamiliar, openBVE is an open source, all-new program patterned after and largely compatible with BVE2 and BVE4. All are cab-view drive-it sims with a great sense of “being there,” though openBVE goes beyond and, in my opinion, is poised for greatness.

The big improvements for me include availability for use with Mac and Linux in addition to Windows. This is huge for Mac and Linux users, who have been largely left out of the train sim hobby.

Something more for my own needs as a Windows user is the ability to accommodate any dimensioned window or screen. I also like the interface, which combines the clean, uncluttered look of BVE4 with the very useful stopping position indicator of BVE2. The latter, along with all messages, is wonderfully unobtrusive.

Initial setup includes the ability to change any and all key assignments. The dialog box that lets you change assignments also lets you scroll through all the default assignments, so it doubles as a handy reference.

Animation Potential Simply Amazing

Other features of openBVE include support for animated objects and, of course, open source. To be fair, I haven't tested these yet. You can see some examples of the new animated object capabilities in this YouTube video. The wind and rain are truly astounding.

Getting Started

Complete instructions for downloading and installing are given at the openBVE site. You will still need to get a route and a train. I got these at Steve Green’s TransimCentral as previously mentioned. The file structure is not explained by anyone, and the downloaded route and train zip files expand to their own folders. The structure is the same as for BVE. Inside the Data folder, add a Train folder and a Railway folder. Inside the Railway folder add an Object folder and a Sound folder. Your new train folder (eg, LT1995_openbve) goes in the Train folder; your new route folder (eg, Northern Line OpenBVE) goes in the Railway folder; your new NorthernLine_Open folder goes in the Object folder; and your new NorthernLine_v3 folder goes in the Sounds folder. Now you’re in business. Oh yes, your openBVE folder can be anywhere.

More Information

The English speaking home base – in my mind – for BVE is still TransimCentral, hosted by Steve Green. This site includes a forum for all things BVE and openBVE as well as Steve’s superb creations modeling London Underground routes and trains. This site is also a great starting point for finding just about everything else out there that applies to BVE and openBVE. For a forum dedicated to openBVE, see the openBVE site.

You can see a number of videos of openBVE here.


I continue to be astounded by developments in the BVE world. Its practitioners continue to take this once unassuming sim, the brainchild of a 14-year-old, to new heights. There is a great worldwide following for BVE, particularly in the UK and Japan. It would be nice to see more North American routes and trains.

-- Al

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Buffalo & Susquehanna for MSTS

Paul Raynes is at it again. He has just released his version of the Buffalo & Susquehanna, of which the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton (see the February 2009 blog listing) was only a remnant. The new route is a bit more than three and a half times the file size of the WAG. It's a hefty download and even takes awhile to install, but at first glance it appears very much along the lines of the WAG - which I really enjoy running.

You can get the B&S at

-- Al

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lionel Goes Virtual

Well ... at least it does at Virtual Railroader, where John D'Angelo has created a virtual Lionel layout for Trainz and written about it here:
"A Lionel Layout for Virtual Railroader." The layout is available free at the VR Downloads page.

Cheers and many happy returns (to an earlier age),

-- Al

Saturday, April 04, 2009

VR Google Group is History

I deleted the VR Google Group a few days ago. The reason is that a spammer joined up and posted an obscene message. I was able to ban the spammer from any further comments, but Google does not provide me with a mechanism for removing unwanted posts. I find that unacceptable. So the group is history.

I may resurrect the group in Yahoo format. I may also set up a forum at my Virtual Railroader site. I have some reservations about the latter because I set up a forum for our community band website (Greenfield Military Band) and have been getting up to ten unwanted applications every day. At least I can control this, but it's unnecessary work for me. If anyone has some suggestions, I'm listening.

-- Al

Saturday, March 28, 2009

OpenBVE 1.0 now available

OpenBVE version 1.0 is now available at the OpenBVE website. Note that this is a different URL than the one I've used in previous OpenBVE announcements. This one is the currently correct URL.

Version 1.0 is the first stable release of OpenBVE. The screenshots are super. I'm about to DL this new release, so I haven't checked the new features, which include out-of-train viewing and animated objects. Open BVE supports content created for all past and current versions of BVE and has a new user interface and options.

As the name implies, OpenBVE is open source, which opens the door to Mac and Linux users (the latter should be able to run this new release from the command line). Meanwhile, it is fully functional in Windows with OpenGL, OpenAL and .net.

The new website includes some extensive material describing the plans for future develoment of OpenBVE.

-- Al

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As Time Goes By

Measurement and perception

Time, measured in seconds, minutes, hours and so on moves at a constant speed, or so they tell us. Time as we perceive it is variable. The closing seconds of a close basketball game can seem like an eternity. So too with growing up. Yet as we get older things seem to speed up. By the time you're my age you're wondering where the day went, especially when you can't remember having done much of anything (ah, the joys of retirement).

The speed of time seems to change with each generation as well. Fifty miles an hour when I was young was a lot faster than it is today, thanks largely to our quiet, smooth riding cars. Technologies like TV have also speeded up our perceptions of time. Just watch how fast the images change during the commercials. The supporting text flashes by faster than I can read it. Does this affect our perception of time? You bet it does!

Changing times

Thus it should come as no surprise that increasingly young people have little tolerance for the painstakingly slow work involved in model building from scratch. I remember as a young teenager being enormously impressed by an article in Model Railroader (back in the '50s) describing the building of an HO-scale ore car. The author cut hundreds of pieces of brass and soldered them all together. It took him 400 hours, which he wore like a badge of honor. I set out to duplicate his effort, but soon gave up.

As I think back on it, I never really had as much patience as I liked to think I did. I could gear up for and start many projects, but unless they were relatively simple kits, I never fully finished them. Part of the problem was my wide ranging, all-inclusive interest in everything related to transportation vehicles, vessels and systems. That makes it hard to finish large projects like model railroad layouts, which are thematic and focused (unless huge). The bottom line is I can dream up layouts and design them and move on to something else a lot faster than I can build them.

Through the years I've started a lot of model railroad layouts and only finished one - a small demo layout for a trolley museum. I never finished anything for myself because my ambitions and imaginations far outstripped the duration of my interest. Today's kids - it seems to me - have an even shorter attention span than I do. (I didn't get to watch TV until I was 11; at 13 I was sent away to school where there was no TV, and I didn't own a TV until I was 30 or watch regularly till I was 40.)

Virtual layouts

When it comes to virtual railroad layouts it's another matter. As you may have observed from the Downloads page at my Virtual Railroader website, I have finished lots of layouts. The key is that with Trainz, for example, I can build a layout in a week - actually get all the essentials in place in a few days - and spend another week or two perfecting things like track work, scenery and operation. I can easily indulge all my interests, including layouts based on trolley lines, narrow gauge lines and even bus lines. I can design and build layouts that focus on open running or switching or servicing industries or any combination and in any size. I can even model entire systems with sims like Bahn and Rail3D. If I really want a lot of action and have a finished looking operational layout at every moment practically from the start, I can use an empire building sim like Locomotion or Transport Tycoon Deluxe.

Is it any wonder that readership of model railroading magazines has been in decline, as has attendance at train shows? Kids today are not only bombarded by an ongoing plethora of organized sports - which I never had - and are constantly attracted to all manner of technological goodies (train sims included); they simply don't have the time or the attention span.


I have a suggestion to the hobby industry: embrace virtual railroading while you can. If you don't, time will pass you by and you will be superceded by more in-touch upstarts from a younger generation.

-- Al

L&N 152 Pacific for Trainz

New at the Trainz Download Station is this beautiful L&N Pacific number 152. I don't flag every piece of rolling stock that comes along - not even the really good ones. People can just as easily search the DLS (Trainz) or (MSTS and others) on their own.

But "Old 152" from "The Old Reliable" has a special place in my railroad memory. Over 20 years ago I set out to build a very large scale wooden model of the loco, which at the time was (and still is) restored and in service at the Kentucky Railway Museum in Louisville, KY. I took a huge number of photos and was able to acquire some erection drawings to provide the necessary dimensions. I never finished the model, though the frames and drive wheels and the beginnings of the boiler are in a closet somewhere.

This model by leeferr is great. The circular parts are many faceted, giving the wheels and boiler a nice, smooth roundness. The loco also runs beautifully and has terrific sounds.

After installing 152 and tender, I noticed a lot of L&N rolling stock in my list of assets, all shown as being at the DLS. I went to the DLS and searched on "L&N" and came up empty. I finally searched for one of the authors and came up with some L&N boxcars. In case anyone is having trouble finding L&N rolling stock, try searching on these authors:










-- Al

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Wayward Junction 3

Wayward Junction 3 is a minor update to Wayward Junction 2. A turntable with a roundhouse have been added to give more flexibility to operations.

I've also confirmed that WJ3 works with TS2009 as well as TRS2006/SP1. The download package at the Virtual Railroader website includes info on where to find assets not at the Trainz Download Station.

You can discuss this route and anything else related to virtual railroading at my new Virtual Railroader Google group.

Read about WJ3 here; discuss it here.

-- Al

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Not exactly train sim, but ....

We're in the simulation business ... er, hobby ... right? Well, flight sims have taken front stage for the moment.

First, Scene Systems has come uo with a terrific simulation of the Hudson River splashdown of US Air Flight 1549, which was so spectacularly in the news last month. The sim illustrates the entire flight. This company creates professional grade sims primarily for litigation purposes. The example is impressive. It may even entice some hobbyists to see a professional future here.

Second, a YouTube video alerts us to a flight simulator embedded in the newest version of Google Earth. When Google Earth comes up, just press the key combination Ctrl-Alt-A. This suggest Windows-only. My Mac is too old to try, but I just may see what happens with Linux. This sim will take some getting used to. I DID manage to stabilize the flight by using the dragging the cursor while positione din the middle of the screen.

Anyway, just a few diversions while awaiting next release of your favorite train sim.

-- Al

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

John Allen's Gorre & Daphetid for Trainz

John D'Angelo has created Trainz versions of John Allen's three famous layouts. You can read John's (D) accounting here and download the routes and sessions here . No additional downloads are required, but you will need TRS2006 with SP1 installed. Feel free to try them with TS2009, but there's no guarantee.

-- Al

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

VR Google Group Added

I've just created the Virtual Railroader Google Group . It's a place where anything related to train sims or virtual railroading can be discussed. I hope it will be especially useful as a place to comment on or seek help with the articles and downloads we have available at Virtual Railroader. I often get emails from people and think that many of the things we talk about would have a broader interest. Here's our chance.

-- Al

Friday, February 27, 2009

Never Waste a Crisis

"Never waste a crisis." I didn't just make that up. I heard it on a cable news show recently. Its origins are probably ancient China. The obvious point is well known: a crisis brings change. It's often an opportunity, especially if we look for the opportunity with an open mind and act accordingly. Our global economic meltdown is one such crisis. I expect many things will change; most far more important than train simulation.

However, since this blog is about train simulation, the opportunity I'm speaking about is train simulation, especially for those who are not yet involved. If you need any economic reasons to look into train simulation as a "railroading fix," just have a look at the Walthers flyer that just arrived in my mailbox today. Walthers is the number one US supplier of everything model railroad and model railroad related. Their monthly flyer contains specially priced items for quick sale. Just quickly scanning the pages, I see in HO scale cabooses for $37.95 each, covered hopper cars for $21.98 each, and an EMD F3 diesel A-B set for $299.98. A 4-car set of NYCTA subway cars goes for $219.98. There's much less available in the smaller N scale where prices are somewhat lower. A standard 40 ft boxcar costs $15.98 and an RS-2 diesel switcher goes for $69.98. To be fair, you can find cheaper items as well as more expensive items at Walthers and in your local hobby shop. But generally speaking, you pay for what you get. So if you want quality appearance and performance, chances are the lowest priced items will not suffice (I DO have exceptions to this in my own collection, but not many).

If you want to build a model railroad, you will also need track, power control, buildings, scenery, vehicles and so on. (Did I mention space? Yes, there are clever things you can do in a shoebox.) Still, you could easily be in for $1000 before you had anything of consequence (unless you built a shoebox trolley layout, for example). By comparison, my year-old bottom of the line Dell laptop cost me under $500. On it I can run Microsoft Train Simulator ($7.50 at my VR Pro Shop), Trainz TRS2006 ($10 at my VR Pro Shop), and BVE versions 2 and 4 (both free). That's my total outlay. I have hundreds upon hundreds of add-on cars, locomotives layouts and so forth that I've downloaded for free. I've also contributed a lot of freeware myself, so it's not all take and no give.

Remember the 4-car subway set for just under $220? I have on Microsoft Train Simulator 3 great subway and elevated layouts - very nearly like the NYCTA prototypes, both in appearance and size - and a host of highly detailed and beautifully operating NYCTA/MTA rapid transit cars, including IND R10 in4 different paint schemes, IND R4 and R9 cars, IRT Gibbs cars, IRT Hedley cars, IRT Low-V cars, R15 cars in 2 paint schemes, R17 cars in 2 paint schemes, R22 cars, and R142A cars. Oh yes, I almost forgot the open end platform Third Avenue Elevated cars and the 19th century Manhattan Elevated tank locos. You couldn't physically build this much in layouts, let alone afford the rolling stock.

On Trainz I run Maine 2-footers and 30-inch gauge equipment. On BVE I run trains on routes from all around the world. My favorites are the London Underground routes and trains.

If you want to know more about train simulation, just visit my Virtual Railroader and V-Scaler websites. Both are loaded with articles covering all types of train/railroad sims. You will even find downloadable items and links to other sources of related interest.

If you have ever wondered about getting involved in train simulation, now is a great time. Don't let this economic crisis go to waste.

-- Al

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What’s My Favorite Train Sim?

Not that anyone has asked, but my favorite train sim is the one I'm using at any given moment - and generally I use five: Trainz Railroad Simulator 2006 (TRS2006), Locomotion, Microsoft Train Simulator (MSTS), BVE Train Simulator 2 (BVE2) and BVE Train Simulator 4 (BVE4). I've listed them in the order in which I want to talk about them.

TRS2006. Like all versions of Trainz, except the limited Driver Edition, which is really a demo, TRS2006 is known for its ease of building layouts. I LOVE building layouts, and the Trainz graphical approach fits me to a tee. If I didn't have TRS2006, I would pick its earlier sibling TRS2004. I haven't listed the newer versions, Trainz Classics and Trainz World Builder, because both place too high a demand on my PC's system resources.

Trainz has a few other things that I like: the ability to operate more than one train at a time and its dynamic industries, interactive passengers, and train emitting/receiving portals.

Locomotion. Since I'm on the subject of layout building, I might as well continue with Locomotion. Technically this is a corporate strategy game, but I use it to build empires based on a single theme - rapid transit or trolleys or buses or interurbans. I usually set the game up so that I have enough money - sometimes I challenge myself there - and no competition.

The nice thing about Locomotion, and similar games, is that as soon as you have some track and two destinations and some rolling stock you have a working model. It keeps working as you build it, so you are never bored and you can always take time to just watch the trains. It always looks good and complete, even though you are planning more track, etc.

There's plenty of competition in this category from Transport Tycoon Deluxe (TTD) (Locomotion's sibling predecessor), Open TTD, Railroad Tycoon (RRT), Transport Giant (TG) and several as-yet incomplete homegrown efforts. I prefer Locomotion because I like its graphics better, especially the curved track. I care less for RRT and TG because trains meeting in opposite directions pass through each other. TTD has a strong following based on its more challenging operation. I prefer the simpler mode. Both Locomotion and TTD have a large collection of freeware add-ons available.

MSTS. When I'm in the mood for rolling stock I reach for MSTS. The available collection of third-party freeware is astounding and second to none. I just love 1950s boxcars, and MSTS has many hundreds (thousands? - I really haven't counted). I also like the huge number of available Northeast items for the New Haven, the New York Central, the Pennsy, the Long Island and the other New York region and New England lines, not to mention the available rapid transit, interurban, trolley and commuter rolling stock available. I also like the graphic rendition in MSTS, which is always crisp.

MSTS is now almost eight years old, so it doesn't have some of the newer goodies that Trainz does, such as the ability to generate trains from portals and the ability to control any number of trains; but the realistic train dynamics can be a welcome (sometimes frustrating) challenge when operating a switching layout. The only bugaboo is the sometimes sticky couplers.

You might ask why I haven't listed the Kuju/EA Rail Simulator. I may someday if it ever catches up to MSTS in available rolling stock.

BVE2 and 4. These are the only freeware sims of the group. Even if I had to pay for them I would like and use them. They both offer an unparalled driving experience from the cab - realistic dynamics, sounds and graphics. Third-party developers have taken BVE4 to new heights when it comes to realistic train controls, requiring driver activity every 30 seconds or less to avoid automatic activation of emergency brakes, etc. This is partly why I often opt for BVE2, which has been developed this far and has as part of its interface an informative side panel. This panel has been sacrificed in BVE4 for full screen, higher resolution graphics. A new third-party utility now makes it possible to have high resolution viewing for BVE2 as well.

-- Al

Wayward Junction 2: The Update

New at the
VR Reading Room: "Wayward Junction 2: The Update."

The updated route is for TRS2006 with SP-1 installed. Improvements are centered around more reliable automatic train operation.


-- Al

Thursday, February 05, 2009

SUPER Rural Trolley Route for MSTS

If you like trolleys, you will LOVE this new route (just released) by Paul Charland for MSTS. It's a realistic simulation of the Springfield Terminal Street Railway in Vermont set in the early '50s. The prototype was covered in the April and May 1999 issues of Railroad Model Craftsman. You can get the route at, where you will also find a full roster of STR locos and combines.

The STR is perhaps the most famous - certainly the largest - of New England's rural interurban trolley lines. To have a true simulation of this classic is a great gift from Paul and those who contributed to his effort.


-- Al

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

MSTS 2 Postponed for Indefinite Period

It's official. TSInsider has acknowledged that the next version of MSTS is on hold indefinitely. The announcement goes on to say that MS game developments are being focused on Windows - Live, a free online gaming service.

My guess is that's the end of the road for development in any form of MSTS as we know it by Microsoft. If I were a developer - and I'm not - I would consider developing an advanced train sim that was backwardly compatible with MSTS. There are over 214,000 third-party freeware items available at alone. Then there's the British counterpart, UKTrainSim, and the many individual sites around the world. Any newcomer sim developer is going to have to offer far more than a few routes and some rolling stock to be of any interest to me. It would be a tough hill to climb without acknowledging the huge amount of investment in time and interest that's already out there. Since I don't think MSTS 2 had any promise of being backwardly compatible, it's maybe not such a bad thing that progress has stopped. It also makes me wonder of MSTS didn't already realize this when makingtheir decision to stop work.

The good news is that the old girl, MSTS, still has plenty of life left in her and those of us who aren't planning to upgrade our hardware anytime soon will not have to worry about being left out in the cold in these difficult economic times.

-- Al

Monday, February 02, 2009

Exploring the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton

It's Ground Hog Day and the sun is shining. I welcome the break from sub-zero nighttime (F) temperatures, but not the thought of 6 more weeks of winter.

Oh well. Snuggle up and do some reading at the VR Reading Room . The newest article is on an MSTS short line, the Wellsville, Addison & Galeton. MSTS fans need not be disappointed in the pending work stoppage of MSTS 2. The original still has plenty of life in it, as this route shows.

Cheers and stay warm!

-- Al

Friday, January 23, 2009

MSTS 2 future unclear

The future of Microsoft Train Simulator 2 (MSTS2) appears very much in doubt. According to this report at Gamusatra, Microsoft's Aces Studio, responsible for Flight Simulator X and Train Simulator 2, has taken a big hit as part of Microsoft's budget cuts. Does this mean a permanent stoppage? A short term stoppage? An outsourcing? At this point we simply don't know.

On a personal note, I'd have to say that for any new train sim to make it, that sim would have to have so much going for it in realism, features, power, etc. that it could overcome the lack of a huge amount of readily avialble free add-ons such as are already available for Trainz and the original MSTS. Such capabilities would almost certainly require a major increase in computing power - something most of us are not in a position to purchase (even if available) because of the current economic climate. I hadn't planned it this way, but my recent article "Stop Already, I Need To Get Off! Coping With The Technology Spiral" seems very appropriate at this time.

It should also go without saying that we wish all success and comfort to those who stand to be (and have been) laid off - at Microsoft and elsewhere.

-- Al

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stop Already, I Need To Get Off! Coping With The Technology Spiral

New at the VR Reading Room .

Tired of the technology spiral? Don't give up. There's plenty of affordable, modest-spec train sim software out there and it's not going away any time soon.


-- Al

Monday, January 05, 2009

MSTS 2 Update

No, there isn't any announced release date, moreover there's still precious little information, BUT, there is an active website for MSTS 2 and clear evidence of progress. There's a video you can watch and there's new a quarterly newsletter in PDF format you can subscribe to and/or download from the website. The first issue was Fall 2008.

The most impressive thing I saw was the new animated people with detail and realism you wouldn't believe. There's also an article explaining how they do this without breaking the performance bank in terms of system resources. Very interesting.

What we DON'T know yet is when the game will be released or anything at all about the ease or lack thereof of building layouts a la Trainz. We DO know the game will include four routes (like the original) and will support 3rd party creation and will be built on Flight Simulator X technology. Beyond that it's just more waiting.