Hello Again

With the annoucement of Microsoft’s new Train Simulator project it seems likely that many more new people will be visiting this site (or am I just hoping? <g>) so it probably makes sense to re-introduce myself to this new group. Here goes:


My name is Mike Gilbert and I’m the Lead Program Manager for Train Simulator. Before taking this role last summer I’d worked on Flight Simulator, first as Program Manager for Scenery and then as Lead Program Manager, since May 2001. That makes for 3 versions that I contributed to so the time seemed right for a change. I’m a private pilot but don’t consider myself a “flight-simmer”, although I did use Flight Simulator 2000 while practicing for my pilot’s license. What I really enjoy is building software and I find working on Microsoft simulations very rewarding because of the technical challenges (and because the end result is–you have to admit–pretty cool).


My background is a bit varied. Before Flight Sim I worked in two different groups at Microsoft, one as a Program Manager and one as a Product Manager (a.k.a. “marketing guy”). This September I’ll celebrate 10 years with the company. Going back a bit futher I was an IT consultant/programmer for a bunch of years and spent a good deal of time training other programmers, speaking at conferences and writing books about programming. I consider this “Phase 2” of my professional life. “Phase 1”–9 years worth–was spent in the hospitality industry. My undergraduate degree is in hotel resturant management from UMass and I spent many years as a professional chef. I also have an MBA (including a few PhD credits) from the University of Rochester. I’m married and have a young daughter.


My interest in trains started, like many, in my youth. I remember sending away to a cereal company for a bicentennial HO train set when I was a kid. (Strangely, the locomotive from that set showed up on the bookcase of our terrain developer, Adam Szofran, not too long ago–wierd.) Money and space were issues when I was young so I swicthed to N-scale shortly thereafter and built a few modest layouts as a pre-teen. I got an Atlas layout book that showed a simple 4×8 setup and my stepdad helped me with the woodwork. My interest in model railroading waned in my late teens and surfaced again only briefly during my MBA program when I discovered that one of my friends was heavy into N-scale–and he apparently still is! I never really lost interest, though, and I still have much of my collection.


I was also influenced by real trains while growing up in Maine. One of my mom’s co-workers had a vacation home in Crawford Notch, New Hampshire and knew some of the engineers on the Maine Central Railroad, that operated in the area. One night, while we were staying at their cabin, mom’s co-worker drove me up to an access road near the apex of the route’s climb through the notch. As the train slowed we jumped on one of the locomotives (#253, an EMD GP38–I’ll never forget) and rode it down the other side to its next stop. It was both thrilling and a bit disorienting (not to mention dark!) for an impressionable youth. I’ll never forget the experience, though. Today you just pay to ride the route. When I was 12 we moved to South Portland, not too far from MCRR’s Rigby Yard. As it was on the route to my high school (you can see the road bridge at the left here) I’d occasionally see #253 on the yard tracks.


Lastly, as I begin interacting with the Train Simulator community I should point out I’m not a train expert by any stretch of the imagination. I leave that honor for Rick. So, forgive me if I ask dumb questions. Also, if you’ve never seen me post on the Flight Simulator web sites you might be off-put by my composition style which can often be described as playful and somewhat sarcastic. (Of course, some people would describe my style as arrogant, condescending, infuriating, etc.) The fact that I can rarely answer direct questions about a product under development doesn’t help. Hopefully, though, we’ll get comfortable with one another over time. I hope so.




Comments (12)

  1. Biff says:

    Hey Mike! Playful sarcasm notwithstanding, I know we’re all pumped about the new version. The sim gets better every day, thanks to you, the TS community and companies like SLI, MLT, 3DTrains, Dekosoft, and Diesels West. Thanks so much for keeping in touch with us. Looking forward to reading much more from you and the rest of the MSTS team!

  2. This will teach me to step away from my computer for a weekend. Others have blogged all of this information,

  3. MatthewS says:

    This is great news that the FSX platform is being leveraged for other products.

    I assume this means that the community will be able to reuse a lot of the freeware tools and scenery from FSX, which is great!

  4. theisomizer says:

    Wow, Mike’s actually still alive! After they took you off the list of blogs on fsinsider I thought you had died or something…

    On a more serious note: Please, please, please make TS as developer friendly as FSX is. Or you could be nice and make it even friendlier! I know next to nothing about trains but I can already tell you that I’ll end up developing some sort of addon for it.

    I like the direction ACES is headed in. I can already see it 20 years from now: Microsoft World Simulator 2026 🙂

  5. Hello, i´m in Salta Argentina, and in my state have a ideal exotic(for you) route.

    It´s denominated, "Tren de Las Nubes".

    Pics in http://community.webshots.com/user/pacoaguila.

    The ramal starts at 1200 msnm, and ends at 4500 msnm.

    I´m tryin design this ramal, for train simulator, but it´s a dream a ramal c14 in the new version.

    Hola, soy de Salta argentina y quiero proponer una nueva ruta(exotica para uds.) atraviesa la cordillera de los andes entre argentina y chile.

    Un tren turistico denominado tren de las nubes la recorre.

    Seria un sueño que la hicieran en el nuevo juego y mas aun participar un poquito aunque sea en el proyecto.

    Les dejo sitios web sobre este ramal:





  6. Hey Mike, just one question: where does the little wheel go now?

    Good to see you back.

    John Farrie

    Visual Flight

  7. David says:

    Hello 🙂

    I look forward to your TS product.  However, you should test a feature that got overlooked in the previous version: locomotive front coupler functionality.  MSTS1 has no locomotive front coupler functionality whatsoever.  The two patches released by Kuju were useless in this respect, even though they claimed to fix the issue :-/

    Please test the front coupler of locomotives.  They must be able to couple to ANY suitably equipped rolling stock, regardless of any bugs!  You should be able to haul a train, "run around" the train via a loop, couple to the opposite end, and haul the train back in the opposite direction.  You should also be able to couple using the loco’s front coupler at any given time 🙂

    The MSTS front coupler debacle was shocking.  I’ve been using MSTS since 2001, and I can’t for the life of me work out why Kuju screwed it up!

    Here’s a link to help you inderstand our frustration: http://forums.uktrainsim.com/viewtopic.php?t=49315


    P.S. Kuju are putting In-game advertising into their product 🙁

  8. Hey Mike!

    WOW! A MAINER! I’m not alone! My friend Shawn Kelley and I run a Maine based MSTS addon website and we both reside in Maine. I never imagined a Mainer would be workin on MSTS2! Well I’m glad to hear it. Unfortuneatly I missed the golden ages of the Maine Central, only seeing a MEC GP38 and a U18B in the deadline at Waterville. Now it exists as a paper railroad. The SLR is a nice railroad to railfan, especially when they used to run CN power down to Auburn. I’d like to hear more about your Maine Railfanning if you get some time, if not well, then I’ll be looking forward to MSTS2!

    Thanks Mike!

    Charles Hastings


  9. Francois says:

    Hi Mike,

    Not only new people… some old FS Geezers also happen to be Trainsimmers … 😉

    Looking forward to the new ‘engine’ coming up to steam !!!


  10. Joshua B says:

    The fellow below is correct.  MSTS 2 HAS to have front coupler functionality.  Imagine a real-world railroad where none of the locomotives could use their front couplers… not good!

    Also, I think the next biggest deal would be a little more ease in creating activities.

    That aside, I can’t wait for however long this will take!  I’m ready to get in the cab and highball up the line!

  11. Grant McLaughlin says:

    Hi Mike

    I think it is just FANtastic that you are working to move the FSX technology to MSTS!  You may recall that I had ‘hoped’ that MSTS was the unnamed project you were going to work on next.  🙂


  12. David V says:

    I had quite a bit of fun with MSTS1, even though I’ve never been a huge "train fan" away from the PC. One thing that I would greatly appreciate in MSTS2 would be a learning centre and lessons such as those in Flightsim.

    Oh and lets see some Canadian scenery! Our nation was built on railroads (quite literally, the provinces only agreed to confederation based on the building of the Canadian Pacific Railroad).