Introducing... The Museum of Railway Timetables! (from main forum)
Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:39 PM
I am proud to announce the public release of perhaps the single most ambitious online railroad effort in history. For the first time ever, a comprehensive digital archive of Amtrak schedules dating back to May 1, 1971 is open and ready for viewing at www.timetables.org.
This project has been in the works for over five years, and was a fully volunteer effort from start to finish.
I came up with the idea back in 2004 when complaints arose over the old MileTrak system's inability to account for trips taken on discontinued routes. It became clear to me very quickly that I would need to begin collecting old timetables in order to add this historical information to the system. In order for MileTrak to make use of schedule data for the calculation of mileage traveled, all of the stations and arrival times would have to be converted to text form. Of course, the imperfect nature of timetables produced before the digital era was such that accurate optical character recognition (OCR) is almost impossible. For that and other reasons, including a lack of time to keep developing the site, I shelved MileTrak – but I didn't stop collecting timetables.
After giving it some thought, I realized that the American passenger rail community – composed of travelers, advocates, researchers, historians, politicians and employees – would benefit much more from easy access to the timetable source materials, rather than just a niche application that made use of them. I decided that I would put together the resources to scan each and every page of the timetables, and host them for free on the Internet. It was a lofty and daunting goal!
My full-time career as a MIT student has left me with minimal free time to devote to the especially laborious task of flipping timetables page by page on a flatbed scanner. After a certain point, it became obvious that I would need some help if it was all to be finished in a reasonable time frame. What I really needed was a computer-savvy individual with the patience, skill, and attention to detail required to properly process and archive these delicate documents. I assure you that they cannot just be run through any ordinary document feeder!
About two years ago, I met my match right in my own backyard: Tom Bedwell, better known around here as MrFSS. Tom and I struck an arrangement whereby I would mail him packages of schedules, and he would then scan and upload them in digital form. Tom can give you a better idea of the time commitment on his part, but suffice it to say, it was substantial. Each national, northeast or system timetable took several hours to scan, correct, and organize. The end result is yours to behold.
We are just a few timetables away from a full digital set, and will finish scanning and processing them as we find the time. We are also aware that some adjustment is required with the interface and for certain images. But since we're so close, we figured it was ready to open up for everyone to enjoy. Tell all your friends, and share the link widely. All of the original ads, maps and photos are included in the timetables, which will make for hours of reading and entertainment. And finally, join us in our new Amtrak Timetable Discussion area to talk about the interesting things you find along the way.
Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:43 PM
When I first read your post about "in a few minutes you won't have to leave your chair......" I was thinkin' WTF?
Well, you and Tom came thru. Nice work, thanks for the effort to all involved.
Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:48 PM
California Zephyr- (11 times)-8 Superliner Bedrooms/1 Roomette, 2 Family Bedrooms
Capitol Limited-(once) Superlner Bedroom
Cascades- (6 times) Business Class
Coast Starlight- (6 times) 6 Superliner Bedrooms
Crescent- (once)Viewliner Bedroom
Heber Creeper- (1)
'I'm packed, tickets in hand, I'm ready to go-Is it train time yet?'
Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:49 PM
I venture to say that this will be a most welcome reference that will end a lot of speculation and arguements on these boards as to what ran where, when, and how.
I'm sure that it must have been a labor of love to perform this sometimes tedious task, but it surely will be appreciated by all.
Once again, congratulations!
okay on the blue!
Posted 12 March 2010 - 10:57 PM
I'm sure it will come in handy - but I remember when ... (I was told not to swear!)
Take the train instead and enjoy the ride!
The view is much better at 3 feet than it is at 30,000 feet!
Posted 12 March 2010 - 11:08 PM
Really, really, good stuff. Thanks again.
Posted 13 March 2010 - 12:35 AM
....just one more page before I hit the sack.... ARGH! okay.... just one more page.... ARGH! okay... just one more...
This is RailFan crack, Anthony.
Posted 13 March 2010 - 03:38 AM
Posted 13 March 2010 - 06:14 AM
This is RailFan crack, Anthony.
Thanks, Anthony! If you're looking for any more assistance with scanning, let me know - I'd be happy to help.
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Posted 13 March 2010 - 06:16 AM
Tom can give you a better idea of the time commitment on his part, but suffice it to say, it was substantial. Each national, northeast or system timetable took several hours to scan, correct, and organize. The end result is yours to behold.
I guess Anthony's comment here calls for my input.
At last count, but who is really keeping track, I think I have scanned between 80 and 90 tables.
Some were easier than others as they had less of a page count. But the closer and closer we came to the 2000's that page count for each table began to increase.
On average, it would take me between 2-4 hours for each table. In addition to scanning each page I also used Adobe Photoshop to straighten each page (Photoshop has a wonderful tool for doing this) and also cropped each page to the exact proportions of the original sheet.
I could also remove small imperfections that would detract, but Antony decided at the beginning we would leave as much of that as we could so as to represent what they really looked like in the day. I didn't do any color corrections, either. Some covers had bleed through from the back side of the page and this could be dealt with as needed.
Now you may see why I was able to insert a page here or there over the last couple of years in a thread when a question was asked about old tables.
For the last two years I have almost memorized every table Amtrak has produced. But, as old as I am, I have to keep going back and looking at them over and over again. I especially find some of the covers to be almost worthy of being framed.
If anyone has a question about the process, let Anthony or me know.
We have a few more tables to get on the site and will add them as we can get our hands on them and get them scanned.
Posted 13 March 2010 - 06:41 AM
Tom, now that this project is almost finished, what are you going to do with all your spare time?
Posted 13 March 2010 - 08:04 AM
Posted 13 March 2010 - 01:46 PM
Posted 13 March 2010 - 05:12 PM
Just kidding. Looking at info like this is right up my alley! And I do thank you both sincerely!
Pre-Amtrak Routes Traveled: Empire Builder (Great Northern), North Coast Limited (Northern Pacific), Abraham Lincoln (Gulf, Mobile, and Ohio), City of Hinkle (Union Pacific) Panama Limited (Illinois Central)
Bustitutions: Portland-Spokane (EB),Galesburg-Bloomington (CZ/Lincoln Service )
Amtrak Miles: 81242
Pre-Amtrak Miles: 8478
Bustitution Miles: 450
Excursion trains ridden: Centralia and Chehalis Railroad, Mt. Hood Scenic Railroad, Alaska Railroad, 1880 Train (Black Hills Central RR) and trains at the Illinois Railway Museum, California Railway Museum, and the Monticello (IL) Railroad Museum.
Posted 13 March 2010 - 09:48 PM
Posted 13 March 2010 - 09:59 PM
WICT106, you touch on a particularly important aspect of this project. I hope that the site can serve as a helpful resource for gainful pursuits that may lead to enhanced service -- for example, reports including long-range comparisons of service along a particular route, schedule padding over time, gain or loss of destinations served, etc. I'd love to see somebody whip up some spreadsheets with some interesting statistics, like trip times between given city pairs over the years...
Posted 18 March 2010 - 03:02 PM
I was wondering if you intend to keep it at only Amtrak timetables or if you plan to add other roads in the future? Since you chose the name timetables.org and not amtraktimetables.org, I suspect you are open to the idea of adding others.
If so, how about a submission process so others can scan their timetables and get them added?
Posted 18 March 2010 - 06:39 PM
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