Thanks for posting all of this. I had thought Sunset Limited ran beyond New Orleans from day one (of Amtrak that is) on your little on line museum answered that question for me. According to Wikipedia, even from 1894 the original never went past New Orleans, but did turn at LAX and continue to San Francisco.
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.