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Obtaining Current Train Status


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#1 frugalist

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 12:44 PM

Is there a way to obtain the current status of a specific train via mobile texting?

I know I can call 1-800-USA-RAIL and go through the phone tree, speak or key my train number and date, and eventually get its current status. But many times it would be faster and more convenient to just key in something like "status 98" and send to something like "268725" (the numerical equivalent of "Amtrak" on my phone's old-fashioned alpha-numeric keypad).

I can get current weather for New York City by keying in "weather 10001" and sending it to 466453 (the numberical equivalent of "Google"). Same thing for current stock quotes, movie times, even airline flight status. It would be great if something like this were available for Amtrak train status. Here's a list of the search features available through Google SMS: http://www.google.co....html#p=default

I have an old cell phone that I use mainly for emergencies. It does not have internet capabilites. Just voice and text. I would really appreciate this kind of service when I'm away from my computer and would like an update on a train's status.
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#2 dlagrua

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 02:23 PM

Train status can only be found online and also at stations with agents at the present time. If you are in need of train status and don't have a Blackberry or iPhone, make your way to a library in the area. Most often free wifi and computers are available to use.

#3 Acela150

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 04:16 PM

I agree it would be nice if someone could text "Status 174" to a number and get the most up to date info. But since you don't have a Blackberry or iPhone best way to tell is 1-800-usa-rail and do it through Julie. Or as dlagrua said goto a library.

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#4 MisterToad

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 04:28 PM

Now there is a way to get train status via text message. Text "amtrakstatus [train number] [station code]" to 41411. For example, to get the status of the southbound Coast Starlight in Portland, you would text "amtrakstatus 11 PDX" to 41411. You could also send "amtrakstatus PDX 11" - it will accept the train number and station code in either order.

When I saw this thread, I went looking for some kind of service that would allow me to respond to text messages, and I found a free service called TextMarks. I wrote a little PHP script that reads the train status from the Amtrak web site, and I setup my TextMarks account to call the script.

Disclaimers:
  • Any fees that you normally pay for text messaging will apply, but the TextMarks web site indicates that they do not charge any additional fees for the use of the service. I have tested it from my phone, and I haven't been charged anything (at least not yet).
  • I think I will be able to see the phone number of anyone who uses this amtrakstatus service. I will not use, sell, give away, or do any other nefarious deed with your number.
Limitations:
  • The status that you will receive from this service is straight from the Amtrak website, which as most of you probably know is not always accurate. For instance, today's train 11 arrived in Vancouver, WA 4 minutes late, but the status displayed on Amtrak's website is "Arrived: 7 minutes late." It actually departed 7 minutes late.
  • I currently only return the status for the current day.
If there is any interest in this service, I will consider fixing these limitations.

Please let me know what you think of it, especially if you have any problems.

#5 frugalist

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 04:42 PM

WOW! What else can I say, but WOW!

MisterToad, this is the most remarkable response I could have ever imagined! In fact I didn't imagine that someone from the forum would jump right in and create a solution literally within minutes of my original post. I just tried it. Got a response within seconds that (as you indicated) matched what is reported on the Amtrak site.

A zillion thank yous and 4 thumbs up (counting my feet)!

Edited by frugalist, 21 September 2010 - 04:49 PM.

Lifetime Amtrak Miles: 5,046
Lifetime Non-Amtrak Rail Miles:
Long Island Railroad: 8,327,261 (at least it seemed like that many)

#6 Ryan

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 04:54 PM

Wow, that is awesome. Very very well done!
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#7 dlagrua

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 05:32 PM

Tried it and it worked perfectly. Thanks for developing a great program. It will come in handy.

#8 leemell

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 05:53 PM

Tried it and it worked perfectly. Thanks for developing a great program. It will come in handy.


It worked just fine, thank you very much. I will be using it seriously very soon.

#9 City of Miami

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:18 PM

"Sorry, this service is unavailable for your current service plan." <_< That's return text I got.
It's a Net10 prepaid phone.

#10 leemell

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:22 PM

"Sorry, this service is unavailable for your current service plan." <_< That's return text I got.
It's a Net10 prepaid phone.


Mine worked OK, it is an AT&T prepaid Gophone. Sounds like you don't have text SMS as part of your plan.

Edited by leemell, 21 September 2010 - 06:23 PM.


#11 frugalist

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:27 PM

I also use a GoPhone by AT&T. I've subscribed to a texting plan where I get a certain number of texts per month for a set fee that comes out of my prepaid balance every month.

City of Miami, do you pay a per-message fee with your phone? Are you possibly nearing a zero balance in your account? Trying to figure out why you would have a problem receiving the return message.
Lifetime Amtrak Miles: 5,046
Lifetime Non-Amtrak Rail Miles:
Long Island Railroad: 8,327,261 (at least it seemed like that many)

#12 Tumbleweed

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:29 PM

Very cool! :cool:
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#13 MisterToad

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:32 PM

"Sorry, this service is unavailable for your current service plan." <_< That's return text I got.
It's a Net10 prepaid phone.

I have prepaid phone service also, and it works fine for me. I searched the TextMarks support site and discussion forum to see if I could find anything specifically related to Net10, but my searches came up empty. Sorry it doesn't work for you.

#14 rrdude

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 06:41 PM

Sweet dude! Kudo's to ya!

#15 City of Miami

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 07:17 PM

I have plenty of minutes, MrToad. I have an email request for an explanation into Net10 right now - that works better than calling the Philippines! There is always the possibility that I'm messing something up - I am a beginner texter.

#16 frugalist

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 07:50 PM

I have plenty of minutes, MrToad. I have an email request for an explanation into Net10 right now - that works better than calling the Philippines! There is always the possibility that I'm messing something up - I am a beginner texter.


Maybe we can troubleshoot your problem together. Have you successfully sent and received text messages with this phone in the past?
Lifetime Amtrak Miles: 5,046
Lifetime Non-Amtrak Rail Miles:
Long Island Railroad: 8,327,261 (at least it seemed like that many)

#17 Cristobal

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Posted 21 September 2010 - 08:20 PM

I likey. :)

Works fine with my Verizon service and it comes just in time to keep track of the trains I'll be riding soon.

Thanks dude!

#18 City of Miami

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 07:35 AM

Here's what Net10.com has to say to my inquiry:

Please note that NET10 Wireless does not generally participate in
Premium SMS services or campaigns. Premium SMS refers to activities that
usually involve sending a text message to a designated "short code".

Oh, well.....

#19 rrdude

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 09:05 AM

Man, between AmSnag, the Amtrak Status Maps, and this text thingy, AUer's have got it covered.

What other cool "techno-thingys" am I missing out on, anyone? Bueller?

#20 City of Miami

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 09:33 AM

I didn't know about Amsnag, rrdude. Thanks for sharing......that'll save me a lot of clicking! :lol:




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