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Train status via text message


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#1 MisterToad

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 08:59 PM

As some of you know, I wrote a script that will provide the status of a train in response to a text message. You can send a text message containing amtrakstatus [station code] [train number] to 41411, and it will send you back the status of that train. For instance, amtrakstatus pdx 14 will give you the status of the northbound Coast Starlight in Portland.

All was well and good until various wireless carriers started charging TextMarks (the company whose free service I'm using) for sending these text messages. In response, TextMarks stopped supporting their free service for customers of Sprint, Nextel, T-Mobile, Virgin, and Boost. So those who use one of those carriers aren't able to get the train status via text message. TextMarks has a paid service, which works for everyone, but their paid plans start at $19 per month, which is more than I want to spend. So a couple weeks ago, I started looking for a less expensive option that everyone can use. I'm happy to report that I have come up with something that should work for everyone, and it doesn't cost me a dime. (I'll give a brief summary of the technical workings of this new service at the end of this post, in case anyone is interested.)

To use the new service, simply send a text message to 401-268-7251 (that's 401-AMTRAK-1 :)) containing [station code] [train number]. (Note that you don't include amtrakstatus in the message.) For example, pdx 14 will give you the status of the northbound Coast Starlight in Portland. Or you could also send 14 pdx, the order doesn't matter. Also, capitalization doesn't matter - you can use pdx, PDX, pDx or whatever.

The 41411 service will continue to operate, so you can use whichever one you prefer. Let me know if you have any problems with either service.

Boring technical stuff: I obtained the 401-AMTRAK-1 phone number from the free Google Voice service. One of the features that Google Voice provides is the ability to send and receive text messages. You can also forward any text messages you receive to an email address, which is how I have things set up. I then wrote a Windows Service that runs on my computer that monitors the email account for new messages. I'm using IMAP, so I get an instant notification that there's a new message. Whenever a new message arrives, the program looks up the train status on Amtrak's website, and sends a text message reply via Google Voice.

#2 jdcnosse

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Posted 04 September 2011 - 09:25 PM

Thanks for this :) I have virgin mobile and it's a lot better plan than the verizon one I had, and I use google voice as well, so in theory it would go even faster. I'll test this out right now on my virgin mobile phone

EDIT: Text sent at 10:26 without google voice (straight from my virgin mobile phone) and got a reply back immediately with the accurate info from amtrak.com.

Edited by jdcnosse, 04 September 2011 - 09:28 PM.

Trains I've been on so far:
Round-trip: International Limited (LNS to TWO), Pere Marquette (GRR to CHI), Southwest Chief (CHI to FLG), Blue Water (CHI to KAL)

One-way: Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited (CHI to LVW, FTW to TUS), Ambus (LVW to FTW)
Miles traveled on Amtrak: 15,044 mi

#3 HotlantaAl

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 06:52 AM

thanks, I just tried it and it works great.

#4 MrFSS

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 08:16 AM

I'm moving this over to the FAQ section.

Thanks for the update.

#5 Tumbleweed

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 09:05 AM

Saved on cell phone, thanks! Posted Image
California Zephyr LNK-DEN(RT), DEN-GJT (RT), OMA-CHI(RT) 2/11, Capitol Limited CHI-WAS (RT) 2/11
Silver Meteor WAS-WPB (RT) 2/11, Empire builder FAR-CHI (RT) 3/12, CL CHI-WAS 4/12
SM WAS-WPB 4/12, SM WPB-NYP 4/12, LSL NYP-CHI 4/12, EB CHI-FAR 4/12, EB FAR-CHI 4/13, CL CHI-WAS 4/13
SM WAS-WPB 4/13, SM WPB-NYP 4/13, LSL NYP-CHI 4/13, EB CHI-FAR 4/13, SM WPB-NYP 2/14, LSL NYP-CHI 2/14
EB CHI-FAR 2/14, EB FAR-CHI 2/14, CZ CHI-DEN 2/14

Miles as of Feb 2014......23, 279', Future Plans....Coast Starlight and SW Chief

#6 darien-l

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 01:08 PM

Works like a charm for me! Thanks!

#7 MisterToad

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Posted 07 September 2011 - 09:10 PM

Thanks to everyone who has tested out the new service. I know some of you have gotten no response or a delayed response to your text messages - there have been some wrinkles that I've needed to iron out. I just put out an updated version that should hopefully have fixed most of the bugs.

#8 MisterToad

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 10:57 AM

I just wanted to give an update on the 401-AMTRAK-1 service. Since my last post, there were still issues with the service not sending text messages consistently - it was only working about 75% of the time. However, a week ago I made some changes in how the service works, and in the last week it has worked for every request that has come in. So if you gave up on the 401-AMTRAK-1 service because it wasn't working for you, I encourage you to try it again. Of course, the 41411 service is still available as well, if your wireless carrier allows it.

#9 Ryan

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Posted 17 October 2011 - 11:13 AM

Thank you for doing this, it's a really valuable service.
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#10 MisterToad

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Posted 11 October 2013 - 10:28 AM

TextMarks is discontinuing its free service on October 15, 2013, so after that date you will no longer be able to obtain train status via a text message to 41411.

 

The 401-AMTRAK-1 service will continue to provide train status.  Send a text message to 401-AMTRAK-1 (401-268-7251) containing [station code] [train number]. (Note that you don't include amtrakstatus in the message.) For example, pdx 14 will give you the status of the northbound Coast Starlight in Portland. Or you could also send 14 pdx, the order doesn't matter. Also, capitalization doesn't matter - you can use pdxPDX, Pdx or whatever.



#11 printman2000

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Posted 19 June 2014 - 12:22 PM

MisterToad, just wanted to thank you for this service! I use it first and foremost to track train status. So simple and easy.



#12 printman2000

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 09:45 AM

So, just tried using it and never got a response. Is it still up and running?

#13 TylerP42

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Posted 24 June 2015 - 02:58 PM

I'd guess probably not, considering it has been so long since the last post.


Just a 19 year old with a love for the railroad. 

Studying Broadcast Media.
Trains Taken:
Capitol Limited, Empire Builder, Wolverine, Lake Shore Limited, Hiawatha, Lincoln Service,(Birthday Trip Next), Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight, California Zephyr (5,640 Miles) END OF TRIP, Acela Express, Northeast Regional, Silver Star, Carolinian, Ethan Allen Express , Adirondack, Texas Eagle, VIA Rail Corridor Service (Toronto-Hamilton/Aldershot)
20,221 Miles By Rail...
 
 





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