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MisterToad

Train status via text message

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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 pdx, PDX, Pdx or whatever.

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Amtrak now offers train status by text or email.

 

Subscribe to delay Alerts https://tickets.amtrak.com/itd/amtrak/delayalerts

 

I used this service to get text alerts during the winter season for 5 & 6 for the Truckee Station.

 

I chose a date spread that went into May.

 

But, when I tried to delete the text alerts for 5 & 6, the Delete button would not respond.

 

I had to contact Amtrak IT, who told me that they would take care of it.

 

I assume most people never try to cancel their alerts, if it's for travel on a certain day, because, after that day, the alert goes away, even if it wouldn't cancel for them. No Biggie.

 

But, since I was still getting daily text alerts, I did not want to wait until May for them to stop coming.

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That is cool, but still not as good as this service was. It was status of any train, just by sending a text. No having to subscribe.

 

Too bad it is no longer working.

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