Introducing... The Museum of Railway Timetables! (from main forum)

Discussion in 'Museum of Amtrak Timetables Discussion' started by Anthony, Mar 13, 2010.

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  1. Mar 13, 2010 #1

    Anthony

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    Anthony

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    Dear friends,

    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.
     
  2. Mar 13, 2010 #2

    rrdude

    rrdude

    rrdude

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    Kudos Tom and Anthony! This should be great, and end a lot of debates and "I swear I remember........"

    When I first read your post about "in a few minutes you won't have to leave your chair......" I was thinkin' ***?

    Well, you and Tom came thru. Nice work, thanks for the effort to all involved.
     
  3. Mar 13, 2010 #3

    sunchaser

    sunchaser

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    Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! :cool: What an awesome idea!
     
  4. Mar 13, 2010 #4

    railiner

    railiner

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    Congratulations on your superlative achievement!

    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!
     
  5. Mar 13, 2010 #5

    the_traveler

    the_traveler

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    Thanks Anthony & Tom! :)

    I'm sure it will come in handy - but I remember when ... :lol: (I was told not to swear!)
     
  6. Mar 13, 2010 #6

    rrdude

    rrdude

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    Great, I've already got totally sucked into this dang thing, and I'm still in 1971!

    Really, really, good stuff. Thanks again.
     
  7. Mar 13, 2010 #7

    Rafi

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    My first thought, upon browsing the site, was "well, there goes the weekend." Well, I'm now a good 2 hours into it and it's pretty much "there goes the month" now.

    ....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.
     
  8. Mar 13, 2010 #8

    rtabern

    rtabern

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    What a great thing to have!! Thanks for doing this guys.... great work Anthony & Tom!
     
  9. Mar 13, 2010 #9

    Ryan

    Ryan

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    Pretty much.
    Thanks, Anthony! If you're looking for any more assistance with scanning, let me know - I'd be happy to help.
     
  10. Mar 13, 2010 #10

    MrFSS

    MrFSS

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    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.

    Tom
     
  11. Mar 13, 2010 #11

    Everydaymatters

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    Congratulations!

    Tom, now that this project is almost finished, what are you going to do with all your spare time? :huh:
     
  12. Mar 13, 2010 #12

    Steve4031

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    Oh no!!!!! In gonna get fired from my job from looking at all of my old trips. Lol. Thanks!!
     
  13. Mar 13, 2010 #13

    MikefromCrete

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    MikefromCrete

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    Wow, this is great. I know I'm going to spending many long hours at this site. Thanks for the hard work and effort, Anthony and Tom.
     
  14. Mar 13, 2010 #14

    JayPea

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    Just what I needed: an excuse to spend hours more time on the Web, looking at old Amtrak timetables. Thanks a lot, guys!!!! :angry: :p :D :lol:

    Just kidding. Looking at info like this is right up my alley! And I do thank you both sincerely!
     
  15. Mar 14, 2010 #15

    GG-1

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    Aloha

    I am so happy that this is almost done and announced, now there is no chance of me spilling the beans, something else maybe but not the beans.
     
  16. Mar 14, 2010 #16

    WICT106

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    WICT106

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    Good Work. As someone who has a postgraduate degree (MA) in History, this is an important resource alongside ridership and Revenue Passenger mile statistics.

    :cool: Well Done! :D
     
  17. Mar 14, 2010 #17

    Anthony

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    Thanks for all the overwhelming support, everyone. :) The site has been getting a ton of traffic in the last 24 hours, and everything seems to be running smoothly.

    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... :)
     
  18. Mar 15, 2010 #18

    Anthony

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  19. Mar 18, 2010 #19

    printman2000

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    Great job guys.

    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?
     
  20. Mar 18, 2010 #20

    Anthony

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    Adding "amtrak" to the domain name would require a license agreement from Amtrak, which is just a lot of unnecessary paperwork to deal with. I don't really have an intention of adding non-Amtrak timetables to the site -- the domain "timetables.org" is short and memorable, which is why I took it several years ago. :)
     
  21. Mar 19, 2010 #21

    printman2000

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    printman2000

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    Gotcha.

    Well, just an idea for the future. Having other roads passenger timetables would be a very cool addition. Having people submit timetables would save some time for you two.
     
  22. Mar 19, 2010 #22

    MrFSS

    MrFSS

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    Many of the old, pre-Amtrak, Official Guides, which have all passenger rail tables in them can be had on CD from sources such as eBay.
     
  23. Jan 26, 2011 #23

    ScottC4746

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    ScottC4746

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    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.

     
  24. Jan 27, 2011 #24

    Train2104

    Train2104

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    This site has "amtrak" in it's URL and I don't think Alan had to jump though hoops to get the name...
     
  25. Feb 2, 2011 #25

    AlanB

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    I didn't jump through hoops; Anthony did! :) Anthony is the owner of the site and he's the one who holds the license to use the word Amtrak in the name and the URL.
     

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