Wednesday, August 11, 2010

American and British Real Time Passenger Train Maps

In both British and American cultures there is a romanticism associated with passenger trains.  Americans tend not to think about troubled Amtrak but the golden era of transcontinental railroads that united the country and helped close the West.  British meanwhile have a early industrial/Victorian-Edwardian connotation with trains that was portrayed in BBC programing like Great Railway Journeys and Great British Railway Journeys (which ignored much of the tough process of privatization).  The niche nostalgia continues in both countries today with model trains, computer game simulators, and children shows that Thomas the Engine.

Geography tends to overlook trains.  Cars, airplanes, and city-level mass transit are the topics of choice for those who study transportation geography and the geography of human connectivity

Now; however, there are nice treats for those who enjoy trains and geography.  Because of neogeography one can now follow live maps of Amtrak and National Rail trains.  Amtrak Status Maps website looks old but can still do the trick.  On the side bar there is a map of the United States divided into regions.  Just click the region one is interested in and a map will load showing trains and whether they are on time or delayed.  If one clicks the train number a time table will appear showing all the data a train fan could enjoy.  Meanwhile The Vaguely live map of trains in the United Kingdom uses a Google Maps mashup to depict data.  One can select the station of interest and see all the other stations along the line and also watch the trains move slowly on the map.  The time when the train is due at the next station is displayed and many of the trains have the option to view their information board to see how on time the train is running.

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