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 Post subject: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 4:55 pm 

Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2004 3:04 pm
Posts: 150
Location: San Jose, CA
With the exception of less than a handful of recently constructed full sized examples, the number of steam locomotives in North America has remained fixed for several decades. Collectively they are an endangered species.

In the posting of the 2-6-2 moving to the Sioux City museum, someone referred to the “Gospel according to J. David”, a two volume set that many use as a reference. I imagine that perhaps as much as 25% (or more?) of the steam locomotives listed have had a change in their status, ownership and or location since 1988 when the volumes were published.

Although an ongoing challenge in J. David’s attempt to publish updated volumes, these changes are great news for the railroad preservation industry. Most often, the changes result in an overall improvement in the particular locomotive’s environment.

Since 1988, communities, organizations and individuals have taken an active interest in these historic artifacts resulting in a need to update their directory information. How many more have stayed in place are now under cover and or cosmetically maintained? How many are now accompanied with improved interpretive signage? While most will never steam again, they continue to be educational tools for future generations.

This is a tremendous accomplishment and, no doubt, will continue.

Sorry J David, a directory of these beloved machines will forever be dynamic; nonetheless, many of us look forward to a revised Gospel.


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 6:56 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 822
Location: Byers, Colorado
Trust me on this, the Reverand Mr J David is hard at work on it, and he even has some help. It shouldn't be "too much longer".

_________________
Ask not what your locomotive can do for you,
Ask what you can do for your locomotive,

Sammy King


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 7:24 pm 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2732
They’re moving around much more often than you might expect. This seems better suited to an online database / wiki.


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 9:21 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 2074
Location: Strasburg, PA
QJdriver wrote:
Trust me on this, the Reverand Mr J David is hard at work on it, and he even has some help. It shouldn't be "too much longer".
My dear wife pitched in to proofread J David's manuscript last summer, so progress is being made.


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Wed Oct 27, 2021 9:44 pm 

Joined: Mon Feb 15, 2021 6:54 pm
Posts: 140
Bobharbison wrote:
They’re moving around much more often than you might expect. This seems better suited to an online database / wiki.

Here's a fantastic resource that does just that.

https://www.steamlocomotive.com/survivors/


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:39 am 

Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2017 5:26 pm
Posts: 516
Location: Pure Michigan
mcgrath618 wrote:
Bobharbison wrote:
They’re moving around much more often than you might expect. This seems better suited to an online database / wiki.

Here's a fantastic resource that does just that.

https://www.steamlocomotive.com/survivors/



Also: https://www.steamlocomotive.info/

Both are great!


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 12:41 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 10351
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
The two primary English language/North American online databases for steam locomotives are both extraordinarily useful and valuable, and not everyone has access to The Gospel, judging from how many time I get pinged for specific details, locations or past histories on things like the F&A 18 (a loco I never managed to connect the dots on for decades even with online database AND Conrad).

The problem with any online database/wiki is that unless it is administered and managed as a project by an overseeing agency, corporation, or institution, such a website can simply disappear along with its owner(s). No disrespect or ill wishes intended to the webmasters of the two sites alluded to above!

One highly recommended prototype for this "wiki" model would be the esteemed BridgeHunter.com website, founded in 2002 and run by James Baughn (a professional code writer, web architect, and webmaster) until he suddenly and unexpectedly passed away in December 2020. The website is now maintained by the Historic Bridge Foundation, in a succession arranged before his passing. And I've never seen a problem with fake or prank entries there, with over 400 contributors ranging from tens of thousands of entries to a mere dozen or less.

We constantly hear calls for a "national database" for rail preservation/history. Can anyone find both an internet database architect AND an enduring underwriter/supporter/home?

If not, shut up and take my money, Saint David!


Last edited by Alexander D. Mitchell IV on Thu Oct 28, 2021 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 8:37 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 7:37 pm
Posts: 257
I can also attest to J. David Conrad's progress on his second edition. I have been proofreading entries for several states for the next edition and have made provenance corrections to that which appeared in the first edition. He is leaving no stone unturned. My understanding is that, at least a year ago, he was having difficulty finding a publisher. So if anybody has any suggestions, I'm sure J. David would enjoy hearing from you.

K.R. Bell


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 8:42 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 1151
Location: New Franklin, OH
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
The problem with any online database/wiki is that unless it is administered and managed as a project by an overseeing agency, corporation, or institution, such a website can simply disappear along with its owner(s).

This is something that gnaws at the back of my mind and is a problem worth consideration. These online “live” databases or lists are generally maintained and updated by individuals at their own expense. The Passenger Car Photo Index, of which an incomplete and unmaintained archived copy lives on in RYPN web space, is a prime example of a “good” outcome when the owner decides they no longer wish to deal with it or dies without a succession plan. What happens to the RYPN forums when the owner is done with it?

Though I’m small taters in the online preservation buffet, I’m considering a full retirement and taking my website down which means the RR preservation info hosted there will go away. The primary piece is the color cross reference which is a live document that is updated whenever I have something new or corrections to add. Where do I put this and still have access for updates?

Who would be willing to take on the time and expense of maintaining these various resources in one central place ala Bridge Hunters? Maybe this should be it’s own thread.

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Eric Schlentner
Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
Car Knocker, Gandy Dancer & Hog Jockey
https://orrvillerailroad.com


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 8:50 am 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 1151
Location: New Franklin, OH
K.R. Bell wrote:
I can also attest to J. David Conrad's progress on his second edition. I have been proofreading entries for several states for the next edition and have made provenance corrections to that which appeared in the first edition. He is leaving no stone unturned. My understanding is that, at least a year ago, he was having difficulty finding a publisher. So if anybody has any suggestions, I'm sure J. David would enjoy hearing from you.

K.R. Bell

Not a plug, just an observation: I have a few books, both soft and hard cover, that were self-published by the authors and printed by Mechling Bookbindery in Chicora, PA. These are nice books and have held up well.

_________________
Eric Schlentner
Orrville Railroad Heritage Society
Car Knocker, Gandy Dancer & Hog Jockey
https://orrvillerailroad.com


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Thu Oct 28, 2021 11:16 am 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 10351
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
The problem with websites like these is that they're like model railroads and antique cars: Unless you are somehow making a good deal of profit from it (which usually involves videos of naked people doing things, and even there the profits aren't what they were), they're vanity projects for the owners. They can evolve into spectacular reservoirs of information or data, and yet it can all go poof with an unpaid ISP bill or hacker attack.

In the U.S. we have an aversion to facing our own mortality. For every Age of Steam Museum, we have a Steamtown Foundation. For every Alan Pegler or Bill McAlpine, a Dick Jensen. For every Otto Perry, a photo collection or two tossed to the landfill or scattered to the eBay winds.

And we can't do anything about it.

There are only two measures I can suggest:
1) appropriate institutions or museums or foundations can approach such reservoirs of information with a coherent, well-structured, and technically viable proposal to assume custodianship of such efforts, with the proviso that, for example, software architecture would be updated as needed (the equivalent of digitizing analog recordings, if you will).
2) I know of a few self-appointed folks that have quietly and subtly made it their "job" to hunt down such things as photos posted at RailPictures.net, RRPictureArchives.net, Trains.com, etc. and download "back-up" copies of things relative to their specific railroad(s) of interest--all with the paranoid mindset of "this could all disappear tomorrow."

Got a better idea? Got a volunteering organization--the National Railway Museum, the NRHS, the R&LHS, whoever?


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2021 6:17 am 
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Posts: 1185
Location: Eagan, MN
Alexander D. Mitchell IV wrote:
The problem with websites like these is that they're like model railroads and antique cars: Unless you are somehow making a good deal of profit from it (which usually involves videos of naked people doing things, and even there the profits aren't what they were), they're vanity projects for the owners. They can evolve into spectacular reservoirs of information or data, and yet it can all go poof with an unpaid ISP bill or hacker attack.


Truer words were never spoken. About two years ago I started worrying about what would become of steamlocomotive.info following my demise. (A heart attack will do that to you). My first thought was "sell the thing, get some money for my family". And then I began to look at the site with a more critical eye.

The pages you see on steamlocomotive.info AREN'T actually web pages, they're actually the output of computer programs running on the web server, which read information from the database, construct what resembles an actual web page and stream it to your browser. They don't exists as pages until the moment your browser requests them and they have no existence on the server after the last byte of the "page" is transmitted to you.

The glory of this is that there are NO web pages to maintain. If you update the database record for a locomotive, then magically, the next time the page is requested you get the new version with the updated information. And no one had to edit a web page and upload it to the server for this to happen.

The horror of this, of course, is that the average rail geek, steam nut or foamer doesn't come equipped with a broad knowledge of SQL Server, MS-SQL, or for that matter Coldfusion (the language in which the site is written) or Javascript (necessary for all the fun maps few people ever look at).

So handing the site off to someone else without SQL, Colfusion, Javascript expertise would result in either great expense for the recipient in hiring someone with the skills to do all the work, or the eventual demise of the site because of the difficulties in maintaining it.

The site has an administrative interface, wherein an "editor" can log in, and edit some of the information in the database. It was originally written to make my life easier, and it did so, providing simple ways to do mundane database related tasks on the site. For example you edit a locomotive's location, its technical details, and just recently ownership information. Simple things, confined to single locomotives at a time.

Looking at the administrative interface I came to the realization that it was wildly insufficient, and that anyone without substantive programming skills would slowly lose the information battle with the real world.

So I began to rewrite and redesign the administrative system, with a view toward making the site completely maintainable by someone who knows nothing of programming in any language. Two years in, I'm getting closer to that point, but I am not there yet. I'm 72, and I do hope to win the race with my own mortality on this one.

If there is any interest in more extensive discussion of what's wrong with steamlocomotive.info and how it could be done better, I'll be happy to start a separate thread to contain it.

_________________
Doug Bailey, Webmaster http://www.steamlocomotive.info


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2021 11:59 am 

Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 3:07 pm
Posts: 836
Location: B'more Maryland
steaminfo wrote:

So I began to rewrite and redesign the administrative system, with a view toward making the site completely maintainable by someone who knows nothing of programming in any language. Two years in, I'm getting closer to that point, but I am not there yet. I'm 72, and I do hope to win the race with my own mortality on this one.


Coldfusion? Yikes!
It's been a minute since I heard about something built in CF.

What are you rewriting it with?
You mention MSSQL. Are you going .NET, .NET Core, or something else?

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If you fear the future you won't have one.


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2021 12:11 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 10351
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
Imagine that, obsolete software/hardware in this field.

I know of one RR place that had an old Windows 95 desktop on site allegedly because they were given a top-of-the-line stencil/lettering cutter apparatus whose drivers still run on a program not compatible with newer OS's, a new replacement is on the order of $35,000, and no one's donated a newer replacement yet............... and they joke that anyone who misbehaves has to use that Win95 desktop for a week as punishment.


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 Post subject: Re: Future Steam Locomotive Directory updates?
PostPosted: Fri Oct 29, 2021 2:00 pm 

Joined: Sat Apr 01, 2006 5:19 pm
Posts: 510
Location: Bowie, MD
Quote:
The pages you see on steamlocomotive.info AREN'T actually web pages, they're actually the output of computer programs running on the web server


Of course the real value here is the database and the core SQL queries. From those, most any web-like technology can be used to display a webpage, populate a phone app, drive an API that is used by other web pages/apps to display the data or an API to a print-on-demand vendor who would make that paper book, with the choice of technology to display the data (ie: Coldfusion), if not managed carefully, turning into more of a burden than value.

I hope you can find someone tech savvy to hand it off to; and perhaps someone fluent in newer technologies (that might be easier and cheaper to maintain), so please don't limit your outreach to just someone who knows CF.

Bob


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