Monday, July 06, 2015

Tracking Trains by Twitter

We live in magical times. Technology has advanced railfanning so much compared to just 10 years ago. The widespread availability of quality digital cameras, email lists, Facebook groups, instant messaging and so forth allow railfans unparalleled access to near real-time images and information. Is a CN business train on the move? You'll find out... in time to go see it.

Now a company is bringing real-time train information to Twitter. Winnipeg-based MORR Transportation Consulting is using Twitter to broadcast when certain railway crossings are blocked in Winnipeg. This provides useful information to drivers planning their route so they can avoid congested railway crossings, which may be blocked for a long time. However, this information is useful for railfans too!

MORR has set up three Twitter accounts to broadcast crossing blockages:

  1. @TrainInfoWPG tracks the Marion-Archibald and Cottonwood-Archibald crossings (CP Emerson subdivision mile 1.55 and ~3.17)
  2. @TrainInfoWPG2 tracks the Shaftesbury-Sterling Lyon crossing (CN Rivers subdivision mile 6.27)
  3. @TrainInfoWPG3 tracks the Bison-Pembina and McGillivray-Pembina crossings (CN Letellier subdivision ~mile 1.5 and ~2.8)
I trust you can see the usefulness of these tweets to railfans. The links above take you to the Twitter accounts, to Google Street Views of the crossings, and to my subdivision pages.

I watch #3 the most because it gives intelligence about when CN 532/533 are moving. If I see a tweet about a crossing of McGillivray, followed by a Bison crossing, I know it's CN 532 heading south to Emerson. However, if there is a McGillivray crossing but no Bison crossing, it's the Fort Garry local.

The original (aka #1) Twitter feed should give similar information for trains heading to Emerson. A Marion crossing followed by a Cottonwood crossing means the train is likely going to keep going all the way down to Emerson.

#2 really only says that there is a train on the Rivers subdivision (a direction would be nice!) but hey, if you're out at Diamond that would be useful information.

Their tweets keep saying "New information coming soon" so hopefully we railfans will get even more information!

UPDATE: As of November 10 2015 all three Twitter accounts have been deleted for unknown reasons.

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