Train Tracker - Train Location system GOOOOONE???

 
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Train Tracker seems to have gone off the air without warning earlier this week.

Anyone know whether this is permanent or alternatively is this only a problem I am having?
7334
It has been reported elsewhere that the external link has been taken down. Those people with legitimate access through website logins still have internal access to the site, although the external link is done with. How true that is remains to be seen, but it looks like it's been switched off for Joe Gunzel.

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  Shawy Chief Train Controller

It has been reported elsewhere that the external link has been taken down. Those people with legitimate access through website logins still have internal access to the site, although the external link is done with. How true that is remains to be seen, but it looks like it's been switched off for Joe Gunzel.
Raichase
Yes, I've heard from a couple of sources that it's now back to password-access only.

I'm not sure why it was ever public anyway, but I'm really grateful to have had the access while it lasted. I'd assumed the original decision to make it public was simply in keeping with ARTC's pretty enlightened policy with information generally - certainly there is heaps more on the ARTC web site (timetables, standards, etc etc) than the QR web page.

I wonder why it was taken down now? I'd heard it was becoming increasingly irrelevant with the roll-out of ICE, and that ARTC wanted ICE fully implemented by operators by the end of June. Possibly someone saw it as a security risk (what a joke - ever heard of FlightRadar24.com??!!) but who really knows.

I will miss it immensely. For a casual observer like me, especially here on the fringes of the ARTC network, knowing when the infrequent trains might actually arrive made it much easier to contemplate a 3 or 4 hour drive knowing there was a fair chance of actually seeing what I wanted. South of Brisbane at least there is still the WTT and signals, but my other interest (the wheat lines out of Narrabri) have now become a real risk of many hundreds of kms being driven, and scarce rec leave days taken, all in vain.

It might be tempting to simply say it's back to the good old days out there, but it isn't. Much as I'd like to explore those lines further the absence of anyone to talk to, no WTT covering those workings, evidently a train order system that can't be monitored by my old borrowed scanner and now no Train Tracker, well, what's a fan to do?

The challenges of 'fanning in the 21st century!

Alan
  Groover Train Controller

Location: A long way from home
Suer will miss it.  It was fun watching the Broken Hill line and the Ulan line.  Last weekend I noticed a lot of BM/MB jobs going via Parkes/Dubbo/Ulan, I would never motor that far just on the off chance.
I did have a practical use for it once.  T'was looking at a house near a railway and we wanted to see what the noise was like of a night.  Waited till the tracker showed a few jobs in both directions over a short period of time, went there and watched and listened.

With ICE it was going to go eventually but for a brief period I was able to save time and fuel and have the same knowledge those in the know have.  Bit like the horses really, there are those in the know and then there is the rest of us!
  gw0071 Deputy Commissioner

At the chance of perpetuating the age old adage that there are no stupid questions, just stupid people -

What commercial risks are presented to an operator in disclosing scheduling or even position of services to Joe Gunzel or Jane Public?

IMHO this information can be almost as readily accessible for more frequent public passenger services

Is there some fundamental aspect that I'm over looking?
  Allrail Beginner

Waynet is back up but will be shutdown permanently on 1st June
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Good for the masses that it's back up, however temporary that reprieve might be.

I'm inclined to agree with Alan - we're NOT back to the "good old days", because in the "good old days" everyone shared information. That does still happen in rare cases, and I know MGH has put in many hours of work to getting the "sightings" feature of Railpage going to allow people to submit and access real time train running information based on "eyes on the ground". Combine this with bevans tireless work on the ever expanding network of Railpage railcams, and we're in far better stead than we used to be (there's no point lamenting the loss of local staff who would pass along train running information, such is the price of progress).

My problem is the people that lurk on websites such as this (and Flickr, and various Yahoo Groups) to sponge information about locations, train running, etc, whilst refusing to contribute at all - not even by taking the information and sharing photos of the movements they've gone out to get (the exception being those that come here only to promote their photos/video without contributing anything to the wider community).

Obviously some things cannot be shared - I've heard many cases when interesting tidbits of information have been passed along in confidence to certain people, and that information has suddenly been revealed to all and sundry, when it *was not supposed to be*. That's the kind of thing that burns the contributors and can get them in trouble at their places of work. That's simply not on, you don't muck with someones career just because you want to get your rocks off about a certain locomotive on a certain line.

Hopefully the community will become better at sharing, rather than hoarding information with one hand, and siphoning information with the other. Indeed, the most dangerous part of this is that those people actively contributing information will then get tired of providing it to leeches, and they too will cease. I'd encourage all like-minded members to make good use of the sightings function as it is implemented across the site. Even if you are prevented from sharing day to day running information (obviously, as I said above, no point in getting into strife at work), there's nothing wrong with sending in a live sighting from the ground once the train is rolling.

I envisonage such things are being invaluable when tour trains are being run, as it is quite easy to find oneself miles ahead of such a train, only to wonder if you have missed it - it's simply been delayed further down the line.
  M636C Minister for Railways

Last Saturday I went out to Cullerin without the CTLS.

The Griffith Explorer appeared to have been cancelled.

ST23 XPT came through about 20 minutes late. It crossed 4PS6 near the Gunning Crookwell road bridge which had NR7 (in tolerably clean grey and marigold) and NR25 (IP blue) leading 83 wagons/platforms, the first six of which were steel beams from Whyalla, causing us to think that it might be 3PW4.

We followed this up to Werai, since it was a "bird in the hand" and headed into Moss Vale for lunch. Trackwork was being carried out on the southern leg of the triangle, and no grain traffic appeared to be running.

We saw the up and down Canberra Explorers, with 3PW4 following the up Explorer. It had a matched set of locomotives with 4PS6, with NR28 leading NR6, again with about 80 wagons, about 2/3 empties.

A pair of light 81s moved from next to the signal box to the storage tracks near the triangle. This was mainly interesting since they were 8101 and 8184, the first and the last in matching phase 2 PN livery. These both had digital radio antennas, so CTLS wouldn't have helped much.

An empty limestone headed south behind 8157 and 8140.

This was bit slower than usual owing to the lack of grain trains but, of course the trains will run whether or not you know they are coming in advance.

Saturday 11th was warm and clear, although the clouds covered the sun for the up Explorer and very nearly for 3PW4. But it was our Indian Summer of 2013 and I'm happy with my shots, particularly of 4PS6 on the third Bredalbane plain.

Life will go on, with or without the CTLS.

Locations with controlled signals, like Moss Vale give good clues to coming action.

M636C
  speedemon08 Mary

Location: I think by now you should have figured it out
I'm inclined to agree with Alan - we're NOT back to the "good old days", because in the "good old days" everyone shared information. That does still happen in rare cases

My problem is the people that lurk on websites such as this (and Flickr, and various Yahoo Groups) to sponge information about locations, train running, etc, whilst refusing to contribute at all - not even by taking the information and sharing photos of the movements they've gone out to get (the exception being those that come here only to promote their photos/video without contributing anything to the wider community).

I envisonage such things are being invaluable when tour trains are being run, as it is quite easy to find oneself miles ahead of such a train, only to wonder if you have missed it - it's simply been delayed further down the line.
Raichase

Must be a NSW thing, in Victoria we seem to share information more. (The DERM trip the other day has someone listing locations every so often)

Keeping with the thread, I have only been shown TT once. And I don't really know what the need was for. Whats the problem with sitting trackside?
  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
I don't really know what the need was for. Whats the problem with sitting trackside?
speedemon08
Standard gauge traffic is about 2 hours away so I would need to know something is actually running before I spend the time and money. Thus TT would help.
  Allrail Beginner

There may be a publicly available version of train tracker in the works, with mobile device support.
  Groover Train Controller

Location: A long way from home
There may be a publicly available version of train tracker in the works, with mobile device support.
Allrail

That would be gratefully received by me!  I am quite fascinated by the workings of the system.  The thing that is impressive is the fact there is so much happening on the system in any one 24hr period and we are only seeing the non-ICE trains.  Joe Public and pollies probably don't realize it.   If you were to make a movie of a 24 hr period, similar to the Indian Railways or KLM's 24 hr world flights and showed it to Parliament they could only be impressed, espec on the N-S corridor.  It would speak more than a bulky report with graphs. "Hey, there sure is some traffic here and look how it all converges around a couple of nick points. We had better build an inland route, or straighten out some bends."
For me in a foreign land, sitting in front of a computer, it provides a great little interlude every 30 mins or so.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
...showed it to Parliament they could only be impressed, espec on the N-S corridor.  It would speak more than a bulky report with graphs. "Hey, there sure is some traffic here and look how it all converges around a couple of nick points. We had better build an inland route, or straighten out some bends."
...
Groover

Laughing I am sorry but that's a very long bow to draw Laughing

The pollies are well aware which is why ARTC gets any funds at all. Apart from ARTC pulling at federal transport ministers' cuff links since 1998 there is the ARA and on the part of government, Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, the NTC, SCOTI and even COAG.

Translating awareness into funding is the issue.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
There may be a publicly available version of train tracker in the works, with mobile device support.
Allrail
I've long been of the opinion that a publicly available version of the app as a subscription service would be a good way of providing it to the public. I'd pay a nominal fee for access.
  Groover Train Controller

Location: A long way from home
Laughing I am sorry but that's a very long bow to draw Laughing

The pollies are well aware which is why ARTC gets any funds at all. Apart from ARTC pulling at federal transport ministers' cuff links since 1998 there is the ARA and on the part of government, Senate Standing Committees on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport, the NTC, SCOTI and even COAG.

Translating awareness into funding is the issue.
cootanee

Yes, very naïve of me.  Oh well, we can only hope.
  Shawy Chief Train Controller

Actually Raichase, my experience of the good old days was that information was rarely shared, but that's probably just a reflection that I was never that involved with the hobby. For me then, as indeed now, I tend to 'fan alone or with just one or two others, none of us having any industry contacts in NSW. So for me, not having TT will be a huge loss. As I suggested earlier, the idea of driving to say Narrabri from Brisbane with no information at all about likely train movements means that I won't do it. Not that that really matters in the grand scheme of things of course...

I wouldn't even know how sharing would help in the more out-of-the-way parts of the system, unless there was willing and knowledgeable local to get in touch with. But how to find such a person I wonder?

Now Allrail, are you just being a tease holding out the prospect of a publicly available version of tracker available again?

Mind you, like Raichase I'd happily pay for access if that was part of the deal.

I can only dream.

Alan
  Allrail Beginner

Not teasing Alan, happen to know one of the people currently creating the project.

just dont have a confirmed date yet
  steelhead Station Master

Location: Carlisle Cumbria UK
Hi all
just logged on to the train tracker it seems to be working at the present.

All the best Dave in the UK
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
Not teasing Alan, happen to know one of the people currently creating the project.

just dont have a confirmed date yet
Allrail
Hopefully it's possible to have the link posted around when it is publicly accessible, to remove the perception of "elitism" that came from certain members of this site bragging about having and using the old, "secret" tracker...
  gw0071 Deputy Commissioner

As nobody has been able/bothered to answer my query regarding why positional information is so sensitive, I will recall a brief article within RD from an era when it was still NSW-centric which claimed that a tracking system was to be developed and made available to the general public which would give locomotives a unique SMS code so that you could effectively determine their location via text message

While I don't remember which year it appeared, I seem to recall that it was in an April edition...


I'm with the concept of having access to location data however, I'll believe in its existence when it pops up on my smart phone
  seb2351 Chief Commissioner

Location: Sydney
As nobody has been able/bothered to answer my query regarding why positional information is so sensitive, I will recall a brief article within RD from an era when it was still NSW-centric which claimed that a tracking system was to be developed and made available to the general public which would give locomotives a unique SMS code so that you could effectively determine their location via text message

While I don't remember which year it appeared, I seem to recall that it was in an April edition...


I'm with the concept of having access to location data however, I'll believe in its existence when it pops up on my smart phone
gw0071
I apologise firstly that the CEO of ARTC has failed to respond to your query personally on Railpage. On that note, I would also like to apologise that no one here wants to put their job at risk by putting out false information or seen as acting on behalf of their company.

Are you driver or network controller? If so, legal ways exist to access the data. Otherwise, tough luck and lose the attitude. People may be more inclined to help when they dont feel like they are being insulted.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
I apologise firstly that the CEO of ARTC has failed to respond to your query personally on Railpage. On that note, I would also like to apologise that no one here wants to put their job at risk by putting out false information or seen as acting on behalf of their company.

Are you driver or network controller? If so, legal ways exist to access the data. Otherwise, tough luck and lose the attitude. People may be more inclined to help when they dont feel like they are being insulted.
seb2351
I agree with gw0071's line that nobody has answered why this information is so sensitive. The best I can come up with, it's secretive because it's always been that way - we all know the greenies have been known to hold trains up from time to time, but they hardly need access to such data to do this, most simply wait for a coal train to go into port and then chain themselves to the tracks.

As it stands, with commercial flight data readily available, there does seem to be no greater need to keep railway location data a secret. I had always thought that a delay was built into the flight apps, and for the most part, it is not. Certainly a subscribeable (that's not a word) app that requires a small monthly contribution would likely be a good way for company employees and enthusiasts to keep track of trains as required.
  gw0071 Deputy Commissioner

Thank you for your rational and mature response Raichase. Your knowledge and ettiquette displayed on this site provides a stark contrast to the fools who lurk amongst us

You make a valid reference to aviation. If rail operations are considered to be so extremely sensitive and confidential, then perhaps the armchair cynics would care to explain PlaneFinder - an aircraft tracking system linking the GSM network with air/ground based ATC systems to provide a range of data including (but not limited to) aircraft registration, flight number, track and altitude

I am lead to beleive that locomotives/self propelled rail vehicles have similiar on-board equipment which could allow for equivalent functionality via GPS and furthermore, would not be surprised to know that rail operators already use facility in such a manner

With this contrast of how different forms of transportation utilise technology to determine postional data in mind, perhaps you'd like to explain your theory of how people employed in aviation manage to keep their jobs - CEO Seb?

I'm really interested to read your next response to clarify you status as the aforementioned fool
  KRviator Moderator

Location: Up the front
I agree with gw0071's line that nobody has answered why this information is so sensitive.

As it stands, with commercial flight data readily available, there does seem to be no greater need to keep railway location data a secret. I had always thought that a delay was built into the flight apps, and for the most part, it is not. Certainly a subscribeable (that's not a word) app that requires a small monthly contribution would likely be a good way for company employees and enthusiasts to keep track of trains as required.
"Raichase"
I would say "because it should be".

While air traffic is readily available, it is not just commercial, but anything with ADS-B, and in the US, it is most anything that is assigned a discreet transponder code. I take issue with being tracked on a private flight just because I am talking to ATC and strongly object to that information being available to anyone with an Internet connection. Bear in mind that this tracking is not just real-time or near-real-time data, but a history of what flew where - and when.

The security implications of ADS-B are well known yet are not being addressed and I'm sure any number of members here would have the ability to write enough code to program a missile to intercept an aircraft based solely on it's ADS-B output and the missiles current location. Until September 11, no one would have thought of using airliners as missiles, but they did. How long it will be until someone launches a home-made SAM at a 747 is something I don't want to think about.

I would not ask anyone to broadcast the location of their car containing their wife and kids on a grocery run, but that is exactly what is happening with aviation tracking...

So, the above notwithstanding, those who need to know where a train is, or will be, do. Technology has made it possible for gunzels to rapidly communicate with each other and that is a good thing, but I am certainly not supporting the easy accessibility of real-time data for every train in the network.

To my mind, the security risks outweigh a gunzels Christmas present.
  Raichase Captain Rant!

Location: Sydney, NSW
You make a valid reference to aviation. If rail operations are considered to be so extremely sensitive and confidential, then perhaps the armchair cynics would care to explain PlaneFinder - an aircraft tracking system linking the GSM network with air/ground based ATC systems to provide a range of data including (but not limited to) aircraft registration, flight number, track and altitude

I am lead to beleive that locomotives/self propelled rail vehicles have similiar on-board equipment which could allow for equivalent functionality via GPS and furthermore, would not be surprised to know that rail operators already use facility in such a manner
gw0071
In seb2351's defense, he's right on one point - unless we legitimately NEED access to the location data, it IS a luxury. He is reacting in the same way most of us do having been burned multiple times. I'd theorise that the reason that the ICE tracker requires a login and password is (among other reasons) that the original tracker was out there, but it was publicized by certain people in an attempt to rise in the imaginary hierarchy of enthusiastland. Which is, obviously complete rubbish, any alleged hierarchy (more, sense of respect) is founded on people sharing knowledge and rational discussion, not a childish notion of "I know something you don't know, nyah, nyah, nyah". This is why I have reacted quite abruptly with previous mention to the aforementioned website on these forums. It's fine if everybody has a secret, but nobody talks about it.

Another possible reason for the (current) ICE "radio" tracker to remain secret is that it is a lot more powerful than the current version. I have seen someone access it previously (their day job having given them access), and it does give accurate information as to the locomotive, train number, location, etc. It also provides contact details to contact that particular locomotive. I recall a previous issue in which AK Car STN's were pasted on these forums in full, including the mobile phone number of the AK Car operator. This likely resulted in at least one or two cheeky enthusiasts calling up demanding to know where the AK Cars were, where they were going, what the motive power was, etc.

I return to my original point of, it's secret because it's secret. In the same way that STN's are internal documents intended for the use of employees and other stakeholders, assets that are, by their nature, restricted, should be spoken about in hushed tones.

Of course, if such a publicly accessible version of an ICE tracker was to become available, one would hope that it would be endorsed as such. This would remove the power of those who seek only to tease and manipulate others (such "community members" are known to leech information such as train running data from various websites without actually sharing anything of their own, except the results of their "haul" with still or video camera to bask in the accolades of their supposed peers), and would ensure that everyone has access to this information.

Granted, this would mean that information would be freely available, and it wouldn't be "who has the best train running info and gets the best shot", it's "who's the best photographer". We certainly can't have that!

EDIT: A footnote - we're very lucky in this community to have rail staff who often share insider information, be it official or just rumour from within the ranks (most of them state as such when sharing such rumours). Sadly, there are fewer and fewer of these people on the forums every day, as they are frequently burned out by the incessant demands of the more foam-afflicted members of this community. That said, we are richer for their presence, even if they can only comment occasionally.
  gw0071 Deputy Commissioner

Thank you for your response gents. While I may not necessarily agree with all of the stated aspects regarding technology and company/social policy, I do appreciate your insight into industrial confidentiality, ethics and conflict of interest

This was all I sought considering that I merely exercise a passing interest in rail as opposed to holding down a 'professional' position in the industry as some here may/may not do

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