An Incomplete Railfans' Guide to the Internet

This page serves as a quick reference to help get you started in finding information about railways on the Internet.

Why incomplete? Because in the time it took you to read this introductory blurb, a zillion new pieces of information just were added to the wealth of information online and no such guide could ever be complete.

 

Links from March 2010 CERA program entitled "Railfanning on the Internet"

These sites can be useful resources in finding information online, exploring both historical and current news articles, photographs, public records, publications and geography.

General lookup resources

  • Google
    The most popular search engine on the Internet also has Maps, Books, Images, Videos and more (see top bar). Use "Show options" while searching to open a left pane with filtration options in each type of Google search service, or "Advanced Options" for an more granular search options.

    In Google Maps, take note of map or satellite views, or drag the little street view man icon onto a street to see it from a ground-based perspective. In Google Books, you can use "Show options" or "advanced search" to narrow search results only to things you can read in their entirety online ("full view"), and even specify whether to only show books, magazines or both.
     
  • Bing
    Microsoft's competing search engine (or, as it's marketed, "decision engine") has a variety of similar services and its own innovative and unique features. 

    The beta (test) version of Bing Maps includes automatic transitioning from map to satellite to "bird's eye" aerial views to Streetside View (a more three-dimensional take on showing localized areas). You need to use the beta version to get the nifty streetside maps demonstrated at the meeting, which also requires the Silverlight plugin be installed (it'll walk you through it) on your Windows PC or Mac.

On search engines like these, which are mind-bogglingly advanced, try to keep in mind that they attempt to interpret not just what you typed, but what you really are looking for.

If you want to narrow your search to something really specific, you can perform exact phrase searches by putting your search terms in quotation marks (instead of a search for the North Shore Line being for pages that have the words "north," "shore" and/or "line," you can say "north shore line", in quotes, to get exactly those three words, in sequence, in your search).

Boolean operators
You can also tell search engines that you only want results that definitely have certain words or phrases in the page, or exclude matches that include certain terms, using a plus (+) or minus (-) sign, prefixing a term, without spaces. For example:

"north shore line" -insull +wilmette

...would give you only pages that have the exact phrase "North Shore Line" and mention Wilmette, but do not have any references to Samuel Insull.

You can use the +/- trick on phrases too, by putting the symbol before the first quote in a phrase. Common search engines are typically not case-sensitive (you don't have to use proper caps to find what you're looking for).

Reference

Software

  • Google Earth (full, navigable software version of satellite Google Maps, with realistic world views, animations and dozens of layers of information you can switch on and off maps)
  • Adobe Reader (you'll need this if your computer can't read PDFs)

Crowd suggestions from program Q&A

 

Other places to begin

A short list of railway museums

AZ Tucson Old Pueblo Trolley
AR Ft. Smith Ft. Smith Trolley Museum
CA   Orange Empire Railway Museum
CA San Jose San Jose Historical Museum
CA Suisun City Western Railway Museum
CO Colorado Springs Pike's Peak Historical Street Railway Foundation, Inc.
CT East Haven Shore Line Trolley Museum
CT East Windsor Connecticut Trolley Museum
IL South Elgin Fox River Trolley Museum
IL Union Illinois Railway Museum
IA Boone Boone & Scenic Valley Railroad; Iowa Railroad Historical Society
IA Mount Pleasant Midwest Electric Railway
MA Shelburne Falls Shelburne Falls Trolley Museum
ME Kennebunkport Seashore Trolley Museum
MD Baltimore Baltimore Streetcar Museum
MD Wheaton National Capital Trolley Museum
MN Chisholm Ironwood Discovery Center
MN Duluth Lake Superior Railroad Museum
MN Excelsior Minnesota Streetcar Line; Excelsior Streetcar Line
MN Minneapolis Minnesota Streetcar Museum; Como-Harriet Streetcar Line
MO St. Louis Museum of Transportation
NY Brooklyn New York Transit Museum
NY Kingston Trolley Museum of New York
NY Rochester New York Museum of Transportation
OH Olmstead Township Trolleyville USA
OH Worthington Ohio Railway Museum
ONT Milton Halton County Radial Railway
OR Lake Oswego Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society
PA Rockhill-Orbisonia Rockhill Trolley Museum
PA Washington Pennsylvania Trolley Museum
WI East Troy East Troy Electric Railroad Wisconsin Trolley Museum

 

A short list of operating electric railways

AZ Tucson Heritage Old Pueblo Trolley
CA Los Angeles LR, HR Metropolitan Transit Authority
CA Sacramento LR Regional Transit (RT)
CA San Diego LR Metropolitan Transit System
CA San Francisco LR, Cable, Heritage San Francisco Municipal Railway (MUNI)
CA San Francisco HR Bay Area Regional Transportation (BART)
CA San Jose LR, Heritage Valley Transportation Authority (VTA)
CANADA Calgary LR Calgary Transit (CT)
CANADA Edmonton LR, Heritage Edmonton Transit System (ETS)
CANADA Montreal HR Societe de transport de la Communaute urbaine de Montreal (STCUM)
Montreal Suburban Electric L'agency Metropolitaine de Transport (AMT)
CANADA Toronto LR, HR, PM Toronto Transit Commission (TTC)
CANADA Vancouver PM, Heritage BC Transit
CO Denver LR Rapid Transit District (RTD)
CO Ft Collins Heritage Ft. Collins Municipal Railway Society
DC Washington HR Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority
Washington Suburban Electric Maryland Area Railway Corp. (MARC)
FL Jacksonville PM Jacksonville Transportation Authority
FL Miami HR, PM Metro-Dade Transit Agency
GA Atlanta HR Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
IL Chicago HR Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)
Chicago Suburban Electric METRA
Chicago Interurban Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District (NICTD)
LA New Orleans LR, Heritage New Orleans Rapid Transit Authority (RTA)
MA Boston LR, HR Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA)
MA Lowell Heritage Lowell National Historic Park
MD Baltimore LR, HR Mass Transit Administration (MTA)
Baltimore Suburban Electric Maryland Area Railway Corp. (MARC)
MI Detroit PM, Heritage Detroit Department of Transportation
MN Minneapolis LR Minneapolis Transit
MO St. Louis LR Bi-State Transit Agency
NJ Jersey City LR New Jersey Transit
NJ Newark LR, Suburban Electric New Jersey Transit
NV Las Vegas Monorail Las Vegas Monorail
NY Buffalo LR Niagara Frontier Transit Authority (NFTA)
NY New York HR, Suburban Electric Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA)
Suburban Electric Port Authority Trans Hudson Corp. (PATH)
OH Cleveland LR, HR Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA)
OR Portland LR, Heritage Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon (TRI-MET)
PA Philadelphia LR, HR, Suburban Electric Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA)
Suburban Electric Delaware River Port Authority (PATCO)
PA Pittsburgh LR Port Authority Transit
TN Memphis Heritage Memphis Area Transit Authority (MATA)
TX Dallas LR Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART)
Dallas Heritage McKinney Ave Transit Authority
Houston LR METRO
UT Salt Lake City LR Utah Transit Authority (UTA)
WA Seattle Heritage, Monorail King County Metro
WV Morgantown PM Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit
WI Kenosha Heritage Kenosha Transit

 

A short list of railway periodicals of interest

The Bulletin of the National Railway Historical Society National Railway Historical Society Quarterly General, Membership
Classic Trains Kalmbach Publications Quarterly General, Subscription
Electric Railway Journal Electric Railway Society (UK) Bi-monthly Traction-Current Events, Membership
First and Fastest Shoreline Interurban Historical Society Quarterly Traction-Chicago area, Membership
Headlights Electric Railroaders' Association Periodic Traction, Membership
Model Railroad News Lamplight Publishing Monthly General, Modeling, Subscription
Railfan & Railroad Carstens Publications Monthly General, Subscription
Railroad Model Craftsman Carstens Publications Monthly General, Modeling, Subscription
Today's Railways Platform 5 Publishing, Ltd. Monthly General-Continental Europe, Subscription
Scale Model Traction & Trolleys Quarterly Michael Grutsch Quarterly Traction, Modeling, Subscription
Trains Kalmbach Publications Monthly General-Americas, Subscription
Tramways & Urban Transit Light Rail Transit Association Monthly Traction-worldwide, Membership
Trolley Talk JAS Publishing, Inc Bi-monthly Traction, Modeling, Subscription
Wisconsin Electric Lines The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society (TWERHS) Bi-monthly Traction, Wisconsin, Membership

 

A short list of railfan Web sites

CA Pacific Electric The Electric Railway Historical Association of Southern California
CA San Francisco railways Market Street Railway
IL Chicago Aurora and Elgin Don Bosan-Bruno
IL Chicago 'L' System Graham Garfield
IL Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Laura Hedien
IL Chicago South Shore and South Bend
IL Chicago Tunnel Company Phil O'Keefe
IL Illinois Traction/Terminal Railroad The Illinois Traction Society
IN Indiana Railroad J.J. Grant
OH Columbus Railroads Alex Campbell
NY New York City Subway David Pirmann
PA Eastern Pennsylvania traction systems East Penn Traction Club
WI The Milwaukee Electric The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Transit Society
WI The Milwaukee Electric and other Wisconsin traction The Wisconsin Electric Railway Historical Society