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Date: 04/04/12 21:42
New Forum and Newsletter
Author: webmaster

It has been a long time since I put out a web site newsletter and figured it is about time for one. Whenever I send one of these newsletters out I receive some comments about it being too techy. I have done my best to keep this in as simple layperson lingo as I could.

NEW FORUM
This past January we had the most successful discussion forum topic ever created when I requested the professional railroaders share some of their bizarre shifts on the railroad. Over a period of months this topic grew to hundreds of responses with more than 30,000 views. In March a few members requested its removal from the top and I agreed as it had been there for months. Within a week we received some requests for its reinstatement.

Instead of putting it back up I decided to create a new forum, while discontinuing the rather unpopular railroad games forum. We have transferred all the postings from the original thread and have broken them out into individual postings.

The new Railroaders Nostalgia Forum is reserved for current and former railroaders to talk about their careers and the various people/characters that made the job interesting. If you are not a professional please do not start a new thread, though you can certainly ask questions of an already created thread. I have always been hesitant about creating this forum as I did not want this to become a place for railroaders to bitch about specific people that are still employed by the railroad. So please keep it sane. For years railroaders have been asking for their own forum and here it is.

Here is a link to the new forum: http://www.trainorders.com/discussion/list.php?18

CAMERAS
Our main accomplishment during the past year was the rebuilding of our webcam system software and installation of new computers at both locations in Dunsmuir and Hyndman. We have no plans to add additional cameras as they are expensive to host and there is not enough interest to justify expansion. We are committed to keeping our two current cameras in operation.

IMPROVEMENTS
We have an assortment of minor site improvements under construction right now and their rollout is dependent upon our developer finding spare time to complete and roll them out. The immediate issue is we are being forced to rewrite our video encoding software by the end of next month. The service we use for our video processing has launched a new video encoding interface and we are being forced to make the transition with little notice.

We are also planning a server replacement project this summer that will result in some minor downtime. We replace our equipment before it is worn out to ensure the site operates reliably. This practice has allowed us to maintain 100% up time during the past year.

STATISTICS
Some interesting statistics for 2012 is our traffic is up 25% the first three months of this year over 2011. We host about 550,000 visits a month from 160,000 unique visitors. Of those 160,000 visitors, only 5000 of them are members of our web site. We are serving more than 5.5 million pages each month with the average visitor viewing just under 11 pages. Of interest is the amount of time spent on the site has dropped over 2011 from 8 minutes, 4 seconds, to 7 minutes, 52 seconds. This is a decline of 12 seconds.

What computer devices people are using to access the site is changing rapidly. In January 2011, 82% of web visits were from Windows operating systems. That has dropped to 75% for 2012. Macintosh has dropped from 13% to about 12.5%. Together it about a 10% drop in people not using a conventional computer to access the site.

The new breakdown is as follows: 88% computer (Mac, Windows), 8% mobile (3.5% iphone, 3.9% android), 2.7% ipad, remainder is miscellaneous operating systems.

STUTTERING VIDEO
Stopping and starting of video has been a common complaint over the past six months. This was being caused by our bandwidth provider unknowingly throttling our bandwidth connection. This resulted in slowed transfer of data for each connection to our web site. At most, members were able to connect at sub T-1 speeds. It is really not in their interest to slow us down as they make less money off of us. We are billed by how much data we consume. If we can’t serve it out fast enough the bill is lower. After a few months of asking it took a final threat of moving our servers to another provider for the problem to be addressed. They looked into it and gee wiz there was a problem. The throttle limits have been lifted and we have been promised faster speeds next week when a new fiber line is connected to the data center. If you had problems before with video playback try it again.

BE FRIENDLY
Be nice to our neighbors and leave the sarcasm directed at other users off the site. Some folks get discouraged from posting because some "Oscar the Grouch" has to add a comment like “Who cares” or “no reason to post this.” If you don’t like a post move on and don’t say anything because other people do care. There are also some members, (very few) that seem to always have a chip on their shoulder and look to pick a fight. Do it somewhere else. Finally, if you want to quote a message, delete the portion of the message you are not commenting on. Only use the quote feature if you need to make a comment on a specific statement. I hate to have this newsletter sound like mom and dad scolding Jimmy, but I am not sure how else to do it. Chris who moderates the forums is constantly cleaning up stuff like this and he should not have to. Just be nice.

APRIL FOOLS
This year was the final year we are going along with April fools postings. Years ago it was cute when there were one or two well thought out postings and some of us were actually fooled. Over the years it has transitioned into a license to post whatever totally bizarre thought comes to mind. There is nothing fooling about them. As fun and innocent as they may seem, they are expensive. Membership renewals and new signups on April 1 of this year were down 70% over non-April 1 days. Traffic was down and our support mail box received some snippy messages asking us to get rid of the postings associated with the practice. I have to agree with them as there were so many fabricated postings that it was a challenge to find the legitimate postings. It appears that many people just gave up on the web site for the day.

NEVADA NORTHERN
I am putting a plug in for Nevada Northern Railway’s Reality Camp they are holding this summer. If you are not a railroad professional and are looking for a unique experience think about traveling out to Nevada this summer to attend one of these adult or teen camps:
You begin by attending our rules and safety training. And yes, you will be tested on the training materials. After training and testing you will rotate through train operations, working in the shop and out on track.
As part of the crew, you will help get a train over up the hill and back again safely. In the shop, you will get hands on experience maintaining the locomotives and cars. It is dirty, oily, greasy work. But without, trains don’t run. As part of the track crew, you will see up close what it takes to keep the railroad running.
Everything comes together at the end of the week. You are part of the switch crew that needs to move a car from one track to another track in the yard. You’ll rotate through the positions of engineer, brakeman and switchman. The training from the week will now make sense as you couple up and move the car.

For more information visit the Nevada Northern’s web site at http://www.nnry.com/

PERSONAL STUFF
The last couple of months I have not been on the web site as often as would have liked. In February I found myself worn out and I could not get through the day without conking out on the couch. I just could not concentrate and felt like I was falling apart. After a blood test I found out that I had been recovering from mononucleosis. I am now slowly getting my energy up, thus picking up on web site projects.

This summer Trainorders.com will celebrate 15 years of operation. I occasionally get asked when I am going to divest myself from the site. When I started Trainorders.com in 1997 I never figured it would be where it is today. I will keep running the site as long as I can keep up with technology. That will probably be another ten years when I will have 25 years into it. While I would hope Mason would take it over, I don’t think technologically he would be able to handle it unless he chose an information technology field as a career. I am not formally trained in this, but I had 15 years of hands on experience from when the site was simple to the complicated operation it has become today.

Some of you may have read with interest that my son Mason completed a handcar during the summer. Now he is designing and fabricating parts to build a small fleet consisting of five additional handcars and one push cart. His intent is to sell some of them off to pay for the ones he intends to keep. Right now our garage is looking like a handcar factory, with parts spread about in different stages of fabrication.

The biggest challenge has been acquiring 20 inch pressed steel or wooden wheels. These are extremely hard to come by as they have not been manufactured in years. We are turning over every stone to find them and have had some success, but he is still in need of two more sets (eight wheels). If any of our members know of a museum or short line with an old rotting push cart out back that might be available for sale get a hold of us. We’ll even take just one wheel as if we collect enough oddballs we might be able to make a set. We are also looking for a velocipede in any condition to add to the collection if we can find one.

I want to take this opportunity to publically thank Shane Murphy, aka ArgyleEagle for picking up a set of old Sheffield push cart wheels for Mason in Texas. Mason is building a near perfect copy of a Norfolk and Western push car from the 1920’s and these wheels are a perfect match for the actual wheels that carried it.

For more information about Mason’s handcar visit http://www.railroadhandcar.com

In closing I want to thank most everyone for doing their part in keeping politics out of the forums. With election season on top of us it is nice to see most people abiding by the rules. We are still yanking some threads, but most are following the rules. Fullerton Railroad Days in Southern California is coming next month. While Trainorders will not have anything set up, Mason will be there with his handcar. Stop by and see us if you are there.

Todd Clark
Canyon Country, CA
Trainorders.com



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