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February 2005 Newsletter

This is one of our occasional news updates about the happenings on the web site. I originally planned to send this newsletter out in March, but two big milestones happened this week that I want to report.

Friday we released the most exciting new feature since the web site was launched in 1997. Many of those who have been around Trainorders.com since the beginning know that it was the Tehachapi Railcam that brought everyone to the web site in the beginning. Over time the novelty wore off and fans instead became addicted to the discussion forums.

Now the focus is now on our webcam network as we just released an incredible new system in Dunsmuir, California. This new system captures full frame rate video just like on your television along with high quality audio. All you need to view these clips is a modern computer (something not more than a few years old), Quicktime, and a broadband internet connection like DSL or cable modem. Best of all the system is train activated which means you can view the action from any day. You don't need to sit by your computer awaiting for something to come by. If you find something you like you can even download the movie to your hard disk for future viewing.

Visit the feature at http://www.trainorders.com/cameras/dunsmuir

This state-of-the-art project has been in development for almost a year and thousands have been spent on its development. Our hope is to install another system similar to Dunsmuir somewhere east of Chicago to capture CSX and Norfolk Southern. With these setups comes great costs. I assure you that I will not raise our annual rates to pay for these systems. However, we may be forced to place a per user quota limiting the number of viewings per user per day to reduce bandwidth demand and costs.

The other big news for the web site is we hit a new record of 2700 premium members today. Our membership continues to grow as fans find value in the service we provide. As our numbers increase we spend more money on exciting new features to keep our membership base entertained.

Recently I was approached by a professional cartoonist about doing some railroad related cartoons for the web site. I am thinking about a weekly railroad or railfan type cartoon focused around current events and non-current events. The one problem is I don't know if we can come up with enough material for a weekly cartoon. We can poke fun at UP and CSX as they provide lots of material, but that would get old after a while. Pass along some ideas any of you have for cartoons as that would help me decide if there is enough material around to justify a weekly drawing.

Many of you have noticed that links leading off the discussion forums now display a warning before you leave Trainorders.com. This is by no means a way to keep folks from leaving. A few weeks ago we had a very serious incident where a user inadvertently posted a link to a web page that installed spyware on people's computers who visited the link. When we visited to confirm the report our computers were infected as well.

Spyware is a serious problem. It can destroy your computer and steal your personal info. The best way to protect yourself is to use secure web browsers such as Mozilla available from mozilla.org. Internet Explorer is vulnerable though Microsoft is working on the issue. Mac's are also better protected as the spyware authors don't seem interested in going after this operating system. As for the warning message it is here to stay. It protects us from litigation and also reminds our members that they are leaving the protection of Trainorders.com. When many folks get infected they give up the Internet all together. I don't want that to happen.

As many of you know last year Trainorders.com hosted the Friday night eve Winterail Party in Stockton. This year I decided to bow out from Winterail. As it turns out the event always seems to fall on my birthday and my family would like to have me home for a change. However, the event has been picked up by Railfan & Railroad Magazine and the National Railway Historical Society. It's going to be well organized and is being put together by Michael Huggins who organized the presenters for the Trainorders.com event last year. Doors open at 5:30pm with the shows starting at 6:00pm. The cost is $5 and all proceeds will go towards preservation.

March 11, 2005 5:30pm
Copenhagen Hall
1215 W. Swain Rd, Stockton

I also want to remind you that all Trainorders.com members who do not subscribe to Railfan & Railroad magazine can take advantage of a special offer to receive this fine magazine for only $24.95 for 12 issues. Railfan & Railroad is a great magazine and a bargain for a little over $2 a month. Sure, you can find lots of content online, but you will not find the quality of feature stories like you see in the magazine. For example, there is an excellent article in the February issue about UPS and the railroads. If you already subscribe to Railfan & Railroad then you will receive a discounted annual $24 membership on Trainorders.com for new registrations and also renewals. For more info visit the offer page.

Recently, I fielded a couple of email messages from folks asking if Trainorders.com would be planning a web site trip this Spring. This year I have decided to hold off on running a private car railfan trip. My hope is to someday run a three day overnight trip between Los Angeles and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

You say that Santa Fe is not serviced by Amtrak... That's correct, but it is serviced by the Santa Fe Southern. The plan would be to take us off the Southwest Chief at Lamy and have our train picked up by the shortline and run us 20 miles or so into Santa Fe. For now it is a dream as BNSF, and Amtrak need to decide whether they will allow cars to come off here. It could be a mute point as Amtrak has bigger issues with the funding war that is about to get underway.

If you would like to experience the hospitality of private rail travel then consider one of our non-railfan type trips between Los Angeles and Oakland. These trips are run with the same equipment as our railfan trips, except we market these to the non-railfan crowd. We have two scheduled for April and we may entertain one way trips on the April 15, 16, 17. Yes, for those on our previous trips my wife Donnalee still does the cooking. Her carrot cake is still killing people. As they say it's to die for. Lets hope we can keep these going as this summer could be the last stand for long distance trains. As I tell people, do it now as you never know if it will be around tomorrow. For more info visit: Coast Rail

A few years ago Microsoft released a railway simulation game called Train Simulator. I have to admit I was pretty excited by this game until I actually played it and found it to be as boring as watching grass grow. Recently I ran into Trainorders.com member Andrew Held (aheld on the site) who wrote a 3rd party add on for this game that allows players to run over the Surfliner route in Southern California. I expressed to him that I found the game boring that my biggest enjoyment was crashing the trains and watching the electronic derailment. He asked that I please take a look at his addition. So I did. I have to admit that this add on has made the game much more interesting.

The detail of the simulator is amazing. Andrew spent the last three years of his life religiously developing this simulator and it really shows in the detail. He got full cooperation from Amtrak and rode in the cabs back and fourth between Los Angeles and San Diego dozens of times. As for me, I still don't care for playing engineer on the computer, but I do run it anyway as it is worth just seeing the detail and accuracy. If you have a copy of Train Simulator laying around, brush off the dust and get a hold of this territory. Facing Point

Todd Clark
Webmaster and founder
Trainorders.com
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