Sunday, October 9, 2016 as a railfanning tool

 I have at least four planned posts that cover some interesting current events in Utah's railroads, but I am putting them off in favor of this topic. an acquaintance recommended (please note I am not affiliated with this website in any way) as a way to keep track of locomotives, so I looked into it and found that this website, which is meant as a database to track the movement of locomotives and trains, is a powerful tool for both railfans and historians. Since I have a strange love for data (strange in that I despise the careers that normally deal with large amounts of data), I was excited to discover that the website analyzes all of the sighting submissions and breaks them down into different categories: city, rail location, train symbol, train type, and locomotives. Clicking on any of these categories brings up a page full of charts, diagrams, numbers and maps that show traffic levels throughout the day, through the week, division of train types at a specific location, etc. It is a gold mine of information.

This is an example of's location breakdown, in this case for Provo, Utah. The only drawback to this is a lack of sufficient data, since only 8 trains have been reported in the last year.
However, the problem is that very few people are using it. It is a bit tedious to enter all of the pertinent information about a train, and the majority of users appear to live east of the Mississippi and there are only two of us (including me) in Utah, so there isn't much data that pertains to me, and if there is data, it isn't enough to make a conclusion from. I'd like to fix that though. (EDIT: since publishing this article, the number of Utah users has risen to five)

There are a few drawbacks to the site, however. First, there is no option for multiple locations on a single train. This is unfortunate for somebody like me who often chases trains through three or four towns (the LUL57 local, for example, which I usually follow from Provo to Spanish Fork). Thus, the data for that train is only registered to a single location rather than to all of the locations that I know it passed through; thus, while the LUL57 always originates and terminates at Provo, there are five entries so far for it but only one is actually registered for Provo. I could submit a sighting form for every location that I saw the train at, but that, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is tedious.

These two pictures show the same train, the CPFSR, in two different towns on the same day, the top on in Provo and the other in Sringville. One of the major drawbacks to the submission process is that only one location can be added to a train sighting, which makes accurate submission of data difficult.
Second, the selection of locomotive models is rather limited, and there is no way to enter a new model. GE locomotives are rather sparse and I have found five instances so far in uploading sightings where the model of locomotive that I photographed is not included in railsightings' list, which makes it impossible to categorize properly. However, I contacted the staff and they responded very quickly with some feedback. They asked that any locomotive or location submissions can be emailed to them, and it will be added by their development staff. My requests were added within ten minutes of sending the email.

Despite these drawbacks, it will be fascinating to see who the database expands as time goes on, so we can see how trains move and collect more information about locations. I highly recommend that everybody make an account (and again, I repeat the disclaimer that I am not affiliated with this website in any way).


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