queries  
  region status     train location/status table     interactive dynamic map    
  rail line     traffic graph     route map    details  
  place     find       lineup  
  train schedule     find     route map     details or new!chart  
FAQ         Sources and Credits

Mid-Atlantic Train Finding Tools

the existence of published train schedule information makes it possible to predict where trains are at any given time.  to do this we've combined schedule and geospatial information from a variety of sources into a regional database.  the query tools on this page are designed to facilitate access to this information, and to present it in ways we hope you will find interesting and useful. 

to check the reliability of this information in predicting actual train operations see our Regional Train Performance page. 

we're always curious to know what you might think of these tools:

please drop a line to webmaster@pacerfarm.org

Regional Tools

these queries are intended to give a broad-scale picture of the rail network.  the geographic scope is loosely defined as anything in Maryland, its neighbouring states or the District of Columbia for which both geospatial and schedule information is available. 


this query returns a table with the location and status of scheduled train movements: 

Train Location/Status Table
(Where They Are)

enter time
    hour   -or-
    hour:minute   -or-
    hour:minute:second
 
day  
 
operator  
 
sort by  
 


this query returns the same information, presented in the form of a simple map: 

Interactive Dynamic Map
enter time
    hour   -or-
    hour:minute   -or-
    hour:minute:second
 
day
 
operator
 
  map
  show incorporated municipalities
 
hints:  once the map is displayed,

Line-Specific Tools

these queries return information about the scheduled train movements on a particular rail line, and about the lines themselves. 


this query generates a Time/Location (string line) diagram for scheduled train movements on any rail line, plotting the milepost location of trains against a 24-hour day: 

Traffic Graph
(Time/Location (string line) Diagram)
select line
show single track vs. multiple track segments
 
day
include "as needed" trains
 
operator
 
hints:

this query returns a map tracing the route of a rail line: 

Route Map
select line
 
  show incorporated municipalities
 
hint:

any rail line is an ordered series of locations.  this query returns a table showing the places by which any line is defined, including junction points with other lines: 

Line Details
select line
hint:

Place-Specific Tools

these queries help you find places along the rail lines and to display associated scheduled train movements. 


this query will help you determine along which lines a place might be found, and the associated milepost location: 

Place Locator
operator
 
place name
 
state
hints:

this query returns a table listing a lineup of train movements scheduled to pass any location. 

Lineup
(When They Pass)
select line
enter milepost
 
day
include "as needed" trains
include unscheduled trains
   
operator
 
sort by
 
hints:

Train-Specific Tools

these queries allow you to find and obtain details on train schedules. 


use this query to find train schedules. 
Find Schedules
operator
 
direction
 
origin
destination
 
description
 
include unscheduled trains
   
hints:


if you already know a train's symbol, this query returns a map tracing its route. 

Route Map
enter symbol

show incorporated municipalities
   
hints:


if you already know a train's symbol, these queries return its schedule information, including computed junction pass times and a simple performance profile giving end-to-end and segment velocities and dwell times (within the current geographic coverage area) presented in tabular form or new! as a simple bar chart: 

Schedule Details

enter symbol
 

 

 
 
new!Schedule Chart

enter symbol

select bar type
 

 

 
hints:

FAQ

Q: Sometimes a train symbol is followed by a number in parentheses.  What does it mean? 
A: when a train's schedule passes midnight, it becomes the previous day's train (and it needs to be considered separately from the following day's train with the same symbol).  a train with (-1) following the symbol is yesterday's train; one with (-2) started out the day before yesterday, und so weiter
Q: Whey is there no information for (specific train) or (particular line)? 
A: these tools display only lines for which geospatial information and at least one schedule is available. 

we always welcome any authenticated schedule information within the region, particularly for the short lines (e.g.,  ESHR, M&D, MMID, SBV or W&W).  if you are in a position to share this information, or can direct us to a source, please advise us at webmaster@pacerfarm.org
Q: Why do some lines seem to have junctions with themselves? 
A: this occurs where there's a discontinuity in mileposts (referred to also as a "milepost equation"). 
for instance, Point of Rocks MD is milepost 64.7 (west from Baltimore on the CSX Old Main Line subdivision) but also milepost 42.8 (west from Union Station in Washington DC on the CSX Metropolitan Subdivision).  the line runs west from there as the Metropolitan Subdivision, but with its mileposts numbered from Baltimore.  it's just a conceptual simplification to treat the milepost discontinuity as a junction with another line which happens to have the same name. 
for an amusing example, see a segment of the Norfolk Southern Blue Ridge District with discontinuity-induced junctions with itself on each end. 
Q: What about train movements that aren't scheduled? 
A: they abound, but in the absence of a way to deal with them we have no choice but to exclude them.  extra movements include most unit trains (in this area, primarily coal and grain) as well as helpers, second sections of regular trains, detours, work trains ... the list goes on and on.  on some lines these movements constitute a majority of the traffic. 

some trains operate on an "as needed" basis -- they have a schedule but do not necessarily operate on any particular day.  we're gradually enhancing the query tools above with options for filtering such movements. 
Q: What is the origin of the string line diagrams? 
A: string line charts have been used for constructing railway schedules since the 1880s, and the same basic methods are still in use today.

one might expect to see more online references to the practice, but after querying several search engines the only resources that turned up (other than this page) were Systra Consulting's Rail Sim software and a press release cached at Google mentioning string line charts as an output option of ALK's Line Capacity Analysis System (LCAS) software. 

those interested in the subject might wish to check out these treeware resources: 
  • James J. Hill is said to have used a string line device to personally determine schedules for his Great Northern Railway.  if we recall his biography correctly, push pins and coloured strings were used in a heuristic optimization method. 

  • Marshall Kirkman's The Science of the Railways vol IV - Train Service (1894, ed. 1904) discusses the use of a string line to construct schedules in Chapter VII (pp. 71-79) and shows one in Appendix A (p. 507) with the following caption: 
        Appendix A - Time Table Chart

    The sheet or diagram illustrated below is a chart used in making the schedule of trains, in determining their time, speed, meeting and passing points, and other particulars of the service.  When a chart has been perfected the matter is copied off to the time table and printed for the use of train men and others." 
  • Kirkman's diagram is clearly lifted (without attribution, and with slight alterations) from one that appears in The American Railway:  Its Construction, Development, Management, and Appliances  (c. 1889, reprinted c. 1988 by Bramhall House ISBN 0-517-225859) in the section on Railway Management, attributed to General E. P. Alexander (yes, the CSA officer who ordered Pickett's charge at Gettysburg, but written later, when he served as President of the Central of Georgia) on p. 161 as part of a discussion (pp. 160-162) mentioning the applicability of string line diagrams as a real-time aid in setting run times and meet/pass points for extra movements. 

    it is quite likely that both works lifted the diagram from some earlier source. 

  • Edward R. Tufte's The Visual Display of Quantitative Information  (1983, ed. 1990 ISBN 0-961-39210X) shows a string line diagram of the rail line from Paris to Lyon on p. 31, citing E. J. Marey La Méthode Graphique  (Paris, 1885) and attributing the method to French engineer Ibry.  Tufte critiques the method from a visual design perspective but thought enough of it to reproduce the image on the cover of his book. 
Q: After visiting this site I took my train-crazed four-year-old (nephew, son, grandson) down to milepost (whatever) on the (whichever) line at (whenever - hour, minute, second) but no train appeared.  What happened? 
A: we're sorry.  your experience provided a good object lesson in distinguishing between precision and accuracy.  see also "disclaimers", below. 
Q: The schedule is interesting, but does it get any better: is real-time information available? 
A: railroads, unlike other modes of transportation, do not incorporate GPS-type locators into their operations control systems.  railcars and locomotives do carry equipment identification tags which trigger wayside readers, but in its raw form this information may or may not correlate to train symbols, service plans or schedules.  railroads share shipment tracing information (by waybill or freight car/trailer/container) with shippers and consignees, but its availability to the general public varies from carrier to carrier.  in the case of CSX the data provided appears to come from crew origin and destination reports rather than from the tag readers; we presume this to be a least-effort way to capture train symbols.  Norfolk Southern's trace data clearly comes from the equipment tag readers, with a latency that seems to run anywhere between a couple of hours and a few minutes. 

when trace information is aggregated over time, the results can be interesting -- see our Regional Train Performance page. 

Q: Does NS local HA13 really manage to be in two places at once? 
A: no. 
it just looks that way because it has a different schedule on different days of the week, and queries that specify "all possible days" or "all weekdays" will return both variants.  this can be solved with day-specific queries (e.g., "Monday", "Tuesday", etc.). 
Q: Why is so much of this page in lower case? 
A: well, actually, the whole site's that way.  it's just an idiosyncracy.  and no, we're not related to e. e. cummings (at least not of which we are aware). 

Disclaimers

this information is deemed reliable but not guaranteed.  your mileage may vary.  some settling may occur. 

these schedules are repackaged and presented strictly for our own amusement, and for yours. 

Sources and Credits

the information returned by the queries on this page is the result of farm hand compilation and analysis of published timetables and of schedule and geospatial information from other sources including current and historical employee timetables (the term is somewhat of a misnomer in that these documents don't contain schedule information -- but they do contain the mileposts and place names used to define rail line segments), track charts and roadway or ZTS maps.  for passenger carriers (Amtrak and the commuter and excursion railroads) the schedule information shown here was obtained from their published timetables.  freight railroads generally do not publish schedule information, but some of the service plan information upon which their operations are based is available on the public internet and from other sources. 

in going past the limits of the material in our personal collection for the acquisition and cross-checking of data, we have found the following to be of great assistance:

for further information on railroading in the region and elsewhere, visit Christopher Muller's railserve.com site, with its searchable index of over 4,000 rail-related links and Bob Harbison's railroaddata.com links page, containing over 3,000 links (both sites feature listings pointing to this page). 

any errors are, of course, our own. 

the author of the analysis and presentation of this information is available for hire or rent.  click here for our webmaster's resume.



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