Monthly Archives: May 2020

Website Update 05-29-2020

After cleaning up all the problems in the administrative interface that dealt with videos on the site, I added video clips for 17 locomotives, partially to test the newly rewritten feature, and partly because it was fun to do so.

In the course of adding the videos, I discovered and added photos for 11 more locomotives that hadn’t previously had a photo, and updated the photo for a steam tram in Sweden.

Additionally edits were made to the technical details for 104 locomotives in Europe, Canada and Mexico. Mostly these were status changes, including one locomotive that was changed to Scrapped.

Along the way, I discovered another minor problem, this one with the Notes system. The administrative function to delete a note worked, partially. I would remove the note, but leave the locomotive’s Notecount field alone. This meant that the system would try to make a non-existent note available if you viewed that locomotive. Reviewing the source code for that module, I think that I was either tired, indifferent or in an awful hurry. So…I spent an hour rewriting that module from scratch. It works nicely now, and I can delete a note, if necessary without causing data inconsistency problems. Wheefun.

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Posted by on May 30, 2020 in Website


Little Green and Red Dots Revisited

In my previous discussion of the little green and red dots (see below) I was a bit overly optimistic. The Video indicator is set correctly in most places but there are a couple of places where they were not. I spent a couple of hours today, tracking them down. Things should be normal-y now.

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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Website


Video Woes 5-28-2020

After our hosting provider shifted to its new server which used Lucee instead of Adobe Coldfusion, a number of things went silly, and day before yesterday, I began debugging one of those great number of things that no longer worked right.

For a variety of reasons, only an editor can add a video to the website. It is done through the site’s administrative interface, and the process was simple enough, but not particularly elegrant.

After the switch to Lucee it became impossible to add new videos. It appeared that the information you supplied (called an Embed String) was somehow being corrupted by the site before it was added to the database. Moderately maddening. And difficult to troubleshoot.

It turned out that I was overly quick to blame Lucee (the CFML compiler). The real culprit was the setup of the new server. The server administrator had enable a feature that had been disabled on the server where we originally ran. This is called ‘GlobalSecurityProtect’. What it does is this: if you try to pass user supplied text within a website, it checks to make sure that certain html tags (which could be potentially dangerous) are suppressed. It replaces those tags with the word InvalidTag. And that was (I thought) the problem.

Further research revealed that this can be overriden on a local basis. So as far as the administrative interface was concerned, all I needed to do was override GlobalSecurityProtect for the admin app only. This posed no security threat as the admin interface is restricted to logged in Editors only.

Coded and tested, and voila! I could add a video. And it looked like crap. Why? When this code was written (more than five years ago) you could rely on YouTube to supply an Embed String with the height and width set to 640×390. And our page formatting depends on those two values. Now, before we save the Embed String we need to be able to show you a video we examine it, and if necessary change the height and width parameters to the values we need. About ten lines of CFML code were needed to accomplish this reliably. So…that little (cough, cough) problem has been fixed.

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Posted by on May 28, 2020 in Website


Website Updates 05-26-2020

  • Reviewed all locomotives in Turkey against several online lists of existing locomotives in Turkey.
  • Added seven locomotives that we’d previously been unaware of.
  • Deleted two duplicate entries for a locomotive in Istanbul
  • Updated the status of 118 locomotives in Turkey
  • Updated technical details for 63 locomotives in Turkey
  • Added photos of a number of locomotives in Turkey (I didn’t count)

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Posted by on May 27, 2020 in Website


Along the Deadline (Alasehir, Turkey)

Along a street named Akkeçeli Cd. in Alasehir, Turkey on Turkish State Railway (TCDD) property is a deadline consisting of a group of five derelict locomotives and a group of three locomotives separated from the first group by perhaps 150 feet.

If you wish to explore this deadline with Google Street View then the following link will take you there:,28.5163294,3a,75y,264.35h,82.68t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1stG8gePnQhYsFGlHoEu1XGA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

The only locomotive in this group I was able to identify by the number on the cab was TCDD 2-10-2 No. 57021. For your amusement the first group of five consists of the following wheel arrangements: a 2-8-2, a 2-10-0 without a tender, another 2-10-0 with a tender, another 2-10-0 without a tender and a 2-10-2. The second group of three locomotives consists of a 2-10-0, TCDD 2-10-2 No. 57021, and lastly a 2-10-0. If anyone has a means of identifying which locomotives these are amongst those listed in Alasehir, please let me know by emailing me at

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Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Interesting Locomotives


About Those Little Green and Red Dots

Screen Grab of Search Results

The image above should be familiar to most anybody who has ever used the ‘Search’ function on our website. The above was generated when I searched for locomotives whose Number string included the word ‘General’. Most of you have corrected deduced the meanings of the little red and green dots (I always thought of them as LEDs, for some reason). The red led indicates, of course that the locomotive in question does not have the corresponding feature, and if green, then it does. So the Six Gun Territory locomotive has only one or more Notes attached to it. The 35011 has a Photo Album, Notes and Links.

So, here’s the rub. The indicator for videos was being generated correctly EVERYWHERE in the website, except in Search results. There, it more or less randomly was red or green for Video, and meaningless. Tracked down what I did to cause this disaster, and repaired it today. Happy.

Now nearly everyone knows that if you click on the little thumbnail image for a locomotive, you get a bunch more information. Let’s try it for the Southern Railway locomotive in the search results above. We click on the thumbnail image, and voila! We get the following:

And there, at the bottom of the screen are buttons which correspond to the features that this locomotive has: a Photo Album, Links and Notes. And a zinger: I just notice that some bizarre data entry problem caused this locomotive to appear to have 980 cylinders of 18×24″ dimensions. Don’t bother to go to the site and look. I already fixed it.

I am thinking about making the features (Photo Album, Videos, Links and Notes) available to site visitors without first having to go through the page above. I am working on an example and hope to have it available this week through a dummy page for your examination and comments. I’ll let you know.

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Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Website


Website Updates 5-25-2020

I am aware that it’s the 26th, not the 25th. But the contents of this entry detail what I did on the website yesterday.

  • Restored spaces to 341 railroad names in the database.
  • Corrected the locations of three locomotives in Germany, putting them at DKBM Gütersloh.
  • Began a project to add a dictionary of abbreviations to the website.
  • Corrected the status and other details for 7 locomotives at DKBM Gütersloh.
  • Fixed a bug involved in the incorrect abbreviation of a German state.
  • Corrected the wheel arrangement of Drachenfeldsbahn 0-4-2Tcog No. 2
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Posted by on May 26, 2020 in Website


Content Update 5-24-2020

In the course of reviewing the website over the last couple of weeks I discovered a group of data entry errors that occurred about 15 years ago. To explain briefly, James Hefner gave me his permission to import his world wide data to our website, and the information was contained in a Microsoft Access database. I wrote software that would allow me to import his data into our format, into a temporary table for each country. Then it was a simple matter to import the temporary table into our database.

Unfortunately, a couple of programming errors made it possible for the import to just stop if it encountered data it didn’t understand. No error message (my bad), nothing. And apparently this happened in several cases, and I didn’t catch it. The data that got missed has been manually retrieved and updated. The results are this: we”ve added 46 locomotives to the database in the last 5 days, mostly in Spain.

Additionally, some of the source data had spaces compressed out of text strings which looks really odd. This was true in the Access data base. I am restoring these spaces wherever I find the problem and have fixed slightly more than 1000 instances of this problem. It occurs primarily in a field called ‘RRFullName’. I’ll continue to fix these as this project progresses.

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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in Website


Website Updates 5-24-2020

Not too very long ago, I considered selling Hosting bills were coming due, and I could not afford them. I was tired and frustrated and thought perhaps someone else could do a better job with the site than I was doing.

As I pondered completing the sale I was forced to take a serious look at the website itself, and how it is maintained. I reached two conclusions: first that there are a very large number of bugs within the site which need to be repaired; and second, that for a person to successfully maintain the website certain technical skills would be required, both as a programmer and as a MS-SQL query developer.

The first problem can be solved with time and persistence. The second required me to rethink how the administrative interface to the website worked and how I would redesign it to allow a non-technical person to do all the tasks required to maintain the site. That proved to be daunting but doable.

As I continue to repair, enhance and modify the site in the coming days, weeks and months, it is my intention to write about what I’m doing and why in this blog. I hope that those of you who think about online presence and social media will find this useful and maybe even instructive.

There were some monumentally stupid design decisions made back in the day (almost 20 years ago now) and while they may have seemed reasonable or “good enough” back then, they have come back to haunt me as I’ve made the site more capable and more complicated. As I make changes to the site, I intend to explain what I did wrong, and why and how I’m fixing it.

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Posted by on May 24, 2020 in Website


Two Website Problems Fixed

About 7 years ago, I added a feature to that allowed the website to post a tweet to a Twitter account (@steaminfo1) whenever photos or links were added to a locomotive, and when a locomotive was added or deleted. In seven years, only 42 people followed this particular Twitter feed. About 2 and a half years ago Twitter changed its methods for allowing machine generated tweets to be made. And I didn’t notice. So any attempted updates failed and there were no more @Steaminfo1 tweets.

After nearly three years, no one has complained about the failure. And after reviewing the complexity of what would have to be done to recreate this feature with Twitter’s new interface, I don’t think its worth the bother. Nobody used the feature and nobody noticed when it failed.

It therefore has been removed from the site’s front page.

The website has a feature which allows you to choose how locomotive wheel arrangements will be displayed, whether using the Whyte Classification System, UIC or French Notation. A careful review of the site’s capabilities showed that this functionality was broken. A bit of research and coding fixed the problem. You can now click on Custom View from the front page and select the type of notation you’d prefer for locomotive wheel arrangements.


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Posted by on May 7, 2020 in Website