Today marks Realtime Trains’ first birthday. And it’s been one hell of a year.
The site had a complex gestation. It started in 2008, when, having corrupted the Excel spreadsheet in which I was recording all my train journeys, I begun development on a small system called RailMiles.
Various attempts to improve this led, over the years, to traintimes.im, a ‘static’ timetables website. For various reasons, a reliable source of scheduling information was never really possible until this was launched. And naturally, whilst building it, and after it was complete, I was eager to fill in the big gap: real time train information. In 2012, Network Rail released access to the open data feeds I needed, and I went at it.
It took six months from the public availability of the data feeds to the launch of Realtime Trains, derived from the code I’d written for (what was then) Timetables 2. The initial version was extremely simple, applying information from TRUST onto the public schedules with a small, but robust, prediction engine. Incremental improvements followed, including the heatmap (returning to version 2 soon!) and Train Describer information, plus general tweaks to the prediction engine.
Version 2, in all, around eight months of my time before it was ready for release on 23 August. This was a major rewrite, with a completely new web interface and processing engine. Even now, we haven’t stopped: a small army of helpers travels up and down the entire country, on a regular basis, checking and updating the database that creates reports based on TD movements.
Realtime Trains is truly getting better all the time, thanks, in no small measure, to you, the users. From a few hundred visitors a day to as many as 400,000 per month, the site has exploded in popularity.
You’ve helped us build a strong foundation for the future of Realtime Trains. Our website is more popular, and precise, then ever. Our app for Android smartphones and tablets was released last week, and Realtime Trains for iPhone is on the way (it should be out by the beginning of November!)
So, ultimately, Realtime Trains wouldn’t be where it is today without your continued use. Whether you use it to decide just where to snap a photo of that railtour, to nail your commute down to the second, glance at it when making a snap-decision to go to the station or the pub—or just give it a quick check to see if you need to run!—you have helped make Realtime Trains.