What's New – 16th August 2015

Another Sunday rolls around – it doesn’t seem like it’s been a week already.

Most of the effort this week has gone in to the two new maps:

  • Bedford North Junction to Syston North Junction, including the triangle at South Wigston and an extension of the Hillmorton Junction to Nuneaton map to include the other half of the Nuneaton – Leicester route
  • Crewe is now live, although it’s currently a work-in-progress, as the area is hugely complex, covers a number of train describers and this weekend’s planned works at Crewe SCC haven’t completed yet. I’ve decided to release this map before it’s quite ready as there’s been a lot of interest in it

Other less notable but still important things:

…and there are a few behind-the-scenes changes that will help improve linking schedules to train descriptions – a fix that’s hopefully due to be live next week.

Until next time, enjoy the site and keep sending in your feedback!

// Peter

What's New – 9th August 2015

Minimal post this week because there’s so much going on!

Highlights this time around:

The Crewe map should be making an appearance in a week or two, and the Stafford map will be changed as a result of the Stafford Area Resignalling.

Sorry that there are still a few bugs in the maps – I have a long list of little things to fix when I get time!

What's New – 26th July 2015

A fortnight has gone by already. Sometimes, I’m not sure where the days and weeks go.

Work on the London Waterloo – Clapham Junction map is going well, although Clapham Junction is a complicated area, so it’s not quite ready. However, to make up for it, we have a new map of Exeter St. Davids – Liskeard, which is as far west as train describer coverage goes.

There are also now route indications shown on the Kenton to Tring map at Watford Junction, a few trivial issues fixed on the GNGE map, and the Bethnal Green – Cheshunt map is now under a new section on the maps page.

That’s it for today. There’s a pint in the pub with my name on it…

What's New – 12th July 2015

The past three weeks have gone quickly. I’ve been working on some other projects (more about that in a few weeks) and making the most of the sunshine – but still, I’ve managed to find time to get another handful of things fixed on the site.

The changes this time are centred around the Wessex maps:

As always, there are a handful of minor bug-fixed as a result of your feedback:

  • Occasionally, conflicting signal aspects and routes would be shown on certain maps – this was down to an error in the way TD messages are processed, and was very hard to fix – but it’s fixed now, so signals and routes should show correctly
  • The East Grinstead and Uckfield branch map will now show trains arriving and departing from platform 3
  • The Sandwell & Dudley to Penkridge now has berths for some signals between Dudley Port and Tipton, and a few signal indications are now fixed

I think I’ve earned a cup of tea now. Please keep your emails coming in!

Swindon and the Cambrian Lines

There’s only time for a very quick blog post this week, as life is getting in the way. So, on with the show…

Two new maps this week:

  • The Cambrian Lines map is ready – although it looks easy, it took much longer than expected
  • The Didcot Parkway to Swindon map is up, covering from just west of Chippenham to Didcot Parkway, including an overlap with the Oxford map, which will be slightly redrawn and extended later

And finally, before I go to tackle the gardening – last week’s update introduced an unfortunate latency bug, meaning at peak times, the maps were lagging behind reality by as long as 30 minutes in some cases.

I’m really sorry that I didn’t spot the bug during testing – but I’m pleased to say it should now be fixed, and I’ll be keeping an eye on the maps this week. For the technically minded, this was caused by the train describer handling code searching all berths for a train description, rather than searching specific berths. The fix is simple – as with a SQL database, an additional index.

So, that’s it for this week – I realise I’m also behind on fixing some of the bugs on the site, which I hope to tackle this week. There won’t be any new maps next Sunday, as I’ll be busy preparing my presentation for OpenTech 2015

// Peter

Mapping the Mersey

It’s been another busy week, with two new maps this time, covering the Merseyrail routes:

  • The Wirral Line map covers the route from West Kirby and New Brighton to Birkenhead North, Hamilton Square, the lines to Ellesmere Port and Bache, and the loop around Liverpool James Street. Chester will be added soon.
  • The Northern Line map covers Hunts Cross through to Liverpool Central, the spur to James Street, plus Sandhills to Southport, including the lines out to Ormskirk and Kirkby

These maps are as difficult as others – there’s no short-cut to laying them out, and it’s all drawn and wired up by hand. Mistakes always creep in, and I always try to fix them as soon as I can – like these ones from previous releases:

  • The Stafford map now has crossovers in the right position on the route to Penkridge, and a repositioned crossover to allow the route from 102 to 223 signals
  • The Marylebone to South Ruislip map has been reworked around Neasden South Junction, including the sidings and freight terminal
  • On the Bournemouth to Weymouth map, signal 5690 – which was always showing a green aspect – has been corrected to always show a red aspect

One important thing to point out is that there are a couple of bugs I’m still trying to fix on the site:

  • Sometimes, trains on maps are shown in white (meaning they’re clickable and you can see their schedule), but they’re linked to completely the wrong trains
  • On certain maps, on bi-directional lines, signals in both direction are showing a proceed aspect
  • TRTS indications and shunt signals occasionally switch on and off without warning

These are tricky problems which I’m trying hard to fix. I’m sorry it’s taking a while – there are only so many hours in the day to draw maps, write software, help the rest of the Open Data community, do my job (which pays my bills, including site hosting) and most important of all, actually take some time out.

That’s all for this week. The next release, hopefully next Sunday, will cover the route from Didcot Parkway to Swindon, the line to Kemble, part of the line to Bristol Parkway, plus Chippenham and Thingley Junction.

// Peter

A trio of maps

This week has been hard work, but there’s a surprise – three new maps!

  • The Sandwell and Dudley to Penkridge map covers Sandwell and Dudley, Wolverhampton, Portobello Junction and the line to Darlaston Junction, plus the avoiding line to Bushbury Junction, continuing to Penkridge
  • The Nuneaton to Lichfield Trent Valley map covers from just north of Nuneaton up to Lichfield Trent Valley and the chord to Winchnor Junction and on to just south of Rugeley Trent Valley
  • The Stafford map covers Rugeley Trent Valley, the line to Rugeley Town and Rugeley Power Station, part of the line to Stoke-on-Trent, the whole Stafford area including the remaining track to Penkridge, part of the line to Stone, and finishes just short of Crewe

As well as a trio of new maps, many (but not all) trains are now shown in white text where they’ve been linked to a schedule. Clicking on the white headcode will bring up the schedule for the train. It’s not perfect – there’s more work to do, but it’s a start. Some trains may be linked to the wrong service in another train describer area, and some trains may lose their link and appear in yellow text en-route. Soon, this linking will be extended to show train lateness in real-time – showing early, on-time and late trains in different colours.

There are also a few bug-fixes, including layout changes on the Brighton Main Line maps.

Until next time, enjoy the new maps and please keep emailing in your feedback!

A milestone – our 50th map

When I started OpenTrainTimes over three and a half years ago, I never believed it’d be quite as popular as it’s turned out to be.

October 2012 saw me launch real-time signalling maps. I started off with a few areas I knew well – such as London Euston to Hatch End, the East London Line and the southern end of the Midland Main Line. Just under three years later, I’ve amassed a total of fifty maps covering numerous parts of the country. They’ve proved popular with everyone – commuters, enthusiasts, train operators and Network Rail.

Each map takes a long time to build – I draw them from hand based on whatever documentation I have, be it anything from signalling scheme plans to TOC route-learning material and, in the case of the Watford Junction to South Hampstead map, from a route learning DVD and many trips up and down the line.

My day-job now involves consultancy in the rail industry (and if you want to hire me, please get in touch), I’m much closer to the professionals who use the site, and many new features have been driven by requests from rail industry staff. It seems slightly weird to come home and spend a couple of hours working on a map after working with, say, freight data all day, but it’s a strangely relaxing task.

That’s enough history – on with this week’s exciting news – the Glasgow Central map is now live. The trackwork is complex and this has taken me twice as long as I anticipated, but hard work pays off.

As ever, there are a number of little things fixed:

I’m aware there are still some emails I’ve yet to reply to about the site, and some bugs to fix at London Victoria, Reading and on the North Kent map. I’ll try to get those done in the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and before I forget, the next map will be Wolverhampton.

Lighting up the South West

This week’s gift to you all is signal and route indications on the London Waterloo – Queenstown Road, the Queenstown Road – Windsor, Chertsey and Longcross and the Queenstown Road – Surbiton maps.

Not all the signals are indicated – automatic signals (those which return to danger when a train passes) aren’t usually shown and have a white circle on the map, and for the area controlled by Woking ASC around Surbiton, we don’t currently have any data.

On another subject, progress on the Glasgow Central map is going slower than anticipated. If you have knowledge of the local area, please get in touch!

As usual, there are a number of bugs and improvements to the site. Here’s what’s working better than before:

  • The London Waterloo map now shows the contents of the departure (front) berths correctly. You can now see which trains are departing the station
  • On the Oxford map, the fringe between Marylebone, Banbury South, Banbury North and Oxford PSBs have been tidied up
  • The North London Line map has been tidied up around Willesden Junction, and platforms have been made consistent
  • The Tring to Wolverton map has been showing incorrect indications for some signals. This was the fault of a data error which shifted signalling data around
  • The Charing Cross, Cannon Street and London Bridge to Forest Hill showed green aspects on "Limit of Shunt" signals, which have been fixed, as well as signals 5130 and 5132 permanently showing a green indication
  • Some pointwork on the London Victoria map has been fixed and tidied up at Victoria, Streatham North and Pouparts Junction
  • Finally, the London Liverpool Street map no longer shows the same train description in berths 82 and 83

Until next time, enjoy the flashing lights on the South West Main Line maps

// Peter

Mayday, Mayday!

I’m very pleased to announce that the Reading to Cholsey map is now live. This map covers the main and relief lines from just west of Twyford, all the way through Reading station, out to Cholsey and Reading West. Of course, the Southern platforms are included, with coverage of platforms 4-6 all the way down to Earley station.

Along with this change, the Maps page has also been reworked. Each Network Rail route now has its own section, with maps grouped under each route. For example, under "London North Eastern&quot, the "East Coast Main Line" section has the Kings Cross to Hitchin, Hitchin to Stoke Tunnel and Stoke Tunnel to Retford maps in order.

The next map will be of Glasgow Central and the surrounding area.

As always, there are a number of smaller things fixed on the site:

Since it’s raining outside, it’s perfect weather for a BBQ. Enjoy your long weekend!