What happened to the original Railspot.net web site?

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depotsquare
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What happened to the original Railspot.net web site?

Post by depotsquare » Sun Oct 07, 2007 9:28 am

Up until about a year ago there was a wonderful Internet reference source called Railspot.net, which was one researcher's attempt to provide comprehensive ownership lineages for every commercially produced North American diesel locomotive. Other railroad/railfan sites are still found with posted links to that very informative roster. Unfortunately, the web site domain name is now taken over by a company offering European rail travel packages. Does anyone know what happened to the original site? Does it still exist under a different domain name? Is it being hosted by another web site? Has the original site's creator gone private with it and, if so, is it possible to contact him? Any light that can be shed on this matter would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

John Hudson
Depot Square Publishing

Franklin Gowen
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Post by Franklin Gowen » Sun Oct 14, 2007 4:17 pm

That's a shame. I've had that same crushing disappointment when a much-favored website vanishes without a trace.

Have you tried to access it via the Internet Wayback Machine at http://www.archive.org?

They have older cached versions of tens of billions of discrete web pages. While many graphics will now be absent and most of the deeper links into such a cached site will now be useless dead-ends, if you look carefully you might be able to glean some contact info to the old site's administrator(s). Unfortunately, it's probable that any email address they listed was via the same (now lapsed) web domain which the site itself has since been allowed to expire and be purchased by advertisers taking advantge of "hits" from folks like you who return there looking for the old, now-vanished content. Perhaps a snail-mail address or phone number is buried in the archive somewhere. Good luck.

If this fails, keep asking around on other rail-oriented web forums. Have you already done research at the following sites?

* http://www.trainorders.com (a pay site but still a valuable resource - someone should know about your site)
* http://www.railfan.net
* http://www.chaski.org/railfan/
* the "Interchange" at http://rypn.org/
* http://www.railroaddata.com
* http://www.railroadforums.com

(in accordance with railroad.net's user agreement, the above links are presented for research purposes only and in no way should be misconstrued as an invitation to siphon away this site's membership)

Consider broadening your search criteria to include the vast jungle of email discussion lists known collectively as Yahoo!Groups. This step is a giant pain in the neck, but could reach persons "in the know" who no longer participate on rail websites. I'll explain.

A large part of the railroad-themed discussion traffic which once occurred on the early web forums (roughly 1995-2001) has mainly migrated from web to email. The smaller web-based rail forums have mostly been spammed or flame-war'ed to death (like chaskirail.org, which only recently came back to life and is now small), the owner lost interest and didn't pay to renew the web domain when it expired (like at grumpysworld.com; once a very educational rail photography site), or the membership migrated to the then-quicker email from web, liked the relative difference in speed and the ease of use, and remained there.

Bear in mind that the WWW (haven't seen it called that in a while! :wink:) was still aggravatingly slow for the dial-up access and underpowered PCs we had back then, and email offered an advantage over that. Sites like the old Linkville and Hypertext Railroad and the Cyberspace World Railroad were once huge (CWRR has been online since 1994!), but if they exist at all are now just a small group of features and train photogalleries. The folks are elsewhere, and the few remaining pioneers are left behind like a traditional "Main Street" town bypassed by a new Interstate highway.

A company called EZ Boards had millions of email forums in those early years, and in early 2000 or 2001 they were taken over by Yahoo! due to huge ad-revenue opportunities. There must be well over a thousand different rail-oriented forums now. Some are likely low-traffic and have a handful of people subscribed to them. Others have over a thousand people on a single list, and discussion is going strong. Yahoo!Groups often function extremely well for narrowly-defined specialty topics where a deep body of data exists but is of interest to only a tiny group of people. Sad to say, railfanning as an organized hobby does fit this definition, even in spite of the very strong education & history foundation beneath it.

I know this is more info than you asked for, but this reply hopefully puts into perspective how these favorite websites sometimes have a happy and useful afterlife even after they close up shop forever. Maintaining a quality website year after year with a large amount of original, useful content is very hard work. I am grateful for every such site that stays "on the air"...it's often a sheer labor of love.

Franklin (online since 1995...don't need any stinking "Web 2.0"! :-D )
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