Live train information is now available for the first time at a heritage railway thanks to the Swanage Railway and Real Time Trains and a Culture Recovery Fund grant.
Digital screens in 1950s style notice board frames will give up to date information about the trains, including the locomotive hauling it and facilities onboard. These boards have been installed at Swanage and Corfe Castle stations, with more boards set to be installed at Norden and Harmans Cross.
This live train information is now also available on the Real Time Trains website.
This is all possible thanks to a partnership between the Swanage Railway and Real Time Trains, which provides three million passengers a year with live train information.
The new system works with GPS equipment that has been installed in the carriages, which then feeds back the train’s position through mobile phone networks.
Over the last 14 months, Tom Cairns has been working on the Know Your Train feature on Real Time Trains. He has welcomed Locomotive Services Ltd, Avanti West Coast, Northern and GB Railfreight, amongst others, to the feature, but the Swanage Railway is the first heritage railway to join the scheme.
Swanage Railway passenger services director Trevor Parsons said: “We are very grateful for the innovative and imaginative technical expertise of Realtime Trains in producing such an attractive, clear, concise and engaging continually updated train information system for our passengers.
“Housed in traditional 1950s notice board-style frames – the sort that used to display timetables in the days of steam trains – the new digital screens are a very effective blend of old and new; the best of our railway heritage with the very best in up to date information technology.
“The Swanage Railway is always looking for ways to further improve the information we give to our passengers to keep them informed, and we are very grateful to the Government for its £223,200 Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage grant – awarded to us in the Autumn of 2020 – part of which has been used to pay for this important improvement,” added Trevor who is also a volunteer guard and signalman on the heritage line.
Tom Cairns, founder and operator of the Realtime Trains company, said: “It’s wonderful to see the new system up and running – I wanted to incorporate the visual look of the Swanage Railway’s heritage branding with a modern twist that was visually attractive and engaged the public’s interest.
“We designed the hardware and software for the new system from scratch. Train passengers everywhere – whether it’s on the main line or on a heritage line – want more information so finding a way of delivering accurate, live and helpful information to customers is important.
“Realtime Trains built a new software package combining the strengths of our main line information platform with the understanding of heritage and private railway train operation to provide passengers with clear and up to date information in the same way as the main line train operators can.
“The Swanage Railway has helped in the development of the new system and we are delighted with the results. The work is new compared to my national railway network main line train information system currently in operation and has required me to follow a different technical development path,” added Tom who lives in Bournemouth.
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