There are a few select people who are really into watching trains. Most of us probably would rather watch plants grow. But Amtrak’s new “Track a Train” system is a) actually useful and b) OK-we-admit-it pretty cool.

Here is the useful bit, as explained by Atlantic Cities:

A status window for each individual train gives the train number, direction, origin, final destination, and speed. There’s also a status flag: green indicates on-time trains; amber, late trains. One check this morning found a gray flag to indicate a route with a service disruption. The most handy feature is a scrollable history that gives the local times every arrival a train has made (or will make) on that route.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

So if your train is running an hour or two late (just hypothetically! This has never actually happened OK maybe it has), you can figure that out before you leave home and either try to change your ticket or bring a flask of whiskey to the station to deal with the delay. Or if you’re waiting at New York’s Penn Station, you might get a little warning before the gate announcement and inevitable mad rush.

Also, fine, we like looking at little blue arrow circles that represent trains. There are so many of them! (And sure, there should be more.) We wouldn’t object to being on the Southwest Chief that’s headed to Albuquerque, N.M., right now. Even if it is going only 24 mph.

amtrak copy


Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Reader support helps sustain our work. Donate today to keep our climate news free. All donations DOUBLED!