random thoughts on railroad photography, railfanning, technology, and such

Entries in New Features (5)


Changing the Paint Scheme

I recently began to make better use of my commute time by bringing along my Apple MacBook Pro. I now have a few hours each day when I can focus on post processing my photos and enhancing my graphics abilities. As an example of this effort, I decided to create a new landing page for ChasingSteel.com as a means to learn some new packages that I have purchased. Consequently, yesterday I updated the main page of the site, which has traditionally been a place to showcase one of my specific photographs, with new graphics as seen below on an iPad:

New Landing Page for ChasingSteel.com

The design is inspired by the older Centralized Traffic Control machines which the railroads have used since the 1930s to enhance rail capacity while providing increased safety. Today, the funtions providing by these machines are now primarily performed by computer-based systems. You can learn more about these machines from this site, Control Train Components.

My intent is change the design and look as I create new content. I have learned that I enjoy creating new “art” as much as I enjoy doing photography so now the landing page will showcase my photos and my art!


BNSF's New Look

Yesterday, BNSF Railway Company unveiled their new look - a redesigned and extensively upgraded corporate web site at bnsf.com. BNSF describes their recent effort as the culmination of months of work to review all content, photos, and graphics and “lays the foundation for continued improvement.

Despite not being a “rail shipper” myself nor a BNSF customer directly, I have been to their web site countless times for information that I need in my work as a rail journalist/photographer. In my opinion, the new site has a much “lighter” look and feel, yet the content seems more accessible. 

Here is a view of the new site:

BNSF Railway Company’s new web site.

Several key elements of the new design are readily apparent. The main graphic of the web site has been replaced with a Flash-based (bummer for us iPad/iPhone users!) application that appropriately highlights the key elements and efficiencies of rail transportation and how BNSF is a leading provider of a solid and effective transportation system.

Another new element is the “Virtual Train Tour.” This is another Flash-based application that provides a general overview of the elements that constitute a train and the supporting infrastructure. Since I found the content visually appealing yet light in content, and assuming that BNSF’s target audience are folks less versed in the industry than I, I asked my kids to walk through the tour. (In all fairness they did state that it was a “general overview…”)

The kids (19 and 18 years old) both liked the motion and the interactivity that the application affords and even learned some things about railroads they did not know before. (NOTE TO SELF: Remember to disown the kids!)

However, we both agreed that something was missing that could tie it all together - sound and voice-overs. Perhaps a background sound for the animations would help complete the experience. Also, the videos and photographs did not have any descriptions that associated them to the content. The videos, in particular, while interesting to watch in some respect, warrants some narration or voice-over to tell their story.

Overall, the BNSF has done a good job of addressing and segmenting the various groups of their target audience - current and prospective customers, employees, retirees, and communities. I applaud BNSF’s effort to remain fresh and current and to use technology, not for technology’s sake, but to attain, maintain, and foster a quality experience and relationship in today’s media-rich and accessible environment.

As with any major release of technology like this, the are some bugs and quirks that will need to be addressed. For example, I did have an issue with some of the map features that did not work with the Chrome browser but did work with Firefox and Internet Explorer. Over time it should all come together nicely.

I suggest that you browse the site and see what you can glean from the content and new format. I discovered some nuggets of information that I will be sharing in a later post or two. I am sure that BNSF would love to get your feedback. You can comment here or send them an email. Afterall, it was meant to interact with you as well.



NEW! ChasingSteel.com is Now Interactive

In order to solicit feedback and provide a more interactive and social experience, I have added Google Friend Connect to ChasingSteel.com.  This means that you can now join the web site by becoming a member and leave comments, rate the content, and interact with other members of ChasingSteel.com.

Here is your chance to contribute and shape the future content of ChasingSteel.com.

To sign-up, simply click on the “Join this site” button in the “Members” section of the column on the right of this page.  This will present the following pop-up dialog box which will allow you to choose an account that you currently are using for either Google, Twitter, Yahoo!, AIM, NetLog, or OpenID:


Once you have successfully authenicated to one of the systems listed above, I will ask you to answer several simple questions regarding your interest as shown:


Once you completed the survey, simply click the “Done” button - and, oddly enough, you are done!

You can now leave comments and rate the blog posts as you see fit.  Just simply click the “Sign in” button instead.

Thank you for your participation.