December 28, 2015

Website changes

I hope you have noticed some of the new changes to the Coxrail website. These updates include:

Switch to "Responsive" design.

In computer jargon, "responsive" or "fluid" web designs allows pages to change placement of images and page parts depending on the sizes of devices used to view the website. This allow pages to be viewed on devices ranging from large desktop monitors to tablets to smartphones (as shown at left.)

Users can now view the Coxrail site without needing to zoom in and out or pan from side to side. This change now allows users to access the database anywhere they may encounter certificates.

There are over 550 pages on the Coxrail website that hold static information. The database allows access to over 100,000 pages of dynamic information that is delivered on-the-fly as users request searches. With that much information compiled in one place, there are bound to be errors and problems. I BEG users to report any and all problems and mistakes they might stumble across.

Coal database added.

I have been compiling information about certificates from North American coal companies for a few years. I have finally opened up the database and now allow anyone to search for certificates in the same manner as for railroads. As of this date, there are 1,638 coal company certificates described, compared to 20,411 railroad company certificates.

As most of you know, coal was crucial to the operation of railroads, so it was common for railroads to either mine coal for their own purposes or to own captive coal mines in order to ensure their supplies of fuel. Consequently, there are 138 certificates found in both specialties.

Users may search for coal certificates from the normal search page simply by clicking on the "coal" option within the yellow search box.

The coal company project is a minor project and will remain one simply because coal mining was never "big business" like railroading. That is not to say there weren't a few large companies. Still, the collecting of coal company certificates is a small specialty with few active participants. Prices tend to be low to extremely low, regardless of rarity. It is not at all uncommon to be able to buy unlisted certificates for less than $5 on eBay.

Image sizes enlarged. 

For several years, users have been able to view images of certificates in two ways: either as collections of multiple images or as single images. Up until now, I have restricted images sizes to 200 pixels wide (a little over 2" wide on average screens) in order to keep my website costs manageable.

I recently switched website hosts and uploaded as many larger images as possible. Almost 2/3 of the previous images were enlarged. The larger images are now up to 640 pixels wide which works out to about 6.7 inches wide on average monitors. Most images now consume 10 times more display area..

Larger images are available whenever users view images of individual certificates. The collections of multiple images are still restricted to 200 pixels so users can continue to view collections of all certificates known for whole companies.

Unfortunately, I do NOT have large images for every certificate. Currently, there are 14,807 certificate images available online (13,857 railroad, 950 coal.) Of that number, 9,382 are now available for viewing in at 640 pixels wide.

Of course, that also means that 5,425 images need enlargement and improvement! Moreover, there are 7,144 certificates – a full 1/3 of all certificates recorded – that still lack any sort of decent image, large or small !!

Consequently, if any of my readers own any certificates lacking images or needing improvement, please consider sending larger scans or acceptably good photographs for inclusion online.