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ASM Alerts


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ASM Alerts is an application that will allow you to receive (free) email/text alerts of an Amtrak train's progress. By customizing your Alert, you can choose to get all of a train's times, just its late times, whether or not it sustains a Service Disruption or recovers from one, or suffers from some sort of cancellation. You can also choose to get the train times for a particular station, only.

You can apply this to a single train, to a list of trains that you provide, or a whole class of them (designated usually by their timetable names). Just a word of warning - because of the volume of resulting emails, if the class of trains is too large, the reporting that you can get is restricted. The extreme example is that you cannot ask for every time for every train.

The system runs off of Amtrak's schedules and reservation system. It therefore posts events that have happened to a train or set of trains. It cannot notify you of events, service disruptions and cancellations in advance of their occurrence.

The maximum timespan of an Alert is three weeks, but it can be extended. Three weeks after the end of the Alert's timespan, it will be removed from the system. If you need it again, just create another one.

And although this is a useful tool, I cannot be held responsible for misinformation, or not providing an email in a timely manner. Although I spend a great deal of time (far too much actually) keeping the system running, sometimes the gremlins do win. In this case, just let me know what went wrong and I'll continue to endeavor to provide an accurate, timely notification service.

Although the information presented by ASM Alerts is derived from Amtrak, Amtrak has no responsibility for ASM Alerts or the information that ASM Alerts distributes.

BY TRAIN
If you are interested in following the progress of a train or a group of trains along their route, use this selection. You can choose how late the trains should be before you are notified. You can choose only to get "Service Disruptions and Cancellations" when they happen. The starting date for the Alert is the ORIGIN date of the train.

BY STATION
If you are interested in what a train or a group of trains are doing at a particular station, use this selection. You can follow the activity for a group of trains or only one and narrow it down to a single day. The starting date for the Alert is that for which the trains are SCHEDULED for that station on the given day.

One word of caution about choosing a station. The system will not check to see if your choices make sense. For example, if you want to get the times of the Sunset Limited in New York, you'll simply never get an Alert.



WHAT'S NEW
2/14/2014
The system now detects cancellations specifically. When they are detected, a single Alert will be sent out, the same as for service disruptions.

Thanksgiving 2012
Amtrak is running a number of extra trains thoughout this holiday week. The trains are "named" the same as the regular trains that run in that territory. For example, any extra train which runs between Boston and Virgina is still going to be called either Acela Express or Northeast Regional. If you've already got Alerts defined for a particular group of trains BY NAME, Alerts for the extras should be sent to you as well.

10/19/2012
Alerts can now be requested for train activity at a particular station.

10/11/2012
Reminder activation emails will be sent out daily for Alerts which have been defined, but which are still inactive. Once the Alert has been activated, erased or its time period has passed, the reminders will cease.

9/10/2012
If you are tracking times for any particular train, you will now be notified when the train becomes overdue, within your definition of lateness. Look at the FAQs for more information.

7/27/2012
There is a new, simplified, easy-to-use SMS activation interface. When you create an Alert, you'll be presented with instructions of what to do. What happens is you'll be shown a list of your Alerts. You can now click on the newly created one and activate it by inputting the activation number. The activation number is sent to you in the activation message.

7/13/2012
There is now a new alerts system in service. It will allow you to receive email alerts of a train's progress. By customizing your Alert, you can choose to get all of a train's times, just its late times, or whether or not it sustains a Service Disruption or recovers from one.



FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I made an Alert request. Why am I not getting any Alerts?
My Alerts seem to be getting delayed. Why is that? What can be done about it?
I was expecting an Alert for a particular station. Why was it skipped?
Amtrak knew in advance that a line was disrupted. Why didn't I get an Alert in advance of the train's departure time?
Why can't I set up a subscription for train at a single station?
Can I have the Alerts sent to my mobile device?
What's the difference between having the Alerts sent in HTML format or plain text?
Why do I have to create a password when I'm creating an Alert?
Why do I have to activate my Alert request via email?
If I want to track a specific overnight train, how many days do I have to specify?
I want to track an overnight train which is now on its third day of travel. How do I set up the Alert?
I didn't activate my Alert and I no longer have the email. How do I activate it now?
I have an Alert set up for "Times" of a particular train. If I want to receive service disruptions as well, what do I do?
I'm getting double Alert emails. Why?
I forgot my password. How do I find out what it is?
Are there any trains which are not covered by the Alerts?
What do the various statuses of an Alert mean?
What is the Alert activation procedure?
How do I follow the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland, or the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston?
I've just been notified that a train is "overdue". What does that mean and how does it work?
What's the difference between a Service Disruption and a Cancellation?
How do I cancel an Alert?

I made an Alert request. Why am I not getting any Alerts?
There are several possible reasons, some of which are discussed in the following questions. Here's a list:
  • Amtrak's status system is down or is not posting times for your particular train(s)/dates, etc ...
  • You neglected to activate your Alert.
  • Your Alert has expired - in other words, pertains to dates prior to "today".
  • Your expected Alert is for a station that was skipped.
  • The train you've asked for doesn't serve the station you specified.
  • You asked for the wrong dates.
  • Your email is malfunctioning or your spam filter is capturing the Alerts.
  • You gave a nonexistent email address, so the activation email went off into the ether.
  • The Alert system is down/malfunctioning.

My Alerts seem to be getting delayed. Why is that? What can be done about it?
There are basically two reasons for delayed Alerts:
  1. Network Delays
  2. Late Processing
Network Delays - There's a vast network between my server and your computer, and a glitch anywhere along the line can delay things. I would suggest setting up identical Alerts but to two different email addresses or text addresses. (By that I mean to two different companies. If the two addresses are with the same company, it's really the same network address.) When my server handles the Alerts, they are all sent out basically together. Most of the time, if the network is okay, on your end they will arrive at the two different addresses pretty close to each other. If only one is delayed, it proves that the delay is not on my end. If they are both delayed, it's inconclusive, and perhaps more research is warranted.

Late Processing - In an ideal world, Amtrak would post the train times shortly after the train was at the station. Then my server would pick up that information and pass it along to you. For various reasons, such as late Amtrak reporting or my server being down temporarily, the gathering of times for a given train can be delayed. If you look at the listing for a particular train you might see that some of the stations have been skipped. For the duration of that train's trip, my system will attempt to go back and fill in those times, if they are available from Amtrak. Once the train's trip is completed, further catch-up processing will be delayed until my system runs its housekeeping routines just after midnight (Eastern time). Whenever the station times are finally processed, the Alerts are then sent out - with an exception. Skipped Alerts which are defined "By Train" will not be sent out when they are finally processed. It is assumed that if the Alert is defined "By Train", the subscriber is more interested in the train's location. That information would have already been provided by another Alert which was processed earlier. Skipped Alerts which are defined "By Station" are sent out whenever the information becomes available - possibly even days after the train actually stopped at that station. It is assumed that for Alerts which are defined "By Station", the subscriber is actually interested in the train's times at that station - so they are provided no matter how late they are. For more information, see the following question.

I was expecting an Alert for a particular station. Why was it skipped?
If your Alert is defined "By Station", you'll get it when the Alert system does. While a train is active (between the time it is scheduled to leave its origin and when it actually reaches its destination), the Alerts will be sent out as soon as the system gets the times. AFTER the train becomes inactive (has reached its destination), the system no longer processes times for that train. Each day after midnight, a housekeeping program runs which will attempt to obtain the missing times, and if it does, will send out the Alerts then.

If your Alert is defined "By Train", the Alert system will not send out an Alert under certain circumstances. From time to time Amtrak posts a train's times out of order. Sometimes Amtrak Status Maps (ASM) records the times out of order, also. ASM's mission is to present the accurate position of the trains on the maps, in a timely way. In order to facilitate that, it might be necessary to skip some stations, temporarily. ASM will go back later on and try to fill in the times of these stations (housekeeping). The Alerts for these stations are not sent out since the train is already beyond that point.

Amtrak knew in advance that a line was disrupted. Why didn't I get an Alert in advance of the train's departure time?
ASM has a list of each train's starting time. A train isn't tracked (active) until 5 minutes before the train's start time. ASM Alerts aren't sent out until the train is active.

Why can't I set up a subscription for a train at a single station?
You can, with a few exceptions. The exceptions are that you can't ask for ALL trains at certain of the large stations, such as New York or Washington.

Can I have the Alerts sent to my mobile device?
All the major carriers have an email address tied to the text messaging on your device (for example, 7125550123@txt.att.net will send that email to phone number 712-555-0123, assuming that person is an AT&T user), so that would be a way to get Alerts to cell phones without having to deal with some sort of text messaging interface. Here's a list of the carrier's addresses:
  • AT&T - txt.att.net
  • T-Mobile - tmomail.net
  • Verizon - vtext.com
  • Sprint - messaging.sprintpcs.com
What's the difference between having the Alerts sent in HTML format or plain text?
The HTML format contains links to the train's status file and other links which you will find useful. The text format is designed to be sent to a mobile device that supports simple text messaging.

Why do I have to create a password when I'm creating an Alert?
You need the password later to list/modify/cancel your Alert.

Why do I have to activate my Alert request via email?
It verifies that the email address you provided is real and that you have access to it.

If I want to track a specific overnight train, how many days do I have to specify?
Just one. The date that you specify is the train's origin date. It will be tracked through its completion. If you want to track that same train originating on two consecutive dates, you would specify two days, etc...

I want to track an overnight train which is now on its third day of travel. How do I set up the Alert?
Here's an example. Suppose number 3 left Chicago on 7/15. You live in Los Angeles, it is now 7/17 and you want to receive Alerts on this train. The date you would choose for the Alert would be 7/15 because that's the train's origin date. The number of days for the Alert would be 1, since you only want number 3 which originated on one day, starting on 7/15.

I didn't activate my Alert and I no longer have the email. How do I activate it now?
You can't. You'll need to submit another request.

I have an Alert set up for "Times" of a particular train. If I want to receive service disruptions as well, what do I do?
Nothing. A "Times" Alert automatically includes Service Disruptions.

I'm getting double Alert emails. Why?
Most likely you have more than one Alert defined in the system. Check the Alert ID in the "duplicate" emails. Are they the same? You can list out your Alert requests. You should review them.

I forgot my password. How do I find out what it is?
You can send me a note from the email id that the Alert is for and ask me to retrieve it for you.

Are there any trains which are not covered by the Alerts?
Yes. Any train which is in the Amtrak reservations system for reservation purposes, but which doesn't actually run as a real train won't appear on the maps. If it's not on the maps, it won't be covered by the Alerts either. Examples are 421, 422, 807 and 808.

What do the various statuses of an Alert mean?
When you list out your Alerts, you'll see that they can be in one of three states.
  • INACTIVE - when an Alert is first created, it is inactive. It's in the system, but it has to be activated before it will start sending you emails.
  • ACTIVE - After an Alert has been activated, it becomes active and will send out email notices.
  • COMPLETE - Once the current date has advanced beyond the time period for the Alert, it is marked as complete. In this state it will continue to send Alerts out on any train whose start date falls within the Alert's time period. The time period extends from the start date for the number of days specified. So, for example, if the start date is 7/1 and the number of days is 1, the Alert will be shown to be complete commencing on 7/2.
What is the Alert activation procedure?
When you create an Alert, you choose either HTML or text format.

For HTML format, you'll be sent an activation email. In that email is an "Activate" link. Just click on it to activate your Alert.

For SMS (text) format, you'll be sent an activation message which contains the Alert number and the Activation Number. Either list out your Alerts, and use these two numbers to activate your Alert, or do the same by using the activation button on this page.

How do I follow the Empire Builder from Chicago to Portland, or the Lake Shore Limited from Chicago to Boston?
Both start out out as a long distance train running overnight and then connect with a short section to the final destination. Both connecting trains 27 and 448 are short trains which originate 2 days and 1 day after their first section starts from Chicago, respectively. This takes two Alerts - one for the originating trains ( 7 or 48 on Day 1) and another one for the connecting train ( 27 on Day 3 and 448 on Day 2, respectively). The reason for this is that the original train has a different originating date than the connecting train.

I've just been notified that a train is "overdue". What does that mean and how does it work?
A train becomes "overdue" when it is unreported for at least an hour at the next station AFTER the last station where it has been reported, taking the train's lateness into account. If you have an Alert which is for "Times", rather than just "SDs", you will be notified when the train becomes overdue. This is qualified by the lateness allowance that you have defined for your Alert.

The algorithm for overdue reporting is:

    Report as overdue if current time > expected train time + your lateness criterion + 1 hour.
    Expected train time = scheduled time + train's lateness.

SCENARIO 1 You've requested all times for train 92, the Silver Star. It leaves Richmond on time at 1230P. The next station is Alexandria at 240P. If the time for Alexandria is posted before 340P, it will not be considered overdue. At approximately that time, if the train becomes overdue, you will be sent an "overdue" Alert. You will not be sent another one, unless the train's times for Alexandria or stations following it are posted, and the train becomes overdue again somewhere down the line.

SCENARIO 2 You've requested all times for train 92, the Silver Star. It leaves Richmond one hour late at 130P. The next station is Alexandria at 240P, but the train will not be considered overdue there until 440P because it left Richmond one hour late.

SCENARIO 3 You've requested times for train 92, the Silver Star, but only if it is at least 30 minutes late. It leaves Richmond on time at 1230P. The next station is Alexandria at 240P, but the train will not be considered overdue there for you until 410P.

SCENARIO 4 You've requested times for train 92, the Silver Star, but only if it is at least 30 minutes late. It leaves Richmond one hour late at 130P. The next station is Alexandria at 240P, but the train will not be considered overdue there for you until 510P.

What's the difference between a Service Disruption and a Cancellation?
The essential difference is timing. If Amtrak determines that there will be some happenstance which will prevent a train from running, they can decide to cancel it, or a part of it. They do this in the reservations system. The train simply doesn't run over the portion of the trip which was canceled. A Service Disruption usually occurs unexpectedly and on very short notice and in some cases after the train has started its journey. In this case Amtrak will designate the train as having suffered a "Service Disruption" in the reservations system.

In any case, the Alert reflects whatever information Amtrak has put into its reservations system.

How do I cancel an Alert?
List your Alerts by clicking on the "List Your Alerts" button on this page. In the pop-up window, fill in your email address and password and hit the "Submit" button. On the page listing of your Alerts, click on the Alert ID of the Alert that you wish to cancel. On the new pop-up window, click on "Delete this Alert" and then the "Submit" button.

Email Address
Password

Email Address
Password
Alert ID
Activation Number