Tuesday, May 30, 2017

App Review: Kalmbach's Colorado Railroads

Inside the app, a listing for
the fabled Big Ten Curve
Kalmbach Publications, the folks responsible for Trains magazine, Model Railroader, Classic Trains, Classic Toy Trains, and Drone 360 published a special issue, a DVD and a mobile application, all with the theme of Colorado railroads. The more astute of us probably noticed a similarity in title to this site. Without getting into a long story, just know that they have my permission. Or maybe I have theirs?

Regardless, the special juxtaposition of railroads in Colorado hasn't escaped Jim Wrinn and the editors of Trains. Mr. Wrinn in particular is a notable fan of the narrow gauge! With regard to the app, he has said,
The Colorado Railroads mobile app enables you to search by attractions near you, to find them on a map, and to mark your favorites. You can plan a trip to Colorado, or let this app take you to new places if you’re in the field.
And he's right. If I had unlimited resources and abilities to design a mobile app for Colorado's railroads, I would have a hard time outdoing this one.

The opening splash is the same as the cover for the special issue and DVD, the former Denver & Rio Grande Western Mikado #473 crossing the Las Animas river outside Silverton.

The main screen is set in portrait mode and it doesn't switch to a landscape format. This can be limiting for some users, especially if they have accessibility requirements, but I found I could work around it.

The home screen is the main menu and all the options are duplicated in a pull-down on the left hand side. Giving a user more than one way to reach something and also using a menu to preserve your options are marks of a good app.

The home screen allows you to access the attractions, sign up for the Trains weekly e-newsletter by e-mail, purchase the special issue or DVD, subscribe to Trains magazine, or provide feedback to Kalmbach.

Like a lot of free apps, this one facilitates selling items of interest and opening new lines of revenue for the publisher. That's okay, but to make this app useful, the attractions listed need to be better than a quick Google search for "railroads in Colorado." Are they? In a word, Yes!

First of all, every entry is researched by Trains staff. Second, I personally asked Mr. Wrinn directly, "When will you stop updating these listings?" He said, point blank, "We won't." So if an entry is out of date, use that feedback feature! Be nice though.

This screen cap shows the application's map interface zoomed in to view Denver. The bulk of the locations shown correspond to RTD's transit stations along their active light rail lines. Other locations include the Forney Transportation Museum and the Colorado Railroad Museum (at far left) in Golden. A tap on any one of these red markers will pull up a balloon with the listing and a further tap for details pulls up the full listing (see below).
Colorado RR MuseumDetail listing


Features

The first and by far the best feature is filtering. No one likes to be overwhelmed with tons of information when only a few entries are needed. Here are the present Attraction Types you can filter by:
A trail listing for Phantom Canyon
south of Cripple Creek
  • Amtrak Stations
  • Buildings
  • Hobby Shops
  • Mainlines
  • Museums
  • Restaurants
  • Short Lines
  • Steam Locomotives
  • Tourist Railroads
  • Trails
  • Transit Stations

      Other filters are for distance and ZIP code and you can sort by distance as well. A test sort produced the 3 nearest hobby stores to me followed by the local railroad preservation group.

      One final feature is a Favorite List. While browsing in the app, you can choose to favorite specific attractions and then view them in a favorites list. Choosing stuff for your bucket list is that easy.

      Final Thoughts

      Kalmbach's Colorado Railroads app fills a need for folks who would like to discover railroad-related attractions anywhere in Colorado and appreciate a curated list to choose from. Are you looking for a way to spend an afternoon, a weekend or an entire vacation? This is the app to help you plan it! 🚂🚂🚂🚂🚂

      The application is available for Android and iPhone users absolutely free. While it would be nice to see a broader distribution (Kindle, etc.) it's understandable that only the top two phone OS providers are used.⚒

      No comments: