Technical Description

This page is not about railways (either prototype or model), it is about computers and gives information on how I created this web site. As a computer programmer, I believe in coding things properly so all of my pages are coded to meet the XHTML 1.0 standard as well as being compressed to the smallest possible size compatible with their content in order to ensure that the pages load as fast as possible.

The job of creating this railway web site was made somewhat easier in that most of the articles I have here were already written some time ago. To get these onto the computer, I scanned them into Adobe Acrobat either from my original typed copy or from the copy printed in the AMRA Journal (whichever I thought would scan better). I then used the optical character recognition capabilities of Acrobat to convert the scanned documents to text which I then cut and pasted into text files.

All of the pages on this site were coded by hand, i.e. I write all of the HTML statements myself rather than relying on a program to generate them for me. This enables me to produce standards compliant code and pages that are much smaller in actual file size than would be produced if I got a program to write the HTML for me. To do the coding I have for the most part used ordinary text editors. My favourite text editor is SPF/PC which works identically to the mainframe text editor that I am most familiar with. I have also made use of Notepad and Wordpad and recently have also used CSE Validator Lite which has buttons for inserting the HTML tags for you (although I still mostly code them by hand) and also has a built in spell checker and validator that help me to fix the typos before I upload the pages. In addition to the validation provided by this editor, I also make use of the W3C HTML Validation Service (they're the people who define the HTML standards). I have also made use of a program called HTML Compress to remove unnecessary white space from the HTML source files making the files much smaller.

The diagrams associated with the articles were originally scanned into Paint Shop Pro and converted into gif files to be uploaded to the site. This resulted in most cased in poor images so I have more recently used the same program to redraw all of the diagrams.

To ensure that the gif files are as small as possible I usually reduce the colour level to only 16 colours (or 2 where possible) before saving them. Also, before uploading them I feed them through a GIF Optimizer program that makes sure that the gif file is as small as possible for the image stored in it. I can't remember where I got this program from and the program doesn't contain any help or about screen to identify it so I am unfortunately unable to provide a link to it. The program does often manage to squeeze the file down a few bytes in size without affecting the appearance of the image in any way. I have also used the NetMechanic image optimizer to reduce the number of colours in my gifs to lower levels where possible as this optimizer allows you to select between a much larger range of colour levels than my old version of Paint Shop Pro does. I also use this optimizer to increase the compression of JPEGs. The only image files that miss out on compression are the award images and others for which I do not own the copyright and therefore these images (which are of course displayed with the permission of the copyright owner) are displayed as supplied to me by their owner.

This site uses Cascading Style Sheets to define most of the attributes relating to the appearance of the contents and uses Javascript to display common content across multiple pages as well as some of the dynamic features. The links are colour coded with internal links being blue (except for those on the navigation bar which are white) and external links (which will open in a separate window) being magenta. Visited links are a slightly different colour from the corresponding unvisited link that does not stand out quite so much. The navigation buttons on several of the pages are produced by a combination of CSS and Javascript. For more information on how I have created some of these effects you might like to visit my Computer Help website which contains pages describing how to set up the various effects that I use on this site (along with hundreds more pages of how to do things with your computer).

All work on the web pages is done on my own computer and not uploaded to the site until I have finished working on all associated pages. The finished web pages are uploaded to the site using WS-FTP.

The integrity of all of the links between the files that make up my pages as well as the internal and external links are checked using Xenu File Checker. I don't check all of the links on the site very often as it takes quite a long time to run and I know that all of the internal links remain intact unless I change them. Of course it is still necessary to manually check all of the external links at intervals to ensure that they still point to the intended web sites. I have already had one instance where a Model Railway Club moved addresses and their old address was taken over by a pornography site.

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Copyright Stephen Chapman