Mississauga Library System

Railway Level Crossing, Lorne Park

The purpose of this site is to provide historians and "ferrophiliacs" with an alternative tool to assist with image research. In a single window, it displays in a compact and uniform style the basic information for the railway-related images made available online by selected Canadian archive institutions. The presentation mimics indexed photo albums. All the images are sourced directly from the relevant archive's server, at the best resolution available whenever it is appropriate. Users can then simply peruse each image in turn without having to jump back and forth between search-form, search-results, description and image-download pages.

This project arose out of our efforts to help an archivist correct the titles of certain railway records. Questions like "Haven't I seen a better or related version of this image somewhere else?" often occurred. Or, on a more problematic level, "Isn't the caption at variance with another institution's posting or the published literature?" Or, more fundamentally, "Is this caption correct?"

Archivists are first to acknowledge that they are not historians. It's not their mandate to be all-knowing on all subjects. Rather, they document, preserve and make items available to researchers. Imagine how daunting it is to have an estate donate an ancestor's shoe box of old photos. Archivists are then pretty much at the mercy of whatever is scribbled on the face or back side of the original photo, or on the envelope the item came in, etc. And that's if they are lucky! Then there are instances when volunteers are called upon to assist with the documentation. In a true story related to us, one such volunteer turned out to be dyslexic! Needless to say, the resulting records were rather confusing. Moreover, there are occurrences of simple human errors when captions and keywords are mistyped or omitted, rendering the associated records invisible to any "obvious" search attempt.

This site offers a straightforward, uniform and compact way of perusing these railway-related online images. For each institution, any given record is linked to its immediate neighbours in accordance with their reference codes sorted in ascending order. Moreover, users can bookmark any particular record so as to make it a simple matter to continue any interrupted viewing session. A clipboard mechanism is also provided, allowing a researcher to add and remove references to records of interest across all the archives. Finally, if a user's browser is HTML5 compliant, than the image records can also be annotated locally.

The presentation requires both JavaScript and cookies be enabled for total functionality. Moreover, for HTML5 compliant browsers, the local storage feature is exploited for annotating image records. Thus, the notes are held on the user's system only. Consequently, its wholesale deletion will remove every note. So be very selective at least when deleting private data or purging caches via the browser itself or third party cleaners. For a protracted research period, might we suggest installing a different browser, setting the preferences appropriately (like configuring local storage not to use the application's cache) and dedicating its use to this site. Finally, as with many presentations involving frames, users always face the problem of having a compact presentation turn into an overcrowded one. Thus, this site was developed with a screen resolution of 1280 x 1024 pixels. Using anything less is not recommended. The one-window-for-everything was a mandatory design principle for this site.


In this section, we take a closer look at certain topics that have particularly caught our attention. Various archive images are brought together with any extracts from the literature in order to provide the historical background. If any conflicts in the facts are encountered, attempts are made to resolve the contradictions as best possible.

Various icons appear throughout this presentation. Below is a summary, grouped according to their associated functionality:

Note that any listing currently displayed will be automatically refreshed persuant to any change to its constituent records.

(The above icons are or are derived from the twotone icons created by Paul Jarvis.)