In 1990, Medcom began providing dial-up computer services to home users via a Bulletin Board System (BBS) called the Medcom BBS. In 1992, Medcom created a second BBS system named The Liberty BBS that provided information, forums and chat for a broad range of liberty related topics. Liberty grew to be one of the largest Bulletin Board Systems in the United States with thousands of subscribers and hundreds of local dial-up numbers throughout the country. The Liberty BBS was nationally acclaimed by many publications, including being described by Boardwatch Magazine as being one of the largest and best BBS systems in the nation.
In 1993, we obtained the domain name Liberty.com and connected our computer systems to the internet for the first time to allow people throughout the world to access the Liberty BBS via telnet. To this day, TrainWeb LLC still owns the Liberty.com domain name, but the website is operated by another organization totally independent of TrainWeb LLC.
In 1993, the general public was just beginning to discover the existence of the internet and the web. Access to the online community was still mostly through dial-up BBS systems rather than through the internet. As knowledge of the web grew, interest in dial-up Bulletin Board Systems waned. We made a strategic decision to redirect our energies away from the BBS and to the web instead. Rather than compete with the large number of companies directing their energies to the general web audience, we focused on one particular area that interested us. That area was trains.
Believe it or not, I rode in a passenger train for the very first time in September of 1995. Prior to that time, it never crossed my mind that it was possible to travel significant distances by train in the United States. I'm sure I heard Amtrak mentioned in the news from time to time, but I never realized it was a national service nor thought it had any importance to my own life. Sometime in the early 1990s, some friends mentioned to me that they heard that it was possible to take long trips by train and that it was even possible to travel in your own private room on the train. That caught my interest. But, it wasn't until I heard an Amtrak radio commerical in 1995, that I decided to explore the possibility of taking a trip by train.
My children had a five day vacation from school coming up, so I decided to explore the possibility of taking an Amtrak trip during that vacation. It turned out that five days wasn't really enough time to go round-trip by train on the vacation we selected, from Los Angeles to Seattle. So, we flew to Seattle, spent a couple of days there, and then took the two day overnight trip on the Amtrak Coast Starlight from Seattle back to Los Angeles. From that moment, I fell in love with train travel and was hooked! Since that time, I have traveled all over the country by Amtrak and logged over 300,000 miles of rail travel. Ray Burns and Shivam Surve, the other members of the TrainWeb team, have been on some of these travels with me. Ray developed a good working relationship with VIA Rail in Canada and has traveled on almost every route in their network.
So, that is why we selected "trains" when we decided to concentrate our web company into one specialization. Since our website would feature "trains on the web", we came up with the domain name TrainWeb.com in December 1996. We held a contest open to the public to come up with the best design for a logo for TrainWeb. Among many submissions were a few excellent logo designs from Ken Barrett who was an Amtrak Ticket Agent at the time. The logo used by TrainWeb today is from one of the designs submitted by Ken Barrett. TrainWeb continued to share office space with its parent company, Midcom Corporation, in Anaheim, California, until 1997. On September 1, 1997, we moved TrainWeb into the offices above the Amtrak Ticket Office in the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot in Fullerton, California.
In 2000, Midcom hired a new programmer who was waiting to be placed on assignment with one of Midcom's clients. Since he had an interest in trains, Midcom had him temporarily do some work for TrainWeb. Ray and I were immediately impressed with his programming and web design abilities and brought him full-time onto our staff. That is how Shivam Surve joined the TrainWeb team and became our key designer for new features and new websites at that time.
Over the years parents would often ask us where to find railroad themed party supplies. They turned to us after they were dissatisfied with the selection and availability of these items that were carried by regular party supply and department stores. The owners of TrainWeb decided to explore if a significant market might exist for railroad themed party supplies. Thus, we created TrainParty.com and our business started to grow exponentially from there! We had to move out of our small office above the Fullerton Amtrak Ticket Office where we had been located for almost ten years. We moved just down the street to a storefront / warehouse, but still in Fullerton. In less than a year, we even outgrew that location and realized that we really needed to be in a much larger warehouse facility that was located centrally in the nation for faster and cheaper shipping to both coasts. Thus, we moved TrainWeb to La Plata, Missouri, where we are located today! For the rest of the TrainParty.com story, please click here.
While Ray Burns and Shivam Surve moved to La Plata, Missouri, and set up the new TrainWeb.com / TrainParty.com building there, my wife and I remained in California where I continued work on TrainWeb.com from an office in my home. In December of 2011, my wife and I moved to Vancouver, Washington, where our new home office overlooks the route of the Portland segment of the Amtrak Empire Builder on a very busy BNSF line. You can view this line live right now from webcams that we've set up at our Vancouver condo. Just click here or visit RailCams.net/van.
Ray Burns: Sales & Marketing.
Steve Grande: Web Content, Author of many rail travelogues.
Shivam Surve: SysAdmin, Web Design, Technical Support.
Richard Hyde: Technical Support.
Brian Chuchua: Web Design.
TrainWeb Travel Writers:
TrainWeb & RAILnews.net Field Reporters: