Jump to content
Yavianice

Model Railroad Inventory/Collection Software & Websites

Recommended Posts

Yavianice

With my growing collection, it's become more tedious and tedious to write everything in an excel sheet (maybe that's a sign I have too many?).

 

I myself came along the website traindb.nl (available in English) which at first glance seems almost perfect, but it's not optimized for japanese N scale railroading since it is more oriented to european collectors (most notably HO).

 

So the question is, which software or website does everyone use to keep track of their collection?

 

Note: Not sure where to post this topic so I put it in General (offtopic seemed to be too offtopic for me) and it does not really fit in the "what's in your roster" post either.

Share this post


Link to post
cteno4

We’ve discussed this on and off over the years here and Martijn has been poking at a system for a long time but it’s a very side project.

 

 

Big tossup these days is using a web/cloud system or something on your own computer. I’ve been having to deal with clients moving stuff to cloud subscription services for specialized information things and it is a challenge to trust your data with someone else and hope they keep it secure and also stay in business. Keeping backups that can be reloaded and also hopefully (really probably necessarily) be easily imported to other systems for the key data is important. Loosing control of your data can an issue with cloud and some very proprietary systems. I’ve had clients get stuck when subscription services take big price hikes and the cost of importing to a competing system isn’t cheap.

 

for train stuff I only need it to know what I have and keep records for insurance. I’ve just used a spreadsheet as it’s quick and easy. I did a few attempts in some cross computer/pad data base systems to maybe be easier to input with the ipad or have on the phone when out and about, but I found little benefit in either of these for myself, it just sounded good. Almost never run across a Japanese train at a train show here that I think of buying and it’s fastest for me to enter information like this into the computer not the iPad. Plus both systems are no longer being developed or supported. It’s a needs vs wants thing. I have enough things screaming for my time than spending it on data base development or extra inputting of neat data that I probably will never use (like what I paid for the train).

 

even with just doing the basic needs in a very simple and fast system I’m way behind in getting things up to date and recorded! That’s the biggest thing usually with databases is the time to gather and input the data! 

 

one other backup I have is my email backups as I have folders of all my ebay wins as well as ones for orders from all the usual train shops. It actually works pretty well to search that for duplicate prevention and probably has 95%+ of my collection in there if I were ever to have a fire. It takes very little time to manage as I just move the order email over from a general email folder that all train shop emails are routed into to a shop specific folder once I receive the order. This is a twofer as that’s how I keep track or orders arriving as I usually do Sal and am sporadic in ordering along with preorders months out. But almost all my train purchase data is in there and why I’ve probably been slower to do a more formal list as the emails can do most all a list or dB can, just not neat and tidy. But again it’s where you want to spend your time and if a neat list is really important to you. To me it ain’t.

 

jeff

Share this post


Link to post
railsquid

I currently use a spreadsheet as my central "database", the problem with that is it's tricky to synchronize between the two computers I regularly use, and is becoming a bit unwieldy and hard to search. Also it's hard-to-access when I'm out "shopping" and need to check if I have something already (or the exact product number of something I already have so I can purchase appropriate matching stock or parts etc.) . I get round that for now by uploading pictures to Flickr in a reasonably structured way so I can look them up from my phone.

 

In the longer term I have some vaguely ambitious plans to expand a CMS-like system of my own devices which I've been developing/maintaining for years (it is a useful test platform for various things I do in my professional life which is why I go to the trouble) to systematically store model train information, primarily for my own purposes (including to remove dependence on 3rd party services for image hosting) but possibly also to create a database of Japanese model trains (along the lines of "Spur N Datenbank" etc) which would benefit from collaborative user input. A lot of the "boring" infrastructure is already there, in theory it's just a case of joining a bunch of dots, but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for it to happen ;).

Share this post


Link to post
RogerMc

I use FileMaker Pro and my own database design. But I'm an old software guy and I want exactly what I want. And I want the data on ~my~ computer where I can be certain it is backed up.

  • Like 2

Share this post


Link to post
cteno4

Yeah old database guy here as well, but as life went on I found I could replace so many databases with simple flat file spreadsheets in CSV format and save gobs of time and easier with data collection and centralization to one user near the end where multiple fingers cause issues. Folks are amazed they can update data in a few minutes 10 years later with just a few changes to xcel sheet and csv export and they don’t have to know boo about the custom program running the exhibit. 

 

If i ever get the time and inclination later I can create a real database and import the data in.

 

I agree a nice database if all the models would be great to just go in and check things off! 

 

I kind of remember some system like this starting a few years back in japan.

 

Jeff

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
chadbag

I use the Apple Numbers (the Apple spreadsheet) and store the files on iCloud so that I can access it with the phone, any mac on my account, etc.  Local copies are also kept on the Mac when I remember 🙂

 

I have multiple sheets in the spreadsheet, so I have one for Shinkansen, one for Japanese Locs, one for Euro Locs, one for Japanese EMU/DMU (commuter -- non Shinkansen).  I have not yet set anything up for regular rolling stock.  I will eventually.

 

Share this post


Link to post
RogerMc
35 minutes ago, cteno4 said:

... replace so many databases with simple flat file spreadsheets in CSV ...

 

You no doubt noticed that I never claimed my database is normalized. Nobody paying me so Q&D is fine as long as I have some decent field edit capability.

 

Did I ever tell you about the gig I did in the late '90s where I had to convert a fast food franchise company's store sales system to a proper SQL database? Each store out of over 5,000 stores had their own spreadsheet -- not all of which were in the proper standardized format. Kept me gainfully employed for months and I swore to never misuse a spreadsheet again.

 

The good old days?

Share this post


Link to post
cteno4

Ugh! That’s where not to use a spreadsheet! That’s what sql was made for!

 

I was the opposite end of very specialized data that once set didn’t change to run exhibits. I had clients wanting large cms systems engineered to really only edit the data once and maybe an update years later. Shaved huge amount simplifying while everything was going more complex and folks just wanted it fancy—they only wanted it not needed it. Want was something that would go unused so no longer a need! But I also came off Big encyclopedia projects where we had a huge hand engineered cms with a full time programmer for 2 years and was tired of dealing with the hassle of all that so was raring to simplify life.

 

Like I said it’s all in what you want and need! For me it’s just insurance and making sure I don’t buy a duplicate. Email archive actually gets me almost all of that actually. Very messy but works for me, spreadsheet is to just be complete for my needs and wants. But we all have our own needs and wants.

 

jeff

Share this post


Link to post
Martijn Meerts

As Jeff said, I’m still slowly working on an online collaborative model train database idea, but I don’t have that much time to work on it. I’ve restarted the project several times as well since I have a tendency to go too much into details and optimization before it’s even ready enough to be usable.

 

I’m currently working on getting a very basic version done which would be usable as a replacement for spreadsheets at least. It will of course include exporting your collection to excel or csv, as well as an insurance optimized PDF with pictures where available.

 

Still pondering whether I should also eventually create an app for it, so you’d be able to for example just scan an item and the app will look it up in the global database. Adding photos would be a lot easier like that as well. But that’s more something for the future 🙂

 

Motivation to work on it isn’t always there, but reading about people looking for something like this does help. 

Share this post


Link to post
Sheffie

Maybe use XML. It’s a standard format that’s readable by all sorts of code, and it’s also readable by humans, which adds a lot to its future proofing and safety 

Share this post


Link to post
Martijn Meerts

XML would be another option. Actually, once you have the database in a database, you can export to pretty much anything you like.

 

There's a whole bunch of features I've had in mind since I first starting thinking about this project. Initially I tried to include them all from the beginning, but that's just not doable. The various times I've restarted, I tried focussing on the basics, but that turned out the be difficult as well, since I have all those other features in my head, and I keep wanting to optimise the base system for those features already, even though they might never actually get added at all.

 

With the newest version I've started a bit of a project management and issue tracking, and I've been assigning issues to versions and the like. That way I hope I can concentrate on some very specific core features. A first beta / test version would need to include, in my opinion:

 

- User registration / login

- Adding / updating manufacturers

- Adding / updating railway companies

- Adding / updating scales

- Adding / updating trains

- Creating collections (possibly also wish lists, although that could initially be just a named collection)

- Adding trains to collections including adding arbitrary custom data specifically for your train (dcc address, service history, purchase date, purchase price, etc)

- Upload media (mainly images for now)

- Ability to tag certain resources, mainly trains for now

- Export collections to excel, CSV, PDF, etc

- Possibly adding parts and assigning those to trains

 

A lot of things also need a changelog / revisions system, so it's possible to track who changed what data, and non-trusted users would need to get the items they add / update moderated before being made public. Otherwise spam bots will feel like they're a kid in a candy store where all the candy is free 😉

 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
cteno4
2 hours ago, Martijn Meerts said:

XML would be another option. Actually, once you have the database in a database, you can export to pretty much anything you like.

 

Yes for a project like this xml would be great. My csv stuff was just to keep things Uber simple and easy for untrained staff to edit later with minimal notes. Sorry my spreadsheet comments were aimed at the individual just doing something quick and simple for themselves and to think thru how much time they want to invest in this process and what they really need to get done with this and for folks with no big database experience. It’s something anyone can do quickly and export to something bigger later or at least have the info coagulated to entered into something like martijn’s system.

 

2 hours ago, Martijn Meerts said:

There's a whole bunch of features I've had in mind since I first starting thinking about this project. Initially I tried to include them all from the beginning, but that's just not doable. The various times I've restarted, I tried focussing on the basics, but that turned out the be difficult as well, since I have all those other features in my head, and I keep wanting to optimise the base system for those features already, even though they might never actually get added at all.

 

Lol that happens all the time. Hard to pull them out of the structure in your brain once you’ve built up all the blocks! I’ve been guilty of this myself many times, hard to have a flusher!

 

jeff

Share this post


Link to post
maihama eki

I use a spreadsheet like many others.  At the moment, I only have train models and car, bus, truck items in the spreadsheet.  I should expand to include structures, track, landscape, containers, detail pieces, etc.  That's a big project though.  Initially, the spreadsheet only had a few columns with manufacturer, part numbers, train types, and descriptions.  It's grown to include purchase price and date on newer items.

 

An online, collaborative database would be great.  I use something like that for a wine collection and it works great.  It's funded by voluntary donations from the members.  It makes it very easy to add new items, remove items, etc.  You can enter your purchase price, but it also has a estimated value for each wine.  When you encounter an item that is not already in the database, there is an easy way to add the item, description, and photo.  You occasionally find that someone has made a mistake in an item entry, but it is surprisingly rare.  Your can search the entire database or just your collection.  You can sort your collection based on various properties.  It also includes some items not applicable to our train collections - review functionality to share your opinion of wines that you consume, professional reviews, and recommended drinking window for example.

Share this post


Link to post
cteno4

That’s pretty much what Martijn was envisioning! I think once the structure is built we have a group here that would join in on the content.

 

jeff

Share this post


Link to post
Martijn Meerts
1 hour ago, maihama eki said:

I use a spreadsheet like many others.  At the moment, I only have train models and car, bus, truck items in the spreadsheet.  I should expand to include structures, track, landscape, containers, detail pieces, etc.  That's a big project though.  Initially, the spreadsheet only had a few columns with manufacturer, part numbers, train types, and descriptions.  It's grown to include purchase price and date on newer items.

 

An online, collaborative database would be great.  I use something like that for a wine collection and it works great.  It's funded by voluntary donations from the members.  It makes it very easy to add new items, remove items, etc.  You can enter your purchase price, but it also has a estimated value for each wine.  When you encounter an item that is not already in the database, there is an easy way to add the item, description, and photo.  You occasionally find that someone has made a mistake in an item entry, but it is surprisingly rare.  Your can search the entire database or just your collection.  You can sort your collection based on various properties.  It also includes some items not applicable to our train collections - review functionality to share your opinion of wines that you consume, professional reviews, and recommended drinking window for example.

 

I was planning on adding support for road vehicles, structures, scenery, track, digital components and such as well at a later time. Also the ability to transfer items in your collection to someone else, so that if a person bought an item for you, and you both use the database, you can transfer the item from your collection to the buyer's collection, and automatically transfer all the additional data (decoder, service log, part replacements, etc).

 

There's lots of other features I've had in mind for quite a while as well, but I guess I should really work on getting a basic version going, with pretty much just a simple UI with little design. Other than trying to add too many feature straight away, I also tend to get too much into the little design details. Eventually I'd probably need an actual UI designer to work on it though.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×