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Time Travel

I picked up a book of old photographs last weekend that detailed Alameda’s railroad history. I had heard that the island where I live used to host a network of light rail lines that served the community but had no idea how extensive it was until I browsed the pages of Alameda by Rail┬áthis past weekend.

Each photo was meticulously documented with approximate location and year of the photo so I took it upon myself to locate some of the places where the photos were take to see if I could approximate what the view looks like today. The results are below.

Steam Locamotive on Encinal
Steam Locamotive on Encinal during the early 1900s
Encinal Avenue today
Encinal Avenue today
Commuter train from the 40's on corner of High and Encinal
Commuter train from the 1940’s on corner of High and Encinal
High Street Station today
Location of High Street Station today

Having an awareness of what had once been gave me a whole new appreciation for the history of our neighborhood. Alameda today is a bit cut off from San Francisco as most drive (it takes about 30 minutes without traffic). The nearest light rail station is Fruitvale BART station which is about 10 minutes away on bicycle. Apparently trolleys raced back and forth across the stretch of the Island every 30 minutes and, if you wanted to go to the city, a ferry was waiting over on the West End that could take you directly downtown to San Francisco.

Imagine how different life would be if you could catch a train to the city by walking out your front door! Too bad the ripped up all the tracks – with the price of gas and parking today, it would be nice having those old trains back and less cars on the road.

Full set of photos (higher resolution) on flickr.

UPDATE: If you want to try this poor man’s time travel trick but don’t have a book with old photos, check out WhatWasThere. The upload and overlay onto Google Street View is a bit finicky but if you get the alignment right, the effect is quite stunning.

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FourSquare Visualize Me

Kristian Luoma from Finland pinged me yesterday, curious why I still used Foursquare. When I lived in Finland, we were one of the first people on the ground to use the app and we used to compete on who would retain the mayorship of Helsinki’s Vantaa Airport.

I no longer really care about being the Mayor of someplace but I told Kristian that I still use Foursquare regularly as a personal journal of places I’ve been. I have all my check-ins written to a Google Calendar (I use an IFTTT recipe to do this) so that I can quickly check where I’ve been when needed as a reference.

I also religiously check the recommendations left by others. I find the smaller, explorer-minded crowd on Foursquare more interesting than those on Yelp.

But what I really like about Foursquare is the collective data that you get after logging your location over time. I’ve written about them before (Timemachine, 2010 Infographic, and WeePlaces)

There’s a new one that I missed released for Foursquare day back in April.

foursquare-visualizeme

If you login to Foursquare and go to foursquare.com/infographics/4sqday you can see it on your own activity.

Try it out Kristian, you might start using Foursquare again.