Welcome to one of the finest stops on The Broad Way. Your webmaster is Jerry Britton.
I am a member of the Pennsylvania Railroad Technical and Historical Society (PRRT&HS), as well as its Northern Central, New England, and Middle Division chapters; the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA), as well as its Mid-Eastern Region (NMRA-MER) and Susquehanna Division.
I currently serve on the Modeling Committee of the PRRT&HS, which works with manufacturers to produce accurate Pennsy models. I am the president of the Northern Central Chapter of the PRRT&HS. I frequently assist other chapters in their hosting of the Society's annual meetings, including the web sites and model railroad open houses.
For many years I operated a web-based model railroad shop under the name Merchandise Service. Though successful, I closed the business so I would finally have some time for modeling!
History of Keystone Crossings
My first exposure to the World Wide Web was in 1992. At the time, there were no graphical web browsers. Browsing was solely text based and I used a program called Lynx to get around. I started learning HTML programming and was responsible for the initial web presence of Elizabethtown College, my employer at the time.
Graphical browsers came along shortly thereafter, and by 1996 I had the itch to build something bigger. Rather than writing meaningless code, strictly for the sake of doing so, I wanted a "real" subject that I could build on. I chose the Pennsylvania Railroad, never expecting that it would take on a life of its own.
The initial Keystone Crossing site lived on America Online and consisted of about a dozen pages. Bruce Smith, Rob Schoenberg, and I seemed to have the only Pennsy sites out there at the time.
In 1995, the company I worked for wanted to establish their own web presence. As their systems administrator, I had to learn a lot, real fast, about setting up Internet servers and services. Having registered their domain name, I pondered establishing my own domain name. Concurrently, I had become involved in several mailing list communities. I thought it would be really cool to establish a Pennsy mailing list, but there was no way to do that through America Online.
With a bit of experience under my belt, I decided to operate my own internet presence out of my home. I set up dns, web, mail, and list servers on Macintosh equipment in 1996. I established the s0vpd.hosts.cx domain and moved Keystone Crossings to it. I also established the first internet mailing list dedicated to the Pennsylvania Railroad... PRR-talk. Believe it or not, this was all done over a 56K modem connection! Leased lines or ISDN were cost prohibitive and DSL wasn't available.
During the late 1990s, I had the desire to develop online databases. I acquired Web Server 4D, a web server that served data as well. The site was ported and took advantage of Web Server 4D's "server side includes" capability.
Just as the modem connection was becoming crippling, DSL finally came to the area. I migrated the connection and the site really took off, serving hundreds of thousands of pages a year, to users all over the world.
Circa 2004, I refreshed the server hardware with new Macintosh servers running Mac OS X Server. The publisher of Web Server 4D had gone out of business. Though it continued to perform, it was a legacy product. I ported the site to run on Mac OS X Server's Apache and MySQL servers and learned to use the PHP language. The combination was known as MAMP hosting (Macintosh-Apache-MySQL-PHP).
Even though everything was working well, the cost and efficiency of PaaS (Platform as a Service) hosting had become too attractive to pass up. I moved the site to GoDaddy under LAMP (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) hosting. I only need to write the code and configure the services that I want. GoDaddy took all of the hardware and network support off of my hands. And I am saving a ton of money!
The only downside was that GoDaddy could not support a migration of the mailing list. Given that there were now over a dozen PRR-related mailing lists, I reluctantly killed PRR-talk, pointing participants to the PRR-FAX and PRR-Modeling lists operated by the PRRT&HS.
Since the move to GoDaddy, I have dabbled in a few other applications, such as WordPress, but since moved the site into a content management system (CMS). A CMS enables me to make site-wide changes very effectively and easily. I'd been putting off this inevitable step for years, but it was the right move. The site was transitioned to the Joomla CMS and went live December 1, 2012.
In December 2014, the Joomla 2.5 platform -- which was near "end of support" -- was migrated to the Joomla 3.3 platform. This was a very involved process and required four attempts for success.
In June 2017 I migrated all of my sites from GoDaddy to SiteGround. "SlowDaddy" had become excrutiatingly slow; SiteGround uses solid state drives (SSD) which allows databases to scream!