Amtrak hops on Google Maps Engine for interactive locator map

Checking up on train status is the second most-common activity at, right behind buying tickets.

Image: Rachel King, ZDNet

Although true high-speed rail and train upgrades look far off, Amtrak is getting at least some much-needed infrastructure upgrades as a new Google Maps for Business customer.

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The most obvious one to travelers will likely be Amtrak's new interactive train locator map, constantly posting relevant information about train locations and arrival times across the country.

As trains pass sensors embedded on tracks, the data is then routed from GPS devices installed on Amtrak trains and then pushed onto the Google Maps Engine along with station data from Amtrak's content management system.

Internet users can search for "near real-time data" for approximately 300 daily trains by name or train number.

According to the railroad company, checking up on train status is the second most-common activity at, right after buying tickets.

As Google Maps Engine customer, Amtrak's mapping data is stored in Google's cloud so that the national rail service doesn't have to host or maintain the infrastructure itself.

Steve Alexander, creative director of e-commerce for Amtrak, explained in a blog post on Monday that this will benefit Amtrak customers as it will free up the e-commerce team to develop "more ways to make our map traveler-friendly, like adding information about local transit, restaurants and nearby tourist attractions."