If About.com is a collection of internet magazines, then Wikipedia is an internet encyclopedia. Each has its place in our modern culture and each has its uses. I make a point of not citing "Wiki" in every article that I write. But I'm not going to pretend it doesn't exist or that I don't use it. Wikipedia is an important resource for railroad historians, railfans, and model railroaders.
Wikipedia is a Tool, Not an AuthorityTeaching at the Junior College level, I became very aware of just how much people today, especially young people, rely on Wikipedia as a source for information. However, one needs to be careful when using Wikipedia, as anyone can post anything there. Wikipedia emphasizes that contributors should cite references for their information, but frequently this is ignored. Many college professors today discourage the use of Wikipedia in students' research, or forbid it outright, as they deem it unreliable. But Wikipedia and the railroad enthusiast need each other. As time passes and modern culture changes, our rail heritage needs to be preserved for future generations. Many railfans are using Wikipedia for this purpose.
Using Wikipedia is no harder than using any other internet resource. One simply goes to Wikipedia's home page
and enters some text in the search box. Text that matches a specific topic will take you to a page dedicated to that topic. For example, there is a page on the topic "About.com
". For multiple matches you may be presented with a list of selections or a "disambiguation page". Sometimes a search string will take you to a page for its most common use, but a disambiguation link will be presented at the top of the article. For example, if you search for "meteor" you'll get the "meteoroid" page. However, by clicking the "disambiguation" link at the top of the page you'll get a list page which includes trains with the name "Meteor".
Wikipedia Rail-related Categories
As we do on About.com, Wikipedia lists related articles in categories. There are many rail-related categories on Wikipedia; in its relatively long existence there have been many, perhaps hundreds of rail-related contributions. If your search string didn't find what you were looking for, or if you're seeking general information, categories can be a good place to start. A few rail-related Wikipedia categories are listed here:
Major Railroad Topics
Most Wikipedia contributors make extensive use of hyperlinking to interconnect related topics. So by starting with a major topic you can frequently drill down from a general subject into more specific areas of interest. The tip of the iceberg, in terms of railroading, is the Wiki article entitled Rail transport
. Here's a few other good topic pages to start with:
Some contributors must find the categories hard to work with. Or perhaps they don't care for the way articles are alphabetized. For whatever reason, some articles on Wikipedia are actually lists of other Wikipedia articles. Here's some that I find useful:
Wikipedia for Model Railoaders
Wikipedia not only covers railroad history and technology, it also covers model railroading (or railway modelling, as they say in the UK). Here's a few Wikipedia topics of interest to model railroaders:
Contributing to Wikipedia
Wikipedia needs contributors, both monetary and content contributors. If you are contributing content, remember that Wikipedia is not a place to post opinions
. That's what our model railroading forum
here on About.com is for. If you love railroad history and want to help preserve it, here are some pages about contributing to Wikipedia: