The division board felt that the time had arrived for the website to be updated to a more contemporary appearance and to a platform that would be flexible enough to allow multiple access for those authorized to make additions and changes, as well as enabling smooth transfer to new website maintenance personnel as turnover occurred. With that in mind, Superintendent Joe Bergmaier appointed Greg Shindledecker to chair a website committee consisting of members Rob Hinkle, Howard Kaplan, and Val Pistilli, to explore possible alternatives.
With the help of the committee members, Greg drew up an outline of our needs and how they might be implemented in web format. After some consultation and consideration, it was felt that the WordPress platform would be the most suitable and flexible. This consists of a pre-written main template or theme, with pre-written modules that “plug into” the template providing specialized functions. For those familiar with PC hardware, this is analogous to a motherboard with plug-in cards to add or enhance certain aspects of functionality. The advantage is that knowledge of website coding or programming is not necessary, and anyone can learn to manage the website which is accomplished by way of a control panel, similar to the “options” or “settings” controls found in so much software these days.
An attempt was made to reach out to webmasters or developers who had specifically worked on model/prototype railroad websites, but none either had experience with WordPress or had the time to help us. Commercial developers were too expensive, even considering that they were giving us a break for being a non-profit, hobby organization. Out of curiousity I decided to investigate WordPress online, watch youtube tutorials and do some research, and discovered that the whole idea behind it was to enable the average person to create his own website. After a practice version, the board consented in allowing me to go full scale.
For those interested, the WordPress theme I used was called “Frontier” by Ron Angelo. This theme was so cleanly written as to make it customizable to the nth degree. I was therefore able to take a fairly generic-looking theme and style it in such a way as to be reminiscent of the Reading and PRR, the two railroads headquartered in Philadelphia which operated in every county contained within the Philadelphia Division.
The website is now in a position where it can grow and morph, if necessary as trends change, and as more sophisticated plug-ins are written. One such project will be to have our store fully automated with PayPal checkout. Please wander around the website and explore all the menu items. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, or corrections, please send them to the website committee.
– Howard Kaplan