James Jefferies and ShedCode Ltd

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Railway Hackday - Off the Rails

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off the rails image

After being Technologist in Residence at Site Gallery earlier in the year, as part of the Happenstance Project I started to think of some ideas I wanted to follow for later in 2012.


One of those ideas was to run a Hackday, but not any old Hackday, one centred around Railways. Network Rail had just opened up their realtime Datafeeds and as far as I knew, no one else had ever run one. Sure, there had been Transport Hackdays, but not Railway specific ones.

First steps

So I got to work, I went to experience a 24 hour hackday for myself, where I discovered that sometimes technical issues with the building can really slow people’s progress and that working overnight doesn’t really suit me anymore!

Clickerty Hack

I also bought a domain and registered a Twitter account. The hackday would be called Clickerty Hack. Then, having a good read of The Hackday Manifesto made me realise that a lot of work was required to get a decent Hackday up and running.

Loco 2 and Off The Rails

It was then that I found out about somebody else’s plans for a Railway Hackday, loco2 was a company I was already watching with interest. A startup based around European Train travel, ticketing and guides.

Their hackday, Off the Rails, was in a more advanced state than Clickerty Hack, so putting it on hold, I volunteered to help.

ShedCode Sponsorship

It was a real privilege to be able to help with a small part of the organising and for my company ShedCode to be one of the sponsors, providing some of the food for the masses!

Meeting the experts

During 2012, I’d found a number of people who had built some incredible pieces of software using Railway data, especially Peter Hicks and Tom Cairns who built, amongst other things Open Train Times and Train Times respectively. So it was brilliant to meet them in person at Off The Rails. There were also many other people knowledgeable about Railways, Open Data and Mapping - I could have spent all day just talking to people!

The teams

During the day, the teams built some inspiring things, including an application which builds spotify playlists to match the length of your train journey and many others. Most of them will hopefully be available at some point on github for perusal.


All in all, a fantastic day, thanks to Loco2 and Bethnal Green Ventures and here’s to the next Railway Hackday, whether it’s Off The Rails 2, or Clickerty Hack! With cake too of course ;)

off the rails cake