Re: Standard Steel Freight Cars - Experiment (corrected)

Jeff Eggert

Thanks for sharing this.  A possible solution for those with trouble with XLSX files is to look into LibreOffice.  This programs opens seemingly everything, even some old Microsoft files the current Office suite won't open.  Its free and my go to program when Excel doesn't like the file.  Besides some features a data file like this will never use, the XLSX file version is usually about 1/3 the size as an XLS file.  Makes a big difference for larger files.

The following may get a bit detailed for this list, but I think the larger audience may find interest.

In some discussions with the BRHS, and while going though our photo spreadsheet at the CNWHS Archives, I ran into similar standardization concerns.  While we had a standardized set of fields, the data within those fields was clearly entered by many individuals over the years.  Exactly how you described ATSF variants, I saw everything from town and name spellings for common places which didn't even match.  Someday a mass sorting will need to fix and align all these similar to what you may be thinking.

Reporting marks with non-letter characters have always caused problems in the digital world.  Maybe not when we use our eyes to look at a digitized photo from 100 years ago, but the computer doesn't "gloss over" that & or a period when entered as data.  As Dan suggested the & has purpose certainly for the era.  From a pure sortation standpoint, any non-letter character or space will cause things to sort how people entered them (and why I try to ban them from my personal files as data).  You could create a validated table similar to what is done on RailCarPhotos for their various search functions.  Things get fun when trying to decide on a sterilized list of builders since some changed their name over the years.

Lastly circling back to the photo spreadsheet - instead of manually renaming 25,000 photo filenames to let them sort in a researcher friendly fashion, I let the computer rename them using the spreadsheet data.  During that process I found all sorts of unacceptable characters entered in odd places such as the & which don't play nice in filenames.  The lesson to me was that the data cleanliness really shows up when you go to use it.

Jeff Eggert

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