Sample E-pass
Electronic Rail Pass

San Diego Model
Railroad Association


 How to create your own E-passes

Rail pass history:

Protype railroads issued printed Rail Passes to their Railroad Employees giving them free passage on the Railroad as one of the benefits of employment. This courtesy was often also given to dignitaries and other VIP's for public relations or political influence. Original paper rail passes are now a collectable item, especially those issued by obscure short lines or long-dead regional railroads.

Model Railroader tradition has always been that when you visit someone's layout, they would have you sign their guest book, and in return give you a "Boarding Pass" to their railroad. The E-pass is a way of offering a boarding pass to visitors of your web layout!

Pass exchange:

Many model railroad web sites now offer E-passes via an on-line form, making it easy to request a pass from a site you are impressed with. Some, like ours, offer a utility value other than a simple collectable. The NMRA has also instituted a Pass Exchange Program to allow railfans to directly swap E-passes. Return to the SDMRRA E-pass page and click on the NMRA icon to visit the NMRA.

E-pass mechanics:

They're fun to collect. E-Passes received by the San Diego Model Railroad Association link to the issuer's web site (if available) allowing easy automated visits. You can use the ones you receive to link to that railroad's homepage and showcase web sites on your own web pages.

Lets get started:

There are no hard and fast rules to E-pass creation. Spend some time deciding how your railroad pass should look. It may be patterned after a prototype pass you have seen, or may reflect your railroad's theme, logo, or color scheme. Photos may be used both as faint background and as a foreground feature. In general, printed passes were wallet size, but on the internet, dimensions in inches are secondary. Image resolution will determine how well a pass will display on a web browser (how legible) or how nice it looks when printed at a specific size. Look at other E-passes on this and other web sites for inspiration and format or layout ideas.

Decide on an Image Editing program such as PhotoShop, PhotoPaint, PaintShopPro, or even Microsoft Paint (supplied as part of Windows). Whatever your choice, it must be capable of saving images as either JPEG or GIF for use on your web page. JPEG provides better compression for photographs, but is 'lossy' when edited. GIF is better for drawings, and can include transparent elements.

Your final E-pass image should be around 550 by 350 pixels with an aspect ratio of 1.57:1 (effective resolution - 72 dpi produces a printed pass 7.64" wide by 4.85" high). This will keep the file size down when e-mailing to people who may not have a fast internet connection or who may have mailbox size restrictions. Try to keep the file size under 80 Kbytes.

You may offer a variety of sizes to requesters, but this can generate a lot more work than you think. If you are not familiar with advanced image resampling techniques, it may best to stick with the 550x350 "Standard".

Suggested information to include on your E-pass are:

Be creative. You are advertizing your web site. After you are satisfied with the content and appearance, save the file and keep it as a template. Keep a backup on floppy in case it is accidentially changed or destroyed.

When a pass is requested, load the original template, customize it by adding text for 'name', 'pass no', and 'issue date'. Save the modified image under a new name as either a JPEG or GIF image. (We append the pass number as part of the file name, e.g. SD-#####.gif). Be careful not to save over your original template image!! Using unique file names allows you to archive E-passes you have sent and to prevent re-use of pass numbers. Strongly recommend using 8.3 file names for your E-pass to prevent filename truncation on some operating systems.

You are ready to begin offering passes to the world, and to receive passes in return. Collect a whole set.

 All logos copyright ©SDMRRA, ©NMRA
 E-passes copyright by issuing individual or organization as shown