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Union Pacific Railroad bolsters historic train awareness via app

November 1, 2011

The Union Pacific UP Steam app

Transportation company Union Pacific Railroad is letting historic railroad fans track the company’s famous steam locomotives on Apple devices.

Union Pacific Railroad is rolling out an iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch application that follows the paths of two trains from the company – the No. 844 and No. 3985 across the United States. In addition to mapping the trains’ routes, consumers can also learn more about the transportation company and its other properties.

“The app is designed for Union Pacific Railroad’s fan base can follow and stay up-to-date with train schedules,” said Tom Lange, director of corporate communications for Union Pacific, Omaha, NE.

Union Pacific Railroad connects 23 states via train across the U.S. in addition to serving Canada and Mexico.

All aboard
The primary goal of the UP Steam app is to let fans of the historic rail system follow their favorite trains across the country.

The app follows the No. 844 and No. 3985 trains, which each make several trips beginning from Cheyenne, WY across the southwest each year.

Using GPS, users can access the location and schedules of the two historic trains.

The app ties in with Union Pacific’s social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and foursquare.

Users can view photos and videos of the trains and upload photos to the company’s Facebook page.

Users can also check-in to Foursquare when the train passes.

The app sends out notifications to users within 50 miles of nearby trains.

Additionally, the app aggregates Union Pacific’s Twitter and sends out automatic tweets every 15 minutes while the locomotives are traveling.

“People tell us that they have sometimes traveled for hours to see the steam locomotors, and this app helps them keep a closer tab on where they are,” Mr. Lange said.

Right on track
Union Pacific is using mobile to connect to a unique consumers who are connected to the historic trains and tend to not be as tech-savvy.

Additionally, the app segments itself because it is specific to a niche demographic.

Primarily, the app targets families and traveling consumers who are likely to see the train pass by.

However, one of the main problems of an event-specific app is that it is for one-time users and is easily deleted off of handsets.

“The growing number of people using smartphones gives us another medium to reach the Union Pacific fans,” Mr. Lange said.

“For us, this app is a fun way to interact with our large fan base and keep up to date,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York

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