AmSnag Oddity/Status

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me_little_me

Engineer
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Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,355
Amtrak has made it hard even for those of us who are manually looking for a trip. Here's my experience:

Select a train between two points on a specific date. Select a room. See price. Write it down. Then use the Amtrak "Back" button. Change the date then repeat. Do this about 6 times (as if you are trying to find a date with lowest price). At around the 6th time, the page just freezes and you have to sit and wait a few minutes until it allows you to continue. This is DELIBERATE. To prove it, go into a private window or tab which will have no knowledge of previous attempts and do the same search for the same date as the one that froze. It gives you an instant response.
 

acelafan

OBS Chief
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
938
Location
Atlanta, GA
Amtrak has made it hard even for those of us who are manually looking for a trip. Here's my experience:

Select a train between two points on a specific date. Select a room. See price. Write it down. Then use the Amtrak "Back" button. Change the date then repeat. Do this about 6 times (as if you are trying to find a date with lowest price). At around the 6th time, the page just freezes and you have to sit and wait a few minutes until it allows you to continue. This is DELIBERATE. To prove it, go into a private window or tab which will have no knowledge of previous attempts and do the same search for the same date as the one that froze. It gives you an instant response.
Correct. That is the problem I kept running into with mechanized searches. I also worked with Dixieland's status maps expert and we both got blocked or stumped with this effort.
 

me_little_me

Engineer
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Messages
4,355
Correct. That is the problem I kept running into with mechanized searches. I also worked with Dixieland's status maps expert and we both got blocked or stumped with this effort.
So would it be possible to remove the information (i.e. cookies) that Amtrak apparently replies on to see that multiple requests have already come from that site? In a Firefox browser, I simply use a different private tab to hide those cookies or I manually clear them. Either way means I have to initiate a new browser connection i.e. put in cities, dates, passenger number and type, etc. when doing so but this can be automated.
 

acelafan

OBS Chief
Joined
May 24, 2009
Messages
938
Location
Atlanta, GA
I'm sure with enough time on someone's hands it could be done, and work reliably, for a period of time. I just have other things I want to do with my free time, like ride my Canyon road bike. :)

Once it's working, Amtrak will come along and change something to break it once again. They have more resources to obfuscate the data than we (probably) have to keep working around it.

This is just my opinion of course. Anyone is welcome to take a crack at it. Python with a selenium toolkit is probably the way to go.
 

bryher

Train Attendant
Joined
Jan 7, 2019
Messages
18
Ok good feedback. Much more intimidating than I had hoped but am still going to give it a try. I'm amazed they block after 6 attempts or so. I'm not convinced they have their act together enough to worry about the Amsnag user base. It could simply be anti spam protection. All those hits to their server takes a toll. I could see them employing something to stop many hits over a certain period of time.
 

neroden

Engineer
Joined
Feb 23, 2014
Messages
8,641
Location
Ithaca, NY
I have spoken to a few people inside Amtrak -- not the *right* people, but it's a start -- about how Amtrak's IT has a record of being hostile to customers, and using the deliberate obstruction of third-party tools as an example. I think the marketing department may care about this, even if IT doesn't.
 

F900ElCapitan

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
441
I’ve also seen the locking up issue. What I found is when the search locks up, re-enter both origination and destination, then hit the pull down for the number of pax and the description (Adult, Senior, etc.) don’t change anything but hit DONE at the bottom of the tab, then re-select the same date and do the search again. This works most of the time. If not, clear your history/cookies for the last hour, start from the home page, and try it again. This tactic seems to work pretty well for me on an iPad.
Good luck.
 

me_little_me

Engineer
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Joined
Jul 16, 2010
Messages
4,355
Ok good feedback. Much more intimidating than I had hoped but am still going to give it a try. I'm amazed they block after 6 attempts or so. I'm not convinced they have their act together enough to worry about the Amsnag user base. It could simply be anti spam protection. All those hits to their server takes a toll. I could see them employing something to stop many hits over a certain period of time.
To make it clear, they didn't actually block - they just froze the page partially loaded. It cleared up in a few minutes but who is going to wait? I did because I knew to open another private tab and continued doing more searches. By that time, the original tab finished the page load.

This was not a one-time thing but if someone else wants to try it, just repeatedly do a search, select a room (but don't have to hit "add to cart") and look at price, then use Back button to change date and do the same thing over and over.
 
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