Mapping Old Lines: GIS Technology

 
  AlArchaeologist Station Staff

Location: Thagoona West of Ipswich Qld
I am interested in tracking old railway lines and mapping them using GIS technology. I am familiar with the Hairyleg project, but intend to work on projects on a much smaller and detailed scale. I am a newcomer to this technology so would welcome advice from those with more experience.  If that is you, I would love to hear from you.

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  HairyLeg Junior Train Controller

Location: What's that smell?
I try to work at the most detailed scale available, the only problem is finding historic material that is geographically accurate.
I am happy to offer any advice on resources and techniques if you can feed your findings back into the master set.
Let me know.
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

I am interested in tracking old railway lines and mapping them using GIS technology. I am familiar with the Hairyleg project, but intend to work on projects on a much smaller and detailed scale. I am a newcomer to this technology so would welcome advice from those with more experience. If that is you, I would love to hear from you.
"AlArchaeologist"

Discovering, walking and tracking old formations with a GPS unit is what many of the Light Railway Research Society of Australia guys do. Unfortunately I am not one of these people, but I do see them a couple of times a month. Are you talking old government lines, or old (logging, mining, etc) tramways?

The LRRSA are currently in the process of making available the research maps of one of the society's respected members - all Victorian which probably won't help, as I think you are QLD based. The first four of the maps are currently available from the LRRSA online shop at http://www.lrrsa.org.au/ - more are being added regularly.
  CAP_gauge Junior Train Controller

I am not sure exactly what GIS technology is, but the following web page:

http://www.lrrsa.org.au/gps..html

gives some information on the use of GPS devices in mapping timber tramways. The author is Mike McCarthy who has been involved in mapping tramways in very challeging locations since the 1970s and has been using GPS technology for at least fifteen years.

Regards,

Frank
  duttonbay Minister for Railways

I am not sure exactly what GIS technology is, but the following web page:http://www.lrrsa.org.au/gps..htmlgives some information on the use of GPS devices in mapping timber tramways. The author is Mike McCarthy who has been involved in mapping tramways in very challeging locations since the 1970s and has been using GPS technology for at least fifteen years.Regards,Frank
"CAP_gauge"

Frank bounced on the full stop. The URL is http://www.lrrsa.org.au/gps.html
  mikesyd Chief Commissioner

Location: Lurking
Here is the Wikipedia page on GIS - far above my head!!!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geographic_information_system
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
What you are able to achieve will be influenced by the maps you have on the GIS.  What GIS are you planning to use?

Regards
Brian
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
Ohhh, so much stuff, so little time....

I've been mucking around with GIS (Geographical Information Systems - Google Maps is a basic GIS) and GPS (Global Positioning System) since the late 1980's. A more sophisticated GIS system has a database entry attached to each element on the screen. EG http://www.land.vic.gov.au will get you into the planning schemes and overlays for each property in the state. Even this is fairly basic.

Questions you need to answer are
Who is this for?
What software do I have, and what does my audience (if any) need?
Am I duplicating existing effort?
How much data will I produce? How will I store it and back it up?
What data do I want to ultimately collect? Am I going to collect it all now, or stage it?
What data layers and symbology will I use? Is it consistent with similar maps?
How accurate is the data I plan to use, and can I accurately convert it from paper to digital? Incorrect or misleading info can be worse than nothing.

Be careful of copyright. It's unlikely as a hobbyist you'd get pinged, but acknowledge your sources.

Float your ideas here, and i'm sure you'll get some useful feedback.

Cheers

Rick



  petan Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting to see a zebra using a zebra crossing!
Following perhaps similar to Hairyleg's work and is only viewable on line so a screen shot capture needed for other needs. It is a 1930 map from the National Library of Australia. This map covers the greater Brisbane district. http://nla.gov.au/nla.map-vn1867318    More maps can be found by searching http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/
  AlArchaeologist Station Staff

Location: Thagoona West of Ipswich Qld
Thanks for all the replies everyone.  As usual you are more on the ball than I am; I am only just reading them all, so have some catching up to do.
Hairyleg, thanks for the offer.  I admire the ambition of your project. It must be very difficult to do from a distance. The areas I will be working on will be those I am already familiar with and have visited. I will be using a number of sources to try to get it right.
Duttonbay and Cap guage, thanks for the info.  I am interested in any kind of lines, regardless of the guage.  Here in the Ipswich district there were coal mining lines everywhere so I am spoilt for choice.
Regarding the Gis, the software I use is Quantum, mainly because it is free and relatively easy to use.  I am in the process of teaching myself.  I may use more than one geo-referenced base map to get it right.  Its early days, I haven't really started yet.
RustyRick, many of your questions are the reason for wanting to collaborate.  I don't want to reinvent the wheel.  If someone else is already doing what I intend to do it would help with such things as standardisation of format and symbology.  I already have an idea as to the kinds of details I want to include, and it appears that current GIS systems can do this.
Petan, thanks for info on the map.  I already downloaded it in response to a previous Railpage post.
So keep the feedback coming all of you.


  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
Hadn't seen QGIS before. I'm downloading it now so I can play with it.

If you need some basic, accurate data to start with, go to http://www.ga.gov.au/topographic-mapping/digital-topographic-maps.html
and on the right hand side under Related Information is a link to free data downloads. This will  take you to another page where you can download 1:250k topographic maps in a variety of data types.

Cheers

Rick
  AlArchaeologist Station Staff

Location: Thagoona West of Ipswich Qld
Thanks, Rick.  For once I actually paid for something a few months ago when I purchased the Sunmap DVD with all its georeferenced maps.  Haven't done much with it so far, but expect to as I get further into GIS
  Iain Chief Commissioner

Location: Concord, NSW
I use GIS and GPS in my day to day work as an archaeologist.

I note that this discussion has slightly confused the two.

Global Positioning System is a series of satellites that are in geostationary orbit around the Earth. Triangulating off these gives a three dimensional position. The signals from the satellites are read by a GPS Unit. These vary in accuracy and prices - standard  10m accuracy $100 to $800, 2-3 m, c.$2000 -$3000 and sub-metre c.$10-15,000 plus the cost of maps and programs.

Most mobile phones that claim to have GIS's in fact triangulate positions off the mobile phone towers and are not really GPS Units and lack accuracy and of course are useless in area with limited or no reception.

A Geographical Information System is a program that in essence creates a spatial database and can overlay the data feature onto maps and plans. There are several GIS ranging from the Google Earth types which while good are limited in their functions, QGIS and Grass which are free GIS's to the Arch Series produced by ESRI which start at about $3000-4000 and keep going.

An interesting alternative is ArcGIS for Home Use  see http://esriaustralia.com.au/products-arcgis-for-home-use which gives you the fully Arch range for $100.00 but only for commercial use and with limited support

The GPS is one method for obtaining data for input into a GIS.

Other inputs into a GIS might be current and old maps and aerial images as well. A GIS allows you to overlay old maps and plans onto modern maps and obtain co-ordinates for possible locations of railways which you could use you GPS to guide you to.

I could go on an on .... an can add more info if anyone is interested

Iain
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia

I have been thinking about this project.

How would you guys feel (assuming we could convince the development team) about Railpage creating an online database of GPS data which would be mapped onto google maps (using the API) which could be authored by all online?

That is to say we would create a module for input into the RP system which would allow a map to be drawn online based on the data currently being provided?

In what format does the data exist for these rail lines?

Getting hairylegs involved would also be a good idea. Perhaps he could provide the initial database of information?


Regards
Brian

  HairyLeg Junior Train Controller

Location: What's that smell?

In what format does the data exist for these rail lines?

Getting hairylegs involved would also be a good idea. Perhaps he could provide the initial database of information?
"bevans"


I would be happy to offer my work as a starting point (as I have already with my Google Earth overlay).

My data is already available as "kml/kmz".
I manage it in it's native format "plt", as used in OziExplorer.
I can output into ANY standard GIS or mapping format (i.e. "gpx", arcview etc).

Speaking from experience, issues can arise with versioning of data (there is a difference between updating with a more refined and more detailed version, and adding an alternative interpretation at a location).

I have managed this in the past by getting contributors to provide me with a KML file for the location (as traced in Google Earth et al) and I have "administered" the data and updated the master copy as needed.
I would be happy to continue in such a role, and I would love to see a more streamlined method of getting data in and back out again.

Hairyleg

  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
MGH, what format is google maps looking for?

Regards
Brian
  HairyLeg Junior Train Controller

Location: What's that smell?
MGH, what format is google maps looking for?

Regards
Brian
"bevans"


Don't get "Google Earth" confused with "Google Maps".
Google Earth is the installed software, Google Maps is the on-line product (but they both use the same photography).

Google Earth reads and creates a kml file (Keyhole Markup Language) or the zipped version a kmz file.
These are compact, can be emailed, can easily be translated into other packages. They can also be read by Google Maps if made available on line, but Google Maps can't add to them or edit them.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
HL, can you please post a sample of the metadata you have in the file?

long, lat etc??

Regards
Brian
  RustyRick Chief Commissioner

Location: South West Vic
HL, can you please post a sample of the metadata you have in the file?

long, lat etc??

Regards
Brian
"bevans"


I dont know if that will help. A GIS uses vector data to define an object - a line has the start point located and the end of the line is described by a mathematical function. The KML/Z file for Google Earth really just says draw a line from A to B using this function, make it 3 points wide and colour it blue... A point is just that - put a symbol so big of this style on that spot.

For a GIS to be really useful, you need the ability to analyse data. For instance, imagine if HL's data had construction dates and gauges.  A question could be "How much track less than 5'3" was laid in Victoria before 1940 and was not public tramway?" You could also give an idea of the quality of the source data - eg Level 5, note on page 6 of the Heathcote Express - no visible sign, or Level 1, survey accurate existing. 

Google maps will only give you part of that. It's better than no data, but as far as I can see data just gets attached to a tag. Many other online are similar - ArcGIS explorer, online, Wikimapia. There may be others that have a useful database, but I haven't found it yet.

Many other issues, but I think it's a very worthwhile project.

Rick





  AlArchaeologist Station Staff

Location: Thagoona West of Ipswich Qld
Good to see that this have opened a fruitful area of discussion and thanks Iain for your offer.  Although I am new to this area, I am aware of the difference between GPS and GIS.  I am not intending to use a GPS navigator much at all at this stage.  Rather I will be using GIS referenced underlays such as Google Earth, Sunmap etc in addition to the historical maps.  However my camera does have GPS and the photos I take on location have proved to be surprisingly accurate when located on Google Earth....that is when it works, which is not all the time.  It seems that any item on a GIS map can have data associated with it in tabular form, so the sky is the limit, theoretically.  If we can come up with something that is standardised, then it would be great.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
QGIS will handle ESRI shapefiles as well as various databases such as MySQL and PLSQL with their spatial extensions.   It's most recent incarnation is 1.8.0 (end November 2012).

Data for the whole of Australia is readily available from Geoscience Australia at 1:250000* scale which is quite coarse, but a useful starting point.     It can be downloaded as shapefiles and manipulated by QGIS from there.

The data will most likely need to be projected from geographicals to something more useful which is a whole subject by itself!

http://geoscience.gov.au/products-services/data-applications.html

(*Edit - scale fixed)

  AlArchaeologist Station Staff

Location: Thagoona West of Ipswich Qld
Iain, back to your earlier comments of ArcGIS home which I note is an ongoing commitment of $100 a year: is this a major improvement on the free QGIS?  I might almost be tempted if this were the case, though my financial resources are severely limited.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
Iain, back to your earlier comments of ArcGIS home which I note is an ongoing commitment of $100 a year: is this a major improvement on the free QGIS? I might almost be tempted if this were the case, though my financial resources are severely limited.
"AlArchaeologist"


ArcGIS is a very powerful package and the inclusions in the annual $110 (including GST) fee would seem to be extensive.

QGIS is open source and is available for the cost of transfer and most likely your data allowance will easily cover it.

It is quite powerful but perhaps not as user-friendly as ArcGIS but then I have had a lot of experience with ArcGIS.

If you simply want a mapping package then QGIS will do all you need:   you can capture and edit data and subsequently display it which is probably all you need.    If you store data in shape files then it is interoperable with ArcGIS anyway.

All the bells and whistles of ArcGIS while they may be useful are probably much more than you need.
  kipioneer Chief Commissioner

Location: Aberfoyle Park
 The ability to serve GIS data over the internet with open source software such as mapserver which can deliver vector data as defined in an XML file in response to WMS (web mapping services) requests may be of interest to bevans.    QGIS can set up the files defining this service and the requests can be set up in html pages.

A bit of hunting around may find pages already setup to do this and which may be available freely.
  bronwyn Train Controller

Location: from Rocky to pommy land! and now I am back in the nations capital serving the public
what we need is something that for beginners is easy to use and for advanced users does enough to satisfy users. I agree Google Earth is nice for beginners as it has a nice graphical interface and its not that hard to share files. but it does not do enough for people who want detail. I did look into making google maps etc from google spreadsheets and that looked promising

one possibility is to look at ways at exporting or converting data from google earth for other programs. I think we need to discuss data formats and compatibility here. of course me expertese is limited to training as a cartographer in the 80's Smile however i do now work in web development.





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