Monday, 28 January 2019

NZ Rail Maps Project Direction/ Development Proposals 2019 [1]

The organisational scheme of work on NZ Rail Maps is currently being reconsidered.

At the moment I am considering whether to focus on one volume at a time for publication as I have done so in the project at various times, or work on multiple volumes simultaneously as I have lately. I spent much of the past couple of years primarily focused on the Otago Central Railway which is a part of Volume 12 in the 12-volume organisational scheme of the Maps. But throughout that time I would take breaks to work on content in other volumes, and I would also respond to requests for material covering anywhere in the country.


At the same time I have had to migrate content off Flickr and Google Plus due to changes on those platforms and haven't yet reinstated access to all previously published content from the new Wordpress blog that I have set up to coordinate all of the content in place of the Trainweb site that responds to requests for www.nzrailmaps.nz. Partly this is because of a conflict between whether old content should be reinstated as an interim measure, or whether it would be more productive to revise and republish old content to bring it up to date.

The possible approach that is being considered is to work on all volumes more or less simultaneously with a goal of publishing all 12 volumes online at a basic level by the end of 2019. This would ensure that at least there is a basic level of maps fully available within a reasonable timeframe. At the moment the project is hampered by a conflict between making all content available at a basic level, and developing selected content at a comprehensive level. Comprehensive content is much more time and resource intensive as the development of the Volume 12 maps and other selected areas has shown. Basic content can however be put together in a relatively short time as is shown by the development from scratch of the Volume 4 content over the past month and its progression towards release.

So therefore a new development strategy could look like developing all 12 volumes in 2019 to a basic level and publishing all of their content online and with a PDF edition as well. It means the comprehensive development would be slowed. I am working on various stations around the country at present at a comprehensive level as a sideline to the basic level development but this is going to be fairly random although lately I have spent time mostly in North Canterbury with the Main North Line and Waiau Branch featuring. 

Most of the work for a volume consists of setting up the volume structure as a specific Qgis project (these are being generated from what was formerly six projects covering regions, into twelve projects covering the individual volumes) and downloading the free Linz coverage for the area covered by each volume. The latter is particularly time consuming due to having to keep within a download limit of 3.5 GB, the multiple different layers of data covering a particular volume, and the need to select just a part of each download to cover only the rail corridors in order to conserve computer resources. Only once all of that setup work has been completed can the task of map revision begin.

I now have after about a month's work a Volume 4 structure almost complete along with the map revision and this will be completed in just about a couple of weeks. The basic level of content has been largely informed by this and other map volume development over the past few years and especially by the lack of historical content for the Taranaki region which currently has no official Retrolens coverage. There will be three levels of content development under this scheme for the maps:

Basic Level includes the following:
  • Linz contemporary aerial photography at the highest possible and most recent timeframe available for the entire area of each volume.
  • Inclusion of all railway infrastructure that is visible within the Linz aerial photography
  • Marking/labelling of historical or other non-included content (usually this will be a station symbol or some other symbol that marks the location of a historical railway site or installation)
  • Publication of a set of diagrams (maps without aerial photo background) as well as the maps that are with aerial photo background, online.
Intermediate Level includes the following:
  • All of the Basic level content
  • Diagrams and maps of content that has previously been developed for an area and which is available without a matching aerial photography background. For example we did develop content previously that made use of other aerial photography based sources but did not actually publish that content with an aerial photo background, partly because it was developed prior to the use of georeferenced aerial photography in the GIS.
  • PDF for each volume produced. This includes a brief history and tabulated data for all of the lines included in each volume.

Comprehensive Level includes the following:
  • All of the Basic level content
  • Intermediate level content where there is no orthogonal aerial photography available for an area at the present time.
  • Georeferenced historical aerial imagery mosaics which are published as part of the maps along with the diagrams generated from them. 
  • PDF for each volume produced. This includes a brief history and tabulated data for all of the lines included in each volume.
In recent timeframes there has been widespread Comprehensive level development of Volume 12 and the same at a lesser scale in other volumes all around the country. It is now proposed to focus on Basic level development of all 12 volumes to be able to complete them at this level in 2019 and at the same time continue sporadic Comprehensive level development randomly throughout all 12 volumes without a predetermined plan or timeframe for completion.

Whilst it is important to continue with the Comprehensive level development especially in Volume 12 I would certainly like to be able to get every volume produced at Basic level as quickly as possible so that at least we have content from every volume that people can make use of which isn't the case at present. This means the completion schedule of Volume 12 would be pushed back.

All map content remains free of charge. Whilst the above structure does resemble the way that some publishers structure content with free and paid levels, we have no plans to produce anything like this.