North Auckland Line [0Y]: Weekly Progress Report – Week 42, 2020

Good morning. Last week’s blog referred to samples of Southdown and suggested a method of providing access to specific levels of aerial photography for each station. This week, instead of other map work, time was taken to reflect on further options for displaying aerial photography, and even although another week has gone by with seemingly limited progress, having arrived at what we believe to be a much better solution for displaying aerial content, we don’t regret having waited, for the implementation of this solution will be far simpler to create as it does not require a specific solution for each individual station and is practically seamless for the end user.

Leaflet (the Javascript library that runs in the web browser to provide the user interface) has within it the capability to switch the display to different layers. This includes allowing the selection of different base layers, as well as allowing overlays to be displayed on top of a base layer. By leveraging this capability, we have created sample Diagrams for Westfield-Auckland at zoom levels 12-19, and sample Aerials for the same area and zoom levels from 1972 only. (Although previous demos have gone up to zoom level 20 in aerial photos, we’ve settled on level 19 for now, because of the volume of output that will be produced, so there is enough room on the server to store all of it. Also, we will still have to have some non map galleries for stations that we don’t have aerial maps for, like we were doing for some stations on the Smugmug site.)

The demo web page for demonstrating this multi layer capability is here:

When you go to that site you’ll see this:

This is similar to what our other demo pages have shown, with the zoom buttons top left, but now you have a layers button top right (the thing that looks like a stack of paper). Click on that and a little menu pops up, giving you the ability to choose between Aerials and Diagrams (diagrams is the default). The effect is easier to see when you are zoomed in a bit (maybe to level 17 or so). So now you can go between one and the other seamlessly for a particular location and compare them easily.

In a lot of areas, of course, there is more than one generation of aerial photography available. So the next demo, which will be Volume 6 Wairarapa Line, one of the existing completed volumes, will include multiple levels of aerial photography, and therefore have these multiple layers able to be switched between. We’ll put a post up when that is ready for testing, as it will take a while to format a different project with the webmaps specific styles in the GIS, and export all the tiles needed, especially for multiple aerial eras. For now, enjoy what you can see in the latest Volume 1 demo.

North Auckland Line [0X]: Weekly Progress Report – Week 41, 2020

Good morning. In the last couple of weeks, work has focused both on adding more detail to the maps as is the usual effort, and developing the website. The latter proceeds slowly by steps as it is in effect a completely from the ground up effort which has started from the bare bones of a fully functional LAMPs server with everything except the actual web pages and data files needed to display the maps on screen. Having just been handed a PHP script with no documentation, having to figure out how to deploy it is quite a challenge and the deployment is necessarily being simplified somewhat at this early stage with, for example, static index files that have to have a new line added each time a maps file is created and uploaded, rather than being able to dynamically read the directory and automatically generate an index of it.

After completing the maps for Southdown Station with all the sidings in place, the next determination has been to create sample aerial maps at zoom levels 17-19 as referred to in list posts last week, and testing has suggested these levels, which generate maps taking up 4 MB of disk space, are of a sufficient resolution for useful display without needing to go into zoom level 20 which increases the storage requirement to the point that disk space use is multiplied four times. At this time if a lot of aerial photography is to be uploaded then it is uncertain exactly how much space will be available on the server for this and the rest of the maps so keeping to a lower zoom level is the more conservative option that lets the most aerial photography be added for now.

So having decided on a starting web site design with static hand created html files and duplicates of files like the php script that serves the maps, this standard will be implemented more rapidly going forward, so that more maps will start to be uploaded from here and web pages listing them will start to appear to make the site look like a usual web site with text and hyperlinks to various places.

The aerial map for Southdown in 1972 can be viewed here:

NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020L]: Welcome to the new NZ Rail Maps Web Site

If you’re reading this on Facebook or on our project group then welcome to our new web site. NZRM Project is developing this site following a decision to migrate to a full web tile maps system for providing NZ Rail Maps content over the Internet. As Volume 1 of the entire maps project is currently under development, the web site is hosting this volume as it is updated, and will also host the previously produced volumes 5 and 6 as soon as they are able to be migrated to the site.

The development of the new web site is proceeding extremely well although it is in its early stages. Because of this, the schedule for developing Volume 1 has been relaxed until the end of 2020. This allows for the work of updating the maps themselves to proceed concurrently with web site development work as it is far easier to make design changes to just one volume at a time than across multiple volumes. Hence the intention is to finalise the web maps design in Volume 1 and then only at that time begin migrating the other existing volumes (Volume 5 and 6) to the new site, as well as commencing production of the next project volume to be produced after Volume 1.

The new site was initially set up with a different web address from the current site (hosted on SmugMug) to enable both sites to function independently. However, Project has now decided to close down the SmugMug site before the end of the current billing cycle which has about three weeks to run. Access has therefore been removed to SmugMug and now gives access only to this site. The Volume 5 and 6 map tile image albums will be temporarily migrated to Google Photos over the next few days and the links to them on the home page will be provided when this has been completed.

NZRM Project is very pleased about how this development has snowballed over the past week and believes that you will find the web map format extremely easy and versatile to use. Project is committing to developing a document format for the maps to enable offline use, which at this stage is expected to be e-doc as well as hardcopy. Project expects to make a charge from sale of document volumes to help fund the costs of operating this web site.

Thanks for supporting the NZ Rail Maps Project.

NZ Rail Maps Project Development Report [2020K]: Web Development Trial

The above is the home page you will see when you put the address

into your web browser. It is starting as a default WordPress site and as Project spends time customising it, will change in appearance to resemble this blog.

As of today, Project has signed with GoDaddy NZ for 1 year for a special discount price of $20.56. This gives a Linux hosted site with plenty of space for hosting both this blog and web tile maps. The site will thus have two parts:

  • Documentation, using the included WordPress blog. This includes all existing blog posts on that will be migrated to the new site.
  • Web tile maps: a website to provide online viewing of NZ Rail Maps content. This is a new development of NZ Rail Maps Project that has been discussed in recent posts.

The site URL shown above is a temporary URL used for development purposes to allow the existing website at (hosted on SmugMug) to continue operating as it is at present alongside this website. Project will allow SmugMug site to stay up as long as necessary (not more than 3 months) enabling the new site to be developed alongside it. However, further development of the existing site will essentially be frozen from this point going forward.

The new site will become the default web site for as soon as it is developed enough to replace the existing SmugMug site. Project does not know when this will take place since it is necessary to replace all of the existing content on SmugMug. It is possible as an interim step the existing maps map be migrated back to Google photo albums whilst the web tile maps are developed so that SmugMug site can be shut down soon.

Project has a test version of web tile maps for Northland ready to go onto the demo site within the next few weeks for further testing. In fact this could be up within days. This is where Volume 1 content will appear going forward. The site will go through various stages of development as there is a lot of work to get something that looks like the type of content currently hosted with SmugMug, especially with aerial photos. It is likely the site will incorporate historical mosaic photos as part of the included web tile maps, but the best way of serving current aerial photos is probably by bringing them in live from the Linz Basemaps site rather than by including them in the web tiles hosted on the nzrailmaps site.

Stay tuned for further updates on development of the new web site for NZ Rail Maps Project. This will be staged as a lot of work is needed and probably the focus over the rest of this year is going to prioritise migrating some form of the existing content from SmugMug to enable it to be shut down soon. Some of the SmugMug functionality may be lost in the short term and reinstated later. Project does not undertake to give a particular timeframe for development. There are many steps of development that will take a lot of time to implement alongside the task of progressing with Volume 1 itself. There is still a goal of completing Volume 1 which has been shifted to the end of 2020 to allow the web site to be developed to host it when it is ready for production. The alternate to that is that Volume 1 might actually be ready a lot sooner but only be hosted in a more basic form.

Printable content is going to be the only truly offline form of content for the site since it will not be straightforward to download static images for the site in the way that can now be done with the photo album format on . Project will make a decision soon about format of these whether Kindle, printed or both.

North Auckland Line [0W]: Weekly Progress Report – Week 39, 2020

Project recently has completed some mapping of Okaihau / Rangiahua sections, Dargaville / Kaihu sections and North Auckland Line main route.

However due to other life priorities work has slowed during the past week and Project does not expect the present very slow progress to show much increase during the current week. Work has started on basemaps of the Dargaville Branch which is very hard work because of very poor quality aerial photography of the area. The Northland Regional Council does not appear to greatly value good quality aerial photography and now has the fuzziest in NZ despite it being flown only about five years ago. As the historical aerials of this area have been completed, they are ready to be introduced into the GIS and copied.

Project is looking at hard copy publication formats and costs and it cannot be ruled out that small run publishing might result in hard copies of volumes being available for sale in future. Project believes cost is about the same whether using Amazon CreateSpace per-copy printing or local printers in runs of 10. However, Project would have to be set up as a formal entity and this has been considered for some time and remains under consideration.

Project’s overall schedule remains important and with the expectation being changed lately that Project will be wound up or completed within two or three years, into more of a long term activity, it is likely Project will shift focus going forward into producing Basic level online maps in every volume as the priority as well as hard copies (which are also Basic level), in order to allow more time to complete the much more intensive intermediate / comprehensive levels. The drawn out process to complete Volume 1 has made this reconsideration necessary.

Earlier in the year, Project made good progress with Volumes 5 and 6, but as the year has worn on, the advent of the global pandemic has had sufficient impact to slow the schedule on multiple occasions. This has nothing to do with any economic situation. Project is receiving more funding than ever before and recent expansion of community support has given assurance that other sources of funding may be tapped into in future. What essentially the Covid-19 impact has caused this year is to personal schedules and time available to complete Project’s work. There have been more than a few weeks lately when only small amounts of work were completed and expectations were not met. This is unlikely to change in the forseeable future and the only reasonable outcome going forward is to revert to the earlier idea of staged completion through the use of variable levels of development for each volume. Project still desires to get content out into the community and increase knowledge of the work being done and this can really only be achievable by completing every volume as quickly as possible, which most likely means at Basic Level only except for those volumes already completed at Intermediate / Comprehensive Level.

Once Project as a whole is back to a higher rate of production, maybe later this week but it could take longer, Project will continue to review options for greater community support, scheduling and stages of development for the entire work. The current level of development of Volume 1 will continue as the majority of historical aerial photography for the planned intermediate / comprehensive levels has now been completed. It is however uncertain when this volume will actually be finished. It could take until the end of October or it could take until the end of the year. At this time, Project has no desire to be bound to an absolute deadline at what is traditionally a busier time of year for most people. Furthermore, Project will probably by the end of October only have completed research and map design. Actually producing the thousands of individual maps in Volume 1 could take another month as it often shows up more work that is needed.