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Dimensionally Realistic Route Building with Google Maps

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maps.google.com offers route builders an opportunity to build dimensionally accurate routes and prototypical scenery...

If you are building a route for which you want to have actual real world trackage, features, and terrain, the following technique can be used to get real work dimensions and reflect them in your route. In addition, plenty of prototypical detail is waiting for you on google maps: track layout, track-side structures, type and quantity of foliage and vegetation, neighboring structures and industries, roads and road names, grade crossings specifics, traffic density, and some railroad signaling details.

It is recommended you temporarily un-check the "Fullscreen" option in the Trainz startup options, and also that you run Trainz at a resolution lower than your desktop so you can readily switch between your browser and Surveyor.

Note that this example uses the United States google site and imperial units. Your google display controls could vary from country to country, as well as your distance unit of measure.

Start your Trainz program and set up your Surveyor route for editing. Then switch back to your desktop to start your browser.

Log into (or create) your google account. Then go to the maps page, maps.google.com and click on the "My Places" button. The map should be your local area and the console controls should look like this:

Then click on "Or create with classic My Maps." Do not press "Create Map" or else you will not be able to take dimensions on the map for your route.

Enter a title for the map, and click on the "Untitled" radio button, then press "Save."

Then click on the search box and enter a city on your route. In this case Fostoria, Ohio, US:

Make sure the picture icon in the upper right is set to show the "Satellite" mode map (it toggles between satellite and map modes when you click om it). It is in satellite mode when it shows the word "Map."

You can now zoom into your city or location that you are modeling and you will see plenty of detail which you can incorporate into your route: track layout, sidings and spurs, track-side structures, type of foliage and vegetation, neighboring structures and industries, roads and road names, grade crossings specifics, traffic density and some railroad signaling details:

Now a dimension will be taken from the map and be used on the modeled Trainz route.

In this example, the zoom in is at the Columbus Ave grade crossing and the west end of the Baltimore & Ohio yard in Fostoria. In the Trainz route, the distance from Columbus Avenue to the points of the first switch in the Baltimore and Ohio yard east of the crossing on track 1 are needed. This is so the spline for the junction can be placed with dimensional accuracy in the route model. Note that in this example, the main line, track 1, crossing Columbus Avenue and Columbus Avenue itself have already been located and modeled in Surveyor using the same technique. Alternatively, you may have located major roads and rail lines using a DEM model imported into Surveyor prior to using this technique.

Select the left side icon containing the drop down arrow and select "draw a line" from the drop down choices. Here the center of Columbus Avenue at the crossing is the first point clicked to locate the starting point of the line. The second point clicked, the end of the line, is right on the points of the switch in question. Finally, click on the icon again to terminate the line. A box will pop up which will indicate the line's length, in this case 197.2 feet:

For modeling in surveyor, keep in mind you only need a level of precision which is to the nearest 5 to 10 feet. So we can call this 200 feet. Now the switch spline can be located in Surveyor.

Switch back to Surveyor and focus the camera such that both points located on the map are visible. Then select the Tools palette "F5" and the Add Ruler Tool "R." Click down (and do not release) where the first point on the map was made. In this case it is the center of Columbus Avenue at the grade crossing. Stretching the ruler along the mainline trackage in an easterly direction, release the mouse button over the track but at the point where the ruler reads "200 feet Real Scale." (approximately). A spline point for the switch junction can now be placed at a dimensionally accurate location in surveyor, here named "Olmstead Street":

You can save your google map (in fact it auto-saves periodically) so you can recall it for continual Surveyor modeling on your route.

Of course using this technique does require more work, but you will have the satisfaction of having a dimensionally accurate route.

Updated May 11th, 2020 at 08:33 PM by deneban

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  1. ATSF854's Avatar
    Thanks for posting this, it actually has helped me out a quite a bit and I can see a lot of future uses in terms of making bridges to an accurate scale.

    I would recommend posting this in a forum topic as it is really helpful.
  2. ang4ben's Avatar
    Can you still do it the same way now, google is updated?
  3. deneban's Avatar
    Yes, log into your google account, click on the aps icon in the upper right, click on the maps icon dropping down below it. Then in the maps menu icon in the upper left, select "my maps." Note that you cannot be in google's "lite mode," and must switch to the full "3D" maps.