[talk-au] Converting railway= abandoned to highway=track

stevea steveaOSM at softworkers.com
Sun Feb 14 23:31:08 UTC 2021

Hi, it's stevea from California, USA here.  I have mapped many of these, what what are often here called "Rails to Trails" projects.  I also presented on USA Rail at SOTM-US 2016 in Seattle and am very active in USA rail wiki (national and "state at a time," which I recommend, including for Australia's states) and what we call "TIGER Cleanup" (of a massive amount of rail infrastructure imported into USA in 2007), sometimes blending of old rail into new, modern hike-and-bike trails, as here.  I also "manage" the USBRS (Bicycle Route System), the national network of numbered bicycle routes in the USA, which grows nicely and is about 30% complete of its one-day-to-become 50,000 miles (~80,000 km) of interstate bicycle routes (I spoke on that at SOTM-US in Washington, DC in 2014).  So, I'm familiar.

I've seen excellent posts with great suggestions from everybody here, there is very little or nothing to disagree with.  However, the Subject line concerns me.  There is very often little if any need to "convert" railway=abandoned to highway=track (or highway=cycleway if it becomes paved, bicycle-preferred...).  What I do (others agree this is correct) is to simply ADD the tag highway=track (or highway=cycleway) to the existing railway=abandoned tag (keeping both tags).  The tags don't collide, the thing being tagged really is "the same thing" (one right-of-way with rail infrastructure removed to be re-used with different infrastructure of paving for cyclists) and so both tags being on the same way truly is correct tagging (and is "efficient" w.r.t. OSM's data structure storage).

However, if, as it appears happens in Oz (and elsewhere) rail-to-trail infrastructure, for example because of a bridge re-route (the old, decaying, "was a railway bridge" had a new bicycle bridge built that is newer and safer and the only way to go), where there is a NEW bridge or infrastructure for the cyclist, then it's OK, even 100% correct, to ADD to OSM the new bridge with the new tags, leaving the old railway=abandoned tags on the old bridge.  (If the bridge has been torn down, consider a way with railway=razed or perhaps nothing at all there).  So, re-use (if same), MAYBE add (if added), but please don't "convert," as then you lose the fact that this was once a railway (=abandoned).  There are many good reasons for keeping this tag in OSM where it is the truth, they've been hashed through elsewhere many times.

If you want ideas on how you might wiki-document your progress in doing this, I encourage you to please "borrow liberally" from any of the state-level wikis we have in the USA, starting at our national rail page [1] and drilling down to the State Projects section [2].  All Western states have a rail wiki, some Eastern states, do, too.  California is the richest example, but it is so huge it has been broken up into three sub-wikis, which might even further break up into five!  Try an alpha-level-complete "medium-rail-sized" state like Oregon [4] or South Carolina [5].  And, please, have fun!

My two cents from some seasoned USA perspective, I hope it helps,

[1] https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/United_States/Railroads
[2] https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/United_States/Railroads#State_.28or_commonwealth.29_projects
[3] https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/California/Railroads
[4] https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/Oregon/Railroads
[5] https://wiki.osm.org/wiki/South_Carolina/Railroads

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