[Talk-us] Moving historic railroad ways from OSM to OpenHistoricalMap

Kevin Kenny kkenny2 at nycap.rr.com
Thu Apr 2 14:02:40 UTC 2015

On 04/01/2015 10:42 PM, Russ Nelson wrote:
> Oh, I'd be HAPPY to argue with him. I can point to all sorts of ways
> to tell that a railroad used to go through, that most people don't
> know about. Certain types of fenceposts, property lines that line up
> with nothing but the railbed, back yards that are "too deep", roads
> that are S-shaped for no obvious reason, houses that line up with
> nothing but the railbed. I could go on and on.
Unlike Russ, I'm neither a railfan or a history buff. (Well, I am
a bit of a history buff, but for the purpose of this message
you can assume I am not.) Instead, I'm writing this message
as a hiker.

I got drawn into this controversy because at one point I added
one abandoned rail line in the Catskills. It had been a single-track
two-foot-gage line with horses hauling cars bearing logs. It
was built by a lumber company, and torn up once they'd
harvested the tract. (The rails have been gone since 1911.)

I tagged it as 'railway=abandoned' (or 'railway=dismantled',
I no longer recall which) and immediately fell into this
controversy. The last time I checked, the line is still in OSM,
but is tagged 'highway=path'.

I can say, with boots literally on the ground, that an
abandoned rail grade is exactly what it is, in the field.
It is not a maintained path. It is grown to trees. In some
seasons, it is a thicket of blackberry, nettle and viburnum.
It does take a trained eye to see where the rails ran.

That said, it offers by far the easiest route up the mountain
where it rests. The grade is still there, except for a few washouts
and rock slides, and that means that the hiker who follows it
will not need to scramble any rock ledges nor face any difficult
stream crossings. But it does require off-trail navigation skills.
In a wet summer, you _will_ lose the grade from time to time.
There is no question that following it is a bushwhack hike.

Showing it as a hiking trail is a mistake. When I observed this
once before, I was accused of tagging for the renderer.
It is not tagging for the renderer to observe that two objects
that are tagged alike will render alike! If there is no distinction
in the tagging, even an improved renderer will have no basis
on which to make a choice.

Since my hiking style often involves using century-abandoned
infrastructure (rail grades, haul roads, cableways) on lands
that have been returned to the wilderness, it is important to
me that those objects remain on the map - and that they not
be confused with active maintained trails!

73 de ke9tv/2, Kevin

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