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Thread: Old maps into new

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
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    Old maps into new

    I have some old maps (line drawings) of railroad track layouts that I'd like to make more readable. I am hoping there is some software that will allow me to take a scan and make it useful. I don't think something like photoshop will do the job, but I am quite photoshop ignorant on such things. One concern I have is keeping the lines smooth and not jerky that way following them with a cursor would do. Any suggestions?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    If you can scan them and have access to ESRI GIS software, you can import them as a layer into ArcMap as a picture and then you can rectify the lines and give them geographic coordinates so the railroads on the map can be an actual projected line layer.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

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    Cyburbian wahday's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    If you can scan them and have access to ESRI GIS software, you can import them as a layer into ArcMap as a picture and then you can rectify the lines and give them geographic coordinates so the railroads on the map can be an actual projected line layer.
    That would be my solution, too. Not that I work with this software regularly, but in the one class I took on GIS, we took older maps with different projections and merged them with current GIS base layers. Pretty darn cool.
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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    And if you zoom in close enough while reconciling the lines and points on the old map, you can make the new lines pretty smooth.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  5. #5
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
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    What is this software stuff you are discussing? Just use a straight edge and a leroy pen.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by WSU MUP Student View post
    If you can scan them and have access to ESRI GIS software, you can import them as a layer into ArcMap as a picture and then you can rectify the lines and give them geographic coordinates so the railroads on the map can be an actual projected line layer.
    This will work, but you'll need to georeference the image, meaning you'll need to relate paper map points (I.e. a street intersection) to an existing GIS layer.

    Once you get the map georeferenced, the simplest thing to do would be to create a polyline layer and trace the rail lines. Then you can change the symbology around however you'd like.

    Then again, if you don't need to relate the rail map to other GIS layers, you don't need to assign a coordinate system, and can just draw new lines and print out a new map. If you'd like, send me a PM and I'll give you my email address so you can send me the scan. I like playing around with stuff like this on my lunch hour.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    This is something I used to run into in the past (not so much recently). There are many raster-to-vector conversion programs out there, including ArcScan from ESRI. However, if this is a relatively simple map that's not too large, there are online conversion tools out there that work. You'll have to clean up the map once you import it into ArcGIS, but all of the linework should be there.

    Try http://www.roitsystems.com/cgi-bin/autotrace/tracer.pl. All you need to do is (1) convert your map to a monochrome image (BMPs seem to work best), (2) click the "Trace font centerline" box to make sure you're only grabbing one line per feature, and (3) type dxf into the "Output format" box.

    Once you have a DXF file you can open it with ArcGIS and geocode it, then start editing. Of course, it converts everything in the image, including text, annotations, etc, but you can delete all that once its in ArcGIS. Also, it only does black and white images, so color images have to be converted.

    EDIT: After looking at the web interface again, it looks like the program supports colors now. Another example of progress moving us ever-forward.

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