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UP Gila Subdivision 2023

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  • lineman
    The spring bloom is something to behold at Picacho,

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  • eric
    It's a little bit early for the saguaro bloom, but you might get lucky and see a few. The flowers don't normally appear until the end of April. You might see other cacti flowering though. Lots of green in the desert if you know where to look for it.

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  • Curt C
    I'm sure you'll have a great time! I've filmed in the Maricopa Mountain/Shawmut area about 8 years ago. Seeing the saguaro cactus in the hills was really something. Hope you have fun.

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  • PerryPlatypus
    Watching this with much interest, Eric. The Gila Sub is one I've been interested in for a long time, though I've never gotten the chance to visit - until this coming weekend. If all goes according to plan, I'll be between Bosque and Shawmut this Saturday morning

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  • eric
    After a nice break building new track systems, upgrading the website, and modifying TSRE for the last three months, it's time to jump back in the saddle and do some route building....

    The Gila is my winter & spring favorite. I miss the desert most this time of year.

    Below is how I tend to work these days -- two monitors for editing.

    The left screen has my track chart, and the middle is for TSRE.

    Click image for larger version

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    To the right of TSRE in the bright red box is REJumper -- I still use that for setting marker points on the fly, but may incorporate that into TSRE the way I did Tangent.

    This week I'm starting at CP Bosque, located just east of Gila Bend. It's a stretch of somewhat challenging track for the next 20 miles to Estrella, but then it's going to be fairly easy going from Maricopa to Tucson. We'll see how far I get this month. I'll be happy to get to the Picacho Wye....

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  • eric
    It's Rabbit Hole week...

    Rabbit Hole One: new berms

    If you've followed my routes, you know that I use ScaleRail without any ballast, and place berms under my track using WorldFileHacker. If you don't know what those are, search the forums...

    Two weeks ago, I mentioned the new tracks I'd created. This weekend, I created berms for those tracks. In the past, I used a rather tedious multi step process in Sketchup, but decided to leverage the track generating script used to create the tracks... A profile is a profile to the script, and this one just had ballast:

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    It's a same shape profile that I used from Sketchup, but as the script is using the geometry from the tsection, it generates two paths above, and the two paths look like two separate berms but are in reality one complete mesh when it gets exported to the .S file.

    I did take a bit of a risk and am only creating the side edges of the berm. The front and back caps were rounded in the old versions so that they would show up where there's a short bridge, but as I looked at the overall value of the caps, I decided to skip those and keep the script consistent with how track pieces are generated.

    If there's a need to close off the "berm tunnel" in specific locations, it's easy enough to place a bridge abutment or modify the terrain grid vs. keeping the end caps in every shape.

    Rabbit Hole Two: Swapping out 03d switches

    Our departed friend Otto Wipfel used to complain (often) about the lack of frogs on track splines and some track systems. ScaleRail's 03D switches were an oddity in that they didn't have frogs or guards, but it was something I've used often on my routes:

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    Now I have frogs... and guards....

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    Because there were several variations of the 03d (short, full, extended) , I settled on something that was a hybrid. The short switch (m03d) was essentially points only, and then the straight & end pieces were used to complete the switch.

    The fun from the last two days has been finding all the places where I used the 03d, and swapping these out. Since it's new geometry, that meant deleting and placing the new piece plus fillers where needed, or deleting out the pieces used with the short and replacing them with the new.

    Rabbit Hole Three: Upgrading switches on the mainline

    For whatever reason, switch naming in Scalerail isn't very consistent:

    2_5d =  2618m
    5d =  655m
    7_5d =  190m
    10d =  164m
    06d =  101m
    03d =  271m
    05d =  655m
    #15 =  597m
    #20 =  818m
    #24 = 1555m​
    Why a 05d is larger than a 03d and 06d makes no sense, but it is what it is, and the 05d is a match with the 05d from Kuju. Maybe Bananarama remembers why.

    As I've rebuilt the route on the west end, I've been putting longer/larger radius switches into the mainline passing sidings and crossovers, as that's something UPRR has been doing for years to keep speeds up. For the most part, it's replacing an 03d with an 05d. This is at West Picacho, one of the rare three-track segments and where the Phoenix Sub splits to the north about an hour north of Tucson (that's in the last photo at the upper right corner).

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    The 05d is a shallower switch you'd see at a crossover with a 40-45mph speed limit. In an urban area dating back to the 50's, the tighter slower speed crossovers with 25 mph limits would still be appropriate for using a 03d... That's part of the fun with route designing.

    Taking the side-trip into some different mental gymnastics is a necessary evil -- staying away from grinding on the same thing for weeks on end is how you avoid burnout... and taking the quick dip into Blender scripting has been a completely new experience. When you have all the muscle memory in Sketchup, it's tempting to try and do the same thing with a Ruby script, but I am really trying to get into Blender only for 2024...
    Last edited by eric; 12-26-2023, 07:27 PM.

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  • ebnertra000
    The terrain spikes that I've seen in my elevation data almost all occur on lines of latitude or longitude. They seem to be of consistent height, and may actually protrude into the ground rather than out of it
    Last edited by ebnertra000; 12-21-2023, 12:00 PM. Reason: typo

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  • oper190
    Have found similar instances of those sort of spikes in other routes when running them in OR, while everything looks okay in MSTS. Will have to snap some screen shots next time, and then run the same route in MSTS and snap a screen shot at the same locations. Have seen some real towers too, and an entire tile wacky in USA1a.

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  • R. Steele
    Originally posted by eric View Post
    In a couple places, the imagery managed to capture trains... in this case, the intermodal containers will be covered up by the ballasted berms, but the shadows won't. Some terrain painting will cover those up rather quickly... the Auto-Paint tool in TSRE can make quick work of this, but I prefer to airbrush it myself.
    Interesting...I would never have supposed that would happen....

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  • eric
    I'll start with the end of my day first... this evening, I reached Gila Bend, pretty much the halfway point between Yuma and Tucson.

    This is one of the few towns on the route, and there's a small yard plus some industry tracks there and what's now an abandoned wye.

    The previous build of the route didn't have any of that, but this one will, which gives me something to do this week that isn't laying long stretches of track.

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    As part of the build, I've been re-doing the Terrtex imagery -- this time around, there are some really good captures where the irrigated fields and even the desert are showing off their greenery.

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    One of the amazing things you find living in the desert is that there really is life everywhere, if you look for it.

    Unfortunately, just about everything alive will either hurt you passively or try to kill you.... but it really is beautiful up close.

    A few things I've run into this week....

    Terrain Spikes are something that you will find with the SRTM data. It's a series of single vertex points that are usually off by 50-100 meters from the other vertices. Fortunately, these are "out of the scene" when in the cab for the most part, and can be easily flattened using the terrain height tool.

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    In a couple places, the imagery managed to capture trains... in this case, the intermodal containers will be covered up by the ballasted berms, but the shadows won't. Some terrain painting will cover those up rather quickly... the Auto-Paint tool in TSRE can make quick work of this, but I prefer to airbrush it myself.

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    I'm glad that I got as much done in the past couple weeks as I have, but I'll admit re-laying track is starting to become a grind, and that's a danger point on route building. That's when you start taking shortcuts just to finish, and that's not how I like to work.

    To help deal with that, I took some "time off" and started placing some scenery, starting with radio towers and cell towers along the route. If you know where they are, it's fairly easy, but in places you're unfamiliar with, you sometimes need to do some online sleuthing...

    I was able to find a FCC dataset which had tower locations, which I could download as a KML file. I also found a FAA sectional aviation map which helped me to determine which were the larger 250+ ft higher towers from the more regular cell towers which are between 60 and 100 feet tall.

    Fixing the terrain painting where the container shadows are is another good distraction and a way to break up the track laying.

    Regardless, I'm having fun doing this, and remembering how much I loved living out there, which is a big reason why I build where I build...
    Last edited by eric; 12-19-2023, 09:00 PM.

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  • R. Steele
    Ahh...desert routes, some of my favorites....fine work, Eric, very interested in this route.

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  • eric
    Just for fun, three more miles.... which felt like nine miles because TSRE crashed twice on me (losing 30 and 40 minutes of work each time). Admittedly, that's my fault, as I've gotten lazy and don't save nearly as regularly as I did when using the MSRE... but I'll need to get back into that habit.

    Another reason this took so long was the fact it's a 1% grade over two miles starting at MP823 (red post at the top of the screenshot)... and it just didn't land quite right when I got up to MP825 (just out of sight at the bottom of the screenshot).

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    But third time's a charm.

    Up ahead at MP826 (top center of the screenshot below) is a relatively new universal crossover at CP La Sosa, which doesn't appear on my 2002 track charts, but does appear on my 2004 timetable.

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    As I re-lay the track, I'm really glad I built a few new sections ---

    These weren't included with Scalerail, but the geometry exists for X-Tracks, so it was just a matter of creating new track shapes that call the geometry for the X-Tracks pieces.

    They'll be included with the route, and I'll try to submit them to Derek for the next T-Section update.

    As I go thru and tear out sections, it's clear I needed them ten years ago, but "made do" with a bunch of alternate pieces. The 750r has been a life saver on the Gila. Having nothing incremental between 500r and 1000r was a real problem with the first build, and having those extra 750's plus the pre-done 1d pieces for the 500/1000/1500/2000r's as helped out a bunch as well.

    The 3000r0_25d was built tonight -- sometimes you just need a little extra curve but 0_5 is still too much....​

    As for TSRE crashing..... that was my fault, not the application. I had YouTube TV running in another window plus a couple of my work apps, so my memory utilization was at 80% when I launched my TSRE session.

    As I worked on the route, I could see it memory utilization hitting 95% a couple times. Once it ran out of memory, the GUI just disappeared without any notice or indication.

    Had I been saving every 2-5 minutes, the damage would have been a little bit lower.

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  • eric
    Out on AZ-280 by Shawmut is one of my favorite detours (Gila Bend to Maricopa and then down the Casa Grande Highway to Picacho) when I needed a visual break from I-8. Our son lived on Camp Pendleton when we lived in Tucson, so we drove it frequently...

    Entirely out of the way, but the scenery was always worth it, and the odds of seeing a train went up exponentially.

    Sent from my SM-S911U using Tapatalk

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  • Curt C
    Thanks for your updates, Eric. I was fortunate enough to railfan/film trains on the Gila sub several years ago, and was very impressed with the desert environment, particularly in the Shawmut area. Good luck and thanks for your efforts!

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  • eric
    I was able to get to MP822, which 82 miles or about 32% of the track re-laid.

    "Only" 170 miles to go, and not all of that will require being rebuilt.

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