trackmap.net update: More Berlin, map sizes, etc.

An overview of updates to trackmap.net in the last month or so:

First and foremost, the Germany section has been extended with new map 'BeO' showing a section of Eastern Berlin next to the existing map 'BeA'. This map is based on sketches and photos from vacations in 2009 and 2010, with a few areas going back to sketches from 2002. Orthophotos from Google Maps also came in helpful, especially after I wrote myself a program to compress the photos lengthwise. Finally I discovered that the infrastructure owner DB Netze publishes schematic track diagrams for some larger stations as appendices to the Gleise in Serviceeinrichtungen PDFs on its Infrastrukturregister website. Unfortunately the latter are not kept meticulously up to date; in the most dramatic case I've found (Berlin-Grunewald) about half of the tracks on the diagram of the PDF purporting to date from 01.04.2012 are ones I know positively were removed before July 2010. So there is still some room for guesswork, interpolation with Google maps, and direct observations.

Together with the BeO update, I also updated the existing central Berlin map 'BeA' with changes and corrections I noticed in 2010 (hitherto it had been based on the 2009 sketches only).

The plan is to work through my sketches counterclockwise around central Berlin, so the next map to start on will contain lines towards Bernau, Orainenburg and Hennigsdorf. Perhaps I'll even get it drawn in less than three years this time – the wheel of track mapping grinds slowly but it does grind.

Since I started putting track maps on the web 16 years ago, one particular point on uncertainty has been how large I would allow each map to grow before splitting it into multiple ones. In the very beginning I tried to confine myself to about 640×480 pixels such that one could view an entire map at once in full-screen mode. Since then, monitor resolutions have been improving, and little by little I allowed the size of a single map to increase rather than put map boundaries at awkward places that would harm the larger overview. I never quite managed to decide on a clear standard size, though.

This changes now, though: A map can be a maximum of 843 × 586 pixels, with a clear margin of at least 4 pixels outside every text element and at least 8 pixels outside every piece of track. This strange number ensures that the vectorized PDF versions can print cleanly of A4 paper without downscaling, leaving a reasonable margin for paper handling, at a uniform scale of 75 pixels-to-the-inch. (75 dpi was chosen partially at random, partially be because that matched the smallest size I could force map 'A' into). As a side benefit, this format is more convenient for contemporary monitor aspect rations than the narrower formats I was shooting for earlier.

Several existing maps were relayouted to conform to the new standard size: A, C, G, H, J, and the German BeA.

Various minor updates:

On map 'A', the non-through tracks at Allerød are now, by popular demand, shown as being out of service. The station is demoted to an uncontrolled halt due to an interlocking fire, and are likely to remain so for at least several years yet.
Some track numbers at Ryparken were wrong and have been corrected.

Map 'C' now also contains Østbanen Køge – Hårlev – Fakse/Rødvig which was previously on map 'B' because for a few years it shared management with the private lines shown there, and the line between Næstved and Vordingborg, which was previously on map 'D' because there was not room for it on map 'C'. Map 'C 'now actually contains all of Zealand outside Copenhagen, as its title box proclaims.

Also on map C, the former railway from Slagelse to Næstved as well as its spur line to Skælskør is now definitively gone; according to media sources the track was removed in 2010 and converted to a walking/biking path.

The line between Slagelse and Høng has been updated using Google Maps orthophotos – including a new passing loop at Havrebjerg.

Finally, many dead links on the trackmap.net front page were cleaned out.


How the Red Cross lost me

An open letter to the director of the Red Cross in Denmark.

Dear Anders Ladekarl,

This Friday morning I received a phone call from a gentleman who presented himself as a fundraiser with your organization.

The fundraiser's business, apart from delivering a spiel about your organization's work in Syria (no doubt laudable, though I confess to not listening too closely), was to suggest that instead of the largish bulk donations I've been making abound Christmastime for the past few years, I should set up a fixed monthly donation drawn by direct debit. He explained that doing so would allow you to budget with less uncertainty, ultimately making more efficient use of my money.

These arguments are valid and persuasive. Following them would lose me the warm buzz of deciding to donate each year, writing a large number on a transfer form, et cetera. However, since this feel-good derives from the fact that good is being done, deliberately donating in an inefficient way in an attempt to maximize the feel-good per krone spent would be self-defeating.

So that more or less settles the matter – except for the fact that I have a firm principle never to make any monetary decisions during an unsolicited phone call. I like to think that I'd be able to see through a phone scam immediately as it happens, but no doubt so do people who actually fall victim to scammers, so I play it safe nonetheless. In retrospect, my caller was probably not a scammer, since he knew details about my donation history that are not generally available – but again, I don't trust my ability to make such determinations in the heat of the moment, and anyway a principle's a principle.

And it proved extremely hard to explain this policy to the fundraiser in a way he would accept. He just kept going on and on and on, pleading and begging for a commitment here and now. This even though I repeatedly explained that I was not going to make any immediate decisions in any circumstances. In the end I only got him to hang up by agreeing to a follow-up call the next day. I suppose I could just have hung up on him, but I don't like to be that rude unless I have definitely decided not to accept.

Now, this behavior is not one I want to reward. On the other hand, it wouldn't be fair to penalize the distressed people of the world for the faults of one guilt-peddling telemarketer. What to do, what to do?

This is what I've decided: I have now set up a monthly direct deposit whose yearly total covers what I usually give and then some. It goes to [the competing charity] DanChurchAid. My previous donations to them have been rewarded with a nice thank-you form letter and a blessed absence of rude phone calls. Time will tell whether that extends to recurring donors too, but I have faith in them.

Unfortunately I didn't catch the name of the fundraiser who called me, but I trust your computer systems can identify him for you, should you want to congratulate him on a job well done.

Sincerely yours,

Henning Makholm

P.S. Please stop sending me your magazine.

(By the way, the follow-up call never happened – and now it's past midnight on the next day).