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About this City Journal

A life-size recreation of the Greater Toronto Area starting in Etobicoke.

Entries in this City Journal


Here is the second part two of our journal in laying railway through the city. The previous post was meant to be one journal, but I ran out of file uploads. Thanks for the comments, as I am now going to be using imgur, so these two-parters should be a thing of the past. I have also taken on comments about the bend in the road from Browns Line. As takemethere has very kindly shown, by using one-way road instead of avenue, it alleviates an extra tile needed to convert from avenue to road and allows the 90 degree curve. It also adds additional realism with the height of the bridge and the centre markings. If anyone can recommend a good terrain smoothing mod, I would really appreciate it. I have left the terrain unchanged for now, as I'm sure a mod will do a much better job than myself when I get round to it. Here is a snapshot of the altered bridge:


Moving on. Next is the Kipling Avenue overpass. This is also where the railway starts to fork. Based on the width of the railway, there should be just under four tiles worth, but because it will be crossing the avenue orthogonality, I will go with three.


The line coming off at the south follows an almost orthogonal route through the rail yard, whereas the northern branch follows the same fractional angle of the main line, but it had to be offset using a diagonal route, because you cannot have two parallel FARR one tile apart.


The final road/rail interface along the mainline is Islington Avenue. This is unfortunately where the railway is at its widest (458 m or 28-29 tiles!). As NAM does not have puzzle pieces for road viaducts over FARR, I will need to use diagonal rail under the entire length of the bridge. Dual diagonal rail seems to resort to the Maxis default, so I will stick to spacing them further apart, although even these will resort to Maxis default for the road viaduct intersection.


Here is my attempt at it. It does look rather ugly, but perhaps when the rail depot comes into place and the lines are expanded, it won't be quite as "bare". I've used 15m viaduct avenue for the entire stretch. Next step is to smooth off the bridge at either end.


At the northern slop of the bridge it meets Judson St (which I've marked off using my previous map coordinate system). The intersection is very close, so the gentle ramp for the avenue viaduct is out of the question. The much steeper ramp will be needed; this also allows a few spaces for turning lanes. Whilst I was figuring out if I had enough space for turning lanes, I completed the intersection in its entirety, so here's a first glimpse of Toronto's road intersections.


At the southern ramp of the bridge, it meets New Toronto St in almost exactly the same circumstances as Judson St. One major difference is that there is now enough space to fit a smooth sloped ramp AND the turning lanes. Again, I have completed the intersection. This one looks much nicer with the gentle ramp and I have also started to curve the avenue off at a fractional angle immediately outside of the screen. This is one of very few "kinks" in the city's strict grid system. Presumably it kinks to align with the optimum location for the bridge over the rail tracks.


Let's bring back the OpenStreet Map and focus on the railway line heading north to the boundary of the map. It's 120 tiles east of the western boundary. For the most part, it is a dual track, with spurs merging on and off along its route.


There isn't a built-in 72 degree rail split with the latest NAM, so I've converted the main line to follow a diagonal path for the junction. The northern line can now branch off smoothly with a NAM puzzle piece. The main line does look a little strange and it's hard to tell which one is the main line and which is the minor!


There is also a small dual line serving local industry that branches off closer to Browns Line. I've gone for a different approach to its junction here, which does leave a rather sharp bend in the rail.


It heads north towards Horner Ave., where it splits into two single track lines and terminates.


I think this concludes the entry on rail. Obviously, there is more rail serving local factories and of course the huge rail depot(s), but as far as laying down the tracks, we're done here. Next up is laying down the (main) roads! Thanks for reading.




Laying the tracks

From the previous thread, we have gathered the resources in the form of maps to start laying the foundation of the city. I will start with railway, as these are the least flexible and therefore it is easiest to building things around the railway rather than vice-versa. I'm going to pull up the map from the previous entry and post it below this paragraph for reference. You can see the railway lines marked by black-white dashed lines. The main line goes from south-east to north-west. This is a quadruple track and it carries both freight and commuter trains. There is also a line that goes directly north from the main line. This is double track and can't be that busy, as there is a road-crossing. The rest are single tracks serving industrial facilities. Indeed, a look on Google Maps indicates there are quite a few spurs leads to industrial sites not on this map. Finally, there is a gigantic rail maintenance depot to the north-east of the city tile. With this in mind, it is obvious to start with the most major track (the SW-NE).


To get a reference point to start work, I will find out the furthest west and east point of the line (where it reaches the city limits). There are 256 tiles across one axis in the map, and my map is 606 pixels wide; therefore there are 0.42 tiles per pixel. Why did I calculate this? Well, I can measure (in pixels) on my map how far down from the top of the map, the railway line is at the boundaries and multiply this by 0.42 to get the distance in tiles and then to plot it on Simcity. The western point is 281 px (119 tiles) down and the eastern point is 87 px (36 tiles) down. I can also deduce the angle of my railway line from this. The difference along the northern axis is 83 tiles across the whole city (256 tiles). Bit of trigonometry and you get an angle of 18°! The fractionally angled railway that comes with NAM is 18.4°; hence the exclamation mark. However, things won't be quite as a easy as plopping one straight line of FARR, as the only FARR interface with road networks is a Maxis road crossing. There are four road-rail interfaces across the main rail line, so it will need to bend into orthogonal at these points. This will render the line slightly off track. But I will intend to start from the west and work my way eastwards. The final road interface will be at the rail maintenance yard, so I don't mind switching it to diagonal before getting back on track at the eastern city boundary.

The next step is to make a note of where the road interfaces occur. Similar to as before, I will measure (in pixels) how far the roads are from the map in Photoshop and then convert this into city tile units to measure across on the map. So far west to east we have Browns Line (49 px, 21 tiles); 30th street (in grey; 189 px, 80 tiles); Kipling Avenue (345 px, 146 tiles); and Islington Avenue (509 px, 215 tiles). I think they are all avenues (two lanes either side), so I will plot them onto the map roughly where I think they will intersect with the railway line and start building a FARR railway line. As I mentioned earlier line uses quadruple track, but I will be using the standard dual track instead. Why? Quadruple track doesn't exist (or at least not yet) and if I were to do two parallel dual tracks, it would be three tiles wide at fractional angles (48 m, compared to the real-life scenario of about 16 m!). Also, the two tracks wouldn't be used by in the game, as I have no way of separating freight and passenger trains.


Next step are the detailed interfaces with road and rail, as they are currently just rail crossing... not ideal for a busy commuter line in one of the largest urban areas in North America! I will work from west to east. The first one is Browns Line and is composed of a an avenue bridge with a very gentle slope from the north and to the south it immediately splits into two one way roads and turns perpendicular with a moderate slope as shown below in Google Maps:


This was mostly successful. I haven't covered the topic yet, but I did have to check the location of Lake Shore Blvd W to see whether I would have room between the bridge to get a nice curved ramp to Browns Line. Unfortunately I couldn't use the NAM curved pieces, but I did move Lake Shore Blvd by one tile so I could get a smoother gradient:


Next up is 30th Street. A rather simpler affair with this one. As shown by Streetview, a simple avenue under rail underpass should do.


Looks like I've hit my file upload limit. I will carry this on as a second journal entry or hopefully as a second post in the entry. Still have Kipling Avenue underpass and Islington Avenue bridge coming up!



Gathering resources

This is my first entry and my first every journal, so I will introduce my goals! I am planning to recreate the Greater Toronto Area (the city of Toronto and its neighbours) in full scale. I am a resident of Toronto and have had some experience with creating real cities on SC4. I don't know how large it will get or how detailed yet, but let's start things off. First up, I need a map. The last time I recreated a city (Exeter, England) I was fortunate enough to have digital terrain models (DTM) of the area on my laptop. This time, I don't have such and since Toronto is such a big place, there are several maps out there already. So I stumbled across this one from dobdriver  http://sc4devotion.com/csxlex/lex_filedesc.php?lotGET=2827 . This map is exceptional: it contains a huge area, has smooth terrain, and has rivers. Finally, it has been rotated so that Toronto's "north-south/east-west" transport grid aligns orthogonaly. So before I even begin my work, thanks to dobdriver!

The next step is where to start. I live in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore area of Toronto and this is where I'd be most interested to recreate. Logically, downtown would come first. However, the lack of industry would stunt the growth of any development. Etobicoke-Lakeshore has a great mix of industry, commerce and houses, as shown by this land-use map http://www1.toronto.ca/city_of_toronto/city_planning/zoning__environment/files/pdf/city-wide_allzones_569-2013.pdf (the area is located in the very south-west corner of the city of Toronto's boundary).

Now I will create a transport map that can be referred to while constructing the city. This rather small image below was taken from dobdriver's map's description page. It's a crop of the city tile that represents Etobicoke-Lakeshore.


Then I took a few screenshots from OpenStreetMap of the rough area in question. After stitching them together and rotating them 16.8 degrees clockwise (remember, this is because of Toronto's street grid) I came up with the following map, which contains railways, highways/roads/avenues, streets, transit stops, and green space. I also included an unrotated scale measure for later use.


Now I overlay one ontop of the other in Photoshop. I used the transport map as my background and inserted the city tile terrain map ontop in a semi-transparent layer. According to my scale, there are 74 pixels per 500 m. Knowing that a tile is 4,096 m wide, the tile should be 606 pixels wide to be full sized, so I increased it to these dimensions. Then I moved the image around until it aligned with the coastline on the transport map (shown below). The crescent shaped harbour was very helpful in using as a reference point too. Then just crop it and hide the terrain overlay.


With this map, I am able to start marking the locations of key transport routes such as rail and highways. I will show in detail how one can do this in the next post.