Port Rowan: Satellite overlay

Port Rowan Yard - 2016
(“It’s around here somewhere, isn’t it?” Jack, Roy and Mocean stand in what was once the Port Rowan yard – but where, exactly, did the track go? And where were the buildings located? I now have an approximate answer…)

I’m not sure why this never occurred to me before…

… but while answering a question on the Stories and Legends of Long Point and Port Rowan Area group on Facebook, I realized I could probably take my scan of the prototype track map and superimpose it on a satellite image of Port Rowan. This would allow me to determine – roughly, at least – where various features were located in the large park that’s all that remains of the terminal. Here’s the plan:

Port Rowan Track Plot

And here’s the plan overlaid on the satellite image:

Port Rowan - Track Plot over Satellite Image

Next time I’m in Port Rowan, I’ll have a better idea of where I’m standing.

16 thoughts on “Port Rowan: Satellite overlay

  1. I find this series completely fascinating, as you continue to work through the real Port Rowan and the model. I quite like the idea of superimposing the plan over the imagery as you have.

    • The thing I’m enjoying about this – and the reason I did this overlay in the first place – is that it’s introducing my blog (and my model railway) to a new audience.

      I did this satellite overlay to help answer a question for someone on the Port Rowan group on Facebook. Most of the people on the group are not railway historians or modellers – they’re people who grew up in the town and are interested in all aspects of life there. So I’m able to contribute by answering specific questions (like “Where, exactly, was the station?”) – and in return, I’m making connections with a new group of people who may have photos or stories that will help me do a better job of modelling their home town.

      It’s actually refreshing my interest in what I’m doing.


  2. That’s a pretty common technique in what I do every day in the planning industry. We are always looking at ways of merging information on parcel fabric and buildings and details with aerials to better identify issues in site design and development proposals. It’s certainly much easier nowadays with things like Google Maps than it used to be.

  3. That’s very neat and is something I’ve wanted to do as well comparing existing aerial photos to current satellite images. How did you manage to do the overlay?

    • Hi Blane:
      As to how I did it, here’s a quick overview:
      I did a screen capture of the Google satellite image. I then opened two files in PhotoShop: The screen capture, and a copy of my CNR map. On the screen capture, I used the “erase” feature, but set at a mid-level opacity (like 50%) to fade the satellite image. I then selected only the black stuff on the CNR map – basically, I used the magic wand selection tool to select all the white in the image, then used the “select inverse” to grab the black. I then copied and pasted that into the satellite image as a new layer, and carefully resized (while constraining the proportions) and rotated my track map to match up with the open field in Port Rowan. It was relatively easy to do this since the track map included roads and railway land boundary lines to help me size and align it. Note that this type of overlay only works if you have a to-scale map of the trackage. Otherwise, you’re just guessing.

  4. I plan to do something similar with the map building engine in Google Maps. It’s always more engaging to understand where things were – to yourself (as you found) and to others (like us). In my case, there are still – for the most part – tracks in place, making things a bit easier.

    • Hi Rosie:
      Thanks – and I’d love to but unfortunately this only worked for Port Rowan because I had a to-scale drawing of the track and structures. I don’t have a similar document for St. Williams, so I would only be guessing at locations. I’d rather not do that – it muddies the facts.

  5. I love the overlay! I’ve gone to Google maps street view an it looks like at least one of the original buildings is still being used by Doerksen Farm Supply on Bay Street. Neat stuff.

    Ken Thompson

    • Hi Ken:
      It’s neat, isn’t it?
      You’re right – the northmost building at the farm supply (on the left as you look from the street) was at one time the railway’s freight house. As far as I can tell, it was sold to the farm supply company (Leedham’s Mill in the era I model) and moved from east of the station to its present location sometime between the late 1930s and the early 1950s.

  6. This is a pasttime I’ve enjoyed doing more these days with the available satellite imaging. I purchase old copies of state railroad maps dating back to around 1950 – a few I have are Iowa, Indiana, and Georgia – then I pick a certain area, zoom in on the satellite image, and compare it to the rail map to see what lines are still there and try to discern the old right-of-ways of ones that are gone. It’s interesting that even in farming areas where the farm fields have reclaimed the right-of-way on abandoned lines, you can detect what looks like a finger painting smear across the field that has a slightly different shade of color than the rest of the field. I’ve also followed different Canadian branch lines in the farming areas of the midwest, both active and abandoned, to see what towns still have the old grain elevators…another rail-related fascination I have. Really enjoy exploring railroad history this way.

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