Hokey dokey, you want to know how to model real world geography do you? First a couple of qualifications:
My methods arent intended for GIS type modeling and if your freeway ends up going through a lake somewhere or the sim airplane youre flying becomes tree litter you may need to try something else. I eyeball stuff in without regard to datums and otho-rectification so youre on your own there.
Ive tried, at one time or another, many apps for compiling geo data and have pretty much settled on a few which I will include in this tut. There are many different utilities out there and also full blown programs for doing this stuff but I particularly like the way Vue renders scenes with a somewhat painterly look and it has great pre-sets which cuts down my production time.
Im a relatively new Vue user and so Im sure Ill write stuff into this Tut that I will later find to be not as efficient a method or possibly some mistakes in using the program. Feel free to point this out but Im sure most of you will find things in this Tut you can use.
I use PCs so Mac users will have to find equivalent utilities and such for their platform. With the new IBM processors on the G5 (Im pretty jacked about those) more and more people will be doing 3d stuff away from Unix and PCs and so Im sure these utilities will start popping up if they arent already out there.
Having said all that, lets move on!