Follow-up Comment #1, bug #15510 (project freeciv):

I've been thinking about this too. Changing city production or research and
then changing back is very forgiving, but the same isn't true of unit
activity.

Another example is losing the fortification state of a military unit.

I've mostly worked around this by unchecking "clear unit orders on selection"
in the client (and we've recently made some improvements to the behaviour of
that option: see for instance gna bug #15195). This makes it much harder to
lose a unit's activity by accident.

However, it would be good to fix this properly. From looking at the way
cities and research does it, it may require changes to savegame/network
format to store the "original" activity.

Another related issue is that I think progress towards an improvement is
somehow accounted to individual engineers; if I have one working on a
transformation, and later put another one on the same activity/tile, after
that, if I want to take one of the engineers off the project, how long the
remaining one will take to finish the transformation depends on which one it
is (and I have no way of telling them apart). I haven't tested this
rigorously, though, so I may be wrong about this.

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