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Maps and railroads

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Maps and railroads
Posted by xploringrailroads on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:36 AM

Hi everyone.

I am a geographer and I love maps, aerial photographs and satellite images. I would like to know if there is something I can search for on maps in relation to railroads?

Thanks for your help!

Tags: maps , railroad

Stéphan

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:57 AM

Any good topographical maps should have railroads indicated, just as they'd indicate any geographic features.  I haven't kept up with where you get them, but it shouldn't be too hard for you to find out.

One source for maps pertaining to railroads, and railroads only, is "Steam Powered Video Publications.  They have a series of map books pertaining to North American, both the US and Canada.

www.spv.co.uk  Look under "Railroad Atlases"

SPV atlases are also available from White River Productions.

https://whiteriverproductions.com/

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Posted by xploringrailroads on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:08 AM

Thanks for the info.

I was searching more for what can I do with maps in relation to railroads. Are there interesting informations I could search? New spots to check trains or freight yards?

I don't really know because I am a complete newbie into this ;)

Stéphan

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Posted by diningcar on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:18 AM

I use Google satelite maps. For an example try Albuquerque to Barstow, CA for the BNSF line that, in many places, parallells I-40. There are many trains and different terrain from mountains to desert. You will find railroad yards as well in Barstow, Needles, Winslow , gallup and Belen, NM.

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Posted by xploringrailroads on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:27 AM

And when looking at maps, what are you searching for exactly? I am pretty good at maps and satellite images so I could search for more harder things.

Stéphan

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Posted by diningcar on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:32 AM

You can see trains operating including Amtrak #'s 3 and 4.

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:42 AM

Try historicaerials.com. They have vintage aerial photos, as well as vintage topo maps.  Some areas have better coverage than others, but there is still a wealth of information available.

LarryWhistling
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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 11:17 AM

On a topographic map, railroads tend to be indicated by thin lines with regularly spaced cross-lines, kind of like track ties, but not as dense.  Yards will be indicated by more of the same.  Also, if you know how to read a topo map, look in the flatlands, for lack of a better term.  Railroads typically follow the "path of least resistance," that is, they try to stay away from steep hills or other rugged country whereever possible.  A lot follow along river banks. 

I found a Canadian source for topo maps for you, and in fact, when you click on the website look at the 1:50,000 scale map, and right in the middle where Carleton University is there's a rail line like I described.  See if you can spot it.

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/earth-sciences/geography/topographic-information/maps/national-topographic-system-maps/9767

A few things I should add.  Conventional road maps, either fold-up types (assuming they even make them anymore!) or road atlases may or may not show rail lines.  ADC atlases seem to most of the time, and I think  National Geographic atlases may do so as well.  If there's railroads shown the map legend (usually in the first few pages) will indicate what to look for.

I should also add that those railroad atlases from SPV won't  show you where the roads are, just railroads only. 

A Google map will show you rail lines (and everything else) but you have to zoom in to see it and know what you're looking for.  Take this Google map of a town in New Jersey I'm familiar with.

https://www.google.com/maps/@40.9816175,-74.148343,13z

Look for "Ridgewood" in the center of the map, and the blue mark that has an image of what looks like the front of a bus.  That's the NJ Transit station.  Use that as a reference point and start zooming in.  The larger the image gets you'll see very thin lines next to that blue dot.  That's Google's idea of indicating a railroad. 

 

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Posted by Murphy Siding on Monday, January 4, 2021 12:48 PM

https://search.mytopo.com/searchplaces

I find this website sends me down rabbit holes for hours at a time. I usually use it to find where railroads used to be in my part of the world.

Thanks to Chris / CopCarSS for my avatar.

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Posted by ns145 on Monday, January 4, 2021 4:38 PM

This might be a good place to start your railroad map research:

https://trn.trains.com/railroads/railroad-maps

The material posted here was originally published by TRAINS in their old "Map of the Month" column.  TRAINS has compiled these past map articles into two special Railroad Map publications that you can find in their on-line store.  I would heartily recommend both volumes.

Most of the Class I railroads have detailed PDF format system maps posted on their websites.  These can be very useful in learning about the railroad lines close to where you live.  They are also a good starting point/guide to looking at specific rail locations using tools such as Google Earth.  Here are a few examples:

Canadian Pacific: https://www.cpr.ca/en/choose-rail-site/Documents/cp-network-map-2020.pdf

Norfolk Southern: http://www.nscorp.com/content/dam/nscorp/maps/2016-system-map-print.pdf

One of my favorite pastimes is looking thru railroad employee timetables and then locating all of the stations, yards,  control points, passing sidings, etc. using Google Earth.

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Posted by Electroliner 1935 on Monday, January 4, 2021 4:53 PM

Flintlock76
A Google map will show you rail lines (and everything else) but you have to zoom in to see it and know what you're looking for.  Take this Google map of a town in New Jersey I'm familiar with. https://www.google.com/maps/@40.9816175,-74.148343,13z Look for "Ridgewood" in the center of the map, and the blue mark that has an image of what looks like the front of a bus.  That's the NJ Transit station.  Use that as a reference point and start zooming in.  The larger the image gets you'll see very thin lines next to that blue dot.  That's Google's idea of indicating a railroad.   

I find google maps thin blue lines are very hard to pick out. Do you you know any method to improve their contrast or visibility?

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Monday, January 4, 2021 5:14 PM

Really, the Google map RRs are way too hard to see. You have to enlarge to the point that you lose your overall bearings.

The Garmin GPS built into our Honda shows RRs really well.

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Posted by rdamon on Monday, January 4, 2021 5:56 PM

Waze has started alerting for railroad crossings.  Makes it easy to see where they are at.

https://media.amtrak.com/2020/08/amtrak-partners-with-waze-to-announce-global-rollout-of-railroad-crossing-alerts/

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Posted by Semper Vaporo on Monday, January 4, 2021 6:28 PM

I use Google Earth and RRs start showing up at an eye altitude (listed in the lower right corner) of around 130 miles.  That allows me to see roughly 1/2 of the state of Iowa on my laptop screen.  The lines are black (not blue).  Granted they are thin at that altitude, but they get thicker as I zoom closer to the ground, but they are quite evident to me in my bifocals (that I have to remove to play a game on my smartaleckphone).

The lines tend to be the thickest at an altitude of around 75 miles which allows me to see at least 6 counties centered around Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I can see the Union Pacific main that crosses the state, Canadian National from Cedar Rapids, to the north toward Manchester, Iowa Northern from Cedar Rapids north toward Waterloo, CRANDIC from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City and to the connection with Iowa Interstate near Amana and the Iowa Interstate line that spans the state. Granted, at that level only 2 cities are labeled, but there is no loss of orientation given the labeled major highways.  One step closer in zoom level (approx 60 Miles) and 18 city names show up, if I do lose orientation.

Semper Vaporo

Pkgs.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 7:22 PM

Electroliner 1935
I find google maps thin blue lines are very hard to pick out. Do you you know any method to improve their contrast or visibility?

Unfortunately no.  Obviously Google doesn't give too much importance to rail lines. 

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Posted by Ajsik on Monday, January 4, 2021 7:35 PM

I find this interesting to browse:

https://fragis.fra.dot.gov/gisfrasafety/

Also, in addition to system maps at individual RR websites, BNSF had a full US map PDF.

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Posted by tree68 on Monday, January 4, 2021 8:45 PM

NY DOT has a pretty comprehensive map that shows not only active lines, but historical lines as well.  It's not real detailed, but it's certainly something to get someone started in their search for more information.

https://www.dot.ny.gov/divisions/operating/opdm/passenger-rail/passenger-rail-repository/2019%20NYS%20Rail%20Map.pdf

I'd imagine other states have something similar.

 

LarryWhistling
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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:41 PM

Flintlock76
Any good topographical maps should have railroads indicated, just they'd indicate any geographic features.  I haven't kept up with where you get them, but it shouldn't be too hard for you to find out.

For topo maps, the best place is the USGS site for historic maps (they show current maps also, but the newer maps within the last ten years seem to show less railroad detail).  The 1:24000 scale maps show the most detail.

https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/#4/40.01/-100.06

 

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Posted by mudchicken on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:55 PM

Seems to be hung-up on macro mapping, orthophotos and GIS (frequently inaccurate crap unless it's survey grade material* - way too many liberties taken with how railroads work.)

Try looking at valuation maps and ICC General Order #1 of 1914. Then take a peak at the other 25 general orders and how it all fits together as cadastre.

*ArcView/ArcGIS/ESRI made themselves look like total idiots over a demo program that involved the former ATSF branch at Redlands, CA about ten years ago. (Garbage in = Garbage Out, railroaders saw that and gaggedIck!)

 

State of the Art Railroad GIS? - Hands down belongs to Union Pacific with their Do-Maps set-up and the PMV data capture vehicles. (CSX adopted it, BNSF went down the wrong rabbit-hole (Chase Flymap), NS is a mixed bag and KCS and the Canadians bring up the rear.)

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by MidlandMike on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:59 PM

Murphy Siding

https://search.mytopo.com/searchplaces

I find this website sends me down rabbit holes for hours at a time. I usually use it to find where railroads used to be in my part of the world.

 

This used to be one of my go-to sites, especially because you could flip back-and-forth between map and satellite view.  Unfortunatly recently they redid the site.  Now a moving pop-up box obscures part of the screen, trying to get you to buy their services.  I guess that free things in the internet will be a passing phase.

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Posted by mudchicken on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:06 PM

Deck Truss & Deck Girders do just fine. (both in the image)

Rock Island (Now Kyle RR/G&W RR) has a deck truss in Colorado that wants to walk sideways on a pier cap. Has to be pushed back every so often.

If you have the room and need the height and long spans, why not?

Mudchicken Nothing is worth taking the risk of losing a life over. Come home tonight in the same condition that you left home this morning in. Safety begins with ME.... cinscocom-west
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Posted by MP173 on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:20 AM

A map guy here also, in addition to trains.

States have official Transportation Maps and most will show the railroads.  These are both the old fashioned paper maps and on line versions.  I have a modest collection of Official Transportation Maps from numerous states and also have some old ones from the 40s for Indiana.

The railroads in addition to having on line maps, usually have printed versions.  These are nice to have.  I have a BNSF map from around 2003 which shows coal mines and power plants in the US. Also of interest are traffic density maps, usually showing tonnage hauled in a year.  

Now, if you are really interested in historical maps...there are pre-merger maps available either at railroad shows or EBAY from old railroads which are long gone - merged.  These are nice collectibles.  

Finally seek out old Official Guides of hte Railways from 1960s and earlier.  These will show not only maps of most railroads, but also their passenger timetables.  These are great reference books. 

Does anyone know a current map showing tonnage?  I used to know where to find that, but memory isnt what it used to be.

 

Ed

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Posted by diningcar on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:40 AM

exploring: I misunderstood your request, sorry. mudchicken's response above is the best source for the answers you seek.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:42 AM

mudchicken
If you have the room and need the height and long spans...

...and have no worries about seasonal or 'emergency' high water...

There are a couple of good engineering reasons why this type isn't used more often.  If the minimum material is to be used in the structure, either a through truss or an inverted deck truss allow less material in the truss members themselves and don't require the heavy deck girder to span between upper chords.  As noted there can be some interesting moment arms from loading on the deck girders, particularly laterally where the bracing system might be nominally underdesigned, carried all the way down to those shoes on the pierlets.  Perhaps it is easier to accommodate the 'resultants' in the truss over the years than the equivalent in taller piers and their necessarily better footings; MC and diningcar would have experience there.

If I remember correctly, a whole line of the Grand Trunk in Canada was raised near the turn of the 20th Century (I think during double-tracking?) and many relatively shallow bridges were constructed on this general plan to re-use existing bridge abutments and piers quickly with the new, higher track.

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Posted by NielsenSLC on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 1:08 PM

I'm a fan of https://www.openrailwaymap.org/ .  Some good details here when you drill down to a specific area.  It can be a little sluggish to respond at times...but it's not too bad.

 

Mark

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Thursday, January 7, 2021 3:49 AM

Semper Vaporo

I use Google Earth and RRs start showing up at an eye altitude (listed in the lower right corner) of around 130 miles.  That allows me to see roughly 1/2 of the state of Iowa on my laptop screen.  The lines are black (not blue).  Granted they are thin at that altitude, but they get thicker as I zoom closer to the ground, but they are quite evident to me in my bifocals (that I have to remove to play a game on my smartaleckphone).

The lines tend to be the thickest at an altitude of around 75 miles which allows me to see at least 6 counties centered around Cedar Rapids, Iowa. I can see the Union Pacific main that crosses the state, Canadian National from Cedar Rapids, to the north toward Manchester, Iowa Northern from Cedar Rapids north toward Waterloo, CRANDIC from Cedar Rapids to Iowa City and to the connection with Iowa Interstate near Amana and the Iowa Interstate line that spans the state. Granted, at that level only 2 cities are labeled, but there is no loss of orientation given the labeled major highways.  One step closer in zoom level (approx 60 Miles) and 18 city names show up, if I do lose orientation.

 

Interesting. I'll definitely check it out. Thanks.

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Posted by DSchmitt on Thursday, January 7, 2021 6:19 AM

Has Historic topo maps pdf downloads are free.

https://store.usgs.gov/

Click "Find Maps by Location"  "US Map Locator"

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Posted by blue streak 1 on Friday, January 8, 2021 11:27 PM

MidlandMike

ilroads indicated, just they'd indicate any geographic features.  I haven't kept up with where you get them, but it shouldn't be too hard for you to find out.

 

For topo maps, the best place is the USGS site for historic maps (they show current maps also, but the newer maps within the last ten years seem to show less railroad detail).  The 1:24000 scale maps show the most detail.

https://ngmdb.usgs.gov/topoview/viewer/#4/40.01/-100.06

These maps are especially good if you look at several different decades of the same areas.  Years ago I spied what appeared to be an abandoned RR ROW.  Search of SPV and questions around that area got response "no RR".  :Searching old topo maps that are on USCGS maps on web site proved otherwise.  Walking Land searches turned up old RR track parts.

 

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, January 9, 2021 7:08 AM

The older topo maps are handy for figuring out the lineage of a rail line, as they do usually show who owned the line.  Even some map sites that don't include multiple older images are handy as they aren't always up to the latest generation of maps.

LarryWhistling
Resident Microferroequinologist (at least at my house) 
Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
My Opinion. Standard Disclaimers Apply. No Expiration Date
Come ride the rails with me!
There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

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Posted by oldrailben on Tuesday, January 12, 2021 2:37 AM
Sorry if this has already been posted by others, but here is your best source for electronic railroad maps in Canada: https://rac.jmaponline.net/canadianrailatlas/

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