Trains.com

Maps and railroads

20450 views
77 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: US
  • 533 posts
Posted by rixflix on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 12:19 PM

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.

 
Call me an aerial archaeologist with an interest in railroads and industries. I mainly use Google Earth, Wiki, SPV paper maps, historicaerials.com, and Rand McNally's Handy Railroad Atlases 1928 and 1948. RmcN's get depressing after 1948 due to the shrinkage in rail mileage, but do indicate the predecessor roads.
Rabbitholes!!! Just this morning I decided to look again at D&H's Colonie shops which are really in Watervliet NY, some miles distant from what Google labels Colonie. While I had previously thought the shops were the mostly abandoned industrial complex to the west of the now CP main, SPV had them on the east side. Googled "D&H Colonie"and turned up a blog where a poster had turned up the property record for 950 5th St. Watervliet. Bingo, It's to the east!!! One small structure, a big pad and an Alco RS-something stuck in a large yard-shaped salad patch. Then it was on to Historic aerials and another Wow from me. Oneonta shops' layout is fairly plain and even the footprint of L&HR's Warwick NY roundhouse is visible on Earth.
Why the Reading (then the P&R) went to Rittenhouse Gap used to puzzle me. Tapped that name on the Earth aerial and Wiki told me it was first iron ore and later Edison's need for magnetitic iron ore. I recently traced the sad stories of Milwaukee's two electrifications and Western Maryland's Connellsville (with bridge piers built for a second track) extension.
Lastly, the recent Newswire article on Mexico's proposed rail land bridge across their isthmus intrigued me. Tracing the current line shows a lot of work would be needed on the railroad as well as at the ports of Coatzacoalcos and Salina Cruz. However, it's about the easiest route over the nation's spine and the government's optimism is commendable if probably misplaced.
Rick 

rixflix aka Captain Video. Blessed be Jean Shepherd and all His works!!! Hooray for 1939, the all time movie year!!! I took that ride on the Reading but my Baby caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride.

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 12 posts
Posted by john w on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 5:31 AM

Flintlock76

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/

 

  • Member since
    June 2011
  • 11 posts
Posted by casey56 on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 7:24 AM

When one is aware that a railroad once connected two towns, often long-abandoned ROW can be spotted on Google Satellite maps by slight changes in vegitation, etc.: sometimes straight lines, other times gradual curves.  Street names such as "Railroad Ave" or "Station St" are clues in towns.

Irv

  • Member since
    June 2013
  • 14 posts
Posted by steve m on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 9:30 AM

Great thread! Look up on google maps "Buford, WY". Switch to satellite. Easy to see the old rail yard. This is the foot of Sherman Hill. Follow the path up, no rails remain. You can see where helper engines were turned at the top. And you can see the Ames Monument (gotta buy me a shovel).

Whenever I read, or see an internet post. Google maps it is. If given a town name, the rails go through town. And always, follow the rivers!

 

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 21,980 posts
Posted by tree68 on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 10:25 AM

casey56

When one is aware that a railroad once connected two towns, often long-abandoned ROW can be spotted on Google Satellite maps by slight changes in vegitation, etc.: sometimes straight lines, other times gradual curves. 

Indeed - if one searches maps between Pierpont Manor and Sackets Harbor, both in New York state, you can still trace portions of the route of the Sackets Harbor and Ellisburg Railroad, which didn't make it out of the 1860's.

Oftimes, if you find a satellite image taken around spring plowing, you can see the difference in the color of the dirt.

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...

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,544 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 11:21 AM

casey56
Street names such as "Railroad Ave" or "Station St" are clues in towns.

I've always had a fascination with rail-adjacent streets seemingly named after distant connected cities that the adjacent rail line does in fact pass through.  You might have street grid with streets named "Elm", "Oak", "Maple" etc and then right next to the station is "Pittsburgh"...or "Cleveland".....And then sometimes it's a little less obvious, such as "Lansing" where you really have to think about it to get the (ostensibly) intended meaning.

  • Member since
    April 2011
  • 76 posts
Posted by Samuel Johnston on Tuesday, April 6, 2021 2:03 PM

Distilling 50 years of experience:  Official Guide maps at the individual RR listings are semi-fanciful and shows what the RR wans the shipper and passenger to see.  Highway maps should be used for automotive pruposes.  The US topo maps suffer from a policy on the big mapping done ca. 1893 of NOT showing man-made changes; thus when I looked up pre-Quabbin Mass. railroads for the incomplete Mass. Central--it showed nothing while other completed lines marched across valleys clearly on a fill!  More recent topos more useful.  But the three best are/were:

     1) DeLorme Mapping's atlas BOOKS which vary in quality state by state and edition; the Pennsylvania atlas of the late 1980's was the best they every did nudging out Maine by a hair.  Beware their NY atlas--the RR's were used for copyright infringement errors so some abandoned lines are shown as active and vice versa.  DeLorme is best for showing rails in relation to highways in BOOKS but the earlier ones are better than the later; from demos I've seen I would stay away from their computer products because the early ones did NOT show topography.  And DeLorme DOES have errors..

      2) The SPV Atlas series--and get them NOW as they're going out of print and won't be redone.  (Long story: SPV misjudged how Americans bought and used these atlases--Brits buy a new one every so many years while we Americans buy only two per life: one for lifetime reference and the other for lifetime noting Mileage Ridden.  Very few errors for a very fine project run by foreign Brits who however learned too late the American interest in interurbans.  Unless you want to or can justify the expense of ca. 450USD for a complete US and Canada set, just by the local areas.  But beware!  These CAN become your DREAM books!

        3)  Lastly, Google Earth, or its equivalents and go for satellite view.  See things from the air--and learn how to filter annoying things out as Google thinks you want pizza joints, etc.  Google seems to think we want to know what things look like in the summertime and where the nearest Dunkin Donuts is rather than wanting a Serious Research Tool for a Delaware & Hudson rerouting or the Paradise Tunnel on the DL&W.  I want leaves off the trees because I'm often looking up old rights of way and other features which leaves and snow obscure.  

      So, good luck!  Paper is preferable over digital--digital needs a power source--and will you still be able to read it 40 years from now?

  • Member since
    June 2003
  • From: US
  • 51 posts
Posted by RKFarms on Thursday, April 8, 2021 3:07 PM

Mr. Johnston:

Digital has it's place, even though I am a fan of the Delorme paper map format. Using Delorme Topo software allows zooming in to a level way beyond most paper map detail. I am still using the last version of Topo put out before Delorme was swallowed up by a larger competitor and their products terminated. My preference is to travel with the Delorme atlases of the states we are going through, and using my laptop when stopped to zoom in on interesting areas and do routing research for the next day, then transfer route to Google maps for use when driving. 

Probably will not be able to read it in 40 years since I will be approaching 109 then. We live pretty long in my family but not THAT long!

PR

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: US
  • 533 posts
Posted by rixflix on Sunday, April 11, 2021 11:48 AM

Mike Walker compiled the original (Steam Powered Video) "SPV's Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America" series of regional atlases. After that "Mike Walker's North American Railroad Atlas" series appeared. The latter has the full cover photos. White River Productions shows the SPVs  with many marked as sold out. Railfan Depot shows the newer MWs as limited supply clearance and no longer published. For what's available from both the prices range from $17 to $30. Ebay is where the prices are getting way high.

Ebay is also where you have to be careful about the year of publication. I bought an earlier Northeast copy with crude details that included New England and was missing pages 4-10. Northeast was what I wanted and it was supposed to include only NY,PA,NJ,DE and MD, New England being a separate book. Finally got the right one from Rail Depot.

Someone on this thread inquired about a density map. Rail Depot has a title called "U.S. Railroad Traffic Atlas". I'd think most railroads would've or may still have traffic charts/maps. If USRA ever made one it would be fascinating. Ditto for the 1930's merger rationalization schemes and Conrail.

Rick 

rixflix aka Captain Video. Blessed be Jean Shepherd and all His works!!! Hooray for 1939, the all time movie year!!! I took that ride on the Reading but my Baby caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride.

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • 1,236 posts
Posted by NKP guy on Sunday, April 11, 2021 1:52 PM

Convicted One
Convicted One wrote the following post 5 days ago: casey56 Street names such as "Railroad Ave" or "Station St" are clues in towns. I've always had a fascination with rail-adjacent streets seemingly named after distant connected cities that the adjacent rail line does in fact pass through.  You might have street grid with streets named "Elm", "Oak", "Maple" etc and then right next to the station is "Pittsburgh"...or "Cleveland".....And then sometimes it's a little less obvious, such as "Lansing" where you really have to think about it to get the (ostensibly) intended meaning.

    About a half mile of the former right of way of the Cleveland & Eastern Railroad (interurban; ended 1925) in Newbury, Ohio was named and remains Track Road.

   In Avon Lake, Ohio a stretch of the former right of way of the Lake Shore Electric Railway was paved and named Electric Boulevard.  Isn't that a fine name for such a street?

   Electric Boulevard isn't too far from well known Nickel Plate Beach on Lake Erie, practically next to the eponymous railroad.

   BTW Convicted One:  I'm really enjoying the signal bridge on your postings, almost as much as Balt's old flying cat!

   

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,544 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, April 11, 2021 2:27 PM

NKP guy
BTW Convicted One:  I'm really enjoying the signal bridge on your postings, almost as much as Balt's old flying cat!

For anyone  knowing morse, there is a binary coded decimal message in the signaling, that can only be decrypted by using the hex value of the sky background as the key. A simple logic problem must first be solved to distinguish dots from dashes, and breaks previously indicated by the now eliminated white signals, are a little harder to pick out, thanks to Electroliner's suggested refinements. Devil 

My sole motivation being that the new, streamlined forum template made me feel obligated to freshen-up as well.

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: US
  • 533 posts
Posted by rixflix on Sunday, April 11, 2021 5:19 PM

Convicted One

Think I got it:

"Be sure to drink your Ovaltine" 

Rick

 
NKP guy
BTW Convicted One:  I'm really enjoying the signal bridge on your postings, almost as much as Balt's old flying cat!

 

For anyone  knowing morse, there is a binary coded decimal message in the signaling, that can only be decrypted by using the hex value of the sky background as the key. A simple logic problem must first be solved to distinguish dots from dashes, and breaks previously indicated by the now eliminated white signals, are a little harder to pick out, thanks to Electroliner's suggested refinements. Devil 

My sole motivation being that the new, streamlined forum template made me feel obligated to freshen-up as well.

 

rixflix aka Captain Video. Blessed be Jean Shepherd and all His works!!! Hooray for 1939, the all time movie year!!! I took that ride on the Reading but my Baby caught the Katy and left me a mule to ride.

  • Member since
    April 2007
  • 3,544 posts
Posted by Convicted One on Sunday, April 11, 2021 5:58 PM

rixflix
Think I got it: "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine" 

Actually, it's a sarcastic condemnation of intellectual property rights law.

it says "Where were you standing when you took that picture?" lol!

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 427 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, April 15, 2021 12:22 PM

This may be of no help but one point of interest here that I have experienced, most "official" highway maps put out by the state highway dept. or the state DOT tend to show rail lines whereas most "commercial" maps put out by Rand McNally or Universal do not.

A few state DOTs only indicate rail lines that have passenger service while others show all rail lines.  I think Wisconsin's map, if I remember right, indicates which lines carry passenger trains and which are freight only by using two different colors for the rail track icon.

There are a few state DOTs like Arizona and California which, sadly, no longer publish such maps.  Too bad really, 'cause Arizona used to have a really nice map.  We'd pick them up at the border on U.S. 80 when we'd drive through the agriculture check point.

I THINK that maybe AAA maps indicate rail lines but I cannot remember for sure. I am not a member of Triple A.

Oh yes, and the "Gazeteer" maps put out by DeLorme also show rail lines.  Abandoned lines are indicated in light grey while active lines are in black.

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 21,980 posts
Posted by tree68 on Thursday, April 15, 2021 12:54 PM

Fred M Cain
A few state DOTs only indicate rail lines that have passenger service while others show all rail lines. 

As I recall, New York's rail map shows even long-abandoned lines. The DOT rail folks are pretty good.

 

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...

  • Member since
    July 2014
  • 427 posts
Posted by Fred M Cain on Thursday, April 15, 2021 1:21 PM

tree68

 As I recall, New York's rail map shows even long-abandoned lines. The DOT rail folks are pretty good.

 

Oh yeah?  Does it show the NYO&W?

  • Member since
    December 2001
  • From: Northern New York
  • 21,980 posts
Posted by tree68 on Thursday, April 15, 2021 4:50 PM

Fred M Cain
Oh yeah?  Does it show the NYO&W?

Yes, it does.  It even shows the Sackets Harbor & Ellisburg, which came up in the 1860's.

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

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...

  • Member since
    May 2004
  • From: Valparaiso, In
  • 5,595 posts
Posted by MP173 on Friday, April 16, 2021 11:08 AM

Agree with the above comment regarding State Official DOT maps.  Excellent maps.  I grab a couple in each state travelled.  

Regarding traffic density map...the atlas on Railfan Depot is a 2003 atlas. Does anyone know a source with current data?  A few years ago an online map was located on one of the railfan photo websites, but I cannot recall which one. 

The openrailwaymap is excellent - thanks to whoever suggested it.

 

ed

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy