Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Boyne City Gaylord & Alpena Railroad

Boyne City, MI's railroad operations began in 1893 with the creation of the Boyne City Southeastern Railroad, running 7 miles east to Boyne Falls. The line was owned by the W.H. White Lumber Company to tap into northern Michigan's logging industry.

Image: Detroit Public Library
In 1905, the Boyne City Gaylord & Alpena Railroad was chartered to succeed the line and extend it to Alpena, MI, 91 miles east of Boyne City. (Right-of-Way)

Image: Railroad Michigan
While expansion took longer than expected, the railroad finally reached Alpena in 1918. Included in the expansion were three branch lines, each of which was used to expand the WH White Lumber Company's land holdings.

The land was purchased, cut down, and then marketed to farmers once cleared, who would then benefit from having the BC G & A as a transportation system to the rest of the US railroad network.

Unfortunately, Michigan's short growing season, and the lack of fertile soils along the route would prove too much for the line to bear, and the company faced bankruptcy in 1935, abandoning most of the route in the process.

The original 7 mile line persisted however, under the flag of the Boyne City Railroad post-bankruptcy. This allowed Boyne City to connect with the PRR at Boyne Falls.

Image: "Boyne City Railroad Company 70" November, 1966. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places photo collection.
This line remained in service until 1976. For two years afterwards, the Boyne Valley Railroad operated a heritage operation along the line.

Formal abandonment took place in 1982.

Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Airports With Railroad Crossings

Almost every railroad crossing in the entire world is meant for either cars or pedestrians to cross railroad rights of way. But there have been a few railroad crossings across the world where a rail line crosses an airport runway. In Wynyard, TAS, Australia, the Far Western Railway of TasRail once crossed the north end of a runway at Burnie Airport.

Imagine the runway delays for this. Image: Airways Museum
The railway was constructed along Tasmania's north coast in the early 1920's. "During the late 1930s when the aerodrome at Wynyard was constructed, it was built on the only flat land in the area - the flood plain of the Inglis River. When properly formed runways were constructed, Runway 05/23 was built over the railway line." (Airways Museum)

This arrangement was not without precedent in Australia, or in other parts of the world, as Sydney's Airport had a similar crossing before the tracks were relocated. Chicago's Midway Airport also had a similar situation early in its life, "A passenger aboard a TWA Skyclub plane noticed a snail-like image crossing the center of the field. Upon landing, he learned that it was a freight train. Bewildered, the passenger left the depot wondering whether Chicago will have one useful airport or two useless ones." (Chicago Tribune)

An aerial view of the Chicago Municipal Airport shows the old and new field bisected by railroad tracks. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo
These Belt Railway of Chicago tracks were relocated around the airport in 1941, and remain in use today.

Chicago Tribune Historical Photo

The "Golden Spike" ceremony of the newly re-aligned Belt Railway Tracks around Midway airport that allowed it to expand. Chicago Tribune Historical Photo

Obviously, as trains and planes occupying the same space is not a good idea in any situation, almost all of these situations have involved the railroad relocating. That said, there's at least one active rail line through an airport remaining at Gisborne Airport in New Zealand.

Image: Unusual Places

Ultimately, the Far Western Railway closed between Burnie and Wiltshire in 2003, removing the runway crossing at Wynyard in the process. Thus, the line never had to be relocated around the airport.

Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Milwaukee Road's River Division Abandonment

Like roads, many railroad lines have been realigned and improved over time, and thus there are many examples of railroad abandonments that do not result in any loss of railroad service. Typing in "original alignment" onto our map will display all of the re-alignments we have found, although many more exist across North America.

One example of this was the Milwaukee Road's River Division between Hastings, MN and Red Wing, MN. The original alignment of the road lay along the Vermilion River on swampy land, and was thus prone to flooding and track washouts.

Image: "Red Wing's leading quarry owner G.A. Carlson built this 1882 Barn Bluff limestone kiln near the Milwaukee Road's tracks. He wished to facilitate shipments of lime and cement. The kiln, pictured about 1885, still exists."

In 1908, this roughly 13 mile section of line was abandoned in favor of a straighter, more easterly grade on higher ground.

The 13.1 mile original alignment in Blue, and the 12.4 mile re-alignment on higher ground. Image: Google My Maps.
Nonetheless, the stations of Etter and Eggleston on the old alignment of the tracks were closed down; two new stations replaced them on the new line.

Despite being abandoned over 100 years ago, the right of way can still be traced on satellite imagery, although HistoricAerials helps out a ton, for this line and pretty much every line!

A bridge of the former alignment of the River Division still exists, albeit completely abandoned. The new alignment is still in service today, run by the Canadian Pacific Railway.

Image: Jeff Streiff, Flickr. "CP train 2-198 has a surprise GP38-2 leading" at Red Wing, MN.
Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Medway Branch Railroad

The Medway Branch Railroad was, as the name suggests, a short branch line from the Norfolk County Railroad at North Wrentham, MA (present-day Norfolk), running northwesterly toward Medway, MA, beginning in 1853. (Right-of-Way)

The road offered passengers round trips between Medway to North Wrentham, where they could connect to Boston and points east. If a train wasn't running, passengers could traverse the route via a handcar.

Passenger traffic did not sustain the line, and governmental funding did not come for the venture. In 1863, it came under the umbrella of the Boston Hartford & Erie, along with the Norfolk County Railroad.

Just one year later, the line was abandoned, making it one of the earliest railroad abandonments in Massachusetts.

Image: Boston Hartford & Erie Locomotive “Hooksett” [Medway Historical Society]

Monday, August 10, 2020

The Wild Mouse at Eagle Amusement Park

Eagle Park was an amusement park located in Cache, OK, opening in 1957. It sat on land from an earlier amusement park known as Craterville Park.

At its peak, it had numerous rides, shows, and events, and had ample campground land as well. The signature attraction was Wild Mouse, a roller coaster type of the same name.

The park closed in 1985 amid rising insurance costs, and the owners not wishing to raise prices for entrance. Despite last operating in 1985, a few of the rides still stand today, most notably the Wild Mouse roller coaster.

Image: Wild Mouse by Ricky Summersett, 2020. (RCDB)

Sunday, August 9, 2020

The Springfield & Illinois South Eastern Railway

The Springfield and Illinois South Eastern Railway connected Springfield, Illinois' State Capital, to Shawneetown, IL on the Ohio River, a distance of about 175 miles. The company was formed in 1870 following a merger of two railroad companies: The Pana Springfield & North Western Railroad, and Illinois South Eastern Railway.

Both a product of mergers and acquisitions, it would succumb to one just five years later, when it was acquired by the Ohio & Mississippi Railway. 

For most of its life however, it would fall under the flag of the B&O Railroad, as subsidiary line the Baltimore and Ohio Southwestern Railroad.

B&O 2917 Locomotive. Image via Southern Illinois Railroads
The B&O combined the right of way with its own branch line from Springfield northwest to Beardstown, IL, creating a 220+ mile line. 

The Line on an 1876 B&O Railroad Map. Image: Wikipedia Commons
The line would slowly be abandoned throughout the latter part of the 20th century. The most significant abandonment came from Junction, IL (just west of Shawneetown, IL) to Flora, IL. This 1971 abandonment cut 73 miles of the line.

What survived passed down to the Chessie System, and later the CSX Railroad. The Beardstown-Springfield line was abandoned in 1979, leaving the remaining operation to a short line railroad known as the Prairie Trunk Railroad. The short line was also short lived, as the rest of the operation was completely abandoned by 1985. The combined abandonments represent the longest abandoned railroad corridor in the State of Illinois.

East of Springfield, the Lost Bridge Trail preserves about five miles of the original right of way.

Below is an excerpt of a retiree's job from the State Journal Register. "Morton Black had worked 23 years for the B&O Railroad when he retired July 31, 1941. He was a watchman on the bridge over Sugar Creek east of Springfield and his job was to walk the 1,700 foot span after every train passed, checking to make sure hot embers dropped by the steam locomotives didn’t start a fire on the tie deck or in the wood trusses. Watchmen worked seven days a week, 24 hours a day. Small platforms placed at intervals held barrels of water in case it was needed. When diesel locomotives replaced the steam engines, the bridge tenders were out of work. Ironically, this bridge was destroyed by fire in the mid-1960s. Shortly after, the B&O rerouted the line to south of IL-29."
Image: State Journal Register
Thanks as always for reading!

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Elham Valley Railway

The Elham Valley Railway ran between Folkestone and Canterbury in the southeast United Kingdom. It was a product of competition between the South Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham & Dover Railway, as the two sought the railway traffic in the area. (Right of Way)

Unknown photographer via Pinterest. Etchinghill Railway Tunnel along the former route.
Built in 1887, it was just under 16 miles in length. As it ran primarily through rural areas throughout its life, it was never a successful operation.

According to Chris Rosindale, "Much of it can still be seen and walked on its route through the Elham Valley. This is a line which really should never have been built, it owed its existence to a fierce rivalry between the South Eastern Railway and the London, Chatham and Dover Railway over access to the Channel ports. It was built by one of the two companies as a blocking action to stop the other company from invading its 'territory.'

Barrie A.F. Clark's Rendition of Bishopsbourne Station, 1978

Nonetheless, the railway played a part in World War II, as it was transferred to the War Department, who retrofitted a large rail-mounted gun stationed to the line. After the conflict, the line passed back into civilian use, but the damage to the infrastructure was significant, and deemed too expensive to repair, as the area now was served by bus traffic. The line was closed in 1947.

Image: A rail gun along the EV Rwy during World War II.
A museum dedicated to its history, the Elham Valley Line Trust, lies immediately east of the right of way in Folkestone.

Thanks as always for reading!

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Ohio River & Columbus Railway

The Ohio River & Columbus Railway ran from Sardinia, OH to Ripley, OH on the Ohio River, a distance of 24.6 miles. It ran along steam power, but was planned for electrification, and held other properties more similar to interurban railways than a short line railroad. Nicknamed, the "Relief and Comfort", it only operated for fourteen years.

OR&C Right of Way south of Georgetown, OH. Image: USGS Higgins Topo Map, 1931
The route opened in 1903 along a similar route proposed earlier by the Columbus & Maysville Railroad, a predecessor railroad to the Norfolk & Western, with whom the OR&C interchanged with at Sardinia.

Image: OR&C 4-6-0 Locomotive at Ripley, OH. Virginia Tech Archives.
Heading southeasterly along the Ohio River, the railroad planned to extend to Aberdeen, as well as completely electrify their right of way, but neither of these initiatives were accomplished on account of financial hardships. While the line had more favorable freight rates than the N&W, it ultimately faced more competition than cooperation with other area short lines and interurban railroads.

Ultimately, the financial ruin was too large to overcome, and a proposed sale of the line to the Cincinnati Georgetown and Portsmouth Railroad, an interurban railway, never materialized. The line was abandoned just 14 years after opening in 1917.

Much of the history for this post comes from this page:

Thanks as always for reading!

Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Forgotten Railways of Silverton, Colorado

While Silverton, CO is most famous as the terminus for the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, the town was a terminus for three abandoned railroad lines which ran to points north. During the operation of these lines, the Durango & Silverton was the Denver & Rio Grande's Silverton Branch, which came into service in 1882.

Nope, not this one! Image: D&S 481, c.1980. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection
The Silverton Railroad ran from Silverton to Ironton, CO between 1888-1926. It, along with the other two abandoned lines discussed in today's blog were owned by Otto Mears to reach various mines in the area north of Silverton. According to, "Mears' intention for the Silverton Railroad was to eventually reach Ouray. The sheer ruggedness of the north slope of Red Mountain Pass made the route very hostile to railways. Mears' originally surveyed route - his toll road - had sections of 19% grade, making it very unsuitable for anything but possibly a cog railway." ( Another Mears attempt to link to Ouray and Ironton was the Ouray & Ironton Electric Railway. The project was graded, but never built.

Silverton Railroad, Red Mountain Pass, 1888. Image via Legends of America.
The longest named road, the Silverton, Gladstone and Northerly Railroad, was ironically also the shortest, as it ran 7 miles north to Gladstone, CO. After 1915, it was the Gladstone Branch of the Silverton Northern Railroad. Chartered and built in 1899, it was abandoned in 1942. While Mears would come to own this line, he did not construct it, as the owners of the Gold King Mine did after his initial refusal to build another route in Colorado.

Image Link
Finally, the Silverton Northern Railroad ran 13 miles northeasterly toward Animas Forks, CO. In 1942 after years of inactivity, the track was repurposed for the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad to aid in the US war effort. Built in 1895, this was the last Mears project in the Silverton area. Mears originally envisioned this line to run to Lake City, CO, where it could connect to D&RG's Lake City Branch, but the line never ran past Animas Forks.

In 2013, it was proposed by the San Juan County Historical Society to reconstruct a section of the old right-of-way between Silverton and Howardsville, CO. I cannot find any information on their current status, as the website was last updated in 2016.

Map of Silverton, CO Railroad Lines:
In Blue (Left): The Silverton Railroad. In Green (Center): The SG&N. In Yellow (Right) the Silverton Northern.
In Red: The D&S south of Silverton to Durango.

Thanks as always for reading!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

The Old Colony and Newport Railroad

The Old Colony and Newport Railway was the product of a merger between two railroad charters in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Old Colony and Fall River Railroad merged with the Newport and Fall River Railroad, which had chartered a railroad running from Newport, RI to the Massachusetts state line. This merger allowed the line to continue to Fall River, MA, which it began doing so in 1864.

Steam engine along the Newport Branch. Image: Old Colony & Newport Railway
In 1865, with the acquisition of the Dighton and Somerset Railroad, provided a direct connection to Boston via Braintree, MA.

It, along with Cape Cod Railroad, merged in 1872 to become the Old Colony Railroad, which it remained until the company was leased to the New York New Haven & Hartford in 1893.

Image: "Two ladies are waiting at Middletown Station for the train to Newport." Trains Rhode Island
Traffic along the Newport Branch began to decline post World War I. Bus and automobile traffic replaced much of the passenger traffic. Service continually declined front then on, with the exception of military trains during World War II. The branch survived acquisition of the NYNH&H by Penn Central, and onto Conrail, who filed for its abandonment south of Fall River in the early 1970's.

The State of Rhode Island purchased the right of way, and today the line supports both a tourist train, the Newport & Narragansett Bay Railroad, and the Rhode Island Division of Rail Explorers, a railbike excursion using the same right of way.

Image: Rail Explorers
From Fall River, MA to Melville, RI, the tracks are currently out of service. Here's the right of way, showing the tourist operation (in red), and the abandonment (in green).

N&NB Railroad Dinner Train. Image: Wikipedia Commons
A museum for the branch line closed in 2016.

Thanks as always for reading!

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Desert Bus: The Most Realistic Video Game of 1995

During the early 1990's, a moral panic ensued about sex and violence in video games and television. Games like Mortal Kombat and Night Trap pushed societal boundaries, in part because of how realistic each game looked. Sexually explicit and violent video games had existed since the Atari days, but in all of their 16-bit glory, these now were perceived as corrupting a generation.

Of course, these were outliers among most video games of the day, and in retrospect, did not really impact society, outside of being a catalyst for the creation of the ESRB. At the same time, a collection of games was being developed by entertainers Penn & Teller, known as Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors". The game included six mini-games, five of which were designed to trick players and their friends, much like the duo themselves.

Smoke and Mirrors box art and a screenshot for Desert Bus.
But the sixth game, Desert Bus, was a commentary against those who believed video games were, in fact, hazardous to society as whole. The "game" consisted of the player driving a bus from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas, NV. Simple, right?

The bus traveled no faster than 45 mph, and the game took place in real time. Meaning that the 360 mile journey took just over eight hours.

There was little to no scenery or interaction along the route, outside of a bug hitting the windshield occasionally, and the ability to activate the horn on the bus. There was no pause button either. The instruction manual explains, "There's no pause feature. No, it's not an oversight. Does your life have a pause control?"

Here's an 8 hour long play through of the game.

The bus always veered slightly to the right, so the player had to constantly steer to maintain lane position. Moving off the road would disable the bus until a tow truck came along, and the tow truck towed the bus back to Tucson in real time. 

If, somehow, the player completed the journey, they would be rewarded. With a single point. After eight hours! Going back to Tucson, one could earn another point. It's been suggested that the game allowed a maximum of 99 points, which would take 33 real-time days of continuous play to achieve.

This was along a single, two-lane roadway. While the game was intentionally realistic to the point of not being entertaining in the slightest, the real life journey between Tucson and Las Vegas couldn't be rendered in 1995's technology. 

In reality, if you were traveling between Tucson-Las Vegas, you would use I-10, US-60, US-93 and the new I-11, which didn't exist in 1995. Also, you'd see a little more than just some cacti, as you'd go through places like Phoenix and the Hoover Dam as well. So if you've ever wished to simulate what a 360 mile long ride through the desert is like, this game is for you, but the experience is more like US-6 in Nevada.

A 10-mile straight section of US-6. Image by The American Southwest
Smoke and Mirrors never officially released despite being almost completely finished, as its developer, Absolute Entertainment, went out of business before the game could release. Only a few copies were ever distributed to journalists, which is what ROMs of the game are based off of. Nonetheless, Desert Bus has attracted a cult following, having been unofficially ported onto PC's, mobile and even the Atari 2600: 

The game, devoid of entertainment, sex, violence, or much of anything, was a biting social satire against those who felt that all video games should be banned or regulated. Based on that, I don't think its anywhere near the Worst Video Game of All Time, as everything that it was, and wasn't, was purely intentional. It was an eight-hour middle finger to Janet Reno and all the other politicians who let ignorance about a new form of entertainment and media dominate the national conversation. How could that be bad?

But if going against political figures isn't your thing, a charity fundraiser where participants play the game, Desert Bus for Hope, raised over $865,000 in 2019 alone. This money supports Child's Play, "dedicated to improving the lives of children undergoing treatment in the hospital with toys and games. The charity supports a network of over 100 hospitals worldwide.".

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Traverse City Leelanau and Manistique Railroad

The Traverse City Leelanau and Manistique Railroad was a railroad line built by the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad to built north from Traverse City, MI. Service ran north to Northport, MI beginning in 1901, and via a railcar ferry over Lake Michigan, connected to Manistique in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, with ferry service starting two years later in 1903. The ferry used a ship known as the Manistique for its journey between Northport and its namesake city.

Sutton's Bay Depot, c.1920. Image via ExploreVistas

In January, 1908, the Manistique sank in the harbor. It was temporarily replaced by an Ann Arbor car ferry but the ferry operation was discontinued in 1908. (Michigan Railroads)

A picture of the Manistique Ferry. Image: Michigan Railroads

In 1919, the line was reorganized as the Manistee & Northeastern Railroad, which served passenger and freight operations until 1955, when those were assumed by the Chesapeake & Ohio. Freight service declined over time, and passenger service ended in 1975.

Between 1989 and 1995, the Leelanau Scenic Railway ran along the branch to Sutton's Bay, MI. After the tourist operation folded, the line was abandoned. Today, the Leelanau Trail preserves the right of way between Traverse City and Sutton's Bay, with the line completely abandoned north of Sutton's Bay.

A switcher engine of the Leelanau Scenic Railroad showing the old M&NE livery. Image: Eddie Gross
Thanks as always for reading!

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Pine Valley and the Oklahoma & Rich Mountain Railroad

The Oklahoma & Rich Mountain Railroad ran from Page, OK to Pine Valley, OK, presently known as Muse. Operations began in 1926 along the 17 mile route. (Right-of-Way)

O&RM RR 205, Unknown Photographer via Pinterest
While almost exclusively a logging railroad owned by the Pine Valley Lumber Company, a subsidiary of the Dierks Lumber & Coal Company, it was nonetheless a common carrier, and did have passenger service along its route, connecting passengers to the rest of the US rail network via its connection to the Kansas City Southern Railway at Page.

A.W. Goke and C.A. Hollopeter. 1931. Soil survey of LeFlore County, Oklahoma [map] via Texas Transportation Archive.

At the end of the line was Pine Valley, a town built by the company, encompassing a significant investment, but also reaching a population of roughly 1,500 during the profitable years of the company.

Oklahoma & Rich Mountain Railroads third motor bus #1 at Pine Valley, Oklahoma in 1937. Image via Pinterest
As the railroad depended almost exclusively on lumber, once forests were depleted around Pine Valley, the main traffic on the line dried up. Thus in 1941, the railroad was abandoned, and Pine Valley became a ghost town not much later.

Further Reading: Ghost Towns of Oklahoma (Amazon)

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Southern Pacific Railroad's South Line (ex-El Paso & Southwestern)

The El Paso & Southwestern Railroad ran in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico during its existence. Constructed in the late 19th and early 20th century, the railway owned and operated many lines that connected to the mining industry. (Right-of-way)

Image: Paul McGuffin, 2010, via Abandoned Rails.

In 1912, the main line reached its full extent, extending from Tucson, AZ to El Paso, TX. The collapse of copper prices following World War I greatly affected the railroad, and it was leased to the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1924. The SP used the EP&SW as a parallel main line to their own Transcontinental Route, dubbing it the "South Line". 

EP&SW 168 at El Paso, TX. 1/21/1949. Image: Otto Perry via American-Rails
The South Line handled both passenger and freight trains, and remained profitable through its existence. Nonetheless, the Southern Pacific chose to abandon much of the South Line in favor of a single mainline between Tuscon-El Paso in 1959, since there were little sources of traffic along the route. The line remains in service between Anapra, NM and El Paso, TX in the east, and Rancho del Lago, AZ and Benson, AZ in the west.

Southern Pacific Railroad
Docket: 20737 7/28/1959 Section: 1(18)
"Appl. for auth. to abandon portions of (l) the South Line in the Tucson and Rio Grande Divisions between M.P. 1022.480 at or near Mescal, Ariz., and M.P. 1046.390 at Benson Junction, Ariz., a dist. of approx. 23.910 miles in Cochise County, Ariz, and (2) the South Line in the Rio Grande Division between M.P. 1108.941, at or near Douglas, Ariz. and M.P. 1317.817 at or near Anapra, N. Mex., at dist. of approx. 208.876 miles in Cochise County, Ariz. & Hidalgo, Grant, Luna and Dona Ana Counties, N. Mex., together with all sidings, spur tracks, facilities and appurtenances."
Citation: 312 ICC 685&696 (Abandoned Rails)

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The Kinkora Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad

The Columbus Kinkora & Springfield Railroad was chartered in 1870 to connect New Lisbon, NJ with Kinkora, NJ, 14 miles northwest. The right of way followed the earlier Delaware & Atlantic Railroad, a much earlier rail line ran along a similar right of way, first surveyed in 1827. (Right-of-Way)

Image: New Jersey Department of Transportation
Constructed and in service by the end of 1838, "the line used mule drawn carts riding on iron strapped wood rails primarily to haul wood and charcoal between New Lisbon and Kinkora." (Springfield Township Historical Society)

The line was abandoned at an unknown date before 1870, and the CK&S used its right of way.

Almost immediately after the Columbus Kinkora & Springfield Railroad was completed, it was leased in perpetuity to the Pennsylvania Railroad, becoming the Kinkora Branch after a complicated series of mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies early in its existence. It officially opened in 1872.

Image: Jobstown Station, Springfield Township Historical Society
Just nine years into its existence, about 3 miles of the line were abandoned between Lewistown and New Lisbon at the line's south end. The line rarely served much in the way of traffic until World War I, when its proximity to Fort Dix allowed it to transport troops to/from the base. World War II would once again enhance the line's viability for much the same reason.

After the Second World War, traffic declined once again, but the line would survive until the Penn Central Railroad petitioned for its abandonment in 1971. Abandonment was not granted until Conrail had assumed Penn Central's operations, finally ending the Kinkora Branch in 1982.

Image: Ben Kranefeld, "Though not the original underpass under Rt 130, the Kinkora Branch untilized this route under the state hwy. This newer concrete bridge was created in hopes of creating a "Rails to Trails" pathway" RR Picture Archives

Sunday, July 12, 2020

The Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad

The Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad was an independent line that ran from Baltimore, MD to York, PA, beginning service in 1901. Meandering through the hills, it was a 77 mile long route, despite the two cities only being 45 miles apart the way a crow flies. (Right of way)

The "Champagne Special" crossing the Sharon Trestle - Sept. 14, 1947. Image: Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Society.
The "Ma and Pa" as it was known informally was formed from two earlier narrow-gauge railways; The Baltimore & Delta Railway, which became the  Baltimore and Lehigh Railway, and the York and Peach Bottom Railway, which became the York Southern. As neither was profitable, they merged to combine the route into one, and re-gaugued the right of way into standard gauge.

Despite automobile competition, the railway began to be profitable post-merger, and continued to be up until the Great Depression. World War II would cement profits once again, but after the war, carloads significantly declined. In 1954, the Railway Express Agency mail contract was cancelled by the U.S. Postal Service, and at the same time, the Ma&Pa ended passenger rail. Almost all right of way in Maryland was abandoned in 1958, while industrial operations kept much of the Pennsylvania section open until 1984.

Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad 1502. Image: Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society.
About 3 miles of the old right of way is preserved between Laurel and Muddy Creek Forks, PA, as the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Preservation Society operates a heritage railway along the line.

Image: The last "Ma and Pa" train departs Towson, Maryland, on June 11, 1958. Wikipedia Commons.
Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad 1506 taken in 1993. Photographer: HE Brouse

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Ottoman Railway Ruins in Nitzana, Israel

In 1917, during World War I, the British and the Ottoman Empire were engaged in battle in and around the Sinai and Gaza regions of present-day Egypt and Israel. At the center of the battle was an Ottoman Railway line running from Be'er Sheva to Hafir el Auja. (Wikipedia)

The railway was being extended south and west from Hafir el Auja to the Suez Canal, making it a strategically important piece of infrastructure that would significantly increase the Ottomans' military capabilities in the region. As such, it was a target for the British and her allies.

13 Miles of the railway line were destroyed by troops from New Zealand on May 23rd, 1917, with more stretches destroyed the next day, in a significant victory for the British. (Route on the Abandoned & Out-of-Service Railroad Lines Map)

To this day, the only part of the railway that was rebuilt currently runs from Ramat Hovav to Be'er Sheva in Israel. Within present-day Egypt, the railway had been completed to an outpost known as El Kossaima, over 100 miles from the Suez Canal, but the project never restarted after the war.

Ruins in Nitzana, Israel of a railway station along the route. (Israel Today)

The Dodge City Montezuma & Trinidad Railway

The Dodge City Montezuma & Trinidad Railway was a short lived railroad operating between Dodge City and Montezuma, KS. (Right of Way)

Looking at a map today, you'll notice Dodge City and Montezuma are still connected by rail. However, the Montezuma that exists today was platted by the Atchison Topkea & Santa Fe Railway in 1912, almost two decades after the original Montezuma, KS would become a ghost town.

Original alignment.

This particular line ran slightly south of the current AT&SF alignment, beginning service around 1890. Its entire existence was the result of three towns vying for county seat of Gray County, KS. Ingalls and Cimarron were both located on another branch of the AT&SF; while Montezuma had no rail connection. In exchange for dropping their fight to become county seat, a railroad promoter promised to build a line to Montezuma.

True to his word, Montezuma got a rail connection, but one that would last less than five years. The line was abandoned in 1894. The Santa Fe briefly owned the right of way and planned to reactivate the line, but chose instead to build their own grade, and settle a new Montezuma along that right of way.…/bu…/Rail/publications/ksrailpln06.pdf

Friday, June 5, 2020

The AASHO Road Test: A Breakthrough in Pavement Technology

The 1950's were an incredibly transformative time in American transportation, with the passing of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956. Driving on I-80 through Central Illinois, you will pass a sign that offers only a small clue of just how expansive this shift was, showcasing one of the many pieces of building our highways, the pavement itself.

Perhaps you underestimate the amount of engineering and science that pavement materials go through, and this test is a great example of this in action, when the stakes were extremely high, as the largest road expansion in history was in its infancy.

Starting in 1956, AASHO, the predecessor to today's AASHTO, began a $27 Million project tp study different pavement materials, and the impacts that traffic would have on those materials.

Image: Google Street View
The AASHO Road Test was instrumental in scientific breakthroughs on how pavements responded to traffic load, weights, climate impacts, and how long pavement would last. 

Before I-80 was built, the Test Road was a loop as described below:

The AASHO Road Test: Report 1, History and Description of the Project.  Special Report 61A.  Highway Research Board, National Academy of Sciences.  Washington, D.C.
Between 1958-1960, actual tests were conducted at the site using different kinds of vehicles. By the time the test was done, the straight sections of the track were incorporated into the design of I-80. 

In addition to the sign, a small track of pavement is preserved at the site.

Google Satellite Imagery. The loop is located a few miles west of Ottawa on the south side of I-80.
The results and information derived from the Tests cannot be overlooked, as the design of pavements and bridges on the Interstate Highway System largely followed its result. There are many roadside curiosities out there, but this one is one of the most interesting when it comes to the design of roads themselves. Unfortunately, there's no way to visit this site, outside of driving adjacent to it at 70 mph. 

Thanks as always for reading!