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!