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!