Sunday, November 29, 2020

Car Transfer Ferry on the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad (Engineering News, Sept. 23rd 1915)

This is an article from Engineering News printed originally in 1915. (Vol 74, no. 13). I believe its interest required it to be preserved in the digital form, so that's what this blog is about. Hope you enjoy!

Car Transfer Ferry on the C. B. & Q. RR

In order to develop a new rail route from the Northwestern States to the Gulf, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R.R. is building a line 13 mi. in length from its present terminal at Metropolis, Ill., to connect with the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Ry. at Paducah, KY. The principal engineering feature of this line will be the great double-track bridge across the Ohio River, but this will not be completed for some time. [Interestingly, the only bridge over the Ohio near Metropolis is currently only single tracked as of 2020]

To provide immediate communication across the river, the new railway has been extended down the bank on each side of the river, and cars will be ferried across on transfer boats. These are double-track deck scows, accommodating ten freight cars on each track. They will be handled by tow-boats. The distance between landings is about one mile. 

At each landing an incline is laid to about low-water line, and on this rides a cradle, which is moved up or down the incline to keep its rails at the same height above the varying level of water. The cradle is shifted as required by a cable attached to a locomotive and passed around a hitching pulley on the cradle frame. The incline has a descending grade of 3 per cent, for a length of about 2000 ft. The track on the cradle is level, with a short 4 percent grade rising from the incline track to the cradle track. 

The incline is double-track, with two cradles, one for each track on the boat, but the cradles are separate and are operated independently. The river end of the incline is a double-track timber trestle, with five-pile bents 13 ft. c. to c. under each track and two lines of 8x16-in. stringers under each end of the 10-ft. ties. Fender timbers are laid upon the outer ends of the caps. The tracks are 12 ft. c. to c.

The general configuration of the cradle is shown in Fig. 3. It is 240 ft. long. Its deck consists of two pairs of 8x16-in. stringers upon which are laid the 10-ft. ties. At the land end, where the height is low, the stringers rest directly upon axles arranged in pairs. As the height above the incline increases they are supported by blocking or cross-timbers on two lines of substringers, which are mounted on the axles, as shown. The wheels are mainly 33-in car wheels. As the joints of the stringers are in tension when the cradle is hauled up the incline, they are spliced by horizontal bolts passed through the outstanding flanges of L-shaped straps spiked to the sides of the timbers. These connections also give vertical flexibility to allow for irregularities in track surface.

Land and River Connections of Cradle

At the land end of the cradle is a pair of 12-ft. feather rails to connect the track on the incline with that on the cradle. This connection is shown in Fig. 2. The feather rails are steel castings 12 ft. long, grooved on the under side to ride on the incline rail, while the upper surface forms a running head for the wheels. At the toe, where the wheels are engaged, the thickness of the feather rail is only 1/4 in. At the heel there is a splice connection to the track rail on the cradle.

The river end of the upper deck of the cradle is an adjustable apron 30 ft. long, supported by cross-timbers on the substringers. This is shown Fig. 1. It consists of a pair of heavy box-girders, connected by crosspieces and diagonal lateral rods. The I-beam crosspieces are not connected rigidly to the girder webs, but are secured by horizontal pins through angle brackets on the webs. This allows for variations in level of the opposite rails of the incline track, the girders being free to ride and fall independently in a vertical plane, while with rigid riveted connections sever twisting stresses would be set up.

The apron is supported at the heel of and one intermediate point, and its outer end is cantilevered beyond the latter. The outer end is raised and lowered as required to compensate for slight changes in level of the tracks on the cradle and the boat and to bring these rails into exact position. For this purpose its outer support carries a pair of air-brake cylinders with piping led along the cradle and fitted with hose so that it can be connected to the brake system of the engine handling the train. To balance the apron it is fitted with an extension arm consisting of three 10 in I-Beams having a counterweight box from their ends.

Vertical and lateral movements of the apron are provided for by a hemispherical bearing under the heel of each girder, and a similar bearing or thrust show at its end, butting against the end frame of the cradle. The outer end of the apron is heavily built and braced to withstand blows and has a recessed end frame to receive the V-shaped nose on the end of the boat, thus automatically centering the tracks. Portable rail stops which slide on the rails are used to hold the cradle in position on the incline track, and also to hold the train on the cradle while making the rail-end adjustments of apron to boat. 

The new railway is being built under the name of the Paducah & Illinois R.R. The incline on the Illinois side of the river was built and is owned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, and that on the Kentucky side by the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis, of which Hunter McDonald is Chief Engineer. The Chief Engineer of the Paducah & Illinois is C.H. Cartlidge, Bridge Engineer of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. 

Portable Stop for a Car-Ferry Incline 

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R.R. is operating a car ferry on the Ohio River for its new line between Metropolis, Ill., and Paducah, KY. At each end of the shore track is connected to the boat by an incline with a cradle that is adjusted to meet varying river level. 

To hold the cradle in position on the incline, and also to hold the train on the cradle while its track is being adjusted to the level of that on the boat, portable rail stops are used. The stop, shown in the accompanying drawing, is of cast steel 23 3/4 in. long and 9 5/8 in. high, weighing about 50 lb. It has a grooved base to hold it in place on the rail, and its bearing surface is corrugated in order to get a good grip on the rail head. The toe is feather-edged to engage the wheel, which rolls up on the stop against a surface having a radius of 16 1/2 in., or about that of the wheel tread.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Kaskaskia, IL: From Illinois' First Capital to near Ghost-Town in Missouri

The City of Kaskaskia was the capital of the Illinois Territory, and first capital of the State of Illinois when it was admitted to the Union in 1818. Originally inhabited by Native Americans for thousands of years, it was first settled by Europeans in 1703, when French fur traders and Jesuit missionaries began settling there.

Image: An early plan of Kaskaskia. (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign). Note, this was before the Mississippi River changed course.

The city's peak population was roughly 7,000, before the capital was moved the year following statehood, 1819, to Vandalia. Located on the Mississippi River, the city was prone to flooding, exacerbated by deforestation. Steamboat crews cut trees in the area for wood burning. This furthered erosion, which would lead to the Mississippi River switching channels during a series of 19th century floods.

The original location of Kaskaskia became an island, surrounded by the Mississippi River. The flood of 1881 destroyed all remnants of the original town and the Mississippi shifted into the channel of the Kaskaskia River, passing east instead of west of the town.

Image: State House. John Corson Smith, History of Freemasonry in Illinois. (CHICAGO: ROGERS AND SMITH, 1905). / Southern Illinois University Press

Now located west of the Mississippi River, the town is the only populated place in the state located west of the river, and is only accessible by Missouri, making it a physical exclave. With just 14 people, it is nearly a ghost town, and still frequently floods in the spring. It is still considered part of Randolph County, Illinois, despite only being accessible on land via Missouri.

Thanks as always for reading!

Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Ghost Town of St. Thomas, Nevada

St Thomas, NV is a ghost town that was abandoned in the 1930's as the land it occupied was to be dammed with the creation of Lake Mead. Although its heyday was long over by that point.

"In 1935, the Nevada town of St. Thomas, which included the Gentry Hotel, began to slowly disappear under the rising waters of Lake Mead after the construction of the Hoover Dam." Photo: The Gladys Gentry Collection. (WEF Highlights)

Founded by Mormons in 1865, it was nearly abandoned six years later when a new survey commissioned had put the town within the borders of the State of Nevada, as opposed to Utah or Arizona. Nevada wanted back taxes from the settlers, and most refused to pay. (Location)

Image: "Ruins exposed after being submerged under Lake Mead for many years" Daniel Jost, Wikipedia Commons

The townsite had a cemetery, and the graves at the cite were relocated to nearby Overton, NV. 

The last resident, Hugh Lord, left the town in 1938, setting his house on fire in the process. The area was quickly inundated by lake water from the newly constructed Hoover Dam.

However, Lake Mead has been receding for decades as a result of drought and overuse of water resources, and the old townsite of St Thomas reappeared again early in the 21st Century, and remains beyond the waters of Lake Mead, in spite of once being sixty feel underwater. 

Image: Anne Burke, San Francisco Chronicle

The site is maintained by the National Park Service. Here's a YouTube video tour!

Thanks for reading and have a look at our Ghost Towns Map to discover more ghost towns and abandoned places of the world! Also, read up on some other towns abandoned due to damming!

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Wisconsin & Michigan Railway

The Wisconsin & Michigan Railway was the 1893 brainchild of John N Faithorn, A Chicago railroad tycoon with financial backing to build a road that would connect the iron-rich Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with the steel mills in Chicago and other Great Lakes cities, using both railroads and car ferries. (Right-of-Way Map)

Image: "Employees of the Wisconsin and Michigan Railway at the Round House in Peshtigo Wisconsin."

In spite of the global Panic of 1893, funding from John Bagley among others meant construction began on the line, regauging the Ingalls White Rapids & Northern Railroad to standard gauge to incorporate into the new right of way.

Eventually the line connected Iron Mountain, MI with Peshtigo, WI, using surplus rail from the 1893 Chicago World's Fair, and with trackage rights on the Milwaukee Road at Marinette, WI would have ferry access, which began in 1895. In 1908, the railroad reached its maximum size, with a few branch lines primarily used for logging operations. 

Image: Photo Info/Credit: A W&M passenger train is photographed near Fumee Falls, date unknown. [Dickenson County Historical Society] via MichiganRailroads

The railroad had heavy traffic late into the 1920's, and was quite successful in comparison to some other short lines of the era, although it was in receivership in 1912. However, the stock market crash of 1929 dealt the road a blow that it could not recover from, and the poor condition of the track rendered it a losing investment. By 1938, after unable to find a buyer for the line, it was abandoned.

"This blueprint map shows Wisconsin and Michigan-owned railroad and trackage rights from Iron Mountain to Menominee, Michigan, as well as other railroads. W & M railroad is indicated in red line, with trackage right to C.M ST. Railroad represented yellow. Cities and Green Bay are Labeled. Portion of Michigan is visible in the map." (Wisconsin History)

A much more detailed history of the railroad is available here. Thanks as always for reading!

Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Columbian Intramural Railway

In 1893, the City of Chicago hosted the World's Fair, and paid homage to the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus "discovering" the New World of North America. Far more than any involvement the memory of Columbus had, the Exposition was among the most iconic events in Chicago history. After all, one of the stars on Chicago's Municipal Flag commemorates the event.

Held in the South Shore, Woodlawn, Hyde Park and Jackson Park neighborhoods on Chicago's South Side, one can see evidence of the Exposition even today, as the Museum of Science and Industry currently occupies part of where it was held. The neoclassical architecture of much of the expo led to Chicago being referred to as the "White City" before the nickname "Windy City" took hold. The event was intertwined in success for showcasing the city, but also of a serial killer, expertly portrayed in Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. The expo's impact on architecture and the culture of the City, and indeed the Country as a whole, has not been overstated, but has been covered extensively by many historians greater than myself. (And some worse.)

One part of the Exposition that not a trace of remains today, is the elevated railroad, which over 6 million passengers used to move within the grounds, known as the Columbian Intramural Railway.

Image: Chicagology

Built for, and used exclusively by the Exposition guests, it was abandoned immediately upon the end of the expo in 1893, after roughly a year in construction and operation. Despite its relatively long length at nearly three miles of trackage north to south, six miles total, which would be longer that a few Class III railroads, it was deemed not to serve any transit purposes outside of the expo, and did not connect to any other stations, with the exception of a temporary station on the Jackson Park Branch of Chicago's future "L" system. While just a prototype system, and one that lasted only for a year, I would argue that it was far more successful than some of the other lines we have covered around here.

It was both a method of transportation and a prototype electric railway, something that would gain significant popularity, if not profitability, in the decades following the fair. One could draw parallels to it and future amusement park trains and transportation methods, such as the Monorail at Walt Disney World.

A view of one of the ends of the CIRwy. Each end of the line was a circle, allowing the car to switch directions of travel.

The Book of the Fair notes, "The intramural or elevated electric road, operated within the Exposition grounds, is also included in this department [transportation]. In its power plant are the great dynamo and engine. Its system is about six miles in length and the circuit is made in less than half an hour, affording an excellent view of the external features of the Exposition. The intramural road, it may here be stated, cost $1,000,000, and though carrying nearly 6,000,000 passengers during the term of the Fair, resulted in a heavy loss."

Here's a rough trace on my abandoned railroad rights of way map, although I freely admit it is not as accurate as it could be.

The Intramural Railway Generator, via Chicagology

Popular Science in October 1893 paid special attention to the design of the railway, stating, "this road is a double-track elevated structure something over three miles in length, which forms the highway of communication between the different buildings. It is purposely laid out with many an unnecessary curve, to accentuate the conditions of actual travel, and demonstrate the ability of electric traction to do its work satisfactorily under extreme conditions. The trains are made up of a motor car and three trailers, all four cars being arranged to seat passengers, the space occupied by the motorman at the extreme front end of the motor car being no greater than that of the ordinary trolley car. The cars are open, with the seats extending clear across the car body, each pair facing upon the entrance aisles. These aisles are closed by sliding gates, which are connected so that all those on one side of the car may be opened or closed at the same time by the movement of a lever at the end of the car. This construction might be very readily adapted to a closed car, and would seem to be admirably suited to cars having the phenomenally heavy traffic of those on the elevated roads of New York."

"Bird's-eye view of the World's Columbian Exposition and the intramural tramway, Chicago, Illinois, 1893. Photograph by Kaufmann & Fabry." (Chicago History)

The cost of the railroad was about $1,000,000 at the time (worth nearly $29 Million today), and while six million rides occurred on the track, it did not come close to recouping this investment, although overall the expo was a huge fiscal success, and the Intramural Railway certainly helped toward that end.

Image: Bancroft, Hubert Howe, 1893. University of Chicago

The Book of the Fair also notes a tug of war between an electric and a steam engine. "The 16th of September, the date on which the (sic) Manchester and Liverpool Railway was opened sixty-three years before, was selected as railroad day by the Exposition authorities. Many prominent railroad men from the United States and foreign countries participated in the exercises and recreations, which included a trip on the intramural road, the movable sidewalk, and the historic pioneer train drawn by the John Bull, with a tug of war between an electric and a steam engine, the steam locomotive, though only an old switch engine, easily dragging its competitor along the track. The exercises, which were held in Festival hall, were largely attended, and included the usual feasting and speech-making."

Thanks as always for reading!

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The Cannon Valley Railroad War

The Cannon River in eastern Minnesota was the site of a near railroad war between the upstart Minnesota Central Railroad, and the much larger Milwaukee Road, who owned virtually all freight traffic in the area, and wished to keep it that way.

Red Wing on the Milwaukee's River Division. Image: "Township and railroad map of Minnesota published for the Legislative Manual, 1874.", Library of Congress.

In the 1870's, Red Wing, MN was cut off from railroad traffic as the Milwaukee had built a line between the Twin Cities and Chicago via Northfield and Faribault, leaving Red Wing without any service west, although the River Division ran through the town. Red Wing petitioned the Milwaukee Road to connect to the town via Cannons Falls, but as they owned all the rail traffic in the area, they were uninterested in expansion.

That was until the Minnesota Central Railroad was incorporated in 1881, intending to connect Red Wing to Mankato in 1883. It was at this point that the Milwaukee announced they were building a competing line, hoping to prevent the railroad from even building in their territory. 

The Minnesota Central nonetheless continued to build, and each company attempted to curry favor from villages and towns nearby. The MC had an easier time constructing their route, and completed theirs first. 

While actual fights have erupted in railroad wars throughout the United States, this war did not result in any physical skirmishes between crews, but did amount to plenty of litigation. Both railroad completed their routes and competed for the same traffic. 


The Milwaukee Road abandoned their section east of Northfield, MN in 1937; while the Minnesota Central would become the Chicago Great Western Railway. The line passed down to the CGW successor Chicago & Northwestern, but was abandoned soon after, ending service entirely in the 1980's. 

Today, the southern grade is the Cannon Valley Trail. Thanks as always for reading!

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Mapping the Forgotten Chicago Transit Authority "L" Stations

I haven't really discussed much about the CTA's rail lines and its history on this blog for two reasons. One is that many historians and the Illinois Railway Museum have done a tremendous job of preserving its history, as well as discussing it and the other interurban lines around Chicago in various blogs, most notably The Trolley Dodger and the Chicago-L, among others. 

The second, and probably larger reason, is that the entire system's history is actually quite complex; what is now composed of a system of color-coded lines comes from several different systems and branches that have merged into the CTA over time. I do my best not to discuss things I'm not certain about, and of course if I'm wrong about the slightest fact, an army of railroad historians will be rushed to my location to correct me as soon as humanly possible.

Image: Kostner Station from the Eisenhower Expy. Google Street View Image

But after driving into the city for the better part of the last two years and observing the above station on my drive in, I was left with a thought in my head I could no longer ignore...namely, how long has that station been closed? (1973). Why did it close? How many more abandoned stations exist along the CTA? 

The above blogs and the railway museum are excellent spots for information, and without them I would not have been able to complete this map, but they are hard to analyze if you're thinking in terms of place of these stations. Thus, I decided to create my own map of Abandoned or Closed CTA Stations, embedded below.

As my abandoned railroad lines map focuses on just that, abandoned lines, I wouldn't be able to add the Kostner Station, as the Blue Line is still running 24/7/365. 

So the following map includes all current CTA trackage, as well as the stations along the abandoned branches of the system, and when these stations were closed. My hope is that this map will help tell the story of the CTA as I best know how, by plotting points!

Each of the points in the map are labeled according to the symbology of their respective current CTA line, with abandoned lines in gray. As with any of my maps, feel free to email to provide more information or submit an addition/correction. 

Thanks as always for reading!