Showing posts from August, 2019

The Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad (1973-2019)

This week, the Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad made its last journey, shipping coal between a coal fired power plant that is being decommissioned, the Navajo Generating Station and the Peabody Energy Kayenta Mine. . Image: Ryan Adams, 2019, "With only weeks left in operation, the Black Mesa & Lake Powell railroad contiues its daily journey between Page and the Mine at Kayenta" The Black Mesa & Lake Powell Railroad was one of the more unique railroad operations in the United States. For one thing, its operation did not fall under the authority of the Federal Railroad Administration, as it was completely isolated from the rest of the US Rail Network. I've mapped the right of way below; despite the remoteness of operations, the desert environment makes the tracks quite easy to spot, making this trace extremely easy. It ran about 80 miles along electrically powered catenary lines at 50,000 volts. During the height of operations at

The Pre-Steam Railroads: Rail Transport Before the Steam Engine

The word " prehistoric " refers to the time period before human records were kept, either by writing or artistic murals. While no exact date is agreed upon to which prehistory ended, it is generally accepted that human cultures began to document activities early in the Bronze Age, although culture began much earlier than that in the Neolithic period. You're probably thinking, what does this have to do with railroad history? I believe that rail transport history follows a similar progression with regard to its prehistory, although it is much simpler to understand exactly when railroad prehistory ended, right when steam took over. Railfans' interest in railroad history tends to began with the locomotive. In 1784, prototypes of steam locomotives were being developed, and  by 1802 , the  Coalbrookdale Locomotive  was created by  Richard Trevithick. In the next two decades, the concept of steam locomotion and the railroad itself would evolve, and England's  Sto

The Macomb & Western Illinois Railway: One of Forgottonia's Forgotten Railways

There are many abandoned railroad lines and forgotten railroad companies all across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and indeed all across the world. Many of these companies  never even operated  a railroad for a single day. The reasons for abandonment of a particular stretch of railway could be a blog of its own, as each and every right of way has its own unique story, and economic factors which resulted in its demise. That said, the advent of paved roads and the trucking industry is a common factor in the abandonment of many tiny lines. " Railroad Short Train circa 1905" Image: WIU Archives & Special Collections Such is the case of the Macomb & Western Illinois Railway , known later in its life as the Macomb Industry & Litteton Railway, although one could also point to its poor construction and rural corridor as factors as well. Today we'll explore the relatively short life of this former line in the middle of  Forgottonia . The

The 10 Most Pointless 3-digit Interstate Highways

The Interstate Highway System is a marvel of engineering, even in spite of its cost. There are over 46,000 interstate miles in the US. Surely, not all of them are necessary. Some can even be considered pointless. A 1958 map of what was completed of the original interstate highway act, which has since been added upon in a significant way. Image: WTTW What makes a highway pointless, especially one built to the highest road standards in the world? It can be length, as many of these routes are only a mile or two in length, but it doesn't have to be. There are quite useful interstate highways that nonetheless very short (I-190 in Illinois and I-238 in California are good examples). Another qualification is the area they serve; many of these routes either don't connect to a significantly populated area, or don't facilitate downtown traffic.  Here's my list of the Interstate highways I find the most useless. Let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments.