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Showing posts from 2020

New Years Eve's Freak Snow in the Deep South, 1963

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On New Years Eve of 1963, University of Alabama Head Football Coach “Bear” Bryant prophetically said that the only thing that could have messed up his team’s chances in the Sugar Bowl against  Ole Miss  in New Orleans, LA was a freak snowstorm.  Well, that's just what they got, as 4.5" of the white stuff fell the day before the game.  Groundskeepers clearing the snow before the Sugar Bowl at Tulane Stadium. Image: The Times-Picayune,  NOLA.com According to  NOLA , "a record-breaking snowstorm socked much of the South that day, with flakes starting to fall locally at 2:45 a.m., according to a story in The States-Item. By the time the city began waking up around 6, cars and trees were already coated in white. By noon, an inch had fallen. When the snow finally stopped a good 18 hours after it started, it measured 4.5 inches, the most the city had seen since before the turn of the century." Nonetheless, 'Bama won the game the following day,  by a score of 12-7 . The

2020 - And What's Next

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In spite of our differences, I'm pretty sure we're all sick of 2020, and would all like to move on from it. I'm not going to get into the obvious reasons why this year has sucked, since no one needs to be reminded, so as we recap this year, we're going to steer clear of all that and hopefully provide some context as to what we plan to do in the coming year. This is what we shared for January 1st of this year, if only we knew... In early January of 2020, we decided to build an app for our abandoned and out of service railroad lines map. As of this writing, it still isn't out, although it is completed (finally). It will be released soon, as soon as it is approved by both Apple and Google.  We had hoped to release it in March . And then July, and every month after that. It finally became clear to us that our developer had no idea how to complete the app, and we had to start from scratch once again in September. Funny how when you have the right people doing the right

The Baltimore Chesapeake & Atlantic Railway

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The Baltimore Chesapeake & Atlantic Railway was a combined railway and steamship operator in the Delmarva region, operating a route from Balitmore, MD to Ocean City, MD, using ferries from Baltimore to Claiborne, MD, and using a railway from Claiborne to Ocean City, MD. ( Right of way ) Commercial, Anon. - Standard & Poor 1906, digitized by Library of Congress The line was the successor to the Baltimore & Eastern Shore Railroad , who in 1889 began constructing the route between Claiborne (on the Chesapeake Bay) and Salisbury, MD, 30 miles south. In 1890, they purchased the Wicomico & Pocomoke Railroad to reach Ocean City. Image via Star Democrat By 1902, the Pennsylvania Railroad became the majority owner of the company, but it nonetheless operated separately from the rest of the PRR system.  During the 1920's, the railroad grew unprofitable, and faced with insurmountable debts, attempted to reorganize to no avail. In 1928, the name was reverted to the Baltimore

RailROWMap Preview

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NOTE: RailROWMap is available now! Download for iOS and Android from the links on the left or in the menu! RailROWMap is a custom iOS/Android mapping application coming soon. With this app, you will be able to view maps of abandoned railroad lines, across the world, ghost towns and abandoned places, heritage railways, railroad points of interest and abandoned airports! Each point on each map allows the user to select it and view more information about its history, location, etc. Users will be able to submit additional points and lines to the map, pending admin approval. The app does NOT track users or store any kind of geographic information about the user, outside of what users personally send to us (i.e emails, files, etc.) The app is ad supported, with the option available to remove adds for a fee. Release is in January, 2021, and is currently pending approval in both the Google Play and App Store.

Toboggan at Bendix Woods County Park

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Bendix Woods County Park is owned by the St. Joseph County, IN Parks Department, located just south of New Carlisle, IN. Despite being a relatively small plot of forest, the Park actually holds a couple interesting bits of history, including an abandoned roller coaster.  Image: World Wide Coasters First, let's discuss the more obvious landmark here. Owing to the industrial nature of Northern Indiana, one can see trees aligned to form the word "Studebaker", the car company that ceased operations in 1967 that was founded in nearby South Bend. The trees themselves were planted in 1938 . Image: South Bend Tribune Much less obvious, however, is the existence of the ruins of a roller coaster on the park grounds, which was known as the Toboggan, and build around 1970. It appears to have never operated, and may have been more of an alpine coaster (one that traverses down a hill or a mountain), as opposed to a traditional chain lift ride. Image: Paul Schramm via RCDB The Director

The Indonesian Boxing Day Tsunami

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In 2004, the  Boxing Day Tsunami  caused by the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake took some 230000 lives in a matter of hours, becoming the deadliest recorded tsunami in history. Destruction from the tsunami extended hundreds of meters inland and stretched for thousands of kilometers. Credit: Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Jon Gesch, USN. ( Earth Magazine ) "At 7:59 AM, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake—one of the largest ever recorded—ripped through an undersea fault in the Indian Ocean, propelling a massive column of water toward unsuspecting shores. The Boxing Day tsunami would be the deadliest in recorded history, taking a staggering 230,000 lives in a matter of hours." (History) National Geographic  shared an incredible video taken from a hotel balcony of a wave generated from the tsunami off of the coast of Thailand.

The Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway

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The Port Dover & Lake Huron Railway was a line built to connect Port Dover, ON, Canada with Woodstock, ON, about 40 miles north. The company was formed in 1872, with completion of the road to Woodstock completed in 1875. ( Right of Way ) Image of Port Dover Station, possibly from an early 20th century postcard. The plan followed a much earlier company plagued with scandal that would never complete a similar railway, the Woodstock & Lake Erie Railway and Harbour Company , incorporated in 1848. The PD&LH would lay track and use much of the same right of way, reducing construction costs. In 1876, the railway would extend northerly to Stratford, ON, where it met the Stratford & Lake Huron Railway, from which it extended points north and westerly, nearly to Lake Huron. Map of the PD&LH (in red) and the S&LH (in Blue). The Blue section is still in service. Image: Dan Fletcher . The line was amalgamated , along with many other independent roads, into the Grand Trunk R

George Washington Crosses the icy Delaware River

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On the night of Christmas Day, 1776, George Washington began  crossing the Delaware River to attack Trenton, New Jersey , creating the iconic scene immortalized in an  1851 painting . Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze, MMA-NYC, 1851 Early in the morning on Christmas, General Washington advised his troops to have food and supplies for three days of travel, and was concerned the British were planning to cross the Delaware River once it had completely frozen over. The weather was getting worse as well, turning from drizzle to rain to sleet and snow, based on a soldier's account of the day.  The greatest hazard Washington faced was ice chunks in the river, making it extremely difficult to navigate across, meaning all of the Army did not move across the water until 3am on the 26th. Over the next two days, Washington and his men would make the trip two more times. The crossing would result in the  Battle of Trenton , which was a small but significant battle in the Revolu

The Montgomery and Eufaula Railroad

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The Montgomery and Eufaula Railroad was incorporated in 1860 to build a railroad across its namesake cities, connecting Montgomery, AL with the Chattahoochee River at Eufaula. ( Right of way )  1859 Newspaper Article proposing a Montgomery-Eufaula railroad, which was formally incorporated the following year. Construction was obviously postponed as a result of the Civil War , but would reach completion ten years later, building an 81 mile route across the eastern part of the state. Like many early railroads, it initially suffered financially, and was purchased in 1879 by the Central Rail Road and Banking Company, a predecessor to the Central of Georgia Railroad, who would reorganize the road under its original name. In 1895, the Central of Georgia Railroad formally incorporated the route into their system, adding another railroad connection between Georgia and Alabama. The route would pass on to CofG's successor, the Southern Railway , and its ultimate Class I successor, Norfolk S

The Story of the Illinois Midland Railway

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The Illinois Midland Railway was one of the shortest independent railways in not just Illinois, but in the entire United States. It was officially listed as having 1.962 miles of mainline track,  running from a junction with the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad at Millington, IL south to Newark, IL. Despite its shortcomings, it had a relatively long life as a short line railroad, perhaps operating on the sheer will of its owner alone, until arsonists sealed its fate in 1967. We briefly discussed the Illinois Midland in our blog on 4 Railway Lines Ended by Disaster , but when one considers the railroad's place in the US rail network, the fact that it lasted until the late 1960's is pretty miraculous. Had arsonists not destroyed one of its bridges, who's to say how long this line would have lasted? It may have even been preserved as a heritage railway. "Steam Freight Train on the Illinois Midland Railway" Image: Stuart Pearson, c. 1957 The story of th

Pinhook, MO (1927-2011): A Black Ghost Town

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Pinhook, MO was a small town about 8 miles west of the Mississippi River, founded in 1927 by a group of black sharecroppers. The low lying land was among the only places that would sell to them, but this location would also put them in harms way during flood season. Five years later, the Army Corps of Engineers built the Birds Point-New Madrid Floodway to ease the annual flooding along the Mississippi River. The floodway, when used, put the excess waters directly in the path of the town. ( ProPublica ). At its peak, the tiny village housed about 250 people in the 1960's, but a series of floods in the 1970's would put the village in significant decline, and the population had fallen to less than 50 by 2010. The towns fate would be completely sealed in 2011, when historic flooding along the Mississippi River threatened Cairo, IL downstream. After the river reached 61.7 feet and sand boils began to develop along the Cairo levees, the decision was made to open the floodways for t

Fullersburg, IL and Graue Mill

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It is sometimes overwhelming to me just how much history is hidden in plain sight, and well within commuting distance of where I live. Some of it is obvious, and some is difficult to completely comprehend. Thankfully, many take it upon themselves to preserve their history and share it with others, making my job of sharing it with you that much easier.  With that in mind, I'll be talking today about a place many suburban Chicago schoolchildren visit at least once on field trips: Graue Mill, and Fullersburg, IL, which was a nearby settlement that eventually became part of present day Hinsdale  and Oak Brook . In the case of Fullersburg, the  Fullersburg Historic Foundation has kept the history and story of the Village alive, even as housing and development has overshadowed many of its buildings. Graue Mill:   Graue Mill is easily the most preserved and public site that was once part of old Fullersburg. Frederick Graue, a German immigrant, purchased the site, which was a sawmill tha

Collecting and Curating Railroad Slides

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A little over a year ago, I started  collecting 35mm slides of railroad scenes, in addition to my own railroad photographs, and scanning them into an online personal album. My main interest in starting to collect slides was preservation, not dissimilar to how and why I feel the need to map the abandoned railroad network of the world. Conrail CR 5338 Action Scene. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection. 20,000 photos later, and I feel like I have a much greater understanding of what exactly it means to preserve, collect, and curate a photo collection. For one, even with all of the incredibly large amount of data one can store in cloud based databases, not without a significant team behind me was I going to be able to create a geolocated database of railroad images. RRPictureArchives and RailPictures  are about as good as it gets as far as that end is concerned. Amtrak 281 crossing over the Chicago River near 18th Street. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo

The Swastika Trail

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It seems hard to imagine today, but less than 100 years ago, neither the US Highway System nor Illinois Numbered Highways existed. New England had begun a rudimentary numbering system for highways, and Iowa began theirs in 1919, but the numbered highways we know and understand today were at best in their infancy.  As were roads. What predated the roads we have today are the Auto Trails , which had varying levels of paving and services along their routes. Further, these were maintained by organizations, not governments, at least not in their entirety.  1917 Illinois Highway Map. Illinois Digital Archives The Auto Trails were named, not numbered, and while many had names that no one would question today ( The Lincoln Highway , Grant Highway, and the Quincy Trail as some examples), viewing maps today of Illinois or Iowa from the early 1920's would have one notable exception: The Swastika Trail. Illinois Digital Archives 1924N Map Importantly, the swastika is an ancient symbol that

Quadruple-Tracking, Electrifying and Elevating the BNSF Racetrack: It Almost Occurred 100 Years Ago

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Had the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad , a predecessor of today's BNSF Railway , fully acted upon their plans from 1913 to the early part of the 20th century, Chicago's Western Suburbs that developed along what it is now known as the " Racetrack " may have looked much different, at least adjacent to the tracks.  Image: Downers Grove Museum and Historical Society According to Engineering News in 1913, the CB&Q "it is reported, is planning the elevation of its trackage between Chicago and Aurora, Ill., a distance of about 40 miles. If the plans are finally ratified, work will begin next spring. The elevated portion will be four-tracked and electrified. The cost is estimated at about $25,000,000, the expenditure of which will be distributed over several years. W. L. Breckenridge, Chicago, Ill., is Engr. M. W. Having many times waited in traffic generated by the very-busy railroad on Main Street in Downers Grove, I have long thought the current situatio

US Highway 110

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Early in the life of the US Numbered Highway System , there existed numerous intrastate US Highways, and ones less than 300 miles in length. Now, AASHTO guidelines are for state highways to replace US Routes less than 300 miles in length, unless they cross a state line. One of these highways was US-110, which ran along what is present-day US-45 (US-41 during US-110's life) from Oshkosh, WI north to US-10, or present day WI-110/WI-96. It was only 40 miles in length, and thus an early candidate for removal. Image and history: Michael Summa via USEnds Wisconsin Route 110 supplanted the US Highway in 1940, but due to extensions and truncations of WI-110, most of the route does not follow the Old US-110 alignment from Oshkosh to Fremont, WI. WI-110 now runs from Fremont, WI to Marion, WI. NOTE: The Wisconsin Central Railroad planned to built through Fremont, WI before a more northerly alignment was chosen, which is why a " Railroad Grade Rd " exists in the village.