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Showing posts from February, 2020

A Little Mistake: The Little Kanawha Railroad

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The Little Kanawha Railroad ran from Parkersburg, WV to Palestine, WV, about 29 miles in length. Construction began in 1897, and reached Palestine the next year. ( Right of way ) "Transfer of Little Kanawha Railroad", Parkersburg, WV. Dan Kemper image via Hur Herald Although, the road was actually intended to run southeast to Burnsville, WV, and while some grading took place, the rails never ran farther south than Palestine. At the north end near Parkersburg, it paralleled the Little Kanawha River to the immediate south, with the also-abandoned B&O Railroad Parkersburg Branch that is now part of the North Bend Rail Trail just to the north of the river. Image: Historical Wirt County via Parkersburg News and Sentinel Ultimately, $5 Million was lost on the venture, which if fully completed, would have tapped into the coal fields of West Virginia, as opposed to ending abruptly in what was essentially the middle of nowhere. Although the project was a failure, a small bit o

The Ever-Moving US Highway 48

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US Highway 48 is the only two-digit US Highway that has existed in more than two places, having been the number for three different routes throughout US Highway history. Image: CalTrafficSigns via AARoads The first US 48 was signed from San Jose to French Camp, CA as part of the first US Routes in 1926 . Five years later, it became one of the first routes to be removed from the system, having been replaced by an extended US-50, and ultimately part of present-day I-880. The second US 48 was opened in 1975 between Morgantown, WV and Hancock, MD. This road was upgraded to a freeway, and in 1991, was replaced by present-day Interstate 68 . The third US 48 was applied to a highway relatively close to the second one, just somewhat more east. It was designated in 2002, making it one of the youngest US Highways, and is part of Appalachian Corridor H. When fully complete, it will run between Weston, WV and Strasburg, VA for a distance of 157 miles. Image: Corridor H milepost on U.S. 48 near M

The Berkshire Street Railway

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The Berkshire Street Railway was a network of interurban railway lines that was a subsidiary of the much larger New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad , who ran steam engines through the same territory, albeit to farther destinations. The system ran across four Northeaster states, with trackage from Hoosick Falls, NY; Bennington, VT, Great Barrington, MA and Canaan, CT. We purchased a collection of railway photographs and discovered a few unique shots of the interurban that we felt deserved sharing, even if we have little in the way of unique history to contribute to the memory of this line. Each of the photos below come from this collection. "Pownal Center, VT. Berkshire Street Railway". Undated photo. Lines that were part of the railway included the Hoosac Valley Street Railway , Pittsfield Electric Street Railway , Bennington Electric Railroad , Bennington & Hoosick Valley Railway , Bennington & North Adams Street Railway , Hoosick Falls Railroad , and the Ve

A Trip Down Under to the Aramac Tramway

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The Aramac Tramway opened Aramac, Queensland, Australia to the rest of the Australian Railway Network at Barcaldine, QLD. ( Right of way ) Image and history Tramways in Australia were railways that were owned and/or operated by local authorities as opposed to part of the larger state railway networks. Aramac had several times lobbied for a railway connection but was rejected each time, with the nearest rail line 41 miles away at Barcaldine. Finally in 1913 they completed their own tramway line to connect to the rail network. World War I would impact traffic in its infancy, and a cyclone in the 1920's further hampered operations. Ultimately the line survived at a loss until 1975, becoming the last locally owned tramway in Queensland to close. The Aramac Station survives today as the Aramac Tramway Museum .

From Electric to Steam: The Hooppole, Yorktown & Tampico Railroad

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The Hooppole, Yorktown & Tampico Railroad connected its namesake cities in western Illinois, beginning service in 1909. This line connected Hooppole, IL to the rest of the US railroad network at Tampico via a junction with the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad . ( Right of way ) Farmers along the route would donate right of way, and stocks began to be sold for the new company. However, not every landowner was excited for a new railroad, meaning the right of way meandered around, despite no significant physical barriers. Nonetheless, the project improved transportation and allowed people access to major cities, like Chicago, that they wouldn't have had otherwise. Image: Tampico Historical Society It was originally envisioned as an electric interurban line , but ultimately ran on steam power, and at least some adjacent landowners were so unappreciative of, several sections of track were relocated slightly. The line went bankrupt in 1943, when investor Howard Mathis took o

You Can See Economic History in Nebraska's Satellite Imagery

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The accessibility of satellite imagery has opened up a treasure trove of interesting things that might otherwise remain hidden in plain sight. I've past mentioned scarchitecture in this blog before, where the historic tracks of railroads, canals, roads, and other transportation systems can result in oddly-angled buildings which offer clues of the past. Others have noticed geography playing a role in other arenas of history as well, as geologist Steven Dutch noted that the more Democratic Black Belt in Alabama matched up nearly perfectly with a 100 Million year old rock formation. (Wired) Similarly, I noticed something interesting in regards to my abandoned and out-of-service railroad lines map , with regard to the proximity of three railroad lines that had significant portions of their routes that were never built. These were three related branches of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad that never reached their full extent in central Nebraska. Today we explore why th

The Rio Grande Southern Railroad

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The Rio Grande Southern Railroad was a narrow-gauge line that ran from Durango, CO to Ridgway, CO, along a roughly 160 mile route. ( Right of Way ) Image: "Railway station at Ophir, Colorado" 1940. Via Shorpy First founded in 1889, the road began construction the year after. "The RGS’s early revenues came mainly from the numerous silver and gold mines near Telluride, Ophir and Rico. Hauling hundreds of tons of precious metal ores and hundreds of passengers in and out of the area made the financial condition of the railroad extraordinarily strong for its first two and one-half years! " ( RGS History ) RGS 461 at Ridgway, CO. Photographer: Richard Kindig. Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection. Unfortunately for the line, the silver panic of 1893 meant the newly opened line would face unforeseen financial difficulties from then on. RGS 2101 freight car. Unknown photographer: Forgotten Railways, Roads & Places Photo Collection. Th

More Ghost Bridge Piers: Lemont, IL over the Des Plaines River

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Looking at this bridge in Lemont, IL , you’ll see ghost bridge piers in front of it, just to its immediate west. They're quite easily visible from the Lemont Road Bridge. So why do these piers exist, and what was the bridge they used to carry used for? From what I’ve been able to tell, they are remnants of a former bridge which once stood here (over the Des Plaines River), before the Sanitary & Ship Canal was built. The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District  built the currently standing bridge around 1900. This bridge carries the BNSF Chillicothe Subdivision .  Note the piers in the foreground. FRRandP photo. My initial thought was that they were simply bridge piers from an earlier mainline bridge, except that didn't appear to be the case, as the piers have been there since at least 1938. Image: 1938 Illinois Aerial Imagery I've seen only one piece of photographic evidence of this former line, and it's very subtle, but it shows that both bridges were used at the s

The Uvalde & Northern Railway

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The Uvalde & Northern Railway connected Camp Wood, TX with Uvalde, TX and the Southern Pacific Railroad along a 37 mile right of way, beginning in 1921. ( Right of way ) "Cedar posts were once a vital requirement in the housing construction business in San Antonio and indeed across Texas. They were used as house foundations. The availability of vast amounts of this vital commodity in the area north of Uvalde made the construction and operation of a short rail line entirely appropriate." (Texas Transportation Museum) Image and history: Texas Transportation Museum Once the supply of Cedar near Camp Point ran dry, the line's major source of cargo dried up around 1935. For the next few years, petroleum shipments kept the line in existence, but running at a loss. After a series of washouts, the line was no longer viable, and it was allowed to be abandoned in 1941. 

When Steam Power Killed The Workhorse: The Hetton Colliery Railway

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When we think of railroads, we typically imagine a long train of freight cars being pulled by multiple diesel engines, or steam engines in historical times. But before the early 1800's, rail transport existed in a much different way than we think of it today. Most railroads used animal power, and had little to no engineering standards, as "railroad companies" that owned dozens of lines didn't exist, as all railroads were used for usually a small purpose and nothing more. While steam locomotive prototypes existed as early as 1784, and the  Coalbrookdale Locomotive  was the first operating steam power on a track, most railways used animal power, and those lucky enough to incorporate steam into their operations still mostly used animals. That all changed in 1822. The Hetton Colliery Railway was the first railway in the United Kingdom to operate wholly on steam power, as opposed to horsepower, first beginning operation in 1822. ( Right of way ) Located near the small vil