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Showing posts from January, 2021

The Forgotten Railways of Chicago: The Old Plank Road Trail

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The Old Plank Road Trail is one of the longer trails in the Chicago area, running between Joliet and Chicago Heights, IL. It has an extensive history as a proposed plank road, railroad, and interurban right of way during various times in its life. It was one of the first " Rails to Trails " projects that I experienced, or at least that I'd realized upon walking it that was an abandoned railroad corridor. It is also, in my mind, one of the best examples of rail trails, in that it preserves the history of the right of way, fits seamlessly into its surroundings, particularly in the Frankfort, IL area, and improves the area around it. Today, we're going to explore some of the history of the trail, and show some of the area, particularly around Frankfort. The Old Plank Road Trail at Frankfort in November, 2017 Like many of the transportation routes we know today, Native Americans were the first to create these routes. This area would be part of, or lead to, the Sauk

Archer Avenue - History and Legends

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Archer Ave is a diagonal road running between State Street in Chicago and US Highway 6 in Joliet, IL. The road dates back to the creation of the Illinois & Michigan Canal , which it parallels, and the engineer of that project was its namesake, William Beatty Archer. Before asphalt and modern road technology, the road was home to a wooden bridge over the South Fork of the Chicago River, also known as Bubbly Creek . This bridge was used in the days of horse-drawn carriages and streetcars , before closing in the early years of the 20th century. Archer Avenue Swing Bridge #1, 1902. DN-0000188, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago History Museum. Via BridgeHunter . In 1906, this bridge was replaced with a Through Truss Bridge . This bridge too has been demolished,  and has been replaced twice over since - as recently as 2005 .  Photo: Chicago Department of Public Works Annual Report, 1906 In 1924, the road became part of Illinois' new highway system, becoming part of IL

The Copper River & Northwestern Railway

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The Copper River & Northwestern Railway operated between Cordova & McCarthy, AK along the Copper River for 192 miles, with construction beginning in 1904 and finally being completed in 1911. As best I can tell, it is the longest American abandoned rail line that exists outside the Contiguous 48 States. Outside of its location, however, it was just like any other railway. Copper River Bridge 27A. Image: Cook Inlet Historical Society The original right of way of the line was to begin at Katalla as opposed to Cordova, AK, but a 1907 flood, combined with competition with the Alaska Anthracite Railroad derailed those plans. Construction commenced at Katalla, but no revenue trains ever operated, as it is unlikely the right of way was completed beyond a few miles north from the settlement. "Copper River & Northwestern Railroad, Gilahina Bridge, Mile 28.5, McCarthy Road, Chitina, Valdez-Cordova Census Area, AK" ( Library of Congress ), >1968 Railroad contractor Micha

Freeways Killed These Houston Railways

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Just as Video Killed the Radio Star , so too did the highway kill the railroad, or at least some of them.  Now without trying to shoehorn some early 80's pop culture into my blogs, the more nuanced take is that highways built upon existing railroad networks and certainly disrupted the rail industry, but that doesn't mean railroads aren't highly profitable even today. Still, if one takes a look at the abandoned railroads map  in the Houston, TX area, you'll see rights of way used to exist where three freeways exist today, and that's the subject of today's blog.  At least in one case, the freeway did not come until over a decade after the railway was abandoned. Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway The Katy Freeway is one of the widest freeways in the world in spots. It is signed as Interstate 10 between Houston and Katy, TX. I-10 continues east to Jacksonville, FL and west to Santa Monica, CA. Image: Gary Morris, 1978 While the freeway has existed since the 1960's,

RailROWMap Launches!

As promised, #RailROWMap, the mobile versions of our abandoned railroads map as well as our other maps, are now available on iOS and Android ! Thanks to all of you who have helped contribute to this project, and this is only the beginning! If you enjoy your app experience, please consider leaving a good review, otherwise, please directly message us if you encounter any issues, and we'll do our best to correct them in the next iteration!

The Forgotten Railways of Cape May, New Jersey

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The Sometimes Train Tracks of Sunset Beach, as Atlas Obscura refers to them as, are old news to anyone whose followed abandoned railroad tracks for any length of time, but in 2014, it was one of the most fascinating stories I had followed that year. In that year, the railroad history of Cape May was revealed in the washing ashore of a former beach track of the Delaware Bay & Cape May Railroad. In low tides, the tracks have been revealed a couple times after their initial rediscovery as well. The fact that railroad tracks could randomly appear on a beach with little explanation was an amazing thought to me, and definitely impacted my eventual study into the abandoned railroad network of the world. Even stranger, they aren't the only "sometimes train tracks"; the phenomena also occurred as recently as 1997 at Illinois Beach . Image: CapeMay.com So what is the story behind these sometimes tracks, nearly seven years after they first erupted from the southern New Jersey s

Metra's Unbuilt STAR Line

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The Metra STAR ( Suburban Transit Access Route ) was a proposed, but unbuilt railroad project, which would have been the first Metra line to exclusively serve the suburbs of Chicago, and connect to multiple Metra lines.  Here's a rendering of Diesel Multiple Units that were proposed to run on the STAR. Metra has since taken this site offline, but the Wayback Machine still has the page. This would have been key to connecting the Metra system outside of Downtown, as each individual line that makes up Metra runs from the suburbs in one direction into the city, i.e. a hub and spoke system . Thus, there are very few connections between individual Metra lines outside of Downtown Chicago. Here's an unofficial Metra Map showing how disconnected the system is. A true sign of this disconnect? Even within downtown Chicago, one can't use the "L" Train to connect to each Metra station. ( Wikipedia Commons ) That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if there was adequate bus

O’Connell Airstrip at La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in Quebec

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Guest blogger Alain Bernier sent us the blog on an abandoned airstrip in western Quebec off of Route 117. Like many small airstrips over the last half-century, it closed off due to a lack of use. Hope you enjoy exploring more of what the Quebec area's abandoned places have to offer! O’Connell Airstrip, La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve, Quebec, Canada  © Alain Bernier 2021  The O’Connell Airstrip , also known as the Lac-des-Loups ( lake of the Wolves ) airstrip, is an abandoned landing strip located at Le Domaine in the La Vérendrye Wildlife Reserve in the  province of Quebec, Canada. Although the “ lac des Loups ” was officially renamed “ lac Jean Péré ” in 1935, folks continue to refer to it as the “ lac des Loups ”. The O’Connell airstrip should  not be confused with the closed O’Connell Seaplane Base (ICAO: CSB9) that was located on  nearby lake Jean-Péré.  Hebert J. O’Connell, a local civil works contractor i , built, owned, and operated the expansive  O’Connell Lodge on the shor