2023: And Our Next Steps

Usually I make a post at or near the end of the year to look back and plan ahead for the next year with this website. However, 2022 has been undoubtedly the most challenging year for me, and one of the worst years that I've thus far experienced. Without going too much into that, as this isn't a personal blog, I am beyond excited to see 2023 and move on to another station! So this year, 2022's recap will be quite brief.

One of the few abandoned sites I'd been able to visit in '22...this one just to the east of the Skokie Valley Trail where the Chicago North Shore & Milwaukee Line was adjacent to a CNW line.

When I started tracing abandoned railroad lines almost seven years ago, I could not have predicted the love and support from the community for this project, and I'm beyond elated that even after largely leaving social media that the site's traffic has stayed nearly the same, coupled with the fact that I haven't had nearly the time or energy to update and write blogs than I had previously. Thank you all for your support as always!

I had a few ideas for blogs that had to be postponed due to changes in my work schedule, which is why regular blogging was non-existent between April and September, and somewhat sparse even outside of that timeframe.

We visited the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc, WI, as well. I'll do a blog on it at some point! There was a ton of interesting exhibits, but the train ferries were of course the thing that interested me the most.

For 2023, I have many blogs about Wisconsin that are in the pipeline, but in addition, I think it's time that I begin to tell more stories with this data and our approach to the abandoned railroad network.

There's a lot more to these tracks than initially meet the eye, for example.

It should have been noted sooner, but I don't think I ever realized just how much of a phase shift has occurred in my thoughts and feelings on the world in the time that I've been tracing abandoned rights of way. My worldview has since 2016 been flipped on its head, and while I'm surprised and a bit saddened that more people haven't come to the same conclusions, I won't let that fester into any more cynicism than is necessary.

The most poignant of these has been my approach to highways and car infrastructure. I started finding abandoned rights of way not looking for railroads, but historical alignments of US Highways. I now see just how incredibly short-sighted our approach to infrastructure in the middle of the 20th century was, and how going forward we need to emphasize building less, not more, and using our tax dollars in smarter ways. And we can do this.

I want to tell a hopeful story with these maps, in that all that we have lost with regards to the incredible decline of the railroad network, particularly in North America, there is opportunity to revitalize these corridors as linear parks, rail trails, commuter and light rail systems, and other active transportation networks that bring communities together instead of divide neighborhoods, cut off vast natural abundance from cities, and lower pollution and carbon emissions.

And above all...where could you get pictures like this anywhere else? This is the West Fork Rail Trail. Image (mountainsteel_photography on Instagram)

While 2022 has been challenging, I have learned a lot about myself, and indeed what I want to focus on going forward. There has been an emphasis in previous years on building new apps and doing continuous improvement on this site, and the failures that have come with that made me realize that that isn't what this site is about. 

I do not want to build apps and improve the site for the simple sake of doing so; future updates will have the goal of improving the site and making the user experience easier for the people using it, and anyone who used our app understands it failed in that regard. To that end, we are largely embracing "low-tech" approach for 2023. I am keeping the map hosted on Google My Maps for as long as I can, and I can only hope they continue to support the endeavor, as anything else would be beyond expensive, and far less fast.

As always, thank you for your continued support and data; I received a TON of new lines from the community last year, and ideas for blogs as well. If anyone would like to contribute a guest blog from their favorite rail line, ghost town or abandoned place, please get in contact as usual.

Thank you and have a great 2023!

Andrew

Comments

  1. Kudos to you for your project. Having lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota for a number of years, I find this very nostalgic. It is doubly so because now I live in Australia - highly unlikely I will ever visit those places for the rest of my life.

    Tapen Sinha

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