Saturday, February 14, 2015

DIY - Railroad History Research

I have always been fascinated with maps. More recently, I have been avidly researching abandoned railroads and hiking and biking “in the field” to take photos of scenic spots where these railroads once were.
Abandoned Railroads |  Ride Logs

Online Mapping Tools

A few map sites have been extremely useful and interestingly show kind of a semi-hidden eerie reminder of “what once was but now isn’t.” The ITO Historic Railways map displays in amazing detail, railroad lines: abandoned and current as well as those re-purposed as bike trails and repaved as roads.
ITO Historic Railways

Of course, topo maps from the late 1800s and and 1990s are another great source for railroad history. The University of New Hampshire has a great collection that has been extremely useful over time.
UNNH Historic Topo Maps

Ghost Embankments

Finally, panning a detailed topo map and finding “ghost embankments” are (to me) a mesmerizing way to uncover the routes of many railroads - it’s amazing how much you can find. It poignantly reminds you of just how much work was put in, 100s of years ago, to build these lines.
The maps displayed below are enhanced to highlight the “ghost embankments”. Click on any link to go to AcmeMapper to see the topo map. Feel free to pan around to try and follow any RR line - you are bound to discover something interesting!

Pine Plains
Willow Brook
Boston Corners
Google and Bing Aerials

Copake Curve

Sometimes the old abandoned Railroad grade is labeled
 (this map is south of Ghent),-73.61430&z=15&t

Try panning between Philmont and Ghent  - it looks like a scenic stretch!


  • Boston Corners was quite a wild place a long time ago. Originally part of Massachusetts, its isolation from the rest of the State caused it to evolve into a "city of refuge" for criminals and outlaws of all classes.  Read >  | Location 
  • More details on the abandoned railroads in the topo maps above - Rhinecliff Branch - Central New England Railroad 

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