Danish railways system map of 1968

January 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Railways 

Sometimes something just needs to be shown once found. When I recently went through all the available maps at the NVBS cartography library I found this jewel of a map. It shows the full railway system of Denmark in May 1968.

The nice thing about such a map is that it shows a lot of railways which have disappeared, although of course many more railways already disappeared before 1968 and so can’t be found on this map. However, lines like the line from Thisted to Norresundy can be found on this map. The only way you can find this line on a modern map would be to look for the telltale line of a dyke going seemingly without reason running through the landscape.

Another line still on this map which can no longer be found is the railway on Bornholm, shown in the right-hand lower corner of the map. At the time of printing the days of the line were already numbered, and this is the last remnant of the network. But in 1968 it was still possible to take the line from Ronne to Nekso.

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The NVBS cartography section

August 3, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Railways 

If you are a fan of railways and cartography, the field of railway cartography must be the best thing there is. And so for many people collecting such maps is a thoroughly addicting hobby! The NVBS Library must therefore be a major Walhalla for anyone who has this hobby, including me.

The NVBS Library has a lot of railway related material in store. I myself are part of a group within the NVBS, the Railatlas Bureau. More information on both the NVBS and Railatlas can be found on the internet, but when I was at Amersfoort Station, the location of NVBS since a few months, I made some pictures to give an idea of the number of maps and the type of material we have.

Have a look at for instance this picture:

Hundreds of maps out there!

Hundreds of maps out there!

Boxes etc. filled with drawings, endless series of them.
A lot of these maps were at one time or another drawn by maps of the NVBS, one of which was accidentally a highly professional Dutch mapmaker (see the Railatlas for these maps). But besides creating our own maps we also collect official maps, as background information in case we need to know about (former) railways and tramways. So, one can also find a lot of other maps.

More maps and more maps

More maps and more maps

I opened a box just randomly and I discovered an almost complete set of Finland in detailed maps, dated 1946! Only one out of a set of 8 was missing. And I am pretty sure it must be somewhere else (or it had no railway on it of course…).

Customs house Enschede

Customs house Enschede

Have a look at this picture: if you desperately want to rebuild a former custom’s house at Enschede, look no further, here is the drawing! The read stamp at the bottom of the drawing actually says “demolished” in Dutch, but we still have the drawings.

The NVBS has even more drawings: open any drawer and you will find dozens of maps. Or open any of the tubes on top of the drawers: maps. Hundreds and hundreds of them, some dating back well into the 19th century. Especially the blue maps are valuable: they are originals. There are even (almost) complete sets of original drawings of tramway lines long dismantled.

So, if you happen to look for railway related maps of the Netherlands, look no further than this. That includes maps of the former Dutch colonies, especially the East Indies!

Drawers each filled with drawings

Drawers each filled with drawings

Just open any drawer. Any...

Just open any drawer. Any…

Armchair travelling along the Nantucket Railroad

August 12, 2009 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Railways 

A lot of railways disappeared before 1940, but some disappeared much earlier than that and most of the time without leaving a trace. Looking at recent topographical maps one can see lots of stretches of former railways, but that’s most of the time a recent, standard gauge line through relatively flat country, where the railway embankment can be easily seen in the landscape and so will often be included on maps.

But it is rare to discover a railroad which from the start was pretty much a failed project and consequently was dismantled very early on. The Nantucket Railroad, opened for traffic in July 1881, was originally proposed to be part of the development of Nantucket Island as a holiday resort, to combat the rising economical problems connected with the whaling industry which was on its last legs on Nantucket by that time. However, money was short and so only in 1884 did the line reach its full length, 11 miles. The original plan envisaged a line of 17 miles, which was remarkable, because the distance as the crow flies between the two towns connected was actually 7 miles…

The company went pretty much bankrupt in 1894 for the first but not the last time. The line managed to hold on until 1918 in the end, but only because until then automobiles were restricted on the island and other shorter routes were planned but never developed.  And so the line ended its short and unsuccessful life.

The line ran from Nantucket in the middle part of the island to Siasconset on the eastern seaboard. That meant the line ran partially next to the sea and in 1893 the sea caused bankruptcy of the company by wiping away part of the line near Tom Never’s Head. And that is approximately where the following screenshot was taking. This is a USGS map showing an old railroad bed running almost straight through the island towards the sea next to Siasconset.

More information on the railroad can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nantucket_Railroad. There some details are different from the ones I mention here, my details come from the wonderful book “American Narrow Gauge Railroads” by George Hilton. The book has a picture of engine number 2, the Wikipedia page also has a picture (but a different one).

There is also something else: a documentary! It’s quite interesting, with a lot of material in it. See it here at http://www.joost.com/120000n/t/Another-Island-Story-Nantucket-Railroad#id=120000n.

The eastern part of Nantucket

The eastern part of Nantucket

 

The railroad grade as shown on a USGS map

The railroad grade as shown on a USGS map

 

The line can still be found easily on a 50 years old USGS map

The line can still be found easily on a 50 years old USGS map

The Seward Peninsula Railroad on USGS maps

August 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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A few years ago I discovered pretty much by accident that NASA World Wind was showing an older series of topographical maps by the USGS through its map server. All of a sudden I discovered abandoned railways all over the US on these maps. One of those railways was the Seward Peninsula Railroad, a line which ran northwards from Nome in Alaska.

The railway has some coverage in the book “American Narrow Gauge Railroads” by George Hilton, a review of which can be found on this site. He mentions that the 42 mile railway was abandoned by 1955 and later partially used as a bed for a highway. That last theme can be seen on one of the screenshots I have taken from Google Earth.

There are several providers of USGS topographical maps on Google Earth which can be found on the internet. The fastest loading server had at the time of writing not yet digitized Alaska. It did have Hawaii however, on which can be found the lines near Pearl Harbor. This server can be found here: http://www.gelib.com/maps/_NL/usgs-topographic-maps.kml (if you have Google Earth installed just click on the link, that’s it). However, I used this link for the screenshots below: http://www.gearthblog.com/kmfiles/topomaps.kmz. This last server is run by 3dsolar.

More information about the Seward Peninsula can be found all over the internet. Google Books has a book online with information about the line:  When the railroad leaves town by Joseph P. Schwieterman. The “Rails North” book is out of print, but can occasionally be bought.

The “Rails to Riches” website has a lot of information about the railways in Alaska (and parts of Canada). Several of the lines mentioned on this site can be found on the old USGS maps, like the Copper River railroad.  The Council City & Solomon River Railroad can also be found, but it depends on the actual set used and the scale you’re asking for (that depends on the “height” you are zooming in on in Google Earth), sometimes you won’t see any railway at all unless you get the proper set in Google Earth.

Pictures of the original line can be found at the University of Washington library website, for instance this one titled “Seward Peninsula Railway car and warehouse, Nome, October 1, 1906”. There is even a short film of dogs pulling a cart on the line at the Alaska Digital Archives site! Another film can be found on that same website.

And now for the maps:

Wait for a few seconds if you see this

Wait for a few seconds if you see this

Seward Peninsula Railroad: parts of the railway grade have been used for the highway

Seward Peninsula Railroad: parts of the railway grade have been used for the highway

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway clearly marked on the USGS map

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway clearly marked on the USGS map

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway next to the Seward ditch

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway next to the Seward ditch

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway near Iron Creek next to the Pilgrim River

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway near Iron Creek next to the Pilgrim River

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway on old USGS maps

Seward Peninsula Railroad: the railway on old USGS maps

Seward Peninsula Railroad: halfway through the journey the maps change into a newer series, but the railway is still there.

Seward Peninsula Railroad: halfway through the journey the maps change into a newer series, but the railway is still there.

American Narrow Gauge Railroads: simply epic!

August 6, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Railways 

If being a railfan is somewhat more eccentric today than it was yesterday, narrow gauge railfanning must be even more eccentric. And like any eccentric hobby, this specific form of railfanning has a diehard following, with people spending a lot of time, energy and money on it. If you’re into this hobby you will know how obscure the books in this field can be, how much time someone has put into it and how expensive they relatively are, being produced for just a small group of potential buyers.

Narrow gauge in Alaska: Seward Peninsula

Narrow gauge in Alaska: Seward Peninsula

If that would put off a publisher, then not the publisher of this book! Unlike most of the narrow gauge books, which are either mostly A5 or at best A4, this book it not just much larger than A4, it also feels like a real “volume” in more than one ways. Let me just spoil the fun right now: this is very probably the best book about narrow gauge I have ever seen. Really. Page after page of information on the American narrow gauge railways (or should that be railroads?), with a lot of pictures and drawings.

Dual gauge: one way of solving the gauge problem

Dual gauge: one way of solving the gauge problem

The book consists of two parts, each of which could have been a separate book. The first part, up to page 298, is a general history of American narrow gauge railways and contains a lot of fascinating information about the economical and even ideological aspects of the American narrow gauge. I didn’t know this, but in the US during the later 1800s there was a very serious debate about the merits of narrow gauge versus standard gauge. This meant that a lot of narrow gauge was actually build, since in the early days some of the merits of narrow gauge were apparently appealing enough to the builders of railways. The book tracks this period profusely, telling stories of a lot of pretty much failed railways which were either abandoned soon or regauged to standard gauge, like the narrow gauge in the southwestern states.

Transfer problems: on of the main problems with narrow gauge was the cost of transshipment

Transfer problems: on of the main problems with narrow gauge was the cost of transshipment

Besides the history of the narrow gauge the first part of the book also tells about the rolling stock used by the railways. This is of course the perfect excuse for the author to show a lot of beautiful pictures of narrow gauge in action, but at the same time the book also shows the surroundings of the narrow gauge. Do not expect too much detail however, given the fact that this book is about one of the largest countries and whatever detail the author has put into it, it simply isn’t possible to list all rolling stock. But what is shown gives a perfect idea of what was once riding the rails of the American narrow gauge!

Uintah Railroad: known for their very large engines

Uintah Railroad: known for their very large engines

What is very interesting is the question of economics: the gauge difference meant transshipment, and that meant a lot of costs. Several different solutions to this problem were considered and put to use by the railways and these are shown in the book. Especially handy here are the illustrations, showing the different systems used at one time or another, plus the effects of the system. Not every system was used by a railway with a stable trackbed, so some of the pictures show some pretty heavy damage caused by vans falling over.

This first part is pretty good on its own, really, and at this point the book is already so interesting it is a “must buy”. But, there is more, much more! Because after this, the other part of the book starts: page after page after page of narrow gauge lines with their histories and a lot of maps. This second part merits a complete book on its own of course, but the author chose differently. And rightly so: this has now become a very large book, so large I can’t put it under the scanner properly to give you a sample page (whence the pictures of the book). These pages show a lot of history and depending on the importance and the duration of the existence of the line more or less space in the book is devoted to each railway.

One of the things that makes the book quite far above average is the lavish use of literature, shown in easy to find footnotes. For instances: at the end of every single railway listing is always a short set of literature given, which means you don’t have to go looking in the back of the book amongst hundreds of listings to see which book we are talking about. This way it is very easy to see which reference books have been used often and which not. So, take the Alaskan railways: Rails North is definitely a book I want to have as well, since this books is used in all the text on the Alaskan narrow gauge railways.

( By the way: NASA has a program, World Wind, which gives you satellite images right on your desktop of the entired world. However, for the US it also gives older topographical maps. And some of these maps, especially the ones about Alaska, are often so old they show pretty much all the lines mentioned in this book. And until recently Google Earth still showed the Seward Peninsula railway in the railway layer on the satellite maps of Alaska. I’ll write more about that in another posting.)

So, in short: this is a VERY good book, probably one of the best I have seen about narrow gauge. It is completely different from the average books about narrow gauge: a standard narrow gauge book is about a specific company, line or region, and so can not be compared, but if I look at the books on this subject from other countries, then this is a very well made book. The quality of the pictures, the maps and the printing in general is also to a very high standard. I can’t complain about the lack of color: 95% of the history we are talking about is the black and white area and we are simply lucky to even have pictures of some railways!

So, in short: I was already looking for this book, and then was lucky enough to discover the NVBS library had it. But if you can’t get it second hand or in your local library, you can find part of the book online at Google Books.

Author: George Woodman Hilton
Paperback: 600 pages
Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (January 1, 1995)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0804723699
ISBN-13: 978-0804723695
Product Dimensions: 11.9 x 9.1 x 1.5 inches
Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds

The book be found on Amazon:
[amazonshowcase_99eae65a8c7fc594fa424805de503f87]

And some other books about American narrow gauge:
[amazonshowcase_ab3c02b41f92809dbebbb683ed8cebb7]

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