The Seward Peninsula Railroad on USGS maps

August 8, 2009 by
Filed under: Railways 

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.

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