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North American Railroad Routes: Infrastructure and Traffic

Webmaster's introduction:

R&LHS member Don Winter has been engaged in a project of descriptive documention of the US railroad system. He has traveled extensively on Amtrak over many years, always taking notes of what he observes. Part of his material consists of "snapshots" of the status of each given route at the time he observed it, and in addition, he provides some historical material about some of the routes and the places through which they pass.

His material is being made accessible via Internet through the use of the Google Earth system.

His description of the project, with instructions for access, is below:


The route descriptions are accessible as Amtrak Long Distance Routes and Corridors (also for Via Trunk Routes and Corridors), as individual railroad Trunk Routes, and as groupings of lines in various Regions. Unanalyzed traffic data (listings of trains carrying various different kinds of traffic at various time periods) can be accessed from the indexes to the Route Descriptions, as can segments of maps of some lines and GoogleEarth views of some line segments and railroad subdivisions. Some of the route descriptions are historical (i.e. represent specific dates in the past). Infrastructure descriptions and histories for individual places can be accessed from the Route Descriptions and (where applicable) from the Traffic listings.

In June, 2006, route descriptions have been developed for the majority of Amtrak's Long Distance Route (except for those north and east of the route of the Lakeshore Limited and east of the route of the Crescent Limited), and of most of the lengths of the Corridors with those same geographical limits, as well as a small number of Via routes. Route Descriptions in the Southern California, San Francisco Bay & Sacramento, Oregon Branches, and Colorado Narrow Gauge Regions are largely complete, with lesser coverage already in existence for the Chicago Region. Route Descriptions of the Trunk Routes also exist, with those same geographical limitations, where they share trackage with Amtrak Routes, but descriptions for much of the freight only trackage remain to be developed. (Much of what is missing, at the top level, will be developed over the coming autumn and winter seasons.)

Historical Route Descriptions exist for a small number of line segments, and Place histories also exist for a small number of places. These will be expanded as time goes by and the necessary data are collected.

The currently available descriptions and listings are accessible using standard web techniques from the Railroad Infrastrucutre and Traffic Data top-level page at: http://home.earthlink.net/~donwinter/id5.html

In addition, for those who have GoogleEarth installed and running, geographically-based access is available using a collection of GoogleEarth Placemarks created by Don Winter and others that is (as a collection) available from:

The collected descriptions can be used for a number of purposes, both in present day activities and historically-based activities. The route descriptions for passenger routes can be used while riding those trains to identify what one is seeing at the line side. While driving to the lineside, the route descriptions permit someone reaching the lineside at a a particular location on a road or street to know defintively which way along the track a particular rail location is to be found. When line and place histories are in place, they will permit the determination, to a reasonable level of accuracy, of when particular infrastructure features appeared or disappeared (or in some cases, both). Naturally, these data will be more accurate for recent times than for times more than fifty or sixty years old.

The traffic data will, when reasonably complete, allow the determination not only of changes in the number of trains per day over a particular line, but also in the types of goods or minerals carried, and their origins and destinations as they changed over time.

To assist in accessing this material, here are a number of examples of how the material may be accessed:

Getting to a particular Amtrak Train Route Description by navigating the website

Amtrak Train Route Descriptions can be accessed by navigating my website from the page at:
by clicking in turn on:
Amtrak's Long Distance Routes
[the particular train route desired]
Amtrak's Corridors
[the particular corridor desired]

Traffic Data can also be accessed by clicking the appropriate links on a route's index page (when traffic data are present), as can maps of sections of the route, when present, or GoogleEarth views of sections of the route, when present (these require that GoogleEarth be installed on the computer before using them). A route for which these data are actually present in June 2006 is "Amtrak Trains 3 & 4, The Southwest Chief", one of the Long Distance Routes accessible from that page.

Route Descriptions for Trunk Routes, or for routes within specific Regions, can be accessed by clicking the appropriate links from the top-level page above, and then clcking on the desired routes. The "SP I-5 Route" north of the Sacramento area is an example of a Trunk Route for which detailed descriptions are present.

Getting to the data for a particular Place by navigating the website

Place data can be accessed from links embedded in Route Description pages or Traffic Data pages (if the places are Originating or Terminating locations for traffic flows. Route Description Pages and Traffic Data pages can be accessed as described in the example above. For example, from the index for "Amtrak Trains 3 & 4, The Southwest Chief", there are major yard Places accessible from the Traffic Data pages, or from the Route Descriptions for "Barstow to Daggett" (Barstow Yard), "Holliday to Kansas City" (Argentine Yard), or "Galesburg (Cameron) to Aurora" (Galesburg Yard. A Place Description for a Place that is not a yard can be accessed from either of the the Route Descriptions for "Cajon Pass" -- the most complete of these, in June 2006, is the one for Old Keenbrook.

Entering the website from a set of GoogleEarth Placemarks

First, install GoogleEarth on the local computer (it can be downloaded (free) from http://earth.google.com.) and run it. Click here which will download a set of Placemarks to the Temporary Placemarks listing in the sidebar to the left of the map/image window (and show these placemarks over the imagery in the image window). Clicking on a folder in the "Railroad Infrastructre History" folder in the Temporary Placemarks list (such as "ATSF") will display a set of links to the Route Descriptions indexes for the routes for that rialway, and the folders present in that folder will allow display of those route segments in the GoogleEarth image window. (It is not the intent of this example to provide a tutorial on the use of GoogleEarth itself.

To achieve its ultimate goal, this project cannot be the work of only one person. Desirably, it would become a collaborative effort, hosted by an organized group of set of groups, on a site with greater projected longevity than that of an individual (which might disappear at any time). In the interim, however, extension beyond the work of a single individual can be achieved by linking this site (at the appropriate places in the structure trees) with other sites (at similar deep levels, where useful) that provide similar data in areas not covered in this site, and vice versa.