Dec 072014

After the long break and then so many updates a month ago, I’m thrilled to get a bunch of details added back in. Essentially, I was able to recreate much of what I lost when Google Earth crashed and lost a days work. My goal was very tight alignment of the tracks and stations on the CGW branches to Chicago, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Things should be much more exact now… though I still haven’t found a good source of details for exactly where the stations sat.

My next efforts will be to finish the stations out to Omaha, get the area around Red Wing sorted out, and get the alignment and stations correct to Mankato. After that, the basic Chicago Great Western lines will be complete.

So, have a look at the changes and let me know what I need to fix:

Chicago Great Western CGW

Norfolk Southern & the Wabash line



– November 2014 Updates

 Posted by at 10:21 pm
Nov 132014

Hi everyone!

Yes, I’m hoping someone other than me reads things here even after this long of a break. Why the break? New job. Kids in high school. Life in general. Sorry. I’ll be trying much harder to make many smaller changes over time to keep things interesting.

So, I took a staycation to watch the kids while my wife was traveling and it lead to lots of time to myself as the weather changed.. perfect for pouring over old documents! The result was the largest single update in the site’s history… and it would have been even larger if I had known that Google Earth lacks an auto-save feature. I worked all day on exacting locations for Chicago Great Western’s stations and route only to lose them all when Google Earth crashed. For the record, it only writes changes when you quit, so quit often!

It was a great few days looking at some really great stories.. like the rumble between two Iowa towns: McIntire and Bailey. One survives today and the other is long gone. And then there’s the history of a valley just east of Altura MN. Looking at that geography, I can absolutely see why CGW abandoned it rather than carve out yet another right of way on the side of some steep hills. I loved it all and just wished all my research was already on the site.

What did make it? I posted Version 06 of the “All” map which includes:

  • CGW – updated approach to Winona (needs stations)
  • CGW – Added stations down to Kansas City and fine tuned the route
  • MILW – Added details west of La Crosse
  • CNW – extended north/south in central Iowa
  • RI – added a couple of small areas in Iowa

I also separated out the Interurban lines that were in the “all” map and made individual pages for them. Really.. I had no idea I hadn’t already done that. All of this started with the interurbans so I’m not sure what happened. This includes:

  • AE&FRE – Aurora Elgin & Fox River Electric Company
  • CAE – Chicago Aurora & Elgin
  • CSL – Chicago Surface Lines (not really interurban but it is the grandfather of Chicago public transportation)
  • CNS – Chicago North Shore. Added initial paths to existing stations. I’m sure it’s a mess especially around Great Lakes and the North Chicago junction as well as where it ran in Milwaukee

My next priorities:

  1. Finish the CGW starting with the most accurate right of way I can muster including some turntables and such
  2. Add all the CGW stations listed in a 1903 and 1917 timetable I have. interesting how many stops disappeared in the next 50 years
  3. Find a way to record all the CGW stations and add a way to see what years they were in the timetables
  4. Figure out the history of the valley east of Altura… I don’t know why this thing is getting in my head!
  5. Begin to get the Chicago North Western lines a bit closer to reality rather than the placeholders they are now

So, look for more changes to come and please continue to give me all the detail you can muster!


 Posted by at 1:57 am
Jan 072012

Happy New Year!!!

I’ve been busy adding additional details including:

  • much more detail to the MILW Lines in Illinois
  • extended the MILW into Indiana
  • Looking for details for the MILW, I found the fantastic Abandoned Rail website which gave me some great leads on The Gary Line [Illinois, Iowa & Minnesota Railway II&M renamed Chicago, Milwaukee & Gary CMG in 1908] which included trackage rights to part of the Elgin, Joliet, & Eastern [EJ&E]
  • I reorganized some of the lines to better understand which lines folded into which current railways. This means I added placeholders for CP, CN, SOO, and more

I can’t say enough about what I learned from the Abandoned Rails site. They are doing something similar to this site in that it shows where trains used to be. They are, however, only showing the abandoned segments where I’m trying to connect all the dots including abandoned and current lines.

It may not look like much, but there was LOTS of work!


Dec 302011
Blueprint of Oelwein Shop

Hi all!

It’s been far too long since I could spend time updating my site. I lost my father and started a new job all about the same time which means I haven’t had much free time to work on the details here. Sorry

Tonight I added to the CGW and MILW maps after getting some great feedback from a reader. Remember, if you have feedback, leave a comment and I’ll try to incorporate it like I did Tom’s details. Know the address of where a station used to be? think I show the tracks in the wrong place? Have a picture of some tracks? Let me know!

Until then, Happy New Year Everyone!


Jun 112011
CGW f-engine

Tonight I spent my first night really diving into the data in my new Rand McNally Enlarged Business Atlas from 1903. What a great book! With it’s help, I can now see that I had much of the CGW segment from Oelwein to Dubuque on the wrong path. In the process of fixing it, I found the tunnel in East Dubuque that had escaped me for some time. I also found there were several stops listed in the book that were not in the schedule I had from the 1950s.

I spent several hours putting in all the changes including many on the Minneapolis branch… then Google Earth quit on me. I thought it was saving as I went, but I lost two hours of work. Ah well. It was much faster the second time.

My goal is to get all of the Chicago Great Western charted out to the 1903 standards before updating much of anything else. I can tell you that there is no way I’ll be able to put this level of detail into every line nation wide…. not for many years.


Jun 082011
Blueprint of Oelwein Shop

Blueprint of Oelwein ShopThe idea of becoming a railroad “archeologist” holds both great appeal as well as shows great lunacy. There are just so many railroads, interurbans, and more in history. Do I map current lines and what they used to be? How do I account for all the mergers? How do I show how a line changed in ownership? Where do I start? It’s all overwhelming given our rich rail history.

I’ve decided to start simply. I’ll start with what I have and branch out from there. That means I’ll be mapping:

1) a variety of Chicago Great Western (CGW) details given to me by the Hub City Railroad museum this includes track diagrams, photos, etc.

2) Some of the research I have on Chicago’s North Shore line, and

3) As much detail as I can from my newest source, the 1903 Rand McNally Enlarged Shipper’s guide with it’s maps of every state and most countries. Yes, I’m looking at ways to scan the maps and post them here… For free. Yes, I know people sell those maps but I think lack of access is stifling historical research.

So, that’s the plan. I’ll make maps of what I have and figure out the rest as I go.

– Mike

Jun 052011
Soo Caboose in Schaumburg

Soo Caboose in SchaumburgFor those who have been on the site before, you might have noticed some “slight” changes. You know, I deleted my old stuff and started again. Don’t Worry, it’s still about mapping trains and their old routes.

Please give me some time to bring in all the old data and to turn on the maps. I’m working on it!


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