Monday, November 26, 2007

Railroad mileage of counties


I am a 3rd year student at the London School of Economics (LSE) in the UK studying Economics and Economic History.

This year I am going to do a dissertation on American economic history. I am going to study how the development of railroads (in terms of mileage) affected the growth of population of Midwestern states in America from 1860 to 1900.

For my study I am looking to get details of railroad mileage from 1860 to 1900 for the different counties in the state. I was wondering if this data was available and if it is, please could you send it to me or let me know how I could access it.

—Arnab Datta


Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I know that in California in the early 1870s the annual Report of the State Assessor gave railroad milages by county, in reports by each County Assessor.  I presume this continued later.

It seems likely that other states may have done similarly.  But keep in mind that much of the land was still Territories in the early years of your period, only becoming States later.  I'm less clear what records may have been kept by Territories.

—Kyle Wyatt

11/28/2007 9:37 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Chris Graves"

The last edition of Poor's that I have in my possession, dated 1885, shows all railroads in the US and the number of miles under trackage.

The proper name of this book: "Poor's Manual of Railroads 1885". Published by H. V. and H. W. Poor, New York.

Poors began publishing in 1869, I do not know when they ceased this effort.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

11/28/2007 10:00 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


The best way to get the county data is to travel to each county court house and research the old tax records, which are usually kept in the county recorder's office. The tax record gives the name of the railroad, the improvements, track mileage and equipment, and their assessed value. The tax records are updated annually. Of course, the tax records also gives the assessed value of all property in the county. This information can be used to show increased value of property in the county through time. You could correlate this data to railroad expansion (mileage in the county) through time. Before you do this, you might do a sampling of counties rather than a comprehensive review.

Unfortunately, I am not aware of this type of information being available on-line, especially for 1860-1900.

Many counties have histories published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which may provide some information on railroads. Below is the link to an example history, the 1905 History of Coles County, Illinois. The chapter 5 gives a history of railroad development.

I am not sure how many of these type of histories are on-line. You could Google the names of the counties. Obviously you will find more on a place like Cook County (Chicago, Illinois) than Coles County (Mattoon, Illinois).

Bob Spude – Historian – Cultural Resources Management – National Park Service – Intermountain Region – 505.988.6770 Voice – 505.988.6876 Fax

The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

11/28/2007 10:05 AM  

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