Railroad Maps - 1828-1900
To satisfy Americans’ keen interest in the routes of railroads, cartographers have shown rail lines on maps since the first tracks were laid in the United States. There are in the collections of the Library of Congress thousands of American railroad maps as well as numerous general maps showing railroad routes as part of the transportation network. The maps, which are in the custody of the Geography and Map Division, vary widely in area, content, and scale. Some cover major segments of our country and depict the interrelationship of various modes of transportation. Others resemble contemporary “strip” road maps and show only a ribbon of land immediately adjacent to a specific railroad right-of-way.
This annotated list reveals the scope of the railroad map collection and highlights the development of railroad mapping in 19th-century America. Described are 623 maps chosen from more than 3,000 railroad maps and about 2,000 regional, state, and county maps, and other maps which show “internal improvements” of the past century.
The maps selected represent a profile of the development of cartographic style and technique and are not intended to inventory all maps in the division which show railroads. The list does reflect, however, the important achievements of early railroaders in reaching their ultimate goal of providing a transportation network spanning the country and linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
The Railroad maps represent an important historical record, illustrating the growth of travel and settlement as well as the development of industry and agriculture inthe United States. They depict the development of cartographic style and technique, highlighting the achievement of early railroaders. Included in the collection are progress report surveys for individual lines, official government surveys, promotional maps, maps showing land grants and rights-of-way, and route guides published by commercial firms.