Before and After Sample Page

Railroad: Chicago & North Western Railroad
Location: Valentine, Nebraska
Date: 1957
Photographer: Unknown
Credit Line: History Nebraska, [Object ID, RG3314.PH000010-000144]

A Chicago & North Western passenger train crosses the bridge east of Valentine, Nebraska, in 1957.

For much of its life the Chicago & North Western had a stronghold in the Midwest. Towards the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, the railroad pursued an aggressive expansion westward to extend its reach and tap new resources for freight. An acquired subsidiary line gave C&NW access to a long stretch in northern Nebraska that granted them access to mining regions in South Dakota and served as an agricultural branch line that provided the railroad with busy freight service for years.

Trail: Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail
Location: Valentine, Nebraska
Date: November 2, 2021
Photographer: Cate Kratville-Wrinn
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail runs 195 miles across northern Nebraska on an old Chicago & North Western rail line nicknamed the “Cowboy Line.” The C&NW petitioned the Interstate Commerce Commission to abandon the route after services dried up and shifted to the growing highway and trucking industry in the postwar era. The route was abandoned in 1992 and the first part of the trail opened in 1996. When completed the trail will run for 321 miles, making it the longest rails-to-trails conversion in the United States.

Railroad: Southern Pacific Railroad
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: 1960
Photographer: Howard M. Vawter
Credit Line: U.S. President’s Railroad Commission Photographs #5003 P. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library

The Southern Pacific Railroad tracks intersect a busy Powell Street crossing in Emeryville, California, in 1960.

The Emeryville portion of the 9th Street Line on the SP’s East Bay Electric Lines was a natural hub for transportation and regional connectivity. This spur line ran directly from San Francisco through Emeryville to Albany and North Berkeley.

Trail: Emeryville Greenway
Location: Emeryville, California
Date: November 28, 2021
Photographer: Alex Ramos
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The Emeryville Greenway replaced the SP’s East Bay Electric Line with a pedestrian and bicycle path that runs from the north to the south end of the city. The rail trail cuts through urban sprawl and helps connect people to employment, residences, shopping, regional transit, and the larger San Francisco Bay Trail. Here the trail crosses the Powell and Hollis Streets intersection.

Railroad: Chicago & North Western Railroad
Location: Wales, Wisconsin
Date: April 1982
Photographer: John Bjorklund
Credit Line: John Bjorklund, Center for Railroad Photography & Art, Bjorklund-27-20-19

A westbound Chicago & North Western freight train pulls through the small town of Wales, Wisconsin, in April 1982.

The corridor that ran between Milwaukee and Madison was completed through construction by a subsidiary named the Milwaukee and Madison Railway formed in 1880 to connect the two cities and provide access points to Chicago and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In 1972, the railroad was sold and renamed the Chicago & North Western Transportation Company. This move saw nearly 1,800 miles of trackage removed from the network to help streamline operations. The route between Milwaukee and Madison was included in these cutbacks, and the line was abandoned in 1983 citing a lack of traffic.

Trail: Glacial Drumlin State Trail
Location: Wales, Wisconsin
Date: September 16, 2021
Photographer: Den Adler
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The Glacial Drumlin Trail runs 52 miles between the metro areas of the two largest cities in Wisconsin: Waukesha (greater Milwaukee) and Cottage Grove (greater Madison). The trail is one component of the Route of the Badger, a 700-mile-plus rail-trail network* in southern Wisconsin. The network aspires to offer a regional trail system to connect people across towns and counties with opportunities for recreation, tourism, connections to nature, and business development along the route. The bulk of the trails that comprise the Route of the Badger find their origin in railroad lines.

* The Route of the Badger network is a combination of rail-trails, greenways, and on-street bicycle lanes.

Railroad: Salisbury Viaduct, Western Maryland Railway
Location: Meyersdale, Pennsylvania
Date: March 23, 1975
Photographer: John Bjorklund
Credit Line: John Bjorklund, Center for Railroad Photography & Art, Bjorklund-92-05-19

Two Western Maryland diesel engines lead a freight train across the Salisbury Viaduct in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, in 1975.

The Salisbury Viaduct was built in 1912 by the Western Maryland Railway for its Connellsville Extension. The WM built this extension to reach rail connections to the west as well as compete with the much larger Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Competition was fierce between the two until they joined, along with the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway in the early 1970s, under one corporate identity of the Chessie System. The merger made several parallel lines redundant, including the Connellsville Extension, which forced its abandonment in 1975.

Trail: Great Allegheny Passage
Location: Meyersdale, Pennsylvania
Date: October 23, 2021
Photographer: Brandon Fiume
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The Great Allegheny Passage, formerly the Western Maryland Railroad, is a 150-mile trail that runs through nine former industrial towns from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Cumberland, Maryland. Many community leaders along this route, which once supported rail-driven industries for products such as coal, are seeking to reinvent themselves as trail towns or recreational destinations.

The Great Allegheny Passage receives an estimated million visitors per year. A 2008 impact study by the Great Allegheny Passage estimated $40 million in trail-attributed revenue and $7.5 million in wages were distributed by trail-facing businesses.

Railroad: Monon Railroad
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: May 1959
Photographer: Richard Baldwin
Credit Line: Collection of Don Toon

A Monon diesel engine pulls a short passenger train into Boulevard Station at 38th Street in Indianapolis, in May 1959.

The Monon Railroad was a popular railroad in Indiana that connected the cities of Chicago and Indianapolis and owned almost 800 miles of track at its peak. The Indianapolis-Chicago route combined with the Michigan City-New Albany route to resemble an “X” with the focal point on the tiny city of Monon, Indiana.

The railroad merged with the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971 and large sections struggled under the new ownership, including the Chicago-Louisville main line. Most of this route was abandoned in the 1980s.

Trail: Monon Trail
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana
Date: October 26, 2021
Photographer: Don Toon
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The first portions of the Monon Trail were created in the late 1990s after portions of the line had been abandoned some years earlier. The trail spans 25 miles across central Indiana and connects the northern metro area of Indianapolis. Today, the trail sees more than 1.3 million users annually in the Indianapolis area alone.

Railroad: Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad
Location: Drexel, Montana
Date: July 11, 1973
Photographer: John Bjorklund
Credit Line: John Bjorklund, Center for Railroad Photography & Art, Bjorklund-63-23-03

A consist of Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, more commonly known as the Milwaukee Road, diesel and electric engines haul a freight of automobiles along the bends in western Montana, in July 1973. Strapped to the front of the locomotive is the engineer’s motorcycle so he’ll have his own transport at the end of his run.

The Milwaukee Road dates back to 1847. It operated a prolific network that ran from Chicago across the northern states to its terminus in Washington state, creating a transcontinental route. The railroad faced a number of financial difficulties throughout its lifetime and ultimately went out of business in the 1980s.

Trail: Route of the Olympian
Location: Drexel, Montana
Date: October 16, 2021
Photographer: Justin Franz
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

The Route of the Olympian is a scenic trail that runs 31 miles across the rustic Montana countryside. The trail follows the former Pacific route of the Milwaukee Road, which connected the railroad’s Wisconsin terminus with Washington state. The name for the trail comes from the Milwaukee Road’s popular Olympian Hiawatha passenger train that operated from 1911 to 1947 between Chicago, Illinois, and Tacoma, Washington.

Railroad: Seaboard Air Line Railroad
Location: Cedartown, Georgia
Date: Unknown
Photographer: Unknown
Credit Line: Collection of the Polk County Historical Society

A Seaboard Air Line passenger train pulls into Cedartown, Georgia.

In the early 20th century, the Seaboard Air Line, along with its local competitors, played a significant role in building economic growth in the southeastern United States through the transport of timber, minerals, produce, and vacationers to sunny states. At the time the SAL was one of the few rail networks that connected the southeast to the Mid-Atlantic states.

When the Seaboard Air Line merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad in 1967, the new company made the decision to discontinue passenger service. The line was abandoned in 1986 when CSX Transportation assumed ownership of the railroad.

Trail: Silver Comet Trail
Location: Cedartown, Georgia
Date: January 22, 2022
Photographer: Nithanth Boggaram
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer and Lindsay Abel

A young woman explores an art display exhibited at the depot along the Silver Comet Trail in Cedartown, Georgia.

The Silver Comet Trail runs 61.5 miles from Atlanta to the Georgia-Alabama state line. The trail found its name from the Silver Comet passenger train that previously operated on the route from 1947 to 1969.

The corridor is still owned by CSX, who operates the freight line adjacent to the Cedartown segment of the trail. CSX loaned their right-of-way to the Georgia Department of Transportation under the railbanked amendment of the National Trails System Act, and construction began in 1998 to turn the route into a multi-use, non-motorized trail. 

Railroad: Union Pacific Railroad
Location: Chatcolet, Idaho
Date: April 10, 1991
Photographer: Bill Hooper
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

A westbound Union Pacific local from Kellogg, Idaho to Spokane, Washington crosses an arm of Coeur D’Alene Lake on a curved trestle with a swing span in April 1991.

The Union Pacific Railroad was one half of the first transcontinental route that met in Promontory, Utah in 1869. Following this achievement, they continued to expand throughout the West and the Pacific Northwest. With the discovery of silver, zinc, and lead deposits in the Idaho Panhandle, subsidiaries of Union Pacific created branch lines in the region to mine and transport the ore.

Over a century later, in 1992, due to the persistent national decline of rail traffic, Union Pacific abandoned the route for lack of profits.

Trail: Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes
Location: Chatcolet, Idaho
Date: December 17, 2021
Photographer: Jim Davis
Credit Line: Courtesy of the photographer

Following abandonment, the corridor faced many environmental issues. Union Pacific had built the foundation of its bed from mining waste rock and tailings, which heavily contaminated the area. The Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council, who had called the land home before the railroad came, filed a lawsuit to have the region cleaned up. The tribe partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Idaho, and the Union Pacific Railroad to clean up the former rail bed and build the trail.

The Trail of the Coeur D’Alenes opened in 2004, and today serves as a recreational path through the remediated greenspace. Many of the toxic contaminants in the surrounding soils are permanently capped with thick asphalt and gravel barriers to prevent erosion and further pollution.