Re: Hindsight 20/20 5.0

Dennis Storzek

On Sun, Dec 27, 2020 at 05:03 AM, Garth Groff and Sally Sanford wrote:
Some cautions with the Sanborn maps are in order...
Sanborn maps usually show railway tracks in detail.
But, keep in mind the purpose for which they were drawn; to allow someone in a distant office to assess the risk of fire spreading to a particular building. Since railroad tracks were both potential firebreaks and potential sources of ignition (from sparks thrown from passing locomotives) their LOCATION is shown quite accurately. However, their CONNECTIONS were of little interest and are often quite fanciful, or lacking entirely. I've run into this issue several times. Using a Sanborn map to research the Soo Line terminal in Eau Claire, WI, I was puzzled to see the the turntable lead drawn crossing the main line into the yard and continuing to a dead end in a lumber yard. Photos of the turntable showed the actual arrangement was two turnouts, the points of which were only a few feet apart. More confusing was the four stub ended tracks of the yard were drawn with no crossover to let an engine escape. There was a run-around track on the other side of the river; so it was possible the engine just ran around arriving trains there, then pushed into the yard, but giving the penchant for Sanborn maps to omit track, I don't know. Just this weekend I was looking at a Sanborn map of a different area; it showed a track that ran across a track scale and ended a couple hundred feet further on with no connection to any other track. However, the index map did show a track that curved in from an area marked "No Exposure" and connected to the middle of this orphan track. The connection wasn't pertinent to the detailed map, so they didn't bother to show it.

Not so with streetcar lines or interurbans, even when the electrified railway was a major freight carrier such as the Sacramento Northern. This exclusion began about the time of WWI.

Indeed. I was looking at maps of Batavia, IL to establish a time-line of changes, and was surprised to see the Chicago Aurora & Elgin Batavia branch trackage was never drawn. Interestingly, the station (which was in a commercial building) was noted, and the passenger platform drawn, but no track. I get the feeling that the Sanborn Co. considered the electric railways to be less of a fire risk.

Dennis Storzek

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