New England State Rail Maps

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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby BostonUrbEx » Sat Oct 25, 2014 10:18 pm

According to the MA rail map, Pan Am still "owns" the Salem & Lowell Branch from Peabody Sq to West Peabody Jct, and again through the entire town of North Reading. However, it is also listed as abandoned and/or "unknown." So, is this true? Perhaps they're still milking the ROW from utility companies renting space for gas mains, power lines, etc?
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sun Oct 26, 2014 2:18 pm

BostonUrbEx wrote:According to the MA rail map, Pan Am still "owns" the Salem & Lowell Branch from Peabody Sq to West Peabody Jct, and again through the entire town of North Reading. However, it is also listed as abandoned and/or "unknown." So, is this true? Perhaps they're still milking the ROW from utility companies renting space for gas mains, power lines, etc?


The MassDOT map isn't accurate at all. It's compiled from GIS data and topo maps dating back to the 19th century, and there are all sorts of abandoned ROW's on there that have either been so thoroughly obliterated they no longer exist or showing incorrect ownership. It's a nice-looking map, but very flawed methodology for keeping track of ROW's because it isn't synced to active property records and over-weights old historical data vs. current availability. They'd have been much better off if they dialed it back to the same level of detail as, say, the New Hampshire state rail map.

For example, the S&L from Peabody Sq. to I-95 was abandoned by B&M in 1962 when I-95 was being built; all freight traffic was re-routed the long way around through Danvers to allow the interstate to sever it. Route 128 used to have a S&L grade crossing right there that was also eliminated in the abandonment so it could be reconstructed to full limited-access highway standards with Northshore Rd. built as a local-access frontage road. Despite this, the S&L remained a "phantom" active line on topo maps through there as late as 1984. See Historic Aerials. You can see the old 128 grade crossing disappear when Northshore Rd. appears, then click through all those erroneous topo maps. The MassDOT rail map reflects the aggregate of 20 years worth of erroneous topo maps by showing it as "Pan Am" ownership "Unknown" operating status. When what really happened is that B&M abandoned it 50 years ago and it was immediately snapped up by the power company before the easements got abolished and parceled off to landowners (pretty much the only excuse there was back then to maneuver a "landbank"). PAR isn't collecting rent on anything disused that pre-dates Guilford by 2+ decades...B&M had to shed all that stuff in their various bankruptcy reorgs and the '76 amnesty line sale to the state.



But that's what happens when you try to mix a kitchen sink's worth of GIS data streams into one map without any one reliable source (like...the state's own property records) acting as filter or final arbiter on conflicting data. The MassDOT rail map is a complete mess because of those sourcing flaws. My favorite one is the "Privately owned" ROW paralleling the Mass Pike in Berkshire County. That was never a railroad...that was a short-lived and very steep trolley interurban in the middle of nowhere that went belly-up nearly 95 years ago and is now partially used by power lines. The whole map is polluted with stuff like this: ROW's gone for a full century, ROW's so obliterated they aren't even traceable in the wild today, and ROW's with ownership and easements completely reverted to private abutters and impossible to reassemble. Generally speaking, it it's not active or OOS...and not abandoned but in MassDOT green, MBTA purple, or DCR gray where the record-keeping is 100% up-to-date...you'll need second sources to verify the ownership status of any ROW on the state map. Including the ones that go by most-recent carrier (CSX red or PAR brown), since if the state didn't pick it up the current ownership is very difficult to verify. Actually...a few of them the state DID pick up decades ago and are still screwed up in the GIS data: Dedham Branch, East Boston Greenway, the active Franklin Industrial Track are MBTA-owned but still showing in CSX red...probably because some set of topo maps kept listing it as "Conrail" one too many times.
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby kwf » Wed Dec 24, 2014 10:23 am

I've been working on some Google based, KML oriented maps of New England. This is a link to what I've dubbed "North Eastern Mass"...It covers a bit more than that, though...

North Eastern Mass
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... HHcfA6BjNU
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby MaineCoonCat » Wed Dec 24, 2014 1:27 pm

kwf wrote:I've been working on some Google based, KML oriented maps of New England. This is a link to what I've dubbed "North Eastern Mass"...It covers a bit more than that, though...

North Eastern Mass
https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid= ... HHcfA6BjNU

Thanks for that! That looks like one hell of a lot of work. Got me thinking. phpBB doesn't seem to allow you to post KMLs or KMZs in a way that others could download them. Could we maybe establish a thread someplace where we could post pointers to those KMLs/KMZs that we post to the Google Earth community?

EDIT 12/24/2014 - 1503 EST. - See below.
Last edited by MaineCoonCat on Wed Dec 24, 2014 3:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby The EGE » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:23 pm

The "upload attachment" tab below the edit box seems to work. I've attached a test file.
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MBTA Commuter Rail.kml
(92 KiB) Downloaded 97 times
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby MaineCoonCat » Wed Dec 24, 2014 2:58 pm

The EGE wrote:The "upload attachment" tab below the edit box seems to work. I've attached a test file.

Ayuh! Sure does! IIRC I had tried that probably a couple of years ago and phpBB wouldn't let me upload that file type. Thanks! Good to know!

In that case, here's one I did of Cape Cod about three years ago.
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Caperail Trackage (Mass Coastal + Cape Cod Central Rail Roads).kmz
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby dbperry » Mon Jun 22, 2015 1:35 am

YamaOfParadise wrote:Going to point to the map I've been constructing in google's mapengine from various resources. <snip>


Ever since I found that link I have been using that extensively to trace things out. I understand that ownership may not be current / accurate, but the location / routing is very helpful.

Yama's link should get sticky-ed somewhere.

I also recently found out about this, which has also been helpful: http://www.openrailwaymap.org/

And, as always, I'll plug the scan of a big poster I got back a few years ago. MBTA Commuter Rail Network - September 1993
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby dbperry » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:24 am

Just found this link to the Federal Railroad Administration rail safety map. Includes mileposts and grade crossings for all rail lines nationwide:

http://fragis.fra.dot.gov/GISFRASafety/
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby jaymac » Tue Nov 24, 2015 12:25 pm

Dag! Two weeks too late to keep me from raking leaves!
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby YamaOfParadise » Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:42 pm

Yeah, the FRA's GIS data is a good source as long as you have some other thread of information to verify against it, as the accuracy varies widely. Most actual coordinates are approximate at best, and the entries for the crossing data are a mixed bag; some literally have not been updated since the database was made in the 1970's, others aren't frequently updated, and some just have suspect or missing data parts. Which is generally standard for similar and related datasets like the National Bridge Inventory (which I also use semi-frequently for road overpass information; visualized by a third party here). By the way, here's a query page for the crossing inventory; it sometimes is a bit more useful as it'll produce the inventory pages for crossings that aren't remotely in the right geographic location (of which there are quite a few).

And I guess as good as time as any to bring up what I've been working on. I've shifted to just using the KML format through Google Earth for my project, as it has way less limitations. Moreover, my focus is more shifting to more documenting infrastructure and details; when I was contributing to the OpenStreetMap dataset for the OpenRailwayMap project, I was finding the research on all the data I needed/wanted was taking too long to do the edits in a timely manner. So I just started a KML file of most of the relevant information I can dig up. It's evolved in organization as I've gone on in the last year or so, so I've not yet got it orderly and presentable enough to want to upload what I've got so far, but. I'll try and get to that soon; my semester is almost over, so I'll have more free time to allocate to hobby projects like this.
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Sat Jun 03, 2017 5:33 pm

Updated state rail map URL's. . .

New/updated Maps
Vermont (new 2017 map): http://vtrans.vermont.gov/sites/aot/fil ... ailMap.pdf


Updated URL's
Maine (2016 map, recent URL change): http://maine.gov/mdot/maps/docs/RailSystem_2016.pdf

New Hampshire (Nov. 2015 map, recent URL change): http://www.nh.gov/dot/programs/bikeped/ ... 110515.pdf
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby MEC407 » Mon Jun 05, 2017 12:40 pm

Thanks. Original post has been updated accordingly.
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby Cosmo » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:53 am

Interesting....
the MA rail plan PDF indicates the Needham/Dover/Millis branch is owned by the MBTA.
Can anyone confirm this is accurate?
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby F-line to Dudley via Park » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:42 am

It is. Was conveyed to them in the 1973 bankruptcy line sale by Penn Central. The Needham-Medfield rail trail has one of those $1/99-year revokable trail leases on MBTA letterhead.


Because the great '73 PC/southside and '76 B&M/northside sale packages to the state were done under bankruptcy auspices and had to be approved by the bankruptcy courts, lots of money-losing branchline track miles and abandoned lines that were still on the companies' property books were lumped in take-it-or-leave-it fashion to the T. That's how they ended up with so many freight-only miles and retroactive 'proto'-landbanks of 1960's & early-70's abandonments in a pair of transactions mainly centered around protecting the active commuter rail lines in public ownership. They paid next to nothing for the whole packages, so nobody's complaining. Subsequent economic re-growth has paid back the initial purchase cost dozens of times over in the decades since.

For the most part individual line pickups in all the decades since have been by the MassDOT mothership, with the T only involved after the fact if the specific stretch of track was going to host commuter service. For example, some chunks of Old Colony main were MassDOT and got paper-transacted to the T in '96-97 when commuter rail service re-started, and some landbanked miles of the Stoughton Line got paper-transacted to T ledgers for purposes of keeping South Coast Rail engineering under one roof. But because of the fine-print legalese in those big '73 and '76 bankruptcy transactions, MassDOT has refrained from taking all of the route miles unused by commuter rail off the T's hands and has kept the original ownership transactions more or less intact. Hence...they retain a whole lot of abandoned miles from those two transactions unlike in other New England states where the mothership DOT controls or leases out to the state parks dept. instead of the passenger transit agency. And this is why they still have an insignificant handful of freight-only miles persisting under T ownership to this day.


Millis Industrial Track (BCLR), East Junction Secondary (P&W), Greenville Branch (PAS), Peabody Branch (PAR), and Bedford Branch (PAR) are the last 5 active lines standing that have never seen a passenger train under MBTA ownership (NH Main from Lowell to NH state line seeing full commuter rail service in 1980-81). Peabody's the last "never Purple Line" outlier standing with a going-concern passenger service proposal and hot-enough local advocacy that it has decent odds of happening someday. Though East Junction does feature in one of NEC FUTURE's map doodles as an Amtrak traffic bypass of Pawtucket via the Providence tunnel (YMMV on how much credence you give NEC FUTURE's current adventures in mapmaking).
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Re: New England State Rail Maps

Postby Cosmo » Wed Jun 21, 2017 11:56 am

Ok, thank you!
At risk of straying off-topic, then any effort toward brush-clearing the line should be taken up with the T people. :wink:
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