I’ve Been Working On the Railroad, and You Can, Too!

Under the Valuation Act of 1913, the federal government of the United States directed the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to assess the value of railroad property located inside the United States.  This information was to be used to determine rates for transportation of freight via those rail lines.  This law was an amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, and was further amended in 1920 and 1922.  [i]

In the Cartographic Branch, these records are part of RG 134: Records of the Interstate Commerce Commission, totaling approximately 11,000 cubic feet of materials.  Mostly blueprints, these maps are divided into two sub-groups – the original valuation maps and the revised maps.  The original maps were created during the period between 1915 and 1920 by ICC and railroad employees who were tasked with inventorying most of the rail lines in the United States.  The revised maps were updated until approximately 1960, and allows researchers follow changes in the railroad over time. These maps contain a wealth of information including things such as information about the railroad’s facilities along the rail lines, land adjacent to the railroad (sometimes bearing the land owner’s name), the layout of city blocks at the time the map was drawn, and who was operating the railroad at the time.

It is also worth noting that additional records relating to the ICC Valuation of the railroads including Engineering Field Notes, Equipment and Machinery Schedules, Final Engineering Reports, Land Acquisition Forms, Grant Forms, Leasing Forms, Land Appraisal Notes, Final Land Reports, Statements about Railroads, Accounting Schedules and Related Records, Formal Valuation Dockets, Periodic Forms Updating Final Engineering Reports, Periodic Forms Updating Final Land Reports, Annual Financial Reports, and Compiled Inspection Reports are available in the holdings of the Textual Department. [ii]

Accessing these maps can seem a little daunting at first, but once you know the basic information that you need to the request specific maps, the task becomes much easier and more manageable.

Let’s begin with how to make a request for the original ICC maps.  This group of maps is arranged by Bundle Numbers, then by Name of the Railroad.  If you know the name of the railroad, then you simply use the finding aid for RG 134 and look up the Bundle Number for the railroad that you are interested in.

To give a very basic example of how to pull records relating to a single, small railroad, let’s take a look at a page from the finding aid for the original railroad maps that lists the Bundle Number to the left of the Railroad Name.  Looking at this page, you will see that if you were searching for the Escanaba and Erie Railroad, all of the valuation section maps for the entire rail line lie within Bundle 455, which is what you would put in a request for.

BlackPage

RG: 134 Finding Aid, located in the Cartographic Research Room. This finding aid provides railroad names and corresponding bundle numbers and valuation sections.

Once you have determined what bundle number and railroad you are interested in, it is time to fill out the pull slip to request the records.  Below is an example of how to properly fill out a pull slip to request these records.  When requesting records, please be sure to fully fill out the pull slip with your name, the date, your researcher card number, the series name, the record group number, and the name and bundle number of the railroad.  Please DO NOT abbreviate the name of the railroad when requesting records.  This pull slip is fairly simple to fill out because the entire bundle is being requested, rather than a specific valuation section so no addition information is needed.

Escanaba RR

Pull slip, showing the information needed to request original ICC Valuation Maps using the name of the railroad and the bundle number.

Another common scenario that occurs when working with railroads is that the railroad covers large swath of territory that includes several states, but you are looking for a specific section of the line.  Looking again at the black finding aid page above we see that the Erie Railroad runs through at least New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.  If you were looking for just the Ohio sections of this railroad, you would need to request Bundles 448, 449, and 450.  Please be aware that when putting in a request for multiple bundles, there is the risk of exceeding the ten item limit for a single pull.  When this happens, you will simply be asked to resubmit the request at a later pull time in order to gain access to the remaining records.

If a railroad covers a huge amount of territory, you may find yourself wondering, “Can I locate a specific section of railroad?”  Happily, the answer is, “Yes, you can!”

In order to locate a specific section of railroad, your first stop is the large blue binders, located in the Cartographic Research Room.  These binders are easy to locate as they look quite different than the finding aids around them.  They are arranged in alphabetical sections.

Research Room

RG: 134 ICC Valuation Map Finding Aids located in the Cartographic Research Room at Archives II, in College Park.

Blue

RG: 134 ICC Valuation Map Finding Aid located in the Cartographic Research Room at Archives II, in College Park.

To continue with our previous example, let us assume that we are interested in the Erie Railroad, specifically the section that runs from Springfield, OH to Marion, OH.

In order to locate that specific section of railroad, the first thing to do is locate the binder containing the railroad that you are looking for.  The finding aids are arranged alphabetically by name of the railroad.  Once we have located the page for the “Erie Railroad System in Ohio and Part of Pennsylvania”, the next step is to locate the two towns that we are interested in.  Looking at the map shown below (located in the blue binder), we can see that there is a line running from Springfield to Marion and the small bubble to the right of the line (connected by the dotted lines) is labelled “8 O”, which is the valuation section for that specific line.  Finally, go back to the original finding aid (the black-paged one) and look to see which bundle contains valuation section 8, in this case, Bundle 450.

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RG: 134 ICC Valuation Map Finding Aids located in the Cartographic Research Room at Archives II, in College Park. This page illustrates specific valuation sections of the Erie Railroad System in Ohio and part of Pennsylvania.

Now that you have determined what railroad, bundle number, and specific valuation section that you are interested in, it is time to fill out the pull slip to request the records.  Below is an example of how to properly fill out a pull slip to request these records.  Again, when requesting records, please be sure to fully fill out the pull slip with your name, the date, your researcher card number, the series name, the record group number, and the name and bundle number of the railroad.  Please DO NOT abbreviate the name of the railroad when requesting records.  Also, since a specific valuation section is being sought, please be sure to include which particular valuation section that you are seeking.  In this case, there are multiple valuation sections relating to Ohio and you don’t want to accidentally end up with the wrong section of line and have to wait until the next pull time.  Occasionally, you may even know which specific map you are looking for within a valuation section and it is perfectly alright to include that information, as well.  That bit of information can be extremely helpful sometimes, because some individual valuation sections contain many folders and maps numbering into the hundreds.

20180501_075318

Pull slip, showing the information needed to request original ICC Valuation Maps using the name of the railroad, the bundle number, and the valuation section.

Using the revised railroad finding aid works basically the same way as using the original railroad finding aid, only the columns are in a slightly different order.  This is due to the fact that the revised ICC Maps are arranged by name of the railroad rather than by a bundle number.  For this set of records, a bundle number is not strictly required, though it is helpful for staff as a means to double checking that the right set of drawings has been pulled.

Revised

Page from the RG: 134 finding aid for revised railroad maps showing the name of the railroad, with valuation sections and bundle number (not needed for requesting revised railroad maps).

Filling out the pull slip for these records is slightly different than filling out the slip for the original valuation sections.  First of all, in the section of the pull slip labelled “Series or Collection Name”, be sure to note “REVISED I.C.C. Valuation Maps”, otherwise the person pulling the records may inadvertently pull the original valuation sections.  Again, the bundle number is not required.  Also, some of these railroads have multiple valuation sections, therefore be sure to include the specific valuation sections you need unless you are interested in the entire bundle.  As always, there is a ten-item limit for pulls in the Cartographic department, so if your request exceeds that number, you will be asked to submit a second pull for the next pull time.

Revised1

Pull slip, showing the information needed to request revised ICC Valuation Maps using the name of the railroad. **Note: bundle numbers are not needed when requesting revised valuation sections.

Finally, you may find yourself asking the question, “I know a railroad went through that location, but I don’t know the name of the railroad.  Is there a way to find that information so that I can request the valuation sections?”

Again, the answer is likely, “Yes!”  Here is how.

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1913 edition of the “Commercial Atlas of America”, specifically showing the state of Indiana. This atlas is available in hard copy sheets in the Cartographic Research Room, Archives II, College Park, MD and also in the online catalog. **Special Note: This atlas is part of RG 64: Reference Maps and Drawings, NOT RG 134.** National Archives Identifier: 26335509

To find the name of a specific line in a specific location, one need look no further than the 1913 edition of the “Commercial Atlas of America”, which can be found in the Cartographic Research Room at Archives II and also by searching “RG64 Reference Maps and Drawings” in the Archives online catalog.  The above image shows two pages of the Atlas covering the state of Indiana and the lines that crisscross the state are railroads.

As an example, let’s suppose that we know that a railroad went through Jasper County, Indiana, specifically through the town of Wheatfield, but we don’t know the name of the railroad to request valuation sections for.  The first step in this process is to find Jasper County, Indiana on the magnified section of the state map shown below.  Once you have located Jasper County (tinted lime green and located directly east of Newton County), if you look to the northern section the county, you will see Wheatfield with a line running through it labelled “20” in red ink.  Next, look to the red column headed “Indiana Railroads” to the left of the map and look up number “20”, which turns out to be the Chicago, Indiana, and Southern Railroad.  Using that piece of information, you can utilize the other finding aids to see what is available for that specific railroad.

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1913 edition of the “Commercial Atlas of America”, specifically showing a magnified image of part of the state of Indiana. This atlas is available in hard copy sheets in the Cartographic Research Room, Archives II, College Park, MD and also in the online catalog. **Special Note: This atlas is part of RG 64: Reference Maps and Drawings, NOT RG 134.** National Archives Identifier: 26335509

As always, should you have questions or need assistance using the finding aids in the research room, our very knowledgeable Cartographic staff are on hand in the research room to aid you in your search.

Special thanks to Peter Brauer and Ryan McPherson for their input and insight into this post and this overall topic.

[i] Wikipedia contributors. “Valuation Act.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 18 Feb. 2018. Web. 25 Apr. 2018.

[ii] Finding Aid for RG: 134: Records of the ICC, located in the Cartographic Research Room at Archives II, College Park, MD.

About Amy Edwards

I am an archives technician working in the Cartography Department of the Special Media Division at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.
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2 Responses to I’ve Been Working On the Railroad, and You Can, Too!

  1. Jim Kelling says:

    I have used these records many times, primarily the engineering and field notes, which are accessed via Textual Records, not cartographic. Changes in railroad line ownership over time can make identification of some lines difficult. Another good source is the Official Guide of the Railways, published yearly, and sometimes several times per year. Some issues of the Guide can be found online. The Guide has maps for most railroads and lists of cities and towns served by the various railroads at the time of publication.

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