When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment, Vol. 2

Joseph P. Schwieterman

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24th Annual Railroad History Award Finalist

Through the use of maps, photographs, and a fast-moving narrative, Schwieterman illustrates the circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of rail service in fifty-eight communities distinguished for their notable railroad histories.

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Vol. 2, Western United States

The history of the American West is an epic tale richly accompanied by railroads. From the Illinois prairie to the shores of Oahu, many legendary rail lines are now just dusty trails bereft of their former significance. These abandoned routes show the profound changes that affect the way we travel and conduct business.
Through the use of maps, photographs, and a fast-moving narrative, Schwieterman illustrates the circumstances surrounding the rise and fall of rail service in fifty-eight communities distinguished for their notable railroad histories. For each community, he provides a chapter describing the controversies, legal battles, and civic initiatives spurred by the abandonment of routes. Drawing on insights of many fellow railroad historians, Schwieterman shows why the legacy of the railroads will be felt for generations to come—a fact evident to readers by comparing a photograph during the glory years and contrasted with a stark remnant today. What emerges is a portrait of an industrial shift that has left an indelible mark on the West’s social, economic, and physical landscape.

Only someone who realizes that open-air research in the back streets of cities and towns must complement the data in government and industry reports produces a book as valuable as this. Schwieterman is a peripatetic scholar.

—John R. Stilgoe, author of Metropolitan Corridor

 

 

Contents

Foreword

Acknowledgments

Introduction

Abandoned Corridors—A National Perspective

Community Sketches

Western United States Communities

Alaska
Nome

Arizona
Prescott
Tombstone
Arkansas
Booneville
Eureka Springs
California
Beverly Hills
Coronado
Folsom
Glenwood
Laws
Monterey
Newport Beach
Placerville
San Rafael
Santa Monica
Sausalito
Vacaville
Colorado
Aspen
Cripple Creek
Gunnison
Lakewood
Hawaii
HonoluluIdaho
Avery
Wallace
Illinois
CarpentersvilleIowa
Decorah
West Branch
Kansas
Valley FallsLouisiana
FerridayMinnesota
Currie
Ely

Montana
Harlowton
Red Lodge

Nebraska
Long Pine

Nevada
Boulder City
Carson City
Virginia City

New Mexico
Española
Farmington

North Dakota
Watford City

Oklahoma
Okemah

Oregon
Astoria
Burns
Seaside

South Dakota
Hot Springs

Texas
Fredericksburg
Kerrville
Mineral Wells

Utah
Park City
Promontory

Washington
Bothell
Issaquah
Lynwood
Port Angeles

Wisconsin

Lake Geneva
Platteville
Sturgeon Bay
Wyoming
Riverton

Closing Thoughts

Appendix: Preserving Intercity Corridors

Additional References

Selected Bibliography

About the Author

Index

Authors

Joseph P. Schwieterman is professor of public services management and director of The Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development at DePaul University. He has published extensively on air, rail, and urban-planning issues and is a long-standing contributor to the Transportation Research Board, a unit of the National Academy of Sciences. He holds a master of science degree in transportation from Northwestern University and a doctoral degree in public policy studies from the University of Chicago. A native of Maria Stein, Ohio, Schwieterman is a member of the National Railway Historical Society and the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society.

Reviews

Interdisciplinary in approach, this study takes into account urban planning and local, economic, political, and transportation history. Highly recommended.

Choice

This book…will jolt you awake with its innovative approach to defining the history of many notable Western towns.… For history nitpickers and movie critics, this book provides an unexpected perspective in understanding the commerce and economics of the West.

True West

This book will appeal to many audiences: those who enjoyed Volume 1; rail fans who want to follow up on their favorite abandoned railroads and routes; municipal planners who want to learn how communities deal with losing a transportation mode; and those citizens whose towns have just lost, or are about to lose, railroad service. I recommend it to all of those audiences.

Railroad History

A work of impressive and seminal scholarship, Professor Schweiterman’s informed and informative text is enhanced with the inclusion of maps and illustrations. When The Railroad Leaves Town: Volumes 1 & 2 is especially recommended for academic library American History, Social Issues, American Transportation Studies, and Urban-Planning reference collections and supplemental reading lists.

—Midwest Book Review

In the histories he has written and the conclusions he draws from them, Schwieterman has produced a valuable book.  One conclusion that strikes the reader repeatedly is the inevitability and ruthlessness of change in a market economy—even the most basic and flourishing industries can wither and die.  Given this reality, the railroads often made defensible rational decisions to abandon lines after the original reasons for their existence had vanished.  And once a line is gone, it is very hard to bring back.… When the Railroad Leaves Town will be of interest and value to students of social and railroad history and of economic trends.

The Annals of Iowa

This book should be required reading not only by historians and railroad enthusiasts but also by transportation officials and members of Congress. I speak not only as a rail fan but as someone who worked for the Federal Highway Administration for 37 years.

—Great Northern Historical Society

A panoramic, nearly encyclopedic chronicling of the many and intimate ways in which the railroad interacts with the physical and social environment of the western landscape.

—The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society

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