"Tracking" Abandoned Rights-of-Way

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Hi folks,

I am a brand-new member of the forum. I am not a railroad expert by any stretch but I have loved trains since I was a very young child. I am fascinated by abandoned rail lines. I have read about folks researching old records at county courthouses and libraries as a source of information.

I thought that I would share with you one way that I have been able to research abandoned rail rights-of-way:

I am a pilot and aviators (for VFR navigation) use what are known as "sectional charts". For visual navigation, they allow pilots to identify physical features on the ground including towns, highways, rivers, and yes, railroads. Sectionals will also show abandoned rails with dashed lines since the rights-of-way can be used as visual landmarks for years after the rails are removed.

Although I was born in Ohio (B&O country), I have lived most of my life in Florida (since the late-60's). I also learned to fly in Florida back in the late-80's. I still have some of my old sectional charts from that era and thought that having even OLDER sectionals would help me to determine exact locations of former lines.

About a year ago, I found someone who was selling sectionals from the 1960's. I was able to pick up a 1963 Miami sectional (which covers most of FL south of Tampa) and 1966 charts for Orlando and Jacksonville. The JAX chart covers area of southern GA to about Alma. These charts show a ton of rail lines which no longer exist including a maze of lines in the phosphate mining areas south of Lakeland.

The early Miami chart I found particularly fascinating. It depicts the old ACL right-of-way from Sarasota (Belspur) to Ft. Ogden (Southfort) even though, I believe, that line had been abandoned at least fifteen years earlier. Also shown are a number of abandoned short spurs east of Naples which, I believe, had been used for cypress harvesting. These are still visible using Google Earth.

Here's one other item that I found interesting:

I have a 1992 JAX sectional that shows the abandoned Ocala-Juliette line which ran west from Ocala. According to records that I have seen, this line was abandoned in 1964. However, Interstate 75 was built in this area in 1963-64 (it opened in August of '64) and there has never been an overpass for this line (you can still see the ROW if you look carefully on the east side of I-75 just north of the State Route 40 interchange). So this must have been abandoned BEFORE 1964. But, at any rate, the chart still depicts the ROW some twenty years after its abandonment.

At any rate, I just thought that I would pass this info along.


Abandoned line seeker
I had been wondering about those kinds of maps for my area of interest.

Thanks for pointing it out.

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