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Detailed 1887 Colton railroad map with color-coded routes

Place/Date: New York / 1887
Title: Map Showing The Pacific Railways and Their Branches. Prepared for the United States Pacific Railway Commission
83.8 x 58.4 cm (33 x 23 in)
Original color
Condition Rating


Highly detailed map of the Western United States, illustrating the railroads in operation and under construction west of the Mississippi River.

The key at the lower left identifies the Central Pacific and its Branches, the Union Pacific and its Branches, the Central Branch of the Union Pacific, the Sioux City and Pacific, the Southern Pacific and its Branches, and the maps funded by U.S. Bonds.

This handsome map of the Transmississippi West was published by the Colton firm in 1887 to accompany a massive report issued that year by the United States Pacific Railway Commission. The commission was created by an act of Congress that authorized President Grover Cleveland to appoint three commissioners to investigate the affairs of those Pacific railroads that had received federal aid. After many years, the amount and timing of the repayment to the government of the principal and interest of U.S. Pacific Railroad Bonds had generated much controversy. The scope of the investigation “included a history of these roads, their relations and indebtedness to the Government, and the question whether in the interest of the United States an extension of time for the performance of the obligations of said roads to the Government should be granted.”

Among the most significant records generated by the investigation are those in the files of the U.S. Senate, particularly the materials of the 50th, 51st, 53rd, and 54th Congresses. The present map accompanied a Senate report for the 50th Congress, and it shows by color coding the main branches of the Pacific Railroad and “Portions aided by U.S. Bonds” in red.

The map is quite attractive and well executed in the manner for which the Colton company was known. It shows the Central Pacific, the Union Pacific, the Central Branch of the U.P.R.R., the Sioux City and Pacific, and the Southern Pacific. The routes begin in Sioux City, Omaha, St. Joseph, Atchison, Leavenworth, and Kansas City, and terminate in Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Portland.

The details of the western states are numerous and include relief shown by hachures, drainage, cities and towns, Indian reservation, and military posts.

Condition Description

Paper loss in the margins; see image.


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