Hunting Abandoned Rails

Text by Jimmy Summers, with example imagery by Julian Finley

It's winter -- and that means it is also Abandoned Railroad Hunting Season once again! Why this time of year you may ask? Because it is easiest to find old ROWs and abandoned structures when the leaves are off the trees and other vegetation is dead or gone. Pictures turn out better this time of year also. So it is time to grab your camera, your GPS unit (if you have one), your maps and head for the field! This guide is meant to help you pursue and find abandoned railroads in your area. This method has been perfected by Julian Finley - thanks once again Julian! Please feel free to with any other suggestions for this page.

There are many resources showing abandoned railroads in book format; I would recommend the SPV Railroad Atlases and Right of Way - A Guide to Abandoned Railroads in the US (this is somewhat out of date, but still valuable). The Historical Guid to North American Railways is also a good resource. However, most of us can't afford to own more than a few of these reference books. Good resources are also available on the Internet. USGS topographical maps are an invaluable source of information and locations of abandoned railroads, if you know where to look; they can be found at Maptech's homepage. You can use these USGS maps to obtain GPS coordinates and satellite photos of some of the articles featured here on Abandoned Rails. You can also find satellite photos and corresponding USGS maps at, although this site does not appear to have a feature that will provide coordinates. With the GPS coordinates of specific points along the and an inexpensive GPS unit, you are ready to go out in the field and find your prey! If you don't have a GPS unit, you can use the USGS maps and satellite photos, along with a good road map and find the abandoned ROWs. Just remember to respect private property!

Below are some print-outs from Julian Finley showing how he does his research before going out in the field. He also "marks" items he observes in the field, then comes back and looks at those coordinates on the online USGS maps to see what the feature is. Julian also makes it a point to talk to locals who remember the abandoned line...

Good luck, and happy abandoned railroading!

These examples come from the Hepzibah to Midville, Keysville to Sandersville article.

Example of Satellite ImageryExample of Topographical Map