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Subject: RR research at the National Archives
Searching for RR info on the Web

DSP&P Discussion group From: Ben Mesander Subject: RR research at the national archives Well, I was able to answer my own question about the valuation maps purpose without too much trouble. Here's what I found. Turns out that recently, the National Archives have been putting together some information on how to do railroad research. Not surprisingly, valuation maps aren't the only items of potential interest. See the following articles for a sampling: http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/1997/spring/railroad-records-1.html The National Archives organizes materials by "record group" and by "series" within the record group. The interstate commerce commission records are stored in record group 134. You can look in the historical archives of government agencies to find the record group: http://clio.archives.gov:70/inform/guide . The procedure for obtaining materials described in the first two URLs is going to be substantially identical, regardless of what you are interest in. I will use the valuation maps as an example to detail the process you will need to use in order to use the archives. Here's what the guide has to say about the records of the Bureau of Valuation: ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 134.5 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF VALUATION 1910-74 8,538 lin. ft. Textual Records: Valuation orders and related records, 1914-34. Railroad valuation records, 1910-74 (8,497 ft.). Land and appraisal records, 1921-48 (in New York). Maps (117,750 items): Valuation section maps, 1916-19 (750 items). Railroad valuation maps, 1910-74 (117,000 items). ---------------------------------------------------------------------- Wow, over 117,000 maps of American railroads from 1910-1974! The problem is finding the ones you want. One of the first things you have to figure out is where the information you're interested in is physically located. I poked around the website and found that the maps and charts in RG 134.5 are listed as "NNSC" - which is the Cartographic and Architectural Branch, located in "Archives II, College Park, MD." You can even see that the stuff is located on the third floor! The web page of the Archives II is: http://www.archives.gov/nara/dc/Archives2_info.html Getting stuff from the National Archives is fairly straightforward. There are two possible courses of action - to travel there, and do your research in person, or to obtain materials by mail order. There are obvious advantages to examining the materials in person, but the investment required to get a map out by mail order is only moderate in comparison. I'm currently "in process" on one of these. The first step is to get some information from the archives that isn't available on the web page. You have to use a "fax on demand" system they have set up on (301)713-6905. The list of documents and a description of the system is available from: gopher://gopher.archives.gov/00/about/faxdem.txt You will be responsible for long distance charges, so you probably want to just get a few documents & do it outside of prime time long distance hours. I recommend: Fax on Description demand # -------- ------------------------------------------------------------ 1021 General rules & regs for the national archives, 3 pages. 6071 ICC Railroad Valuation records, 2 pages. 4001 Vendor information for vendors that can reproduce cartographic and photographic resources at the National Archives, 19 pages. 5003 Vendor order form, 1 page. Note that if you are getting records other than the ICC valuation maps, different fax-on-demand articles may apply. The gopher URL above shows the full list. Once you have this information, you still are faced with the daunting task of finding the map(s) you're interested in. You will need to look at the Cartographic and Architectural Branch web page to get a list of the information an archivist will need from you to help you find the proper finding aid. http://www.archives.gov/nara/dc/Archives2_info.html When you've got all this figured out, the next task is to contact an archivist. You can do this via email. To learn how to do this, visit http://www.archives.gov/nara/mail.html . Generally they get back to you within 10 days (their service goal). You'll need to be as specific as possible about the company name, etc. of the records you are seeking, as well as the geographic area you are interested in. After you have your finding aids, and have contacted an archivist, you can use that information along with the information you got from the fax-on-demand service to place an order with a vendor to reproduce map(s). Also note that the National Archives is currently moving their information from their gopher server to their web server. This means that sooner or later the gopher:// urls above will change to different http:// urls. It's a bit harder to find stuff on the web page, but it looks a lot nicer, and they can showcase digitize collections. It should go without saying, but I feel that given the recent controversy, I should add that any valuation maps you obtain in this manner are not derivative works redrafted by someone, with value added. You just get a reproduction of the original source. You don't even know if what you're going to get is legible (I haven't recieved mine yet). But it's an interesting process, and there's a bunch of information, much of it textual, that might be of interest other than the valuation maps, so I thought it would be of value to describe the process. I just used the valuation maps as an example, because it's the only thing I've gone through the process with. The National Archives have done a commendable job of making information available to people who don't travel to their facilities in Washington DC. By the way, the Denver branch of the National Archives has lots of records stored from various agencies that have done surveys (some photographic) and collected information on mines in the west. I'll drop down to Lakewood to check these out sometime soon. Also note that the National Archives has information in many branches throughout the US. For instance the textual ICC valuation records seem to be in New York, if I recall correctly. Links to the regional archives and descriptions of holdings are all available from http://www.archives.gov/ ---Ben
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