Sketch of A Geographical Rout of A Great Railway [with] Map of the United States Drawn and Engraved to Illustrate Hart’s Geographical Exercises


One of the earliest documented proposals for a transcontinental railroad.

Are you interested in a high resolution image? Email me for inquiries.


The development of the steam engine had profound effects on westward expansion in America, starting with the canal-building era of the 1810s and 1820s. As railways grew in popularity and efficiency, the idea of a transcontinental route to supplement the new system of waterways captured the attention of many.

One individual was W.C. Redfield, a New York businessman who in 1829 issued his first edition of Sketch of the Geographical Rout of a Great Railway. This is the second edition, published by G. & C. & H. Carvill. In the 48 pages comprising the pamphlet, Redfield argues for the feasibility of such a route and provides a general outline of its path, numerous testimonials from local officials, and questionable statistics validating his claims.

The folding map in the back of the booklet is credited to J.C. Hart and shows the eastern United States, with the proposed rail route shown prominently in black ink from New York to the Platte River. Elsewhere in the image are numerous interesting details from America’s frontier history. Little Rock’s short lived alternative name (Arkopolis), the Adams-Onis Treaty Line in Texas and diminutive Chicago are just a few.

Although the concept of a Transcontinental Railroad is generally considered to be an inspiration of the mid-18th century, Redfield’s publication is a clear indicator of the discourse taking place in the decades before. In his words, “in a military, as well as commercial point of view, the results of such a Railway would surpass the power of calculation.”

Francaviglia, R., & Bryan, J. (2002). “Are We Chimerical in this Opinion?” Visions of a Pacific Railroad and Westward Expansion before 1845. Pacific Historical Review, 71(2), 179-202. doi:10.1525/phr.2002.71.2.179

Map Details

Publication Date: 1830

Author: G. & C. & H. Carvill/Joseph C. Hart

Sheet Width (in): 13.00

Sheet Height (in): 15.25

Condition: B

Condition Description: The map in fair condition, with a narrow and ragged right edge repaired in several spots and missing a portion of the image near the bottom. Minor offsetting is visible throughout the sheet. The accompanying pamphlet has been rebound, with original title page on modern boards. Several stamps from the Library of Congress, but I have confirmed with them that the item was deaccessioned.