Railroaded

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Add local planning and regulation book. Such schemes had a considerable ante-bellum history, and both the American Congress and the Canadian Parliament had learned that although running a railroad through the public domain changed the value of land, rising prices would not necessarily accrue to the government, and so they sought to capture part of the increased value by retaining part of the land near the tracks.

James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 50-52.

Last updated on July 6, 2012 at 4:27pm

The most detailed account of the railroad grants comes from Public Aids to Transportation Table 13. Table 13 actually is two tables, with one table reflecting adjusted grants (that is with forfeited grants subtracted) for some railroads and another table reflecting unadjusted grants, where the amount lost by forfeiture or errors was not clear. Among the roads with adjusted grants, the Union Pacific received 11.4 million acres; the main line of the Central Pacific received 7.88 million acres, and the Kansas Pacific got 7.09 million acres. For those roads with unadjusted grants, the Northern Pacific got 39.4 million acres over its entire system.

Last updated on August 27, 2012 at 5:56pm

The western roads received the following amounts from the states: Nebraska, 498,742; Texas 32,990,000; Oregon, 3,200; Minnesota, 2,875,856.

"Report of the Auditor of Railroad Accounts," House Ex. Doc. 1, 46th Congress, 2nd Session, 1911, Table 13, 113-15.

Eventually around 35 million acres were returned, and in addition the railroads relinquished an additional 8 million acres in 1940 in exchange for the government canceling preferential reduced rates it was entitled to receive. This created interesting geographies of land whose title was in limbo for years as railroad claims and ownership were sorted out.

Last updated on July 6, 2012 at 5:01pm