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Profile of the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad System, compiled in the office of the Chief Engineer in Topeka, Kansas by George K. Lake, Principal Assistant Engineer in January 1884, offers a detailed planar depiction of the railroad system as it expanded from Atchison, Kansas to its westernmost point in Guayamas, Sonora, Mexico. This elevation plan, a circa 1950 photomechanical reproduction of the original 1884 manuscript, illustrates the elevation profiles from sea level in Sonora to the towering heights of over 7,000 feet at Raton and Glorieta passes, capturing a detailed cross-sectional view of the railway system, including mileage between stations and notable features like water stations.

In the late 19th century, railroad infrastructure was central to the socio-economic fabric of the United States, knitting together distant towns, cities, and territories. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad System was a central player in this transformative period. This map captures the railroad's range during a moment of American westward expansion and heightened interest in continental connectivity. The significance of rail systems like these was manifold, supporting commerce, migration, and the dissemination of resources, ideas, and cultures.

The meticulous detailing on this reproduction, from the grading explanations to the elevations, showcases the engineering prowess of the time. The notes on max grades, curvature, water stations, and more, serve not merely as cartographic annotations but as reflections of the challenges faced and overcome by civil engineers of the period. The precision with which elevations, down to the thousandth, are indicated—whether referencing the Atlantic or Pacific mean tides—speaks to the commitment to accuracy and the crucial role elevational data played in rail construction and operation.

Furthermore, the railroad's reach, from Kansas to Sonora, is a testament to the expansive vision of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. While the emphasis on the "Eastern Branches" suggests a comprehensive view of the railway system's trajectory, the focus on features such as "Switch Back over Raton Mountain" underscores the challenges posed by North America's varied topography. This elevation is an artifact of its time, illustrating both the ambition and the technological acumen of 19th-century American railroading.

Condition Description
Photomechanical reproduction on paper. Some small holes and other damage.