illuminate history

Curiosity: forget “Cherchez la femme” (Look for the woman.) “Cherchez l’histoire.” (Look for the story.)

**FOR READERS OF THE BOOK** …setting the stage

 The illustrations in the book are small. As a result, the maps and the diagrams describing parts of a steam locomotive are difficult to read. Here you can click on each  image to see a much larger version.

The Bailey brothers arrived in Toronto with their parents around 1846, when Francis was five, John two. I first discovered this 1878 map in Toronto: No Mean City, by Eric Arthur. Later I found it on-line at This annotated version shows where John, his family, and various friends lived in close proximity  to the Toronto waterfront and the Western Yards  that played such an important role in his formative years.

John went to work in the maintenance yard of the Grand Trunk Railroad when he was about sixteen. He learned the workings of a locomotive engine from the inside out.

John served in the US Military Railroad of Northern Virginia from February 1864 through July 1865. He saw a very small fraction of the overall conflict, but he was there when it ended and only a few miles from precisely where it ended. This map was in one of my father’s West Point texts, published in 1937.

Francis was cast out by their father in 1856. He found an uncle in Albany and settled there. In later years, John visited Albany many times.  This fuzzy enlargement of South Albany, from a map in the 1901 Albany City Directory, conveys a general idea of where Francis and his family and John’s friend Homer Dodge lived  and worked.

I was particularly intrigued by the brilliant simplicity of the Westinghouse air-brake system: the brakes don’t release until the system is fully charged to the correct air pressure. If a car should somehow break loose, the system loses pressure and the brakes lock automatically so that the runaway car stops. The diagram in the book is difficult to read.

The Jackson District Library has a large version of this bird’s eye view of the city hanging on the wall. I tried unsuccessfully to purchase a copy at several places in town. Years later, I found it on historicmapworks and happily paid the fee to download a hi-res copy, which I have annotated with approximate locations of places that feature significantly in the story.

This final map sets John’s adult life in its geographic perspective–and you can trace his cherished run from Ft. Wayne through Hillsdale and Adrian to Jackson. This is a small segment from a much larger cartographic image I found at–and paid to download fromDavid Rumsey Historic Mapworks.

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