That’s shortline, not shoreline. It’s a term used to describe very small railroads.
I first became aware of shortlines a couple of years ago when we took a brief trip to Vermont during early Autumn. One of our activities included an excursion along the western bank of the Connecticut River on the White River Flyer, a vintage train belonging to the Green Mountain Railroad.
My Brief Green Mountain Railroad Video
I didn’t discover that the railroad was an independent entity with only about 50 miles of track (all within Vermont) until I began writing an article on my travel site. My second encounter occurred as I researched a 12MC article on Railroad Ferries. I learned about the Bay Coast Railroad with 96 miles of track on the Delmarva Peninsula, running from Pocomoke City, Maryland to the southern tip of Virginia Eastern Shore and then via ferry to Norfolk.
Until then I’d though that maybe there were only a handful of railroads and that they were all large. That misconception couldn’t have been more completely wrong. American-Rails.com explained that shortlines "by far make up the bulk of railroads in the country today, totaling some 500."
The U.S. Government tags shortlines with a more bureaucratic name — Class III railroads. Those are defined as "Carriers having annual carrier operating revenues of $20 million or less after applying the railroad revenue deflator formula" and feel free to examine the deflator formula on your own if that thought excites you. Thus, in the eyes of the government, shortlines aren’t measured by miles of track but by piles of money. The Class III category contains an array of railroad types. The longer ones might serve to connect a few towns to the larger railroad network, like the Green Mountain Railroad excursion I experienced. Others are more specialized terminal or switching railroads, connecting rail to other modes of transportation or moving cars within the confines of a rail yard.
I wondered what might be the shortest existing railroad and quickly concluded that it’s difficult to say. Trainweb provided a great list of very short railroads, with each line ten miles or shorter. I got lost on that page for awhile, amazed at the vast array of micro-railroads catalogued there. The following instances were amongst the shortest mentioned.
The Kendallville Terminal Railway Co operates 1.1 miles of track, transporting sugar and other cooking materials for the Kraft Foods marshmallow and caramel manufacturing plant. Sweet! The Kendallville railway also connects to the much larger Norfolk Southern Railroad, and offers facilities for railcar storage.
Google’s satellite view shows a few of those railcars in storage.
Michigan is home to the Lapeer Industrial Railroad. It owns about 1.3 miles of track although it leases an additional 0.9 miles-or-so from the Grand Trunk / Canadian National railway, which also offers it an interchange to the rest of the railroad world. Clients include a local grain elevator which provides seasonal business and a furniture factory that receives bulk plastic pellets year-round.
The tracks crossing the road in this Street View image belong to the Lapeer Industrial Railroad. Notice the railcar in the distance and the warehouse on the right.
I found a nice article about the Effingham Railroad on the Trains website. It mentioned that "Effingham is ideally suited as a regional distribution hub, being intersected by north-south and east-west Interstate highways and railroads, the railroads being heavy-duty mainlines of Canadian National (ex-Illinois Central) and CSX (ex-Conrail)."
The Effingham Railroad has an owner, two employees and a single locomotive delivering railcars to the Hodgson Mill (a manufacturer of flour, bread and breakfast cereal), and a couple of warehouses. Effingham Railroad started with 400 feet of track and has since expanded to a much larger 2 miles. Their sole locomotive can be observed in the Google Satellite image next to a loading dock at Hodgson Mill. Flickr also has a nice image although it didn’t have a Creative Commons license so you’ll need to see it on your own.
The 500+ Class III railroads fill a vital need. They provide an economic lifeline to small towns and rural manufacturers. Larger railroads wouldn’t be able to operate in many of those locations profitably or their rates would be exorbitant, which is why they’ve abandoned a lot of track now used by Class III providers. The shortlines prove that it doesn’t take an extensive network or lots of equipment to provide a vital service at a reasonable rate, and still make a living.
I wonder if I’ve observed a genuine phenomenon or if I’m falling into a confirmation bias trap. Everywhere I travel, and I meander through extremely rural areas as a matter of preference, I notice Chinese restaurants.
This isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned this peculiarity. I posted Not Fusion, CONfusion a couple of years ago. The subject matter differed — I focused on oddly bifurcated business in that instance — although Meh’s Canadian & Chinese Cuisine in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia would certainly qualify as an example of a Chinese restaurant in a rural area. I wrote at the time, "I’m continuously amazed to find Chinese restaurants in even the smallest, most remote and undoubtedly obscure towns that I’ve ever visited." That odd fixation of mine hasn’t dissipated over time.
It came back to life when I was in Guymon, Oklahoma recently.
I noticed a Chinese buffet practically across the street from our hotel. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by the Guymon occurrence. It’s the "big city" of the Oklahoma panhandle with nearly 12 thousand residents. About 2.7% of the population (~300 people) self-identified as Asian in the most recent census albeit many of them Burmese not Chinese. Guymon probably fit within the definition of confirmation bias now that I’ve had an opportunity to consider the math. To my credit though, we’d been driving through empty terrain for several hours and the juxtaposition flashed on my conscious brighter than a neon sign.
It’s hard for me to conceive of the cultural isolation that these proprietors must endure in the most extreme examples. I came across one article that highlighted the story of a family of Chinese immigrants with US-born children that settled in Lexington, Nebraska. The ability to own one’s own business and earn a decent living in small town America provided an enticing option to urban problems, so maybe the American Dream makes up for the difference. They seemed to be assimilating just fine.
There are several dimensions one could use to determine the most remote Chinese restaurant in North America. I’m not sure I’ll ever answer the question to my complete satisfaction although I offer a few tantalizing possibilities. Obviously I’ve never been to any of these places and I have no idea if the limited online reviews I could find are even remotely true. I’m also sure theses places represent the most bastardized version of westernized Chinese cuisine imaginable to match the tastes of their clientele, and I’m a sucker for that. I enjoy authentic cuisine too. I try to appreciate the dichotomy separately for what it is, and recognize that they should never be compared.
Glasgow has about 3,200 residents with 0.3% of the population (about 10 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s not to say that every one of those residents identify as Chinese of course, a distinction I’ll note similarly for the remainder of the article, although it does provide an indication of the potential population pool.
The Google Street View image led me to wonder if the Hong Kong Chinese Restaurant was still open. Reviews in Yelp dated as recently as 2011 however and Street View dated to 2008. Maybe it simply needed a good coat of paint.
One person said, "This is the most awful restaurant I’ve been to." Another said, it was "One of the best meal[s] I had in Montana." Turning to Urban Spoon, a reviewer noted, "Average is ok in this case — I didn’t get sick after eating here either. This is my first criteria when writing a review for any Eastern Montana restaurant." I learned a couple of things. First, Chinese food in Glasgow, MT is either excellent, terrible or average. Second, the standard of excellence might not be very high in Eastern Montana. I wonder if Weekend Roady would agree?
Nome has 3,700 residents with 1.54% of the population (about 55 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s both a larger town and a higher percentage than the previous example. I’m including it on my short list anyway because anything in Nome has to be considered remote by definition.
Golden China Restaurant has some photos on Yelp and a small number reviews on Google+. One said, "The waitress never smiles, she looks mean." There was also a review in Korean which Google translated with the usual mangled results: "Korean pineapple chicken boss recommended. Tang manipulative called look. My Mongolian beef was too salty and sweet taste. Atmosphere clean and good music."
In Nome, be sure to look for the surly waitress and stick with the Korean pineapple chicken boss.
Viking has about 1,000 residents. However it’s in Canada and I don’t know enough about the Canadian census to determine demographics. I highlighted this location primarily because I was amused by the possibility of Viking-Chinese fusion cuisine. It’s too bad Viking is the town’s name and not an indicator of culinary style.
I couldn’t find any online reviews. However, strangely enough, two people checked in with foursquare from Viking Chinese. You can do the same if you need to kill some time in Edmonton and want to take a 137 kilometre road trip.
Is Ying Bin Restaurant the champion of remoteness? Kenmare has 1,000 residents with 0.7% of the population (about 7 people) self-identified as Asian. That’s a tad better (meaning fewer) than Glasgow, MT. Conceivably, just about every person in Kenmare of Chinese heritage could be associated with the Ying Bin Restaurant. I found only one brief review: "Food is superb, when made fresh."
Those are my candidates for the most remote Chinese restaurants in North America. Can the 12MC audience do better? — double bonus points if you’ve actually eaten there. Triple points if you’re the restaurateur.
The capital of a nation is often its most important city, or certainly one that citizens would recognize by name if not. Place that exact name into another nation and its significance would almost always drop. I wondered if I could find the name of every other capital city within the physical boundaries of the United States as a recognized geographic feature. The short answer was that I could identify many of them but not all. The longer answer took some interesting turns.
First I had to find a source. I decided that Wikipedia’s List of national capitals in alphabetical order would suit my purposes with the several caveats already there (e.g., "including territories and dependencies, non-sovereign states including associated states and entities whose sovereignty is disputed"). Some of the selections come with strong emotional strings and I’m sure the Wikipedians who compiled that list would love to discuss selection criteria on their talk page. I’ll take a neutral stance, the classic easy way out, and simply start from there.
Next I had to find an example of each city within the United States. I selected only one appearance per city. The U.S. Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) listed 42 populated places for Athens, for instance. I selected the one in Georgia. Any of the other 41 would have been fine too. Finally I placed my source data and lat/long coordinates in a shared Google Docs spreadsheet that you are absolutely free to review.
I considered actual cities or towns to be the gold standard. The history of the United States provided abundant examples reflecting a Greco-Roman educational heritage and a later wave of European immigration from the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries. It was easy to find Athens and Paris. The challenge came with Yaoundé, Lilongwe and the like, where I failed.
If not a town, I tried to find a lesser known USGS-recognized feature such as a populated place (often a neighborhood), an historic site (former settlement or ghost town), or a natural landmark such as an island, lake or stream. I turned to street names as a final resort. Readers might be surprised by the number of communities and subdivisions with appropriately-named street grids. There are several South Florida developments, for example, with a variety of Caribbean themes. Airports often featured international street names too, and US military bases commemorated long-ago (and not-so-long-ago) battles that occurred in exotic places.
I suppose I could have gone all the way down to the retail level — maybe I could have found a Kyrgyzstani restaurant named Bishkek somewhere — although I had little faith that they would be useful as permanent landmarks. Restaurants go out of business with striking regularity. Street names at least seemed to have a better chance of sticking around for awhile.
I’ll feature a few of my favorite finds although they barely scratch the surface. I think you’ll have fun discovering your own gems hidden in the map, and of course please let me know if you find any of the missing capitals. It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, it simply means I couldn’t find them with a cursory search. I got a little cross-eyed after nearly 250 individual investigations.
Jersey, of all the international locations available, might appear to be an odd initial choice. It’s a British Crown Dependency with fewer than a hundred thousands residents so why would I start there? Saint Helier is the Jersey capital and that’s where I noticed the connection.
Saint Helier doesn’t appear often in the US, and in fact the only instance I could find was a single street in Texas… in Jersey Village, Texas. The Handbook of Texas speculated that Jersey Village’s name derived from a nearby dairy farm with Jersey cows, a breed that originated on the Isle of Jersey several centuries earlier. Someone laying out the township must have made a conscious decision to honor Jersey with a Saint Helier Street. Thus it’s possible to live in Saint Helier, Jersey, in Texas, and for that I salute an unknown suburban planner.
I selected Rome, New York to represent the Italian capital, an easy choice because of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. The New York version of Rome has it’s own interpretation of St. Peter’s Basilica! The only condition that would have made this even better may have been if Rome — the one in New York — had declined to annex the property where where the church had been built. Then it would have completed the analogy by creating a miniature version of Vatican City.
I did find the Vatican, by the way (a USGS populated place), but it was nowhere near Rome, not even the one in Mississippi.
I thought Vientiane would be a tough find, and that would have been true if I hadn’t stumbled upon a small Laotian community in Broussard, Louisiana. Notice the street names: Vientaine is the capital of Laos; and Savannaket (Savannakhet) and Luangphbang (Louangphrabang) are Laotian provinces. The community in Louisiana is even anchored by a Buddhist temple along its western edge, Wat Thammarattanaram-La.
A little Internet sleuthing led to an explanation in The Advocate, a newspaper in Baton Rouge.
Laotian immigrants first settled in Iberia Parish in the late ’70s and early ’80s after refugees left Laos when communists gained control there. Federally supported training for oil-field work led many of the refugees to the parish. Xanamane said the land for what would become Lanexang Village was purchased in 1985 and divided among the families within the community. Today, the community is home to 65 households — with a total population of 400 — and is one of three residential clusters of Laotian immigrants within Iberia Parish. The village is best known for its celebration of the Laotian New Year, which typically falls during the Easter holiday, Xanamane said.
I never would have imagined a community of Cajun-Laotian oil workers in Louisiana prior to this mapping exercise.
Mogadishu would seem to be an unusual option although I found a street by that name at Naval Station Norfolk in southeastern Virginia. I’m speculating that it’s a tribute street, a way to commemorate the Battle for Mogadishu which was also portrayed in a 2001 movie, Black Hawk Down. Four Navy SEALs participated in this largely Army operation and their home base was located nearby.
A Few More Tidbits
I could go on-and-one with other examples presented by these data. Is San Marino, California larger than San Marino? (no). Wouldn’t it be better if the Slovenian Society Home faced along adjacent Ljubljana Drive instead of Recher Avenue? (yes). Is there any chance that someone in the US will name a street after Pyongyang (probably not) or Islamabad (perhaps not in states preempting Sharia Law).
Next time I’ll have to build a map with fewer data points.