B. Scott Holmes

Just trying to stay alive and keep my sideburns too

Overland Coach Stations in Chapter 12 of Roughing It

Sat, 06/29/2013 - 12:18 -- scott

Back in Chapter 9 Mark Twain's narrative of his journey west had entered into Wyoming, approaching the Rocky Mountains. He then spent two chapters devoted to the notorious Jack Slade, division superintendent and vigilante. He begins chapter 12 by describing a Mormon wagon train he passed en route. He reaches the top of the Rocky Mountains at South Pass and then descends the west side eventually arriving in Salt Lake City. I had intended to display an animated map of this journey, as I did with the previous chapters, But I didn't find a suitable base map to use. There are a number that display the Wyoming portion and a number that display the Utah portion but none I found display the entirety of the route - in 1861. Consequently I've taken a different approach to illustrating his journey. I had already been plotting the positions of the Pony Express/Overland Coach Stations, or at least approximations of their locations. I transferred this data to Google Maps and saved the entire route along with approximate paths between stations. This map is available publicly at:

I welcome collaboration on improvement of this map by any knowledgeable people.

I then did a KML export and opened the map in Google Earth. I did a screen capture of each tour/path on the map, ie From Horse Creek Station to Sweetwater Station; from Sweetwater Station to Devil's Gate Station; and so on all the way to Salt Lake City. Portions of these videos are incorporated in my final video of Chapter 12. This is my first significant attempt at using Google Earth for any practical purpose and I love it. Many years ago I had envisioned something similar with the Columbia River. I was a Professional Cartographer with the US Army Corps of Engineers, this was on or about 1981, and had been invited to submit a project proposal to CRREL. I had this crazy idea of digitizing a set of aerial photographs of the Columbia River, from the mouth to maybe Hanford or the Snake River. Then somehow create links to various pieces of information making the whole thing accessible on an interactive video (stop, start, zoom...). CRREL like the idea and we were just beginning to develop the idea into a workable project when the Corps decided that they no longer needed my services.

But I diverge, the video I produced is available on You Tube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XN6qLqVfUaU but the far more interesting web page, that also includes a link to this video is at http://bscottholmes.com/twain/roughingit/chapter12 right here on this very web site.

One interesting point to those of you with an interest in cartography, the screenshot I use of South Pass has a vertical exaggeration of a factor of 3. The videos do not use any vertical exaggeration so the terrain may appear smoother than one might suspect. But then the legend of the earth being smoother than a billiard ball is actually true, given the scales involved.