Map of Williamsport, 1877. (Hint: With all the 1877 maps linked in this entry, you can zoom in on the picture by clicking on it. To scroll it in different directions, click, hold, and move your mouse.)
Map of the Williamsport area, 1912.
Historical information on Williamsport's railroad and canal.
Let's start where our unnamed protagonist does: At Williamsport Train Station. I spent hours trying to figure out where that darned station was; I finally tracked its location down after visiting Williamsport.
You can see the station in this picture. We're looking east here. In front of us is Conococheague Creek, which winds west to meet the C&O Canal and the Potomac River, which is an estuary of the Chesapeake Bay. The Potomac River and the C&O Canal are behind us. The train tracks are on the right bank (i.e. the southern bank). The bridge in front of us is still in existence; it carries Route 68 over the creek. And just to the right of the bridge, on the east side of what would become Route 68, is the train station.
(This photo, by the way, was taken by William Henry Jackson in 1892. He was commissioned to take pictures related to the Western Maryland Railroad.)
Since I didn't know where the train station was when I visited Williamsport, I didn't investigate the train station's site, but you can see it through Street View in Google Maps.
As you can see, the photo is a bit vague about what lay between the train station and the canal, but from other pictures I've seen, such as this one, I'm guessing that there were only railway tracks and trees along the right bank of the creek. Our protagonist must have followed the tracks down to the canal.
Here's the C&O Canal, as photographed by William Henry Jackson. We're now looking north, watching coal being lifted from canal boats to freight cars. That little body of water on the right is the turning basin. It's very easy to find this location if you visit Williamsport; the train tracks are still there, though they've been abandoned. The warehouse (which you can't see in this picture; it's off to the right) has been turned into a visiting center with C&O Canal photos on display. The person in charge was kind enough to show us the part of the warehouse that hasn't been renovated into the visiting center; it was impressively nineteenth-century.
Here are some modern photos of the area:
The turning basin for the canal, looking east. Here you can see the warehouse, labelled "Cushway's Coal Brick." The trains were loaded in the grassy area to the right of the picture.
Conococheague Aqueduct (built in 1834), by means of which the canal boats crossed Conococheague Creek.
WILLIAMSPORT JUNCTION (Chapter Two, scene two)
Westbound trains didn't actually go into Williamsport, once the railway line was extended to Cherry Run, West Virginia. Instead, they passed north of the town.
The 1877 map was created before the railroad was extended to Cherry Run, so Williamsport Junction doesn't yet exist. In the 1912 map, look for that road in Williamsport that goes north, then turns northwest. Where the road hits the tracks is Williamsport Junction. If you're following this on Google Maps, go north on Route 68 till you reach the railway tracks.
In the third link above, you can see photos of the old train order station, which was, as its name suggests, the place where the trains were ordered about. It's the equivalent of air traffic control. That station didn't exist at the time of my story, which is why it isn't mentioned in the story, but I chose that particular spot as a likely place for my characters to hitch a ride (for the simple reason that Route 68 crosses the tracks there, so I could access the location).
Thanks to the wonders of Google Maps, I was able to locate the remains of the train order station from the air, which is a good thing, because it's well disguised from the road by vegetation. Exploring further, Doug found the stone foundation of the station. But what interested me was the view across the tracks, where I planned to have my characters hide while waiting to freigh-hop. There was a little bank there; with the help of some imaginary shrubbery, I could hide my characters in that spot.
"They're hiding next to a slaughterhouse," said Doug facetiously, pointing to the fenced-in cattle just beyond the bank. I don't know what the nature of that particular establishment was, either now or in 1892, but it was the site of a warehouse in 1877 (apparently owned by the same family that owned the turning-basin warehouse), and the 1912 map shows two buildings at that location, so an 1892 slaughterhouse was instantly born.
In this video, you can see what my characters would have seen; the camera is just a few yards west of where the characters were hidden, looking south. Keep in mind, though, that nineteenth-century freight cars were smaller.
Off to mountain country.
MCCOYS FERRY, i.e. the train trestle (Chapter Three, scene two)
Map of the Clear Spring/McCoys Ferry area, 1877.
Map of the Pinesburg/Clear Spring/McCoys Ferry area, 1912.
Historical information on Pinesburg Station. Well, actually, just modern photos, but the first one gives a great view of the upcoming mountain.
Historical information on Clear Spring Station (scroll down).
Historical information on McCoys Ferry trestle.
McCoys Ferry is a canal spot near a former ferry site along the Potomac River. It's unmarked on the 1877 map, but you can find it on the 1912 map. It's now a campground and picnic ground, but that wasn't why we were there. We were there so that my characters could contemplate the fall from this trestle.
The visit didn't tell me much more than I learned from this photo, but right next to the trestle is one heck of a place to stop and have lunch.
FORT FREDERICK, i.e. Compassion Life Prison, and BIG POOL (Chapter Four, scene two, and Chapter Five, scene two)
Ah, Compassion. I'd chosen this as my location for Compassion Life Prison simply because it was next to a large body of water. A couple of years ago, before I realized that Mip's geography would be based on Maryland's, I decided to place Compassion next to a sea. Oddly enough, there aren't any seas in Maryland. For that matter, there aren't any natural lakes. The best I could do was an artificial lake, which is what Big Pool is. It began as a natural depression of land that was filled with water during the building of the C&O Canal.
Conveniently for me, Big Pool has a fort. Even more conveniently, Fort Frederick was once a prison. And when I saw it, I knew that it had been Compassion Prison. The match is that good, right down to the dimensions. I even managed to guess correctly how many prisoners would fit into the fort.
Frustratingly, there are no decent videos of the fort at YouTube. However, here's some photos:
Leaving the fort. That's the path we want to take. It leads south to Big Pool.
The field where I placed the pumpkin patch. The railway track is screened by the trees.
Now let's skip to some historical stuff.
The towpath at Big Pool today. Not much has changed, except that the level of water is lower now.
In a book I found at the library, there was a terrific drawing from the 1890s, showing the canal bridge, railway crossing, and Fort Frederick on the hill beyond. That gave me a very good sense of what my characters would see.
Everything that I included in the Big Pool scenes, I actually saw. Well, except the heron. Doug saw that.
BIG POOL STATION (Chapter Six, scene two)
Big Pool Station (which consisted of a freight shed and passenger station) was located at the eastern end of Big Pool. There's a town there now; as far as I can tell from the 1877 map and 1901 map, there wasn't a town there in 1892, which is hardly surprising. The town probably grew up as a result of the train station, which had only just opened at the time of my story.
The station is no longer there, only a plaque and the beginning of the Western Maryland Railway Trail.
INDIAN SPRINGS, i.e. Ammippian Springs
Just a little crossroads community. I went crazy trying to find proof that a general store had existed at its present location in 1892, till I finally found the store (or its predecessor) on the 1877 map.
Everything mentioned in this scene I saw there. I ran across the interesting information on this page at a site about the National Road that the little shack I saw (very run down) may have originated as an early tourist cabin.
That same page has a picture of the current general store, which I used as a model for the store in my story. (Note the attic.) The page also shows the outhouse. :)
In addition, there's a very good view of Thomas's family house on Google Maps Street View.
That's it for my trip, but note that I have some related reading matter in my Turn-of-the-Century Toughs bibliography, Masculinity, Crime, and Everyday Life in Victorian and Edwardian Times, in the sections devoted to tramps and transport.