1933 original roads

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Planning to travel from philadelphia to indiana and then to chicago on the original roads of 1933. I have heard that a lot of the original roads have changed designations since 1933. What is the best way to organize this trip?


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If you could find some county maps from that era, you'd probably find back roads and county roads that you could string together to make a lovely ride.  MapQuest would show you that most of those little roads are still there.  Some might not even have been paved yet!

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On 8/29/2016 at 8:15 AM, FrankWest107 said:

Found out that the Lincoln Highway  route 30 was built around 1917 and extends from New York city to san Francisco.


It wasn't until the 1920's that highways were even numbered.

I have an old Gulf Oil road map on which all the highways

have only names, such as "Lakes to Sea Highway," 

"Susquehanna Trail," "Lincoln Highway," and so on.


I also have some old road maps of Pennsylvania dating to the

late 1920's and through the 1930's.  You're right:  Roads have

been renumbered and rerouted.  The original roads are still there,

but they may have lost their state route numbers.  You could find

them (or most of them) by comparing a 1933 road map to a current

state atlas that shows every small road in the state.  Just map out

your route in advance, marking it with a highlighter. 


The "Pennsylvania Atlas and Gazetteer" is one such atlas.

Its print is quite small, but if you mark it in advance and have a 

navigator with you, you'll do fine.  They have "...Atlas and Gazetteers"

for several other states, likely Ohio and Indiana.


PennDOT also has large "Type 10" maps--one for every county.

They are little known, and their size and folding would make them

a little cumbersome in a car.  But they are extremely useful and show

the back roads better than any maps I know.  They show

every last road, paved or dirt--excellent for seeing the countryside

and for viewing scenes the way a traveler did many years ago.

They do not, however, have blow-ups of streets in towns.

I can give you more information on these if you wish. 


The Lincoln Highway has been partially rerouted a few times

over the decades.  I'll bet the Lincoln Highway Ass'n has a map

that shows the original route.  For example, in central Pennsylvania,

the Lincoln Highway is either 2 lanes or 3 lanes in width, but

there are some 2-lane off-shoots that were the original highway.

But the Lincoln Highway that I know now is not a 40-45 m.p.h. road.


Pennsylvania (and probably Ohio and Indiana) have many, many

smaller roads where you could drive more slowly--and see much

more of the state's character than the Interstates would afford.

I applaud you for taking the slow route.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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Our shop as well as my home are less than 1000 ft from the Susquehanna Trail which was basically the only route from Harrisburg to Baltimore until The Interstate system was built in the 1950s. The road is known locally as The Trail, or The Susquehanna Trail or Old York Road or among older folk Old Route 111. I have no idea what number state route it is today. It was first paved only in 1921. Several portions have been relocated a bit over the years but for the most part it still follows the original route.

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Sounds like a great trip.  As others said the Lincoln Highway Assc probably has the various alignments listed, in most towns the routing was changed over the years.  In the teens towns wanted the highway to draw traffic into the business district; they often routed so the motorist had to cover as many local streets as possible.  This continued in some towns in the mid 1920s when the numbered US highway system was approved.  The rule was that the federal government would pay 50% for construction of numbered US highways so the town might designate any road possible to the route so the feds would pay to pave it.  Sounds good except having ever-increasing traffic coming through neighborhoods became a bigger problem so a bypass was created around town (presumably also on the federal dime, maybe as a 1930s WPA project).  Then after the war maybe a four lane was needed, then in the 1960s the interstate, so some towns have highway routes going around like the rings of a tree.  In the rural Midwest most are still in use and are easy to find and navigate; in Pennsylvania they are still in use but can be very congested local routes such as Restorer32 mentions around York (a Lincoln Highway town also).  Good luck, Todd C


PS--in Illinois if you go a little further than Chicago, maybe to Dixon or so, you will find plenty of remaining Lincoln Highway references, bridges, stone markers, etc.   



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7 hours ago, poci1957 said:

... in most towns the routing was changed over the years. ... in Pennsylvania they are still in use but can be very congested local routes such as Restorer32 mentions around York


You'll find many miles of open roads in Pennsylvania.

Just stay away from cities, as POCI mentions above!  

(York is a small city and is not a particularly good area, sorry to say.)

But small towns in Pennsylvania should give you no problems--

they can be very attractive if you get into unspoiled older towns

and keep away from the modern sprawl--

as you probably know from your own driving experience.


Indiana, due to the long-ago layout of the midwestern survey

"section" lines, often has country roads straight as an arrow.

Then suddenly, you come to a right-angle turn as sharp as

you might have in town, followed quickly by another right angle.

You have to watch out a bit!   Then the road goes straight again.


Yes, the country can be fascinating when you take the time to see it.

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)

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York was the first capital of the United States, on a technicality. The Articles of Confederation were signed in York. There were also 14 automobile manufacturers in York, Pullman being the most successful. Lincoln Hwy still goes right thru the center of town.

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Actually York is also a perfect case study of Lincoln Highway history.  If you look on the map you will see that US 30 goes there and in central PA US 30 is usually the Lincoln Highway.  But from east Lancaster to west York US 30 is a multi-lane Interstate style expressway and/or bypass of the original route--avoid it and take the original Lincoln Highway which is now State Rte 462.  As you enter East York on 462 from the east you will see the 1950s-60s "strip" development of drive ins, car dealers and chain restaurants.  Then you will find late 1920s-1930s efforts at early suburban housing and shopping neighborhoods.  Then you come to the remaining garages and roadside buildings of the teens and twenties built when the Lincoln Highway first came to town.  Watch for one way streets, in York (I think) the eastbound one-way is the Lincoln route.  Then west of York to Gettysburg the roads merge and the original highway becomes US 30 again and is a three lane, which I understand was the first rural highway upgrade.  The third lane was to be a passing lane for both directions with sometimes unfortunate results.  Great stuff to discover, Todd C              

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The best way to learn the original roads is to find a copy of an old Official Blue Book. These were printed around 1910 for many parts of the country and contain fascinating descriptions and directions. 

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In Ohio, RT 30  (Lincoln Hwy )was the prime highway between Pittsburgh and Chicago before I-80 was built and much of it is 4 lane surface road. 


Rt 40 (National Hwy) goes from Pittsburgh to Columbus to Indianapolis before going to Chicago.  Part of Rt 40 is on I-70 and you may have to find an alt route  in eastern Ohio. 


A nice 2 lane road in Ohio is to take the RIVER ROAD along the Ohio River going through Cincinnati.  Take RT 7 or 52 on the Ohio side or Rtr 8 or 2 on the Kentucky side.  This a southern route and will be further than the previous two and a much more interesting and scenic trip.

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