The way humans have used locomotion to travel from place to pace over the course of history has changed and morphed dramatically over the centuries. Modes of transportation are introduced, new, and change the infrastructure, then those are soon outmoded and replaced by more advanced technologies, and new infrastructure has to be introduced. At one time humans followed animal trails, tracks through nigh untouched wilderness. Then, with the introduction of chariots, horses and carriages; roads were made early in history out of various assembled stones. This kind of road only improved from there, with the introduction of cars these roads had a need to be smoother, cobblestones became immensely popular, then asphalt roads, cement roads and so on.
One of the overlooked facets of locomotion is that of trains. The invention of trains and the introduction of the railroad system, across the globe and even in US is a pretty extraordinary one. The original routes trains have taken in the past often need reconsideration, with more efficient routes found, or old routes needing to be phased out as they are no longer practical or used enough. What the end result of this shift in progress and contrast of out-modding, is a vast network of abandoned railways and rail roads, even entire train stations, all left behind and forgotten. It makes for some pretty incredible photography. So, as an ode to the past and a tribute to the forgotten, let's take a look at 20 stunning pictures of forgotten railroad tracks.
20 Arctic Railway By The Sea
This abandoned train track line, according to lisanneharris.com, runs between Coles Bay and Grumant, in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago located about halfway between Greenland and Norway.
From the looks of it, this too has made its way onto my bucket list. I've always wanted to go to Svalbard, and Norway so it looks like this is as good of an excuse as any to get up there. The landscape is rugged, unforgiving and unapologetically beautiful. The railroad tracks are extraordinarily rusty, giving evidence to the fact that the weather is truly brutal here, especially in the winters.
19 Complete Ruin
This mess of metal and dilapidated tracks is found in Norilsk, Russia, and it's pretty obvious that these train tracks are not used anymore and won't be used again unless a lot of clean up and rebuilding is done.
These tracks are left in such a state of ruin that it almost resembles some kind of post-apocalyptic scene. With rubble everywhere in sight, this is clearly an area that has been left behind, no longer used for anything, an urban wasteland of rubble and debris. Sounds like a fascinating place to explore.
18 Industrial Steel And Timber
This is an absolutely gorgeous bridge, the thick, steel, arrayed in such an expressive yet functional manner, they just don't make bridges like this anymore. The structure is surprisingly skinny, with only room for a train and not much else, but it's still imposing, made with a phenomenal amount of steel, and it reaches very high upwards.
The architecture will stand for ages to come, as a testament to its fine craftsmanship and solidarity. This view is incredible, but I also want to know what it looks like from afar. No doubt just as impressive.
17 End Of The Line
These abandoned railroad tracks may have reached the end of their line, but that doesn't mean that it's not new beginning for the meadow and uninterrupted forest beyond it. Many of the train tracks on this list have locations, but this one didn't have a location listed with the photo, so it's a bit of a mystery as to where it's located. Somewhere quite picturesque, obviously.
It looks vaguely European to me, but that could be way off base. In any case, these tracks are no longer in use, and it won't be long until the meadow starts to take over the beams and rails, too.
16 Cut Through The Trees
This abandoned railway is located in the Tillamook Bay area in the US, and there is quite a long stretch of this railway, lying in peace in the thriving forest.
According to strayngerranger.com, these miles of train tracks were left abandoned after a storm washed out huge sections of the railway, leaving large holes and gaps underneath the beams and rails. Instead of repairing, they rerouted, to avoid it happening again.
Seems like a pretty awesome place to explore, in fact there are purported plans to turn it into a hiking trail. Sounds awesome to me.
15 Laid Straight For Miles
This is one of my favorite photos featured in the series, there's something about the composition, the angles, the area in focus, the depth of field, and the perspective, they all fit together to create an incredible photo that only amplifies the mood of a forgotten, abandoned railroad track cutting through an endless forest in the winter.
It's safe to say that I would hang this in my house, or maybe I'll use it as my desktop background. This railway can be found somewhere in Kansas, where the land stretches out flat for what seems like eternity.
14 Abandoned And Contrasted
This picturesque, abandoned rail bridge can be found near Ashland, Wisconsin. Taken in the autumn, this picture really highlights the vibrancy of the forest because of the dark contrast of the wet wood of the abandoned bridge. The rainfall has only enhanced the richness of the scene, lending a glistening brightness to the leaves in senescence, and giving the old abandoned wood a deep, dark, almost black tone.
There's still moisture in the air, too, which makes the horizon fade into blinding white. It's quite an incredible photograph, really. It makes me wish I was there taking it right about now.
13 Dilapidated In The Sands Of Time
This may be one of the most striking locations on this list, and it's a definite addition to my bucket list, as well.
This is the cemetery of trains, located in Bolivia.
It looks about as desolate as anything can get, with empty steel shell of trains littering the landscape, and nothing else but golden sunshine and a breathtaking desert-scape. It would be truly incredible to be able to visit a place like this because as incredible as it is in pictures, I can only imagine how overwhelmingly breathtaking it would be in person.
12 Sunset Rails On The Sea
This is another seascape railroad picture, though the location of this specific abandoned railway is unknown, I couldn't find the location of this photo from the source. Wherever it is, it is truly beautiful, though. Especially with the sunset in the background, the far off coastline and islands completely contrasted in black, and the foreground, with the rusty rails and worn down ties as the focus of the image.
It's always a wonder to me as to exactly where this railway used to go. It seems like it leads straight into the sea, but maybe their used to be a bridge.
11 Rickety Truss Bridge
The location of this abandoned alpine truss bridge is in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, high in the mountains, where the desert gives way to a beautiful alpine landscape. It still feels remarkably like the wild wild west, though, especially because of this withered and dilapidated truss bridge, that once led trains across the mountainous ravine below.
This picture still whispers at the promise of hidden gold and treasures from the past.
It makes me want to go looking for treasure, honestly, to get a taste of what it was like in the height of the gold rush.
10 Wintertime Abandoned
The location of this rather eerie winter scene is on Loop Island, in Indiana. These old abandoned tracks have laid dormant for years, slowly decaying and falling apart, season after season, year after year, slowly falling apart, fiber by fiber. While it still looks possible to cross this bridge, who knows how structurally sound it actually is.
These beams could be rotted through, unable to support any weight at all, and you wouldn't know until your foot goes through, or worse. But, that's part of the inherent risk of exploration, and for some it makes it all that more appealing.
9 Star Photography At Its Finest
This is one of the most technically impressive and well taken photographs in this lineup. Taken in Massachusetts, this abandoned railway stretches, four tracks wide, off into the forest, where vegetation has started to aggressively take over the beams and ties.
The most stunning part of the photograph is the beautiful capture of the night sky. This photographer had a tripod and after setting up his shot, took the shot, opening the shutter for at least 30 seconds, if not longer, depending on his aperture and ISO settings. Clearly the work of a true photographer, these abandoned tracks have never looked better.
8 Moss And Fallen Foliage
This rail bridge located somewhere in the idyllic forests of New York state fits right in, where nature has started reclaim it in a big way. The moss, the branches, it's all starting to blend together, and soon the decay of the wood will feed the ground, allowing for the growth of new trees.
At one point, this railway carried trains, people, supplies, across these tracks and bridge, but it's clearly been a long time since these rails have seen any kind of traffic beyond foot traffic.
This would be a nice place to relax and unwind, hiking along this route through the forest.
7 Covered In A Tangle Of Vines
The plant life and foliage in this particular forest is extraordinarily active, as the ridge itself hasn't decayed or rusted much beyond at the surface. Yet, the bridge has quickly become almost entirely overtaken by vines and leaves and even trees further down the track.
If trains were traveling through this forest along this railway, there would be no opportunity for the foliage to grow into the paths. Yet, with abandonment, nature is free to take it's course, and the result is really stunning and beautiful. This is a really well made bridge, too.
6 Sunset On An Old Track
The location of this abandoned railway is a mystery, unknown as the source of the photo doesn't list any sort of location. But the deciduous forest looks beautiful during the light of golden hour, and the gap carved in an arrow-straight line through the trees is picturesque, especially with slivers of sunset light shining through further on down the line.
Despite the abandonment of the rails, it looks like there's a pretty active walking trail just to the left of them, probably because the path is already there, and following a train's path through the forest is quite nice.
5 Deep Within The City
This abandoned train track and tunnel is located within the city of Paris, France, if you can believe that this kind of lush abandonment could be found in such a dense place as Paris.
The fact is that there are actually a number of abandoned railways in Paris, just like this one.
They're closed off to the public, but that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful to look at. There's actually quite a large group of people who love exploring these areas, despite the illegal nature of the hobby. Rumors are that there are entrances inside these tunnels that take you down to a secret labyrinth of catacombs.
4 Broken Down Cars And Tracks
The location of this graveyard of forgotten railcars and railways is yet again another mystery. But it looks like a playground of fascinating abandoned infrastructure just waiting to be explored, discovered, and admired for it's ancient beauty.
At one time these cars must have been richly opulent and vibrant, with faded pastels indicating a time when those colors were bright, shiny, new and beautiful. The intricate and unique design of the cars is really beautiful, even in ruin. This would be a good location for a film set, or a music video. Take me here!
3 Stoic Track Through An Emerald Forest
This is another picture of the abandoned railway that runs through the forest near the Port of Tillamook Bay, left behind and abandoned after a pretty catastrophic winter storm. It washed out entire sections of the track, leaving them exposed and with no support from underneath.
There's proposals to build a hiking trail that uses the already cleared path from the railway. I would love to hike that trail, from end to end, even if it's many miles. The scenery would be worth it alone, plus having the train tracks at your side would be really good.
2 Light At The End Of The Tunnel, But No Train
This abandoned railway is clearly pretty old, considering the rail ties have almost entirely rotted away in the middle from foot traffic and general neglect.
This abandoned train track is the Rock Island railroad located near South Kansas City.
It's a pretty old line, no longer in use except for the people and animals that use it as a highway. A highway with only foot traffic. The winter sunshine coming through the tunnel makes for a striking photo, with more of the tracks visible that would normally be, encased in the deep shadow of the underground tunnel.
1 Coniferous Forest And A Bridge
This picture again comes from the stretch of railway near Tillamook Bay, and it's clear that to follow the path of this abandoned railway would be a very rewarding journey, with views at every turn, incredible truss bridges, deep, wild forest all around and solitude enough to satisfy the most lonely of persons.
I love the look of this bridge, too. The picture is really well taken and flatters the perspective and size of the bridge, while still giving credit to the immersive emerald forest all around. This is a pretty special place, only amplified by the abandoned and forgotten railroad tracks.
Sources: strayngerranger.com, lisanneharris.com & rebrn.com