Jeremy Atack writes to EH.net:
I have posted my historical GIS transportation SHP files for the Lower 48 states from this nation’s founding through (approximately) 1911 on my www site https://my.vanderbilt.edu/jeremyatack/data-downloads/. Each transportation mode–canals, steamboat-navigated (as opposed to navigable) rivers, and railroads–has its own archive ZIP file which contains the complete series of files (projection, database and polyline files, etc.) required by ESRI’s ArcGIS and ArcGIS Pro. These are collectively referred to as “a SHP file” though there are actually multiple files for each mode of transportation. Once unpacked, these files for each SHP must be kept together and should only be edited using a GIS program. If corrupted, the entire SHP file will become unusable.
The metadata file (.XML) briefly describes the contents of each SHP, the manner in which it was created, and summarizes any edits since these files were originally posted. Issues relating to the creation of these SHP files are discussed in much greater detail in the documentation file also appearing at https://my.vanderbilt.edu/jeremyatack/data-downloads/.
This looks like a fantastic resource for anyone doing historic analysis of intercity network evolution. Now if only someone would digitize and standardize historic urban transit networks with modern GTFS coding …