In the years before the Second World War the train was the best way to travel - whether for a cross country vacation or simply commuting to work from outside of the city. Today, the passenger rail services provided by Amtrak, VIA Rail Canada and the commuter railroads are a fraction of their former selves. Many rail lines have been abandoned and have been built over or left for nature to reclaim, and most stations have either been demolished or have been left to decay. A select few lines live on as trails and some stations have been converted to homes, businesses or museums, but they will probably never see a train rumble past again.

The 1938 Railway Map Project seeks to preserve our railway history by mapping the lines as they were just as the Great Depression was giving way to war in Europe. It will help explain why certain towns merely exist and why other grew into big cities, and it may give us insights into the lost routes that might have a role in a sustainable transportation future.