Monday, December 9, 2019


’Tis the season, and with so much going on, I needed something meaningful to share, but something quicker, taking less research, than my usual posts.

As I worked my way through my already-searched information I’ve gathered for my latest book I’m working on, I realized I needed to say, “Thank you, Google Satellite.”

Google Maps is a feature I use often when researching a new book, especially if I am writing about real places and I need to figure distance from Point A to Point B.

It is not top secret information that when the scenario for Sweethearts of Jubilee Springs was set up, we sought for the series to take place in a hypothetical town. That said, we used many of the features – topography, climate, infrastructure, etc. – based on the town of Salida, Colorado and environs. In addition to silver mining (many of the stories involved miners bringing in brides using a matrimonial agency), there was a railroad – a very handy thing to have available when a large mine needs to ship ore to a smelter in another locality for processing.

The actual railroad through that area that follows the Arkansas River (Yes, it is the same river that travels through the state of Arkansas until it flows into the Mississippi.) is the Denver & Rio Grande. (More on that in another post.) What is great is, although there was no Interstate 50 at the time my stories in my latest trio of books in this series takes place, those railroad tracks that were built in the 1870s through 1880s are still in the same location today, and they show up on Google Maps --  particularly in the Satellite view.

Sometimes the highways built in the 1900s follow the rails graded and built at a different time. Since the Denver & Rio Grande turns west of its north-south corridor into the mountains at Pueblo (a larger Colorado city that predates even Denver), on Google Maps, I found the current highway route between from Pueblo and Salida by way of Cañon City. On the regular map view, I can toggle between driving, bicycling, and walking to get an idea how a rider on horseback or someone driving a wagon might have traveled and how long it took. Using this tool along with estimates of 30 miles per day for cavalry horse travel, or up to 50 miles a day for a horse with rider in ideal conditions, I can estimate distances and days of travel.

However, what I especially found helpful was the Google Maps feature of satellite view. In this instance, using this map view, I found the interstate diverges from the railroad route for several miles. Between Cañon City, Colorado and just east of Salida. Interstate 50 and the tracks are not even within sight of each other. 

Highway construction engineers would have had quite a time finding space for a cow path let alone a four-lane highway while getting through one of the scenic wonders of the Rocky Mountains known as the Royal Gorge. The train engineers back in the late 1870s had a tough enough time finding enough ground for road bed. At one point, a special hanging bridge was built so the track could continue along the side and OVER the river (also a future blog post). What finding the route of the rails on Google in satellite view allowed me to know was what my train travelers could have expected to see that I did not at the time I made the trip between those same cities in a car.

By finding the locality where the rails split from the road, I was able to zoom in a little and follow the tracks and the Arkansas River. I could see the topography from the air and follow the ground covered by the railroad until it reached the destination I had decided upon in my story.

Starting with my Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom and continuing through Nathan’s Nurse which will be released on December 27th, and a third book to be published later next year, one common element will be a train crash just east of Jubilee Springs due to a small avalanche that blocks the tracks. It will cause a minor derailment of the coal car and two passenger cars.

Using Google Satellite, I found a place – Longfellow Gulch – that served well as an avalanche site. I was able to study the snippet taken of the Google Satellite map to determine how close the rails were from both the mountains to the north, and the river to the south. Also, since I had townspeople traveling as close as possible by wagon and sleigh to help rescue the stranded passengers, I was able to visualize how I could write that scene.

Two Sisters and the Christmas Groom is available on Amazon as an ebook both for purchase and available for Kindle Unlimited readers. The scenes in this book lead up the discovery of why the train is late and includes some scenes of the rescue effort. To find the book description and purchase link, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

Nathan’s Nurse, which will be released on December 27th, also involves this train wreck, particularly how it affected two of the brides who traveled to Jubilee Springs to marry. To find the book description and purchase link, PLEASE CLICK HERE.

I hope my readers enjoy these two sweet romance novels set around Christmastime (although Nathan’s Nurse continues past that holiday). I hope all of you enjoy a safe and wonderful Christmas.

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