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If you pull up Google Maps and look at the forested areas of Western United States, you’ll notice strange checkerboard patterns, like the one below.

checkerboard-land-6

A digitally enhanced screengrab from Google Maps. Coordinates: 48.4170389,-116.8918616

These patterns are the result of an agreement made in the mid-1800s, where the US government granted public domain lands to a company called the Oregon and California Railroad to build a rail link between Portland and California. Like most railroad grant lands of the time, the land surrounding the area where train tracks were to be laid, was split into a checkerboard pattern. The railway company received every other square, while the plots in between were retained by the federal government. The idea was, that the railroad would greatly increase the value of the lands over time, and the government lands that were intermixed with the railway lands could benefit from the increased value.

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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