All Roads Lead. . . .

A seventeenth-century visitor might well think that all roads lead to Grantville, not Rome, because down-time roads pale by comparison. “Captain Gars,” riding on Route 250, noted its “perfect flatness,” and considered it to be “the finest road he had ever seen in his life.” (1632, Chap. 57). Rebecca Abrabanel likewise was amazed by the “incredible perfection” of the first up-time road she saw (1632, Chap. 5).

Those roads give Grantville a tremendous strategic military advantage, a force multiplier. “Moses and Samuel [Abrabanel] soon realized that the striking power of the Americans, dependent as it was on their dazzling motor vehicles, was somewhat limited in range. But anywhere within reach of the rapidly expanding network of roads surrounding Grantville, they had little doubt that the Americans could shatter any but Europe’s largest armies.”

Highways are also important economically. Adam Smith wrote: “Good roads . . . by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of the country upon a level with those in the neighborhood of a town. They are upon that account the greatest of all improvements.” (EB).

It should be noted that in the early seventeenth century, long-distance overland travel is mostly by packhorse or packmule, not by wagon, because of the poor quality of the highways.

Not everyone will be in favor of improving roads. Innkeepers may fear that travelers will pass their hotel by and go on to the next town. Landowners in some parts of Europe have the right to collect whatever falls from a wagon onto the road, and therefore are perfectly happy to see them overturn. (Forbes, 524) They may also not like to see the central authority exercised more vigorously in their locale, thanks to the improved access.

What roads exist may deteriorate as a result of weather conditions, heavy traffic, and neighbors who figure that it is easier to mine stone from the road than from a distant outcrop. And if the road nonetheless attracts business, then that will in turn attract highwaymen to prey upon travelers.

Up-Time Resources

Grantville is based on the town of Mannington, West Virginia. That is one of four states in which there is no county or township ownership of highways. Hence, the West Virginia Department of Transportation is responsible for the maintenance of over 91% of the public roads in the state. (“West Virginia Highways”) The District 4 headquarters is in Clarksburg, and there is a “superintendent” for Marion County. The history section of the City of Mannington website notes that “a WV Department of Transportation garage is located in Mannington which assures that our highways are the first to be taken care of during bad weather.” For what is in that garage, see the “Road Construction Equipment” section.

However, the city of Mannington also has a Street/Water Superintendent, and presumably a street crew, responsible for the public roads not under state control.

The Grid indicates that Grantville has a “Streets and Roads Department,” with eleven up-time employees. It is possible that most of these were originally employees of the WVDOT garage, but were quickly incorporated into the municipal government shortly after the RoF.

Of the “S&R” up-timers, two are listed as “heavy equipment operators,” and another two as trainees. Then we have a dump truck driver, a maintenance scheduler, an equipment maintenance manager, a retired road maintenance man, a street foreman, and a record keeper (and an eleventh employee whose position is not stated).

Another six up-timers are listed as former employees of the state highway department.


The West Virginia Division of Highways classifies state roads by surface type as follows: (A) primitive, (B) unimproved, (C) graded and drained, (D) soil surfaced, (E) gravel or stone, (F) bituminous surface treated, (G) mixed bituminous, (H) bituminous penetration, (I) asphaltic concrete, (J) concrete and (K) brick (see Roadbuilding Addendum, Appendix 1 for definitions). I have identified types A, B, C, D, and E, as well as paved roads representing one or more of types F–H, in the vicinity of Mannington, West Virginia (list of roads in Appendix 2). These roads presumably have Grantville equivalents.

According to the map in the 1632 RPG Sourcebook, twenty-one roads were cut by the Ring of Fire. Some of these will, coincidentally, be readily linkable to the surrounding German road network. Others will lead into the middle of nowhere. The latter roads may nonetheless serve a useful purpose; modern pavement structure can be studied there.

If these “orphan” roads don’t include all of the important road types, then some judicious trench-digging (and subsequent repair) may be helpful for teaching roadbuilding and repair techniques to down-time apprentices.

Canon only identifies one up-time highway as being active in post-RoF Grantville. Route 250 runs by the high school, and in its vicinity parallels Buffalo Creek. It is described as a “well-built two lane highway,” surfaced with asphalt, on which it is possible to drive up to fifty miles an hour.(1632, Chap. 2).

Named Grantville streets in Canon include Main (Goodlett, “The Merino Problem,” 1634: The Ram Rebellion), Turnbull (Mackey, “The Essen Steel Chronicles, Part 1: Crucibellus,” Grantville Gazette, Volume 7), Clarksburg (home of the Inn of the Maddened Queen)(Id.), and High Street (government offices)(DeMarce, “In the Night, All Hats Are Grey,” 1634: The Ram Rebellion).

Several down-time roads have been given “official status.” According to canon, that means that they are “invariably widened and properly graded. Graveled too, more often than not.” “Route 26” is a north-south road passing just west of Eisenach. Two miles to the north of the town, it is crossed by “Route 4” (1632 chap. 52). We also know that the road from Grantville to the (fictional) Imperial City of Badenburg has been improved. (Huff, “God’s Gifts,” Grantville Gazette, Volume 2). As of Eddie’s trip, “the main road to Magdeburg was slated for improvement as an urgent priority,” but had yet to undergo its makeover. (Weber, “In the Navy,” Ring of Fire).

Brother Johann (Wood Hughes, “Hell Fighters,” Grantville Gazette, Volume 3) crossed the Alps, and eventually took a road “down the Elbe River Valley towards where the Salle River joins its flow. There, he saw a road construction machine in action (it had a scoop on an articulated arm). “The road, from that point, became noticeably more level. It had a layer of crushed rock which had been packed in some way. Where washes had been there were now metal pipes to allow the water flow to go under the roadbed.”

That road fed into the “‘American road’ (presumably the extension of Route 250 beyond the RoF) along the north shore of the Schwarza River.”

I don’t want to spoil Virginia DeMarce’s story “Bypass Surgery” (1634: The Ram Rebellion) for those who haven’t read it yet. So let’s just say that roads play a prominent role in it.


The WVDOT garage, and perhaps also Grantville City Hall, should have copies of at least some of the WVDOT manuals (possibilities include the Construction Manual, the Standard Details Books, and Standard Specifications—Roads and Bridges).

They may also have some of the publications of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). Many states base their highway design manual on the AASHTO “Green Book.”

In the Grantville school and public libraries, most of the information on roadbuilding is in the encyclopedias. However, the public library does have a copy of Searight’s The Old Pike: An Illustrated Narrative of the National Road.


It is clear that the S&R department is training down-timers to work on road crews. However, S&R is geared toward maintenance of existing roads, not design and construction of new ones. If highways are to be designed scientifically, someone will need to create the appropriate educational institutions. These can be specialized (in OTL, the world’s first institute for road and bridge design was established in France, in 1747, see Hindley 75), or a part of a larger university.

According to the Grid, several individuals hold a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering: Jere Haygood, Kimberly Jane (Collins) Glazer, Mason Chaffin, Derek Modi, Allen Lydick, Edward Monroe, Garland Franklin, Jacob Bruner, Ronaldus “Ron” Koch, and Farris Clinter; Mason Chaffin is the Grantville surveyor, in fact. While these individuals are going to be devoting quite a bit of their time to military projects, we can hope that on a rotating basis, they can teach civil engineering students in Magdeburg, Jena or Grantville.

West Virginia University’s undergraduate civil engineering curriculum requires students to take courses in Engineering Design, Engineering Economics, Thermodynamics, Surveying and Computer-Aided Design, Statics, Dynamics, Mechanics of Materials, Fluid Mechanics, Materials, Structural Analysis, Foundations Engineering or Earthwork Design, Concrete, Steel or Timber Design, Hydrotechnical Engineering, Soil Mechanics, and Transportation Engineering. The latter is described as “Integrated transportation systems from the standpoint of assembly, haul, and distribution means. Analysis of transport equipment and traveled way. Power requirements, speed, stopping, capacity, economics, route location. Future technological developments and innovations.”

The students are also required to take two 400-level civil engineering electives. It is possible that one of them has taken CE 431, Highway Engineering, as an elective: “Highway administration, economics, and finance; planning and design; subgrade soils and drainage; construction and maintenance. Design of a highway. Center line and grade line projections, earthwork, and cost estimates.”

We can assume that all of these individuals have kept their course textbooks. (I still have my chemistry books from the early seventies.)

Common Knowledge: Roman Roads

For the seventeenth-century European, the “gold standard” for highways were certainly the Via Appia, Via Flamina, and other Roman roads. According to Nicholas Bergier (1567–1623), European peasants thought they were “the work of demons, giants, and fairies using magic arts.”

Bergier was a French lawyer, living in the ancient town of Rheims (Roman Durocortorum). He pioneered the study of the Roman roads, eventually writing the influential treatise Histoire des Grands Chemins de l’Empire Romain (1622) at the command of Louis XIII. (Von Hagen, 14–15). It went through many editions, and copies are certainly available in down-time private libraries in the USE.

USE engineers can see the Roman roads for themselves, but only if they are willing to travel a bit. Thanks to the Teutonic victory at Teutobergerwald (“Varus, give back my legions!”), the Romans did not penetrate deeply into Germany. The Romans fortified the Rhine River, and Roman roads connected the garrisons along the west bank. Another Roman road ran along the Danube from Switzerland to the Danube delta, first along the north bank and then (crossing the river north of Munich) along the south one. (Von Hagen, 18–19) This is shown clearly on a map in the modern Encyclopedia Britannica.

The most elaborate form of the Roman road was the via munita, distinguished by a convex surface (dorsum) of rectangular or polygonal blocks of hard stone (such as lava). The via glareata had a graveled surface, and the via terrena, one merely of leveled earth. The surface used depended on both the importance of the road, and on the availability of suitable local materials.

While the via munita structure may sound ideal, it actually requires a great deal of maintenance to handle wagons. Once one block sinks a little more than the others, perhaps as a result of settlement of the underlying soil, it will tend to be driven deeper by the shock of each passing wagon falling onto it. Hence, wheeled traffic demanded a softer pavement, such as one of earth or broken stone, which could be smoothed out readily. (Gregory 123–4).

The early imperial poet Publius Papinius Statius described the construction of the Via Domitiana in his poem “Silvae.” (The first medieval edition was published in 1472.) According to Statius, the workers dug two parallel, widely separated, drainage ditches (sulci) and heaped the excavated material in-between (forming the gremium or agger). Curbstones were laid between the ditches and the elevated roadbed, and the latter was flattened. The other road layers were then laid on top of the soil.

There is some dispute as to the exact nature of those layers. Based, for example, on Vitruvius’ description of pavement construction in De Architectura, Bergier believed that beneath the road surface were three other layers. (Ramsay; Gregory 66). The modern Encyclopedia Britannica accepts (without proper credit) Bergier’s analysis, and describes the four courses, from top to bottom, as follows:

summa dorsum: large stone slabs at least six inches deep.

nucleus: about twelve inches thick, concrete made from small gravel and coarse sand (other sources say that this was made from broken pottery or bricks, cemented with lime).

rudus: about nine inches thick, concrete made from stones under two inches in size (other sources say that these stones were larger than those of the nucleus).

statumen: ten to twenty-four inches thick, stones at least two inches in size (other sources say hand size or larger).

However, some later writers have questioned whether the road structure was usually so elaborate (Von Hagen, 35; Chevalier, 86). In Britain, at least, stone surfacing was rare, and roads were made of gravel, flint, chalk, loam, and occasionally, as an underlayer, sandstone, limestone or iron slag. (Margary, 500–1).

Roman roads were elevated, sometimes as much as four or five feet over the native ground level. (Margary 20) This seems higher than necessary for drainage, and it has been speculated that it rendered marching troops less liable to attack—enemy forces could be seen at a distance, and would also have to attack uphill. The imperial highways were also more direct than what economics alone would dictate, and this too, was probably for military reasons, as again it reduced the risk of ambush. (Belloc, 134–7; Hindley, 41).

Down-Time Knowledge: Medieval and Renaissance Treatises

The modern Encyclopedia Britannica briefly mentions the work of Guido Toglietta (1585) and Thomas Procter (1607). Toglietta (1585) described a pavement system based on broken stone; EB characterizes it as an improvement on the Roman structure, but provides no further details. Forbes credits Toglietta with the modern-sounding conceptualization of the wheel as the “destructor” and the road as the “resister.” Toglietta “describes the construction of cobble pavements, but favors a foundation of gravel carrying a road surface of stone, sand and mortar.” Preferably, this surface is two inches thick. (Forbes; Borth 64).

Procter (1607) authored the first English language text on highway construction. EB doesn’t state the title, but I suspect that our English correspondents will know it under the name “A profitable worke concerning the mending of highways.”

Other treatise writers will become known to us only through consultation with down-time scholars. These authors would include Andreas Palladio (1518–1580), Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552–1616), and Castelli (1577–1644). From Forbes’ brief commentary, it doesn’t seem likely that they will do more than help us persuade the down-timers that drainage control is important.

Up-Time Knowledge: Roadbuilding Innovations from 1750–1850

In 1632, Mike Stearns announced one of Grantville’s strategies for survival: “Gear down, gear down. Use our modern technology, while it lasts, to build a nineteenth-century industrial base.”

Amazing improvements were made in roadbuilding technology during the period 1750–1850, and the USE can readily exploit them. Before then, when roads fell into disrepair, rulers blamed it on the wagoners, and placed onerous restrictions on loads, wheel dimensions, and so forth. Nineteenth-century builders, notably John McAdam, urged that roads should be made to suit the vehicles, not the other way around (Reader, 131).

The modern Encyclopedia Britannica presents cross-sections of roads as designed by Pierre Tresaguet (1716–1794), Thomas Telford (1757–1834), and John McAdam (1756–1836). The overview which follows is based closely on that provided by EB, and leaves out some important details which are covered later.

Tresaguet’s and Telford’s roads were what you might term “Roman Lite.” Tresaguet’s lowest course, eight inches thick, was of uniform stones set edgewise and packed together. He then laid a two-inch thick layer of “walnut-sized” stones, followed by a one-inch thick layer of smaller rocks.

Telford’s lowest course, like Tresaguet’s, was of set stone (seven inches thick according to EB). This was known to later builders as the “Telford base,” although the EB makes it sound quite similar to that of Tresaguet. Above this came another seven inches of broken stone, the fragments being not more than two inches in size. This was capped by a one-inch layer of gravel.

McAdam abandoned the Telford base, and indeed all reliance on set stone, and instead relied exclusively on eight inches or more of broken stone. He allowed the rocks to be compacted by traffic.

McAdam’s methods were so successful that the compacted broken stone road is known as “macadam.” Macadam is a great road surface for horse-drawn traffic, but it is not well suited, without modification, to automobiles. We will consider the design of macadam roads in more detail in a later section.

The first European asphalt and concrete roads appeared during the end of the century in question, but they did not come into prominence until automotive traffic forced their adoption.

Road Design: Route

Ideally, roads would be nearly straight and nearly flat, while quick and cheap to construct. Unfortunately, the landscape usually doesn’t cooperate. If the straight line path encounters a hill, the builder has three choices: ascend and descend it, curve around it, or cut (or even tunnel) through it. Departures from linearity may also be desirable in order to avoid a stream or marsh, or to follow a coastline, or to cross a river at a more favorable point for fording or bridging it.

Sometimes there was both a “high road” and a “low road” connecting two points, the high road being used when the lower one was too soggy to be traversed (Hulbert, 44–45).

Roman road engineers showed a predilection for the “military crest”: a road just below the crest of the hill, on the slope facing away from the frontier, so as to conceal troop movements from the enemy. (Chevallier 89).

Road Design: Drainage

Highway engineers say that the three most important aspects of road design are drainage, drainage and drainage. (U. Texas, I:45). Standing water turns earth into mud, of course.

Drainage typically involves such expedients as raising the road, road grading and camber (see below), longitudinal ditches (or gutters), culverts (so water runs beneath the road rather than over it), and subsurface transverse drainage pipes. (The latter were used by Telford, see Smiles 429.)

The drainage ditches should themselves be graded, so they are self-cleaning (U. Texas, 7), and it may be necessary to have them feed into a containment pond of some kind if the road is subject to heavy rainfall.

Roadbuilding Methods: Crossing Marshy Ground

Hilaire Belloc opines that an extensive marsh is actually a much greater obstacle to overland movement, unaided by roadwork, than are forests, hills or even rivers. (Belloc, 14).

In Belgium, Holland, and Lower Germany, log roads have been used in swampy areas since 2500 B.C. (Von Hagen 178). American pioneers cut down trees of similar length and laid them in the direction of travel. The logs could be used whole, or split in half. (Hulbert 48–51, Luedtke)

The 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica comments drily, “this is ridiculed as a ‘corduroy road,’ but it is better than the swamp.” (A suitable saying would have been, “better logs than bogs.”)

Instead of laying just one set of logs, the corduroy road can have two layers, for example, transverse logs over longitudinal stringers. (Hindley, 11–12; Von Hagen, 178, Modern EB). The modern American military has also built heavy corduroy roads, with three layers of crossed logs. (FM 5-436, Chap. 14). Pegs can be used, at intervals, to connect the layers. The purpose of the additional layers is not to increase the load rating, but to make sure that the surface doesn’t sink below the mud.

The logs can be placed on loose branches, or on fascines (bundles of brushwood), rather than directly on the marshy soil. If timber is not available, one can use fascines by themselves, or together with sapling sleepers and binders. (Id.)


In the 1632 Universe, corduroy roads may be laid as access roads for logging operations in heavily forested regions, such as the Thüringerwald. Obviously, the logs are readily available, and the road needs to be maintained only so long as there are still trees left to cut.

The other major use of corduroy roads will be by the military. Corduroy roads were used extensively in the American Civil War. Writing about the siege of Richmond, Joel Cook said, “Corduroy roads ran in all directions through the swamps, and every general had his roads leading wherever he wished.” (Cook 273)

Likewise, a study of the Eastern Front in World War II said that “war could never have been waged in the vast swamp regions of Russia had they not been made accessible by improvised corduroy roads.” (CMH)


There are other ways of crossing swamps. Blind Jack Metcalf built roads over bogs by laying down gorse and heather in a criss-cross fashion, then spreading gravel over the bundles. This has aptly been termed “floating a road.” (Albert, 137; Borth, 85).

Besides using simple corduroy roads, the Romans created elaborate swamp-spanning causeways, called pontes longi (long bridges). The via Mansuerisca in Belgium was structured, from bottom to top, as follows: pilings with crossbeams, longitudinal joists, transverse logs, limestone paving cemented with clay, and finally gravel. (Chevallier 89–90).

Road Design: Width

Traffic moves on what is technically termed “the traveled way” or “carriageway,” and which may be divided into one or more lanes. The roadway is the entire width of surface on which a vehicle may stand or move, and thus includes both the traveled way and the shoulders (and any median strip). The road is the entire right of way, and thus consists of the roadway and the roadsides, from fence to fence.

Nonetheless, in this section, I will use the term “road” to mean the “traveled way.”

The necessary width depends on what traffic the road will bear. The Roman roads were ten to thirty feet wide, with the norm being in the fifteen to eighteen feet range. (Hindley 42) Tresaguet and Telford both favored an eighteen foot wide carriage way, but the Cumberland Road in the USA had a twenty foot breadth. (EB)

The 1911 Encyclopedia states that fifteen feet is wide enough to allow the “easy passage of two vehicles;” plainly they are thinking of wagons rather than motor cars. According to the AASHTO “Green Book,” the standard lane width for modern automotive traffic is 3.6 meters (twelve feet). However, rural roads can have widths as small as 2.7 meters (nine feet).

“Plank roads” (see below) were often constructed with a single lane, eight feet wide. One lane roads will need to have occasional turn outs to allow vehicles to pass each other.

The USE’s roads need to be wide enough to allow the passage of its armored personnel carriers (APCs), which are converted coal trucks.

Road Design: The Ruling Gradient

The ruling gradient is the average vertical grade as one travels along the centerline of the road. The grade is usually expressed, not as so many degrees of slope, but as a ratio of the vertical change to the horizontal one. For example, a grade of 1 in 40, which corresponds to a slope of 1.4 degrees, means that there is a change of one vertical foot as you travel 40 horizontal feet. Prior to 1800, steep grades of 1 in 12 were common on English turnpikes (Reader, 17).

Keeping gradients small makes it easier for draft animals to haul a load, and hence reduces the fuel consumption by automobiles and trucks. It also minimizes brake and tire wear.

If the traffic is moving uphill, then the steeper the gradient, the greater the degree to which the force of gravity is directed in opposition to the uphill movement. In other words, the horse or motor vehicle must lift more of its own weight in order to proceed. If the load is one long ton (2240 pounds), then the “grade resistance” is 22 pounds for a gradient of 1 in 100, 45 for 1 in 50, and 112 for 1 in 20 (Gregory 127).

Downhill movement is of course easier, since gravity is then on your side, but only if the gradient is not so great that a braking force must be exerted to keep control. And, of course, if you are zipping downhill in one direction, that means you will be trudging uphill when you return.

Gradient is an issue for motor traffic, not just horse-drawn wagons. Steep uphill grades reduce speeds, while precipitous downhill ones increase brake wear. Grades also affect tire wear and fuel consumption.

The effect is dependent to some degree on the weight of the vehicle. The Encyclopedia Americana says that “a grade of 6% or 7% has little effect on passenger-car speeds but greatly slows truck traffic.”

It may seem as though the road, ideally, should be perfectly level, but this is not the case. A level road doesn’t drain well. The 1911 Encyclopedia says that the minimum ruling gradient should be 1 in 150, and the master road builders of the nineteenth century typically preferred gradients of 1 in 30 or 1 in 40. Their roads rise and fall gradually, rather than remaining level.

The Encyclopedia Americana notes that the crests of hills should be flattened to increase visibility.

Road Design: Elevation and Camber

Elevating the road bed above the ambient ground level helps to reduce the influx of groundwater. This tactic, which dates back to ancient times, is why major roads are called highways.

Again to ease drainage, roads have a convex cross-section, known as “camber.” While used by Roman engineers, it was not a universal practice in the seventeenth century.

In 1607, Thomas Procter pointed out that standing water was the bane of roads, and urged general adoption of a convex road surface. Nonetheless, until the mid-nineteenth century, there were experiments with other approaches. The “Ploughman’s Road” was horizontal, but elevated and flanked with deep ditches. The “Angular Road” was slanted to one side only. In 1736, R. Phillips urged the merits of a concave road. His theory was that the water would run down the center and carry away loose material. (Albert, 135–8). In 1810, McAdam warned against a road which was “hollow in the middle,” but seemed to think that a level road was just fine since “water cannot stand on a level surface.” (Reader, 37). Unfortunately, it can.

On the other hand, a steep camber is also undesirable. It makes fast-moving vehicles prone to overturn (Gregory, 131; Forbes, 528, 531), especially as they negotiate curves, and the traffic tends to crowd onto the central portion of the road, causing it to form ruts. (U. Texas, I:6; 1911 EB).

1911 EB generalizes that the usual rise in the center is one-fortieth to one-sixtieth of the width. It can be shallower if the surface is waterproof; Gregory (131) teaches 1 in 48 for macadam, 1 in 60 for tar macadam, 1 in 72 to 1 in 96 for asphalt, and 1 in 80 to 1 in 132 for concrete.

Road Design: Friction

Friction is both bane and boon for traffic. Up to a point, the lower the friction the better; the greater a load that a draft horse can pull, the less fuel an automobile must consume to cover a particular distance. However, on a frictionless surface, an object at rest would remain so, its wheels spinning uselessly, and one in motion could not stop.

Table 2.2.3 in the Transportation Cost FAQ on sets forth the load which a single draft animal can haul, in a vehicle with a particular type of tire, on a level road of a particular surface type, as a multiple of the pull exerted by the animal.

Road Design: Unsurfaced Roads

Construction of a primitive road (WVDOT type A) just means clearing a path: cutting back bushes; felling trees and removing their stumps; taking out boulders which block the way.

The next step up (WVDOT type B) is to grade and drain the road.

What the WVDOT calls a type C “soil-surfaced road” is more aptly termed a “stabilized soil road.” The native earth can be strong or weak, and more or less susceptible to rainfall and temperature changes. In a stabilized road, this is altered by chemical or physical means.

The 1911 EB says that “in carrying traffic over a clay soil a covering of 3 or 4 in. of coarse sand will entirely prevent the formation of the ruts which would otherwise be cut by the wheels; and if the ground has, already been deeply cut up, a dressing of sand will so alter the condition of the clay that the ridges will be reduced by the traffic, and the ruts filled in.” Collier’s Encyclopedia notes, more generally, that sand can be added to clay, clay to sand, cement to soil, and oil to soil, all to create a more weather-tolerant road surface. Such hybrid soil roads are very cheap to construct (Oglesby 633; Gillette).

The civil engineers of Grantville may be aware of other stabilization techniques. For example, calcium, magnesium and sodium chloride can be added to soil to make the particles adhere better. (Id.). The modern EB suggests addition of small amounts of lime, portland cement, pozzolana, or bitumen to the top eight to twenty inches of the ground.

Road Design: Surfaced Roads, Generally

Surfaced roads provide a “wearing surface” (also known as the “pavement,” the “road metal,” the “carpet,” and the “surface course”) which is in actual contact with the traffic, and provides enough friction for the vehicles to make headway, but not so much as to unduly slow movement.

Pavements are usually classified as rigid (like concrete, mortared brick or fitted stone), flexible (like asphalt, wood, and compacted stone) or granular (like gravel and sand).

Each surface has its unique characteristics in terms of strength, water resistance, friction, and so forth. For example, the modulus of elasticity, a measure of the extent to which a material deflects in response to stress, ranges from 280–300 for asphaltic concrete, to 30–40 for coarse sand. (Kezdi, 255)

The combined rolling and air resistance (the two are hard to separate) experienced by a one ton vehicle traveling 25 mph on pneumatic tires is, on average, 32 pounds for concrete, 35 for sheet asphalt, 38 for grout filled bricks, 34 for wood blocks, 40 for graded and maintained soil, 50 for gravel or firm natural soil, 70 for well packed snow, and 75 for soft natural soil. (Agg, 13).

Road Design: Lanes, Trackways and Road Rails

Sometimes, a road carries both heavy and light traffic. The former may need a pavement which is “overkill” for the latter. One expedient is to have lanes with different road surfaces. For example, American plank roads were sometimes built with just one eight foot wide lane of planks, flanked by a dirt lane. If the traffic justified it, the company built a second plank lane.

It is conceivable that we will build hybrid roads, with both a hard concrete lane for military vehicles, and an asphalt, wood, macadam or stabilized earth lane for horses. Napoleon reportedly favored a “tripartite road” with cobbles for the artillery, a macadam-like surface for the infantry, and an earth road for the cavalry. (Forbes, 536).

The second approach is the trackway; that is, two longitudinal bands of stone, or even steel plate, separated so as to match the wheel spacing on the heavy vehicles intended to use it. Creating the trackway was less expensive than covering the entire width of the road with metal. A double wheel trackway, on which four horses could pull a load of seventeen tons, was in use on the Albany-Schenectady road from 1834 to 1901. (Gregory, 141–2).

The most extreme form of the trackway is the road rail, used typically in mines, which evolved eventually into the modern rail track.

Road Design: Pavement Structure

The native soil and rock underlying a roadbed were once called the “foundation” or “basement,” but it is now customary to refer to them as the “subgrade.” The term “subgrade” is also used to refer to imported soil (you might use this in building a road across a swamp).

The subgrade needs to be able to support the load. Peat bears a mere 56 pounds per square foot. You can put one to four tons on a square foot of chalk, two to five on one of fine sand, three to seven on clay, four to eight on gravel, and up to eighteen tons on ordinary rock. Clay and chalk are better when dry than when wet, and rock is unpredictable because it can have soft spots and even cracks. (Gregory 129–30). A native foundation which is unreliable will be removed and replaced with an alternative subgrade.

For drainage purposes, the subgrade is usually raised above the original ground level. Before one can build the pavement structure over it, one must be sure that it is stable. Early builders simply allowed the material to settle. However, in modern times, the subgrade is compacted by rollers.

There may be one or more layers separating the surface from the subgrade. These may be called, simply, the “base course” or “the sole.” When there are two distinct layers, these may be identified as an upper “base course” and a lower “subbase course,” and there can actually be more than two distinct layers. Also, with asphalt surfaces, there can be a thin “binder course” between the asphalt and the base course.

Road Design: Gravel- and Loose Stone-Surfaced Roads

A simple improvement on the basic dirt road is to cover it with gravel. The 1911 EB says, “Smooth rounded gravel is unsuitable for roads unless a large proportion of it is broken, and about an eighth part of ferruginous clay added for binding. Rough pit gravel that will consolidate under the roller may be applied in two or more layers, but each must be of similar composition, or the smaller stuff will work downwards.” The recommended foundation is “rough chalk sufficiently rolled to stop the gravel while draining off the surface water.”

The Lancaster (Pennsylvania) Turnpike (1794) was hard-surfaced with gravel and broken stone. (WBE)

Road Design: Macadam Roads

Macadam roads are still in use today, especially in areas such as New England, where rock can be collected readily. However, rather than letting the broken stone surface be compacted by traffic, one layer at a time, as taught by McAdam, modern builders use heavy rollers. (Collier’s)

The use of steam rollers for this purpose was first introduced around 1876, and by the end of the nineteenth century perhaps 90% of the major roads of Europe had been “macadamized.” (Forbes, 535). Nowadays, the principal highways employ asphalt or concrete surfaces, and only secondary or tertiary roads are of the macadam type.

The modern EB states correctly that McAdam taught use of “small, single-sized, angular pieces of broken stone.” However, what is lacking there is the explanation of just how critical several of these features were.

The stones had to be broken so that they were angular; they had to be angular so that they would lock together when compacted. (Smiles, 430; Forbes, 534; 1911 EB). Pebbles rounded by the action of water would not create the desired surface. Likewise, the stones had to be small. If they were much larger than the effective area of contact between the wheel and the road surface—about one inch square—then the stones would not be consolidated by passing traffic. (Reader, 2, 32–3, 37–9).

McAdam was very insistent that no “sand, earth or other matter” be used “on pretense of binding.” (Reader, 39; Forbes, However, his road had an “intrinsic” binding agent—the traffic wore down the rocks and the resulting dust acted as a binder. That may explain the modern practice, described by Collier’s Encyclopedia, of bonding the modern macadam road “into a solid mass by means of a finely crushed stone rolled into the surface.”

The up-timers’ sources are not always consistent in the description of macadam roads. For example, the modern EB shows them as having 0.75–1 inch surface layer of gravel or broken stone. However, the 1911 EB says that while “Telford covered the broken stone of new roads with 1/2 in. of gravel to act as a binding material,” his rival McAdam “absolutely interdicted the use of any binding material, leaving the broken stone to work in and unite by its own angles under the traffic.”

Another problem with the modern EB text is a sin of omission. McAdam cambered, not only the road surface, and the base course, but also the subgrade. While this is depicted in the figure, it is not commented upon. All the encyclopedia says is that the road was “elevated,” which was true but not the whole story.

Road Design: Plank Roads

The plank road differs from the corduroy road discussed previously, in that it uses lumber (planks) instead of whole or split logs.

In the period 1835–1855, many plank roads were constructed in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and other timber-rich states. These roads were typically ten to fifteen miles of length, and fed into canals or railroads. Indeed, they were nicknamed “the Farmer’s Railroad.”

According to the 1911 EB, “the plank road often used in American forests makes an excellent track for all kinds of traffic.” The construction was straightforward. First the road bed was cleared and graded, and drainage ditches dug. Then two or more columns of longitudinal sleepers were put down, and transverse planks were laid (and sometimes nailed or spiked down) on top. The planks were two to four inches thick, eight to sixteen feet long, and made of oak, hemlock or pine. For drainage purposes, the outer sleepers may be set a few inches lower than the inner ones. (Majewki, 9; WHS, ISM, WiscHS, 1911 EB)

These plank roads could be constructed at one-half to two-thirds the price of macadam roads. (Majewski) Naturally, they were cheapest to build on level terrain with forests nearby.

In 1850, Charles E. Clarke told the Prairie State newspaper that the three plank roads near his Illinois farm were “the best roads imaginable—better by far than the best paved or ‘macadamized’ road—pleasanter for the person riding—easier for the animals, and far less destructive to the carriages that roll upon them.” (Clarke) South Carolina manufacturer William Gregg even thought them superior to railroads (Majewski 9).

From the section on “Friction,” we know that wood is a “fast” road surface. On a new plank road, stage coaches traveled eight miles per hour (Luedtke; Clarke). Two horses could draw two tons forty miles per day (Clarke). The Watertown, Wisconsin Plank Road reduced the round trip from Milwaukee to Watertown from four to six days, to three, and allowed wagon loads to be increased from 1,500–2,000 pounds, to 3,000; freight rates were reduced by about 25%. (WHS). “Trips which took from four to six days on dirt roads were cut to from ten to fourteen hours over plank roads.” (Mason) Unlike unsurfaced roads, plank roads could be used in any season (Majewski, 9).

Not everyone liked plank roads quite so much as Clarke. Asa Stoddard critiqued the Kalamazoo-Grand Rapids highway in verse, asking the reader if he had ever “brave[d] the peril, dare[d] the danger, of a journey on the Plank?”

The reason we hear such inconsistent views is that plank roads were excellent when new, but needed repairs or replacement more frequently than the plank road companies had expected. The boards decayed, warped, or were stolen. (Majewski 2 says that the expected life was 8–12 years, the true one 4–5. WiscHS states a life of 5–6 years, and Clarke says 7–8. Mason says that the roads were in good condition for 3–4 years, then needed constant attention, with maintenance costs running 30–40% of the original construction cost annually.) And toll revenues weren’t sufficient to pay for the maintenance. The roads fell into disrepair and became hazardous.

It does not appear that the wood used in the plank roads was treated in any way to make it more weatherproof. It is possible that such treatment, if it could be done economically, would substantially extend the working life of a plank road.

A plank road one mile long, eight feet wide, with three inch thick planks would require 10,560 cubic feet of wood. Then for a mile’s worth of two stringers, each three inches wide by three inches thick, add another 3,455 cubic feet. That is a total of about 14,000 cubic feet, or about 1,200 board feet.

Unfortunately, the USE-controlled region of early seventeenth-century Germany is unlikely to be, in the near future, the site of a “plank road craze” comparable to the one in nineteenth-century America. That is because there is a relative shortage of wood. (Virginia DeMarce, Charles Prael, Manfred Gross, and Andrew Ramage, private communications.) Wood is the principal fuel, and, by “the early modern period,” per capita consumption of wood was about 4–5 cubic meters per year. (Other uses of wood totaled another cubic meter, annually.) (Halstead)

The Black Forest, nonetheless, was a wood exporting region, with pine, fir and spruce being shipped down the Rhine to Mainz, either as timber rafts, or as sawn lumber. (Id.)

Unlike the American wilderness, the forests of Germany—which also include the nearby Thüringerwald —are owned by various nobles, but they are likely to allow plank roads to pass through their territory if it yields a net financial benefit to them. Whether that will prove to be the case is debatable; Virginia DeMarce informs me that the Thüringerwald covers low mountains, and that roads were customarily made simply by taking off the topsoil to expose the bare rock.

Poland, Russia and Scandinavia also export wood (although there has been some question raised as to how heavily forested Sweden itself was in the 1630s). While it probably is not economical to import Baltic wood into Germany merely to construct plank roads, the Baltic countries may themselves find such roads to be advantageous, especially to connect one river to another.

Road Design: City Pavements

City pavements have to bear the heaviest traffic. In medieval times, the usual expedient was the familiar cobblestone street, with large stones embedded in soil, sand or gravel. Gregory (140) comments that cobbled roads were “largely used on the North German Plain, where there is no local supply of squared stone, but cobbles are plentiful in the glacial drifts.”

In nineteenth-century England, the noisy cobbled roads were gradually replaced by set stone pavements, which are described in the 1911 EB. The paving stones should be flat, square, and about three inches wide and nine inches deep.

The stones are fitted closely together, and the joints sealed with a grout of lime or cement. This is adequate, says the 1911 EB, if the foundation is concrete or broken stone or hard core.

It was not always possible to lay a proper foundation, as this required tearing up the original street. If so, then one could use a “bituminous grout,” which was the result of adding a composition of “coal tar, pitch and creosote oil” to packed down gravel.

The 1911 EB notes that brick, wood and asphalt can also be used in paving. (We will take up the issue of asphalt in the next section.)

The use of brick dated back to about 1885, and brick roadways are said to have “stood well under hard wear for fourteen years.” The 1911 EB provides particulars concerning the composition of the clay, the manufacturing method used to minimize chipping, and tests for moisture and abrasion resistance.

1911 EB adds that wood pavements were introduced in England in 1839, and improved in 1871. In essence, these streets feature wood blocks, fitted together. There is much debate in 1911 EB as to which is the best wood to use. The improved pavement was laid over an elastic foundation of tarred wood boards, which in turn rested on sand. The pavement joints were filled with tarred gravel.

Gregory (140) is actually quite complimentary about wood block pavements, provided the wood is hard and heavy: “they form a smooth surface, which makes one of the quietest of road; the surface is easily cleaned and is durable. Wood pavement is well adapted for horse traffic and motors: it has the advantage over asphalt or macadam that it is not thrown into waves.”

Road Design: Modern Asphalt Roads

Within the Ring of Fire, there are several modern asphalt roads. Such roads were completely unfamiliar to seventeenth-century Europeans. In K.D. Wentworth’s “Here Comes Santa Claus” (Ring of Fire), General Pappenheim mused, “The unfamiliar substance was hard as rock, yet seemed to have been laid down in malleable form somehow, then smoothed like butter before it solidified.”

The nineteenth-century author-to-be Laura Ingalls Wilder was equally surprised by her first encounter with asphalt: “In the very midst of the city, the ground was covered by some dark stuff that silenced all the wheels and muffled the sound of hoofs. It was like tar, but Papa was sure it was not tar, and it was something like rubber, but it could not be rubber because rubber cost too much. We saw ladies all in silks and carrying ruffled parasols, walking with their escorts across the street. Their heels dented the street, and while we watched, these dents slowly filled up and smoothed themselves out. It was as if that stuff were alive. It was like magic.” (NAPA)

The usage of the terms “tar,” “bitumen” and “asphalt” is somewhat quixotic. I will use “tar” to refer to coal tar, and “bitumen” to refer to solid or semisolid petroleum per se. “Asphalt” may mean the crude source (rock or lake asphalt), or the derivative road material.

While Paris had its first asphalt footpath in 1810, it took time to develop the proper techniques for asphalt paving, and the modern EB says that the “first successful major application” was on the rue Saint-Honore in 1858.

We have the expertise to lay it, we have the necessary equipment in the WVDOT garage . . . but where do we get the asphalt?

There is, of course, asphalt in the Middle East. In fact, the first use of asphalt as a road surface was by the Babylonians. (NAPA) The asphalt came from Hit, in Turkey. (1911 EB, “Hit”). But the Ottoman Empire is hostile to the USE, and the trade route is in any event a long one.

Fortunately, there are European sources (Earle, 28–33; 1911 EB). According to the 1911 EB “Asphalt” article, “the material chiefly used in the construction of asphalt roadways is an asphaltic or bituminous limestone found in the Val de Travers, Canton of Neuchattel; in the neighborhood of Seyssel, department of Am; at Limmer, near the city of Hanover; and elsewhere.” Forbes (539) mentions Wietze, too, which would be a logical place to look since we are already drilling for oil there.

The Val de Travers (Swiss) rock asphalt, a bituminous limestone with an oil content of about 10–12%, has been known since pre-Roman times, but in OTL, it was first described scientifically by Dr. d’Eyrinis (1712). The Limmer deposit was discovered around 1730 but not worked until 1840. The 1911 EB article fails to mention that there are also deposits at Vorwohle.

Our access to French sources is uncertain, thanks to the war. However, their premiere asphalt mine can be found at Seyssel, near Annecy, in Haute-Savoire. In OTL, it was discovered in 1797. There is also asphalt at St. Jean de Maurejols and Arejans, both in the Department of Gard.

Another European source I am aware of is in Sicily, near Ragusa. It is mentioned in 1911 EB, but only in the article on Ragusa (the town “is commercially of some importance, a stone impregnated with bitumen being quarried and prepared for use for paving slabs by being exposed to the action of fire”). If the up-timers have the 1911 EB on a searchable CD, they might well find it. Otherwise, its discovery will be fortuitous.

Asphalt can also be found in Hungary, Romania, and, of special note, Osmundsberg in Sweden. (Forbes, 539) Unfortunately, the Swedish source is obscure even today.

The modern encyclopedias do not mention any of the European sources. Rather, they tout the benefits of the lake asphalt of Trinidad. Trinidad is nominally under Spanish control, but Sir Walter Raleigh trounced the Spanish garrison in 1595, then used the asphalt to caulk his ships. Trinidad is indeed an incredibly rich source; it exported 23,000 tons in 1880; 86,000 in 1895; and almost twice that a few years later. (Borth 169). The 1911 EB also notes that asphalt can be mined in Cuba and Venezuela.

A third source came into prominence once oil drilling became a big business. The crude oil was subjected to fractional distillation, and the heaviest fraction was suitable for use as a road asphalt.

The sources on roadbuilding history are not always precise, or in agreement, as to whether the “asphalt” used was rock asphalt, lake asphalt, oil well asphalt, or even coal tar.


The modern asphalt road evolved in three stages. First, a thin coating of coal tar or asphalt was sprayed onto macadam roads. The tar acts as a binder, so that vehicular traffic does not raise clouds of dust. It also acted to waterproof the road. This early form can be termed a “seal coat tar macadam.”

According to Collier’s Encyclopedia, the stones are best laid in several layers, each only slightly thicker than the largest stones used, so they can lock together. A typical thickness is 1.5–4 inches. The stones are spread and rolled. Then hot asphalt is sprayed onto them (one to three gallons per square yard). Stone chips can be spread and rolled in, to protect the asphalt.

It later became possible to achieve a course in which broken stone and asphalt were mixed together throughout the entire thickness, resulting in a “penetration tar macadam,” or “penny mac.” This was not a trivial procedure; R.G. Taylor, in 1919, referred to the “many errors” made in the attempt to construct such surfaces. (R&P, I:53).

The third stage was the “hot mix” or “hot rolled” sheet asphalt, also known as “black top.”

The 1911 EB describes two methods of preparing the asphalt for street use. The “European” method was to pulverize the European rock asphalt, heat it in revolving ovens to 220–250 deg. F., and then compress and smooth it. The heating reduces the moisture content without, hopefully, much loss of petroleum. The compression “reconstructs” the original rock, although with a more desirable composition.

In contrast, the “American” method used the purer asphalt of Trinidad. It is similar to the methods described in the modern encyclopedias, and so I will turn to the latter for particulars.

Rock “aggregate” and asphalt are mixed together at a high temperature (Collier’s says about 350 deg. F., and EB, 300–400 deg. F.), and the mix is rolled while hot and therefore fluid. The aggregate may be graded sand and fine rock dust (Collier’s), or broken stone less than 1.5 or even less than one inch in size (EB). It is perhaps worth mentioning that since it was already 88–94% limestone, there was no need to add rock aggregate to the European rock asphalt.

In 1911, the asphalt was laid at a temperature of 150–200 deg. F., spread with rakes, compressed with light blows, and finally smoothed with a steam roller. Modern methods are similar. The asphalt is spread and compacted by specialized tamping or vibrating machines. Usually two to six inches will be laid at one time, and the total thickness ranges from two inches to a foot or more. (Encyclopedia Americana).

Road Design: Modern Concrete Roads

Instead of a flexible pavement made of asphalt, the road builder may lay a rigid pavement formed from concrete. The first successful post-classical use of concrete in road-building was, depending on who you ask, in Grenoble, France in 1876 (Collier’s) or in Inverness, Scotland in 1865 (modern EB).

Concrete can be thought of as a mixture of cement, sand and stone. The 1911 EB comments, “Rocks like granite and syenite may be used in combination with Portland cement. The ingredients are mixed in about the proportion of four parts of broken stone that has first been well wetted, one and a quarter or two parts of clean sharp sand, and one of cement put on in two layers, the second being rolled by hand to the required shape and to a good surface. It should remain for two or three weeks to dry and set. Want of elasticity may be urged against concrete macadam, and it is productive of dust, but in some cases it has proved satisfactory.”

The modern formula provided in Collier’s Encyclopedia (which is the source of the remainder of the information in this section) is similar: one part cement; two parts sand; and three to four parts gravel or stone. The concrete may be mixed at a central facility, en route (this requires a specialized vehicle), or at the construction site.

The concrete may be of a uniform thickness (typically eight to ten inches), or it may be several inches thicker at the edges, relative to the center, to increase edge strength. Wire mesh reinforcement may be used, and, if so, is typically laid above the bottom two inches of the concrete.

The concrete is usually laid in widths of 20–30 feet (equivalent to two lanes of traffic), with a “contraction joint” running down the center. Laying involves depositing the wet mix, spreading it out, compacting it, leveling it, and finally imparting a rough texture to it by dragging wet burlap over it. The concrete is kept moist for at least a week by spraying it with a protective compound or (a more likely expedient in the 1632 universe) covering it at all times with wet burlap.


Asphaltic concrete is a combination of the two roadbuilding materials, and is made by mixing crushed stone, sand, rock dust and asphalt at a temperature of 350 deg. F. The asphalt serves as a cementing agent.


Concrete may also be used as a base for asphalt or asphaltic concrete (resulting in a so-called “flexible over rigid” pavement). Base course concrete contains less cement than pavement concrete.

Road Design: Roadside Trees

John Evelyn, in Sylva (1667), was the first writer to use the word “avenue” to refer to “the chief approach to a country-house, usually bordered by trees.” (OED) It came to refer to any broad, tree-lined thoroughfare.

Besides beautifying the landscape, “trees furnish shade, temper the atmosphere, absorb water from the roadbed, and act as a shield against snow and wind.” (Morrison, 174) Morrison qualifies this praise by pointing out that by blocking out the wind and sun, it reduces their ability to contribute to the drying out of the road after a rain.

Cost of Construction and Maintenance

Some cost data is presently available in the Transportation Cost FAQ posted to


While usually less expensive than railroads and canals, good roads aren’t cheap to build or maintain. Insofar as construction is concerned, the basic choice is between private and public financing. The English turnpikes of the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were built by revenues raised by private subscription, that is, stock purchases in a “turnpike trust.” Most major highways nowadays are built with public funds, either out of tax dollars, or, more often, with the proceeds from selling highway bonds.

Building the road is only the first battle; it still needs to be kept in good condition. Several systems have evolved over the centuries to pay for road care.

One is to have each local community maintain the section of road which passes through its area. This could be by direct taxation, or through their own (unpaid) labor (the “statute labor” or “corvee” system).

This involuntary labor was usually not very effectual. In 1844, Samuel Cassidy wrote that the only reason the laborers brought shovels with them was to “support them when they got too lazy to stand alone.” (Majewski 6) If the government cracked down, it led to unrest.

The larger problem with local support of regional and national roads was pointed out by Macaulay: “that a road connecting two great towns which have a large and thriving trade with each other should be maintained at the cost of the rural population scattered between them is obviously unjust . . . .” (Gregory 172)

The second strategy was to charge user fees. Numerous turnpike (toll) roads were built in England and, later, in America. In theory, it sounded like a good idea for those who used the road to pay for its upkeep. In practice, there were two problems. First, travelers would evade the tollbooths, especially those at fixed locations, taking byways which came to be nicknamed, “shunpikes.” (Luedtke; Majewski 5) Secondly, the turnpike trusts do their job. If the revenue from the road was lighter than expected, it was tempting to skimp on repairs. Which, in turn, led to further reduction in traffic and more evasion.

Finally, roads can be financed regionally, or even nationally, not just by the local communities or road users.

Road Construction: Acquiring the Right of Way

Ideally, the right of way is donated by local landowners who perceive the economic benefit of the new road. If they are not so farsighted, then either they must be persuaded to sell an easement, or the government must have the will and the right to condemn the property under the principal of eminent domain. In the United States, the landowner is still entitled to compensation for the lost property.

Roadbuilding Materials

As a starting point, we can gravel roads using waste from certain industrial processes; for example, mining tailings and blast furnace slag. And Germany itself has plenty of gravel of Ice Age origin.

We can lay asphalt roads using waste material (thick tar) from oil refining. We can also use liquid grades of oil to bind dirt roads, reducing dust clouds.

To make concrete roads, we need construction aggregate (e.g., crushed stone, gravel, slag, ash or sand), cement (to hold the aggregate together), and water. Portland cement can be made from limestone, clay and gypsum.

Road Construction Equipment

Pretty much all aspects of road construction can be done manually, with pickaxe and shovel, given enough laborers and time. However, mechanization became significant by the nineteenth century.

Manual clearing of a roadway involved use of saws to cut trees, chains and draft animals to pull out stumps, and picks and shovels to break and remove boulders. Nowadays, these tasks are performed mostly by bulldozers. If a road must be cut through hard rock, this can be done with explosives, or with massive mobile drills and shovels. (The special needs of tunneling and bridging operations are best left to another essay.)

Grading the roadbed can be done with bulldozers, scrapers, graders, and dump trucks. Drainage ditches are dug by backhoes and trenchers. Stone may be broken on site by rock crushers, or rock fragments may be hauled from a quarry by dump trucks. The road base may be compacted by various kinds of rollers. Specialized pavers lay asphalt or concrete pavements over the base.

Thanks to that WVDOT garage, Grantville has an assortment of modern heavy equipment. In the post-RoF world, this equipment has two functions. First, it can be studied by up-timer and down-timer machinists with a view toward either duplicating it outright or, if need be, constructing a “geared-down” version. Secondly, it can be used for actual road maintenance and construction. My guess is that the latter use will be restricted to roads close to Grantville.

According to canon, in spring 1632, Boris Ivanovich Petrov observed a “horse-drawn device” in use outside the Ring for road improvement. (Huff and Goodlett, “Butterflies in the Kremlin: Part 1, A Russian Noble,” Grantville Gazette, Volume 8). That description was a little vague, but the authors tell me that Boris had observed a “Fresno scraper” in action.

This was an 1883 device for smoothing out a road. It had a blade which could be tilted down to scrape up soil, pushing it into a bowl. The blade could then be raised so that the load could be slid without excessive force. Finally, the bowl could be rotated to discharge the soil. The rotation was limited by an adjustable crossbar, thus controlling the thickness deposited.

Except where the “legacy” equipment is in use, we can expect to see a gradual progression from manual to mechanized roadbuilding, and from use of a few general purpose machines (like tractors with various attachments) to the proliferation of specialized equipment. Equipment like scrapers will at first be hauled by draft animals. However, they will ultimately evolve into self-propelled vehicles.


There is no doubt that the USE needs to expand its road network. The first roads will necessarily rely heavily on local materials; and therefore may be macadam if they are traversing rocky country, and plank roads if they are piercing forest.

The Catch-22 of building asphalt highways is that we need the asphalt to make the highways, and we need the highways to transport the asphalt to the construction site. So we will probably start with graveled, stabilized soil, macadam, wood plank and concrete roads. Once we have road, rail or water links to an asphalt source, we can “tar” the macadam roads so that they last longer, and ultimately upgrade the primary routes to asphalt.

While concrete roads don’t require exotic materials, it may be desirable to defer building them until we have significant motor traffic. Rigid pavements are better suited to autos and trucks than to horses.

Roadbuilding isn’t “high tech,” but it is nonetheless of tremendous military and economic significance. Of course, road improvement is not going to be limited to the immediate vicinity of Grantville. Magdeburg is the chosen capital of the USE because of its superior location. Once it is serviced by modern roads, it will be the economic and political center of the USE. I would not be surprised if, a century after the Ring of Fire, people were wont to say, “All roads lead to Magdeburg.”



“Roads and Highways,” “Macadam,” “McAdam, John Loudon,” “Telford, Thomas,” “Asphalt,” Encyclopedia Americana

“Public Works,” subhead “Roads and Highways,” Encyclopedia Britannica (modern).

“Highway Engineering,” Collier’s Encyclopedia

“Asphalt,” “Roads and Streets,” 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

Roads, Generally

Gregory, The Story of the Road (1938).

Hindley, A History of Roads (1971).

Belloc, Hillaire, The Road (1923).

Forbes, “Roads to c 1900,” in Singer, et al., ed., A History of Technology, Vol. IV, The Industrial Revolution, c. 1750–c. 1850 (Oxford U.P.: 1958).

Agg, “Tractive Resistance and Related Characteristics of Roadway Surfaces,” Iowa State College of Agriculture Publ. # 36 (Feb. 6, 1924)(TL 295 A45).

Borth, Mankind on the Move (1969).

Military Roadwork


[FM 5-436] Field Manual 5-436, “PAVING AND SURFACING OPERATIONS,” online at

[CMH] Center for Military History, CMH Pub 104-1, Military Improvisations During the Russian Campaign, Chap. 5,”Indispensable Expedients,” (orig. 1951), online a t

Cook, The Siege of Richmond (1862).

Roman Roads

Ramsay, “Viae,” in Smith, A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (John Murray, London, 1875), online at*/Viae.html

Margary, Roman Roads in Britain (1973)

Chevallier, Roman Roads (1976)

Von Hagen, Roads that Led to Rome (1967).

Pawluk, “The Construction & Makeup of Ancient Roman Roads”

Incan Roads

Von Hagen, The Royal Road of the Inca (1976).

Hyslop, The Inca Road System (1984).

English Turnpike Roads

Albert, The Turnpike Road System in England: 1663–1840 (1972).

Bogart, “Turnpike Trusts and the Transportation Revolution in Eighteenth Century England,”

Crofts, Packhorse, Waggon and Post: Land Carriage and Communications Under the Tudors and Stuarts (1967).

Nusbacher, Aryeh J.S., “Civil Supply in the Civil War: Supply of Victuals to the New Model Army on the Naseby Campaign,” 1–14 June 1645, Eng. Historical Review 115: 460 (Feb. 2000).

Walker, Haste, Post-Haste (1938).

Webb, The Story of the King’s Highway (1963).

Early American Roads

Holbrook, The Old Post Road (1962).

Rae, The Road and the Car in American Life (1971).

Shumway, Conestoga Wagon 1750–1850 (1968).

Settle, War Drums and Wagon Wheels (1966).

Tarr, The History of the Carriage (1969).

Huston, The Sinews of War: Army Logistics 1775–1953 (1966).

Wixom, ARBA Pictorial History of Roadbuilding (1975).

Meyer, History of Transportation in the United States Before 1860 (1948).

Klein, “Private Highways in America, 1792–1916,” The Freeman, 44(2): ?? (Feb. 1994), online at

Hulbert, Pioneer Roads and Experience of Travelers, Vols. 1 and 2 (1971).

Plank Roads

Majewski, et al., “Market and Community in Antebellum America: The Plank Roads of New York, Working Paper No. 47, Univ. California Transportation Center (August 1991).

Clarke, Charles E., “The Construction of Plank Roads: Plan, Materials, Cost, Durability, originally published in the Prairie State newspaper (Jersey County, IL)(Sept. 14, 1850), online at

Stoddard, “Riding on the Plank,” online at,1607,7-160-15481_19268_20778-51814—,00.html

Luedtke, “Ten Mile Trip,” Colburn Chronicle Special 125th Anniversary Edition (June 27. 1984),

[WHS] Watertown Historical Society, “The Story of the Watertown Plank Road,”

{ISM] Illinois State Museum, “The Canton to Liverpool Plank Road Toll Road and Toll House,”

[WiscHS] Wisconsin Historical Society, “Plank Roads,”

[Cook County] Forest Preserve District of Cook County (Illinois), Nature Bulletin No. 739, “Early Cook County Roads – Part Two – The Plank Road Era” (January 18, 1964),–799/nb739.htm

Baxter, History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Chap. XLVI, “Early Highways, Stages and Plank Roads,” pp. 523–529 (1891), online at

Mason, “The Plank Road Craze: A Chapter in the History of Michigan’s Highways,”,1607,7-160-17451_18670_18793-52863—,00.html

Halstead, “The Northern European Timber Trade in the Later Middle Ages & Renaissance”

McAdam and Telford

Tames, Transport Revolution in the 19th Century, a Documentary Approach (1970).

Smiles, Lives of the engineers, with an account of their principal works: comprising also a history of inland communication in Britain (J. Murray, London: 1861–62)(Telford in vol. 2).

Telford, Life of Thomas Telford, civil engineer, written by himself; containing a descriptive narrative of his professional labours: with a folio atlas of copper plates (Payne and Foss, London: 1838).

Reader, MACADAM: The McAdam Family and Turnpike Roads, 1798–1861 (1980).

Modern Roads

WAPA Asphalt Pavement Guide, “Asphalt Pavement History,”

Earle, Black Top: A History of the British Flexible Roads Industry (1974).

[U. Texas] “Roads and Pavements,” Univ. Texas Bull., #1922 (April 155, 1919)(TE7 R6 1919).

Oglesby, Highway Engineering (1982).

Wignall, Roadwork: Theory and Practice (1999).

Gillette, Handbook of Construction Cost (1922).

Morrison, Highway Engineering (1908)

[NAPA] National Asphalt Pavement Association, “History of Asphalt,”

West Virginia Highways

2002 General Highway Map, Marion County, West Virginia,

“Welcome to Mannington Online,”

West Virginia Construction Manual (2002)


Kezdi, Handbook of Soil Mechanics (1990).

ASTM, “The Fresno Scraper” (1991)


About Iver P. Cooper

Iver P. Cooper, an intellectual property law attorney, lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two children. Two cats and a chinchilla rule the household with iron paws. Iver has received legal writing awards from the American Patent Law Association, the U.S. Trademark Association, and the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, and is the sole author of Biotechnology and the Law, now in its twenty-something edition. He has frequently contributed both fiction and nonfiction to The Grantville Gazette.


When not writing (or trying to get an “orange blob” off his chair so he can start writing), he has been known to teach swing dancing and folk dancing, or to compete in local photo club competitions. Iver adds, “I can’t get my wife to read my fiction, but she has no trouble cashing the checks.”

Iver’s story “The Chase” is in Ring of Fire II