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Fast-Track to Destruction City Aboard the Gospel Temperance Railroad

Though much of the history of cartography involves map-makers striving to capture the world in increasingly accurate scientific detail, sometimes the domain of the map-maker is to capture the plane of imagined, metaphorical, allegorical, or even spiritual.  Such is the journey you’ll take on the “Gospel Temperance Railroad,” a 1908 map creation by George E. Bula.

Map of the allegorical "Gospel Temperance Railroad", showing railroad lines connecting major cities, crossing state boundaries, and running past mountains, lake, and other scenic sites

“Gospel temperance railroad map,” G.E. Bula, 1908. G9930 1908 .B8, Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.

The map charts a robust transit system between three main population centers: Decisionville, the Celestial City, and the City of Destruction, with additional scenic Railway Divisions heading toward Rumjug Lake and Beer Lake.

Rumjug Lake is depicted in the shape of an alcohol bottle, with rivers running out of the top of the bottle and down below. A railway line runs just south of the lake.

Rumjug Lake is seen here in Bula’s 1908 depiction, just north of Prizefight City station and west of Blackmail Cave. [Detail of “Gospel temperance railroad map,” G.E. Bula, 1908. G9930 1908 .B8, Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.]

The Great Celestial route runs east/west between Decisionville (located in the State of Accountability, and end-of-the-line Celestial City, eventually running parallel to the River of Life.  Stops along this route include Assuranceville, Patience, a cut through the Affliction Tunnel, additional stops in Long Suffering, Courageview, and Goodhope, with a final stop in the Valley of Death before the end of the line.

Celestial City is depicted at the end of the railway line, with stops heading toward Celestial City listed in a straight line. Below the rail line runs the River of Life.

Celestial City, the terminus at the end of the Great Celestial Route.  [Detail of “Gospel temperance railroad map,” G.E. Bula, 1908. G9930 1908 .B8, Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.]

The other two departing routes from Decisionville wind apart and then back together, providing an enviable variety of connection options for any railway flaneur looking to arrive in the City of Destruction on a path of their choosing.  The middle route (“The Way That Seemeth Right”) winds past Slumberfield well into the State of Conceit before splitting in two. The top route runs through Infidel Park and Confusion Point before splitting yet again at Presumptionville, with one track heading toward Revenge Hill and the other looping down through the State of Vanity, crossing the River of Salvation, and stopping at a cluster of stops, including Heartlessburg, Grafton, Public Opinion, Ft. Dodge, and Votersburg Junction before hitting the southern Great Destruction Route.

It may be more efficient for a traveler to take the route of Great Destruction directly from Decisionville, where there’s only a light array of stops south of Mt. Neglect before arriving directly at Votersburg Junction.

Many stops are clustered together as multiple rail lines meet at both Votersburg Junction (to the west) and Remorse station (to the east)

The Route of Destruction intersects both the Rum and Brandywine Railway Division and the Ft. Dodge Railway Division [Detail of “Gospel temperance railroad map,” G.E. Bula, 1908. G9930 1908 .B8, Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.]

Those passengers traveling all the way to the end of the line through the State of Darkness should consider sitting on the south side of the train for a good view of Mt. Corruption before eventually making stops in Murder Gorge and Suicide Tunnel.

The City of Destruction is shown as the end of the railroad line. To its right sits the Outer Darkness, the Falls of Destruction, and Mt. Terror

Anyone interested in visiting Mt. Terror or the Falls of Destruction would do well to ride the line all the way through to the City of Destruction. From the station, it may be necessary to provide your own transportation. [Detail of “Gospel temperance railroad map,” G.E. Bula, 1908. G9930 1908 .B8, Library of Congress, Geography & Map Division.]

George Bula, author of this map, was associated with the Pentecost Bands of the World, and he aimed to appeal to both children and working men alike with his creation.  As the caption at the bottom states, the map is “just the thing for temperance workers in every community. It will be found especially effective among Railroad men and all who are engaged in transportation work, whether on land or water. Get a supply and distribute among your neighbors and friends. Give them out on trains as you travel.”

The map itself represents a coming-together of a growing temperance movement in the United States that would lead to the passage of the 18th amendment just a decade later in 1920, and a growing mobility made possible by the growth of railroads.  Bula described his own aims for the map in the following words: “This unique map will make a lasting impression for good on all who study it.  The names of states, towns, railroads, lakes, rivers, and mountains are all significant. A copy of this map should be in every home, hotel, railroad station, and public place. It makes an interesting study for school children, both in the public and Sunday schools. It will cause many a one to leave the Great Destruction Route and finish his journey on the Great Celestial Route.”

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