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By Laura Moncur in Frank McDonough Jr.'s Odometer

Frank McDonough Jr.’s Personal Journal dated May 17, 1869:

Colorado Stereograph by LauraMoncur from FlickrI have been issued a new odometer for my surveying duties. It is always a joy when I receive new equipment and I felt such an overwhelming sense of gratitude for my position on the Kansas Pacific Line. This odometer looks as fresh and shiny as a locomotive starting its journey across the plains. My sentimental nature lead me to believe that I would come to love this new gadget as much as my other equipment, but it has been a difficult week.

Unlike my perambulator, this odometer is supposed to measure the miles I survey by a measurement of my steps. I was supposed to calibrate it with my perambulator so it would work specifically for my gait, but the odometer seems to have a will of its own, giving me wildly different readings. I understand that the surveyor’s wheel can be inaccurate, but I walked measures of land of which I knew the distance, yet the odometer would obstinately read incorrectly.

It wasn’t until I distanced myself from the perambulator that the readings of the odometer became anywhere near to correct. It’s almost as if the odometer was jealous of my old and beloved tool. The machinist for the railway supposed that I was walking awkwardly with the perambulator and that once I stopped using it, the odometer could do its work as it was supposed to.

Once it had been calibrated, my work became far easier than I had ever imagined it could. I traversed far more miles than my best day surveying the most serene and flat grasslands. The rocks and the hills did not deter me as they would have with my perambulator. I have been able to survey more in the last few days than I would have been able to do in a week, and based on the charts, my accuracy is spot on.