Route 40 didn't simply happen in 1926. As with
many of America's great highways, many predecessor roads
led to the development of the highway that we know today.
Are you working on a paper for school?
These pages tell the story of the highway in a rough
east to west, chronological order.
Pre-Automotive Predecessor Roads
Footpaths. Long before the
white settlement of North American, Native American
footpaths crisscrossed the continent. Some of these
paths contributed to Route 40.
Roads. From the earliest settlement of America,
the colonists created roads for commerce, mail and general
Hermann. One of the first colonial roads
that contributed to Route 40 was blazed across northern
Post Roads. Up and down the Atlantic seaboard
exist a web of road primarily designed to carry the
mail. Route 40's alignment across northeastern Maryland
once followed the exact path of some of these Post
Turnpikes. As Route 40 turns westward from
the port city of Baltimore, it follows many of the
turnpike roads to Cumberland.
Road. One of the first military roads into
the American wilderness was surveyed and blazed by
a young Colonel George Washington. Sometimes called
'Washington's Road,' the road is more often referred
to as 'Braddock's Road' after the inept British General
who oversaw its construction.
Trace. West from Wheeling, Ebenezer Zane
blazed a trail across southeastern Ohio. Route 40
follows the general path of Zane's Trace as far as
Road. For almost 800 miles west from Baltimore,
Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois, the National Road served
as one of the most significant predecessor roads for
Road Milestones. From Baltimore to Indianapolis,
the builders of the National Road erected stone markers
at one mile intervals. About 20% of them survive to
this day. There is
also a page for people interested in milestone in general.
Dayton Cutoff. When the National Road was surveyed
from Wheeling, Congress instructed that it run as straight
as an arrow from one state capitol to the next. This
meant some larger cities like Dayton would be bypassed.
Angered by this political slight, the citizens of Dayton
created a misleading 'alternate' route through their
Trails. West of the Mississippi River, Route 40
follows in the pathways of many pioneering trails.
Lick Trail. In eastern Missouri, Route 40 follows
the path blazed between St. Charles and Boonville by
Daniel Boone's sons.
Santa Fe Trail. One of the
earliest pioneering trails to the west, Route 40 follows
the approximate path of the Santa Fe Trail between Boonville,
Missouri and Kansas City.
Oregon Trail. Probably the
most famous of the Overland Trails. Route 40 follows
the path of the Oregon Trail between Lawrence and St.
Mary's, Kansas. In many places, you can see the wagon
ruts by the side of the road!
Hill/Butterfield Trail. From Fort Riley, Kansas
to Denver, the Smoky Hill/Butterfield Trail was a route
for both military and commercial efforts.
Edward Berthoud and Jim Bridger.
Between Denver and central Utah, Route 40 follows the
paths blazed by explorer Jim Bridger and railroad surveyor
California Trail. A split
in the Overland Trail, Route 40 follows the path of
the California Trail through central Utah, along the
Humboldt River valley in Nevada and across California's
Sierra Nevada Mountains.
Hastings Cutoff. If ever
there was a wrong turn, the Hastings Cutoff was it.
Scouted by the ever opportunistic Lansford Hastings,
and cut through virgin wilderness by the Donner-Reed
Party, this supposed short cut meanders from Fort Bridger,
Wyoming, across the Utah Salt Flats and through Nevada's
Ruby Mountains before connecting with the older and
less troublesome California Trail. Following the Hastings
Cutoff proved to be the single most critical error the
Donner-Reed Party made during their 1846-47 attempt
to reach California's gold country. As one of the Donner-Reed
group wrote many years later, "...don't never take
no cutoffs." Route 40 roughly follows the path
of the Hastings Cutoff west from Salt Lake City, across
the salt flats and into eastern Nevada.
Highway. The most famous of the named highways,
the Lincoln was also the first transcontinental highway
in the United States.
Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. Another transcontinental
highway with eastern termini at Washington and New York
with a western terminus in Los Angeles. This named highway
followed )from east to west) the east coast Post Roads,
National Road, Boone's Lick Trail, Santa Fe Trail, Spanish
Highway. This highway ran from Kansas City to San
Francisco. Route 40 follows the Victory as far west
as Sacramento (where the Victory follows a more southern
route to San Francisco).
Highway. Named after Warren G. Harding, this highway
runs from McKee City, New Jersey, to Ohio. Route 40
follows the Harding through the Garden State.
of the Trail Monuments. Despite the valiant efforts
of groups such as the National Old Trails Ocean-to-Ocean
Highway Association, the U.S. numbered highway system
prevailed. In a last ditch effort to preserve their
highway, the NOTOtO Highway Association in conjunction
with the Daughters of the American Revolution erected
a series of monuments along their highway. Five of these
monuments are found along the shoulder of Route 40.
of the Madonna of the Trail Monuments.
Information about the sculptor behind the monuments.
Virginia Monument (Wheeling)
Monument (Council Grove)
Mexico Monument (Albuquerque)
Alignment History. A year-by year accounting of
where the highway ran.
40S. During Route 40's early days, there were
actually two Route 40 alignments in Kansas and Colorado
- a northern route and a southern route. The two routes
met in Limon, Colorado. In 1936, Route 40S east of
Limon and Route 40N west of Limon became Route 40.
The other sections became Route 24.
Route 40. This alternate section existed between
Davis, California and Reno, Nevada, as another way
to get across the often snow-clogged Sierra Nevada
Mountains. Even though this alternate route added
about 95 miles to through traffic, it remained a viable
option in bad weather. As the old trucker's song Roll,
Truck, Roll points out, "I'm going down the
Feather River Canyon, gotta go up 'cause Donner's
Summit is closed..."
of the 40th Parallel. Some people believe that
Route 40 was designated with its number (40) because
it closely follows the 40th parallel of latitude.
Ain't so! Here's why...
Route 40 with Route 66 and the Lincoln Highway.
What highway is America's greatest? That's your call.
Here's a chart that compares Route 40 with Route 66
and the Lincoln Highway.
Who on Route 40. Learn more about the people who
contributed to Route 40's history.
Internet Links. Links to other Route 40 and highway