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Comparisons of US city plans against contemporary USGS maps of similar scale


The map extracts below illustrate some of the key features of Soviet maps of USA, such as:

  • Elevations as spot heights in metres appear plentifully on the Soviet maps (B1, B2, R1). These generally correspond with values in feet appearing on USGS sheets.
  • Contour lines (at 5 or 10 metre intervals) also appear, which do not correspond to the 10 foot interval contours on the USGS maps and may be assumed to have been derived by interpretation of satellite images. The Soviet contours (both hypsographic and hydrographic) generally have a tick to indicate the direction of slope, which must have been added by the compilers by visual inspection (C1).
  • Generally, the information on the Soviet maps differs considerably from USGS mapping. The maps show later or additional data (L1, M1, N1),derived from satellite images supplemented by local sources such as street atlases, trade directories etc. Some sheets show evidence of errors of interpretation (B1, B3, L2, L3).
  • In a few cases Soviet data seems to be out-of-date, omitting items already on USGS (N2, W1).
  • Street names and district names appear on Soviet maps, many of which are not shown on USGS (P1, S1).
  • USGS sheets show urban blocks as generalised areas, with few individual buildings identified. Soviet maps show prominent buildings and blocks are differentiated as low/high rise and dense/sparsely built-up (C2, SF3).
  • In Air and Naval bases and similar institutions the Soviet sheets show boundaries or individual buildings not on USGS (B2, SD1, SD2, SF1).
  • The names of railroad companies are shown on USGS but omitted on Soviet sheets. The Soviet maps identify electrified lines and, in many cases, indicate the position of station buildings (neither of which can be deduced from USGS maps).
  • Highway numbers are shown, enclosed in a square or circle for national or state number respectively. Interstates have prefix T (transcontinental). In some cases roads are annotated with surface material, width and number of lanes.
  • Civil boundaries, other than international frontiers are ignored on Soviet maps. Mapping extends over the Canadian and Mexican borders with same level of detail (including indexed ‘objects’) (SD3).
  • Several maps show ‘projected’ new highways. This information is in some cases right (R1), some wrong (L2, L3).
  • Sea and estuary areas have detailed hydrographic data which is not the same as appearing on USGS maps (C1, L1, SD2).
  • Bridges are in some cases annotated with clearance, length, width, carrying capacity (M1, SF2). Clearance above water level would have been hard to discover without personal inspection.
  • B1 Boston Bannon Hill
  • B2 Boston Hanscom Field USAF
  • B3 Boston Diamond School
  • C1 Chicago Navy Pier
  • C2 Chicago Smith Park
  • L1 Los Angeles Long Beach
  • L2 Los Angeles Granada Hills San Fernando
  • L3 Los Angeles Granada Hills San Fernando
  • M1 Miami Eastern Shore
  • M2 Miami Opa-Locka
  • N1 New York Bayonne and Grenville, New Jersey
  • N2 New York JFK
  • P1 Portland, Maine
  • R1 Raleigh East
  • S1 Seattle Beacon Hill
  • SD1 San Diego North Island
  • SD2 San Diego Airport
  • SD3 San Diego Tijuana
  • SF1 San Francisco Alameda
  • SF2 San Francisco Bridges
  • SF3 San Francisco Downtown
  • W1 Washington DC Alexandria
  • W2 Washington DC Hyattsville
  • W3 Washington DC Potomac river