Question: Nonexistent Towns

Kirk Woerner asks a question that might have an obvious answer, but it’s an interesting one:

On some maps (both online and offline) there are “towns” that do not exist. What are these and why are they on maps? Are they old rail stops? There is one near my house — “Nelson,” Colorado — and there is literally nothing there, but it shows up on MSN maps and some other maps as well.

I can guess at a few reasons why a point on a map might not refer to anything significant in real life:

  1. It’s a rail stop in the middle of nowhere (particularly true on northern or remote rail lines).
  2. It’s a ghost town: it used to be a town, but it isn’t any more.
  3. It’s a spot of little significance (like, two houses) but managed to acquire a name at some point, so that name gets used — i.e., it’s used because it’s there.
  4. It has a significance other than its size as a town — historical, for example.

Of course, the real question might well be why mapping companies bother to add the names of nonexistent towns or inconsequential places. Anyone have an idea more concrete than my guesswork?

See previous entry: Ghost Towns.