Fairland, Franklin and Martinsville Railroad

Originally published 19 August 2014.

RAILROAD HISTORY: Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville Railroad (part of the Big Four/NYC)

As a child, I spent a lot of time traveling between Indianapolis and Morgantown. It was a long trip at that time. Why would we do this on a regular basis? To go roller skating. A family friend ran (owned) a skating rink right on SR 135/252 in Morgantown. Yes, I was quite good. (And could probably still do it, as long as I didn’t have to go to work for the next week!)

I didn’t pay much attention to it at the time, but in my later years, I noticed an old railroad right of way right along the north side of SR 135/252 between Trafalgar and Morgantown. As I got into railroad history, I came to find out it was part of the Big Four Railroad (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway).

My goal for the next few days is to give a brief history of trackage that ultimately became part of the CCC&StL. (Granted, this is not my favorite of roads – as a matter of fact, it ranks as one of my least favorites. Mainly because I AM a fan of the Pennsylvania Railroad!)

This time, we are starting with that old railroad bed along Indiana State Roads 135 and 252.

On 20 January, 1846, a special act of the Indiana legislature chartered the Martinsville & Franklin Railroad. This company built between its namesake towns in 1853, connecting to the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad at Franklin. These 26 miles of railroad tracks linked the county seat of Morgan County to Indianapolis and the Ohio River at both Madison and Jeffersonville. Financing of this road was helped out by the Madison & Indianapolis, in an effort to thwart the Jeffersonville Railroad. When the line opened to traffic on 17 May, 1853, the M&I took over operations with a five year lease.

When the lease was over, traffic dried up. The Martinsville & Franklin fell into bankruptcy. It emerged from that bankruptcy on 5 Mar, 1859, as the Franklin & Martinsville Railroad. Traffic was still non-existent on the road. For seven years, no trains ran at all.

The next chapter in the road’s history came with the arrival of one Ambrose Burnside. He gained control of the old, disused, railroad. He also had a plan. He was going to extend it east to a junction with the Indianapolis & Cincinnati. On 26 September, 1865, his plan started with the creation of the Cincinnati & Martinsville Railroad. That was the same day that the extension of the line to Fairland was authorized.

The Cincinnati & Martinsville completed the route to Fairland, and its junction with the Indianapolis & Cincinnati on 14 Jun, 1866. But the plan did not go off as desired. Bankruptcy again followed.

On 27 Jan, 1877, the Cincinnati & Martinsville was reorganized as the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville Railroad (FF&M). It was this road that was leased to the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago Railway (some would call this the “real” Big Four).

The FF&M officially came to an end on 16 Jun, 1915, when it was consolidated completely into the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway. But the little line continued on for almost 30 years as part of the Big Four. But just like other country lines to little towns, the writing was on the wall for the little road.

On 7 December, 1942, the Interstate Commerce Commission approved the abandonment of trackage from Martinsville to Trafalgar. Industrial trackage in Martinsville was taken over by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The other industrial tracks, at Morgantown, were turned over to the Illinois Central.

Eight years later, the ICC again approved abandonment of trackage – this time from Trafalgar to Franklin.

It looks like the entire line, from Fairland to Martinsville, was scrapped between 11 October, 1961, and 18 December, 1961.

(sources: ICC Valuation report, dated 31 December, 1917, of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway and the book “Ghost Railroads of Indiana” by Elmer G. Sulzer, originally published in 1970.)

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