Knightstown and Shelbyville

One of the things I always looked forward to, prior to 2010, was the annual pumpkin patch train on the Carthage, Knightstown & Shirley (CK&S) Railroad. I still have memories of my son carrying a pumpkin, that he had no earthly reason having, to the train. The rule was simple. Children could go into the pumpkin patch and get a pumpkin, as long as they could carry it to the train themselves. For years, this meant that my son would end up with a pumpkin that would inevitably be almost as big as he was at the time. But, then, the CK&S would close, ending the yearly laughing at my straining son and his way too big pumpkin.

The CK&S was a short line created from the abandonment of the old New York Central/Big Four line from Anderson to Rushville. This line would be the second railroad connecting Knightstown to Carthage. The first was also abandoned, but it would have been over 100 years before the second was left to die on the vine.

1853. The railroad boom had hit Indiana in a big way. And one of the cities that took full advantage of this was Shelbyville. The county seat of Shelby County, at one point, had railroads connecting it to Cincinnati, Columbus, Edinburgh, Indianapolis, Knightstown and Rushville. Six different directions in what, at the time, was a small town. One of these lines was discussed earlier this week as the Shelbyville Lateral Branch (SLB) Railroad. At the northern end of the SLB, it connected to another small railroad known as the Knightstown & Shelbyville (K&S).

The K&S connected Shelbyville to the Indiana Central Railway at Knightown, via Morristown (and a connection to the Junction Railroad/B&O) and Carthage. It was built by local people, but was encouraged by the Madison & Indianapolis (M&I) as a feeder road to the first long distance railroad in the state. The M&I profited more from the line, just like the SLB, than the actual owners did. The locomotive for the K&S was even provided by the M&I, in addition to other rolling stock.

The K&S began life when it was incorporated on 19 January 1846. A later amendment to the chartering law allowed the K&S to accept land, labor and materials, in addition to money, for the purchase of stock in the company. By October 1850, the entire line was complete. It was a great boon for the localities along the line.

But that boon wouldn’t last. The railroad found itself in a lot of debt. One person, Michael J. Bright of Madison, possessed most of the debt. Although the line would be very busy, and, on paper, very profitable, the K&S found itself unable to pay back that massive debt. Mr. Bright foreclosed on the line, ripping up the K&S. This would happen in either 1854 or 1855. An effort to rebuild the line, in 1858, ended in failure.

1876 saw the beginnings of the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railway. The CW&M reached from Fairmount to Anderson in 1876. The Rushville extension would be completed by 1891. Most of the railroad grade from Knightstown to Carthage would be used by the CW&M. That road entered Carthage just to the east of the original route built by the K&S. The CW&M would become officially part of the Big Four on 16 June 1915, along with another road that started life as a feeder to the M&I, the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville. By 1982, this line would be owned by the Indiana Eastern Railroad. When traffic dried up, it would be sold to become a short line visitor road that became the KC&S.


4 thoughts on “Knightstown and Shelbyville

  1. In the mid ’70’s I was on a service call in Carthage. A switching looco was parked idle and unattended so I had the chance to go look inside. The engine was torn down, the heads were off. I could not believe the bore size!


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