The Milwaukee Road in Indiana

Most of the time, the railroads of the United States were divided by those west of Chicago and the Mississippi River, and those east of Chicago and the Mississippi River. And Indiana contained mostly railroads east of those locations. With one exception: the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific (CMSP&P), otherwise known as the Milwaukee Road, was one of the great western railroads, at one point linking Chicago with the Pacific Northwest. Ultimately, the Milwaukee had more trackage in Indiana than the Pennsylvania had in Illinois.

Indiana has so many railroad routes that were built by people wanting to make their fortune with the iron horse, without really spending any time figuring out if would be even worth it. The origins of the route that would become part of the CMSP&P in Indiana started as one of these railroads. First given a charter by the Indiana General Assembly on 10 September 1886 as the Evansville & Richmond (E&R) Railroad. It was created as an extension of the Evansville & Terre Haute (E&TH) Railroad with the purpose of connecting Elnora on the E&TH to Westport, in Decatur County. The E&R owned no rolling stock. It, instead, depended on the E&TH to provide all of the locomotives and cars to operate.

Given the name of the project, Westport was about 70 miles short of the ultimate destination of the railroad, Richmond. However, with trackage rights, it could come close.

The E&R was operated as a separate company until it went into receivership on 27 February 1894. This receivership would end on 4 June 1897, when the railroad was reorganized as the Evansville & Richmond Railway Company. This would be after a series of washouts between Bedford and Westport in March, 1897, rendered that portion of the track useless. Two more events in the year of 1897 would occur: 1) in October, the securities of the E&R would be sold, completely, to John R. Walsh of Chicago; 2) the name of the company would be changed, on 01 December, to Southern Indiana Railway Company.

The Walsh years were those of expansion of the Southern Indiana. The entire route would be put back into service in January 1898, and the complete rebuild would be finished by October 1904. But it also included the extension of the road (from Elnora) to Linton (12 miles – 22 January 1900), to Terre Haute (85 miles – 17 September 1900), and to the Illinois-Indiana State Line near Quaker in Vermillion County (34 miles – 1905). The Southern Indiana, through trackage rights of the affiliated Chicago Southern Railway (incorporated on 26 September 1904), would reach Chicago in 1907.

But, like many railroads in Indiana, both the Southern Indiana and the Chicago Southern fell into receivership on 26 August 1908. When it emerged from this receivership on 1 December 1910, it was acquired by a company named the Chicago, Terre Haute & Southeastern (CTH&SE) Railway Company. This company, however, did not last very long. Three weeks later, on 22 December 1910, the company was reorganized with the same name. The CTH&SE lumbered on until it was leased by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul (CM&STP) Railway for 999 years on 12 May 1921, but effective 1 July 1921.

The CTH&SE would be operated as a separate company, even after the CM&STP became a property of the newly organized CMSP&P on 31 March 1927. The merging of the CTH&SE into the Milwaukee Road finally happened on 31 December 1948. This was later than most of the major mergers in Indiana.

Given the railroad connections at both Seymour and Westport, the section between the two was treated like a stub branch since it never did reach its goal city of Richmond. At the Westport end, at one point, there were track connections to the Big Four (CCC&STL) tracks connecting North Vernon and Greensburg, allowing passenger traffic between Greensburg and Seymour/Bedford/Linton/Terre Haute. But traffic was sparse, at best. Multiple daily trains were replaced by a once daily (except Sunday). That was ultimately, before getting permission to abandon the Westport Branch, replaced with a mixed train, with passengers riding in the caboose. Freight traffic had fallen to less than 40 cars a month. The permission to abandon this branch was given in 28 November 1960, effective 30 days later. Traffic was stopped on 3 January 1961 and the section from Seymour to Westport was completely ripped out within six weeks.

The next abandonment would occur in 1978, according to INDOT documents (available here), although it would still appear on the Indiana Official Highway Map until 1984. This section was the Bedford Branch, from milepost 262.5 at Bedford to milepost 300 at Seymour. 1980 saw the filing of the abandonment of the rails from Chicago Heights (milepost 31.8) to northwestern Vigo County (milepost 171.2). Five years later, a branch from Bedford to Oolitic was removed, as well.

The Milwaukee was purchased by the Soo Line. Most of the Milwaukee Road legacy was removed from the State of Indiana by that time. Any parts that are left are owned by the Indiana Railroad (INRD).

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