Indiana’s First Railroad

I have done numerous entries about the first Indiana long distance railroad, the Madison & Indianapolis. The M&I was part of the Mammoth Improvement Bill, which created a large number of canal, road and railroad projects in 1836. But the first railroad in Indiana predated the Improvement Bill by two years. It was also built in a town that was to be, temporarily, a major railroad city: Shelbyville.

Not much information is available for this first of its kind in Indiana. It was not a steam railroad, but horse drawn. The ending point was marked by the Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission in 1966 with the historical marker shown to the left. (Unfortunately, the marker has been taken down for the time being.) The location of this marker was near the corner of Broadway and McLane Streets, just east of downtown Shelbyville. Broadway Street is SR 44 in this section of town. It also happens to be the Historic Michigan Road.

Anyone that has a sharp eye, and a knowledge of the railroads of Indiana, will notice that the location of that marker also happens to be alongside the old Shelby & Rush Railroad line. That line connected the county seats of the named counties. It would become part of the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis.

Information is very scarce on this railroad, short of what was printed on the historical marker. Most of my sources don’t even acknowledge its existence. One of my favorite books, “Ghost Railroads of Indiana,” doesn’t even list it. I would assume that’s partly due to the fact that the Shelby & Rush essentially extended the little horse drawn, two mile line. One could assume that the railroad didn’t last long. I can’t even find even the name of this line. But I felt it was important to make sure that little line keeps its historic value in Indiana Transportation History.

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