Indianapolis and Vincennes Railroad

In 1865, a new railroad was proposed to serve the state of Indiana. The face of the project was Major General A. E. Burnside, an Army officer during the Civil War. The project was to start by connecting Indianapolis to Vincennes. But this was only part of the pitch. Ultimately, the goal was to connect Indianapolis to the Gulf of Mexico, with extensions to the line through Cairo, Illinois, and points further south. Unfortunately, that goal was never realized.

When the Indianapolis & Vincennes (I&V) began construction in 1867, it obtained financial help from the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette (IC&L) Railroad. That road offered that financing in return for a lease of the line. This would have created a route that branched from Indianapolis in three directions under one company – Cincinnati, Chicago and Vincennes. This lease would not last long.

In 1868, two companies associated with the Pennsylvania Railroad would also had financial help, being added as guarantors of the line. This would help complete the line between Indianapolis and Vincennes in 1869. The Pennsylvania Railroad interests would take control of the line in 1871. This ended the proposed lease by the IC&L. This would come into play later.

Due to the limited scope of the railroad as planned, the I&V was constantly on the verge of failure. It wasn’t a very profitable property. But, with the exploitation of coal reserves near the line, the management decided to build a branch line from Bushrod to Dugger in 1884. This branch was completed in 1885. This helped a bit with the lines finances.

At Vincennes, the road would connect to several routes. What would become the Baltimore & Ohio line across Indiana from Louisville, Kentucky, to St. Louis, Missouri, was directly connected to the I&V. A line to the southwest, to St. Francisville, Illinois, would come to be owned by the Big Four. The other line, stretching from Evansville to Terre Haute would also traverse Vincennes. This would become part of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.

On 01 January 1905, the Pennsylvania Company, a holding company that maintained the properties of the Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie (PL), consolidated the I&V, the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute, the Terre Haute & Logansport, and the Logansport & Toledo into one overarching company: the Vandalia Railroad Company. This would help the survival of what was the I&V, given the, again, constant financial dire straits of the railroad.

12 years later, on 01 January 1917, the PL consummated further consolidations with the combination of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway and the Vandalia to form the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Panhandle). This made the I&V part of a system, under one corporate title, that connected the title cities, along with many other locations across Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. This further helped hide the questionable financial health of the I&V.

The Panhandle would be affected by the late 1910s-early 1920s elevation of the railroads in downtown Indianapolis. Due to this elevation, the connection of the I&V to Indianapolis Union Station would become a potentially expensive undertaking, since the elevation would require a lot of work at the location where the I&V entered the Indianapolis Union Railway tracks west of the station. This would lead to the construction of the Eagle Creek Connector, a track leading between the I&V near Maywood to the Panhandle St. Louis mainline just north of what is now the I-70 interchange with Holt Road. The original line was relegated to a branch line from the Indianapolis Belt Railroad to downtown Indianapolis.

In 1958, all of the leases that became the Panhandle were assigned, by the Pennsylvania Railroad, to the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington, part of the PRR mainline between New York City and Washington, DC. This would have no effect on the lines involved, as it was just a lease reassignment.

The major change would occur on 01 February 1968 with the merger of two major rival railroads: the Pennsylvania and the New York Central. This would make the I&V a corporate sibling to the railroad that first offered to help build the line, the IC&L. The IC&L had become part of the Big Four (the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway) on 30 June 1889. The Big Four would be aligned, and later absorbed, by the New York Central.

The I&V would ultimately make into the Conrail days in 1976. After that, Conrail would abandon sections of the original line at both the Indianapolis and Vincennes. What is left of the I&V is now part of the Indiana Southern Railroad.


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