Before 1968, the second largest railroad company in Indiana was the New York Central. To most people that know railroads, especially in the Indianapolis area, know the New York Central from its 1930 acquisition of the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Big Four), and the Peoria & Eastern (leased by the Big Four, but separate…at least heading west out of Indianapolis). The Big Four, covered here, covered a very large territory in Indiana. For all intents and purposes, Indianapolis was the center of that railway company. Six rail lines radiated from the Hoosier capital. But the New York Central itself had very extensive holdings in Indiana prior to 1930.
It is important to realize that the New York Central (NYC) itself was a consolidation of many railroads that officially came into being on 23 December 1914. That is the creation date of the corporation that, on 1 February 1968, became the “junior partner” in the merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad that became known as Penn Central. This is not to say that the NYC didn’t exist prior to that. The base part of the NYC, also called the New York Central, came into existence in 1853. But from 1 November 1869 to 23 December 1914, it was officially the “New York Central and Hudson River Railroad.” The NYC of 1914, and its constituent Indiana parts, are the primary focus of this post. The information included here comes from the ICC Valuation Reports Wiki of the NYC. To put it into perspective, this report shows 190 corporate entities that created the New York Central in 1914. This does not include railroads later added to the NYC along the way (that includes the Big Four).
Across northern Indiana, connecting Chicago to Detroit (among other places), was the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern (LS&MS) Railway. Entering Indiana along Lake Michigan from Chicago, the line crossed Lake, Porter and La Porte Counties before rumbling into St. Joseph County and South Bend itself. From there, line headed toward Elkhart, where the LS&MS split into two, one heading toward Michigan via Vistula, the other crossing Elkhart, Kosciusko, Noble and De Kalb counties before entering Ohio east of Butler, running along side what is now US 6.
The LS&MS that was part of the consolidation that created the NYC became a corporate entity of its own on 16 August 1869, with some of the constituent rail lines having articles of consolidation in Indiana as far back as 6 February 1835. This is the date of the creation of the Buffalo & Mississippi Rail Road company. The name was changed on 6 February 1837 to the Northern Indiana Rail Road company. Two companies of the same name (one in Indiana, one in Ohio) consolidated on 30 June 1853 to form a new company, of the same name. By this time, lines had been constructed between the Indiana-Michigan state line to South Bend (nearly 30 miles, 1851), between South Bend and the Illinois-Indiana state line (71.5 miles, 1852) and from Elkhart to Goshen (10.2 miles, 1852). The new company of 1853, its successor of, again, the same name, then its successor, the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Rail Road (created 19 May 1855) completed the line from Toledo to Goshen (122 miles) in 1857. This last company would consolidate with the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway to create the LS&MS that would form part of the NYC.
Although there were predecessor companies, the Indiana, Illinois & Iowa (III) Railway of the State of Indiana came into being through consolidations on 9 January 1893. This company would build, in 1894, two lines: Knox to South Bend (33.4 miles) and a Michigan Central connecting branch at South Bend (2 miles). On 15 September 1898, the III of Indiana was consolidated with another company, just called the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad to form, again, the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Railroad.
The Indiana Harbor Railroad Company was formed under the general laws of Indiana on 23 November 1901. This company built 100.8 miles of track in two sections: Indiana Harbor to Osborn, and Osborn to the Illinois-Indiana state line. The III and the Indiana Harbor were consolidated on 9 April 1906 to form the Chicago, Indiana and Southern Railroad Company. This would be another company that would be consolidated on 23 December 1914 to form the New York Central.
Two other companies became part of the New York Central during the period covered by the ICC Valuation reports (these were done for valuating the railroads that were taken over by the US Government during World War I). One started life as the Elkhart & Western Railroad Company on 5 June 1888. Although the date of the construction was not known, that company built a 12.1 mile line from Elkhart to Mishawaka. The other was the Canada & St. Louis Railway (formed through consolidation of the Indiana & Southwestern Railway and the Sturgis & State Line Railway on 17 November 1887). The Canada & St. Louis was sold at foreclosure, and reorganized as the Sturgis, Goshen & St. Louis Railway. Both of these companies were sold to the New York Central on 11 June 1915.
It should be noted that at the time of the ICC report, the New York Central consisted of a total of 3,718.73 miles of railroad lines (not including sidings and more than single track areas). The Big Four at that point consisted of 1687 miles. In addition to the Big Four, another Indiana property that would become, eventually, part of the NYC was the Michigan Central, which connected extreme southwestern Michigan to Chicago through LaPorte, Porter and Lake Counties, and a line that ran due north from South Bend to Three Rivers, Michigan.