In my many trips to South Bend, and with my love of the Pennsylvania Railroad, I have made it a point to pass by the old Vandalia Station at Main and Bronson Streets. The station served the area for almost a century.
South Bend, while one of the biggest cities in Indiana, seemed, to me at least, a rather strange place to have an end-of-line terminal. The Vandalia (later Panhandle/Pennsylvania) came into South Bend and ended at the station…just shy of the New York Central tracks that run through the city. The railroad would serve industries in South Bend, but it always seemed strange that there would be only one way in and out of the city.
As it turned out, it was another quirk in Indiana’s railroad system and corporate consolidation of such.
It all started in 1869. Three railroads were chartered that would form the backbone of the line. On 1 February, a charter was issued for the Crawfordsville & Rockville Railroad. 11 days later, a charter for the Frankfort & Crawfordsville was awarded by the Indiana General Assembly. The third company would be the Logansport, Camden and Frankfort, chartered on 13 May 1869.
These three companies would build very little track before they were consolidated into a new company: Logansport, Crawfordsville & South Western Railway. Letters of Consolidation was actually started on 5 November 1869, but weren’t filed with the state until 2 February 1871. This railroad company would complete construction of the line from Rockville to Logansport between 1871 and 1875, opening it in sections. But the Logansport, Crawfordsville & South Western would only last four years after the line was completed to Logansport. In November 1879, the railroad would be sold and given to another company.
The railroad’s new name was the Terre Haute & Logansport (TH&L) Railroad. Shortly after appearing on the scene, the Terre Haute & Indianapolis (TH&I) agreed to an operating agreement of the line. This connected the TH&I to the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Panhandle) to two points: Logansport and Indianapolis. The TH&I had been originally chartered as the (potential) Terre Haute & Richmond under acts of the General Assembly of 24 January 1847. Three days shy of three years later, the name became official. As it turned out, the idea of the section from Indianapolis to Richmond had been dropped from the company’s plans rather quickly. But it wasn’t until 6 March 1865 that the name was changed to Terre Haute & Indianapolis.
The TH&I, while operating the TH&L, extended the line to South Bend by 1884. The extended line would connect Logansport through Culver and Plymouth to the St. Joseph County seat.
But the line wouldn’t actually stop at South Bend. In 1890, a railroad, called the Indiana & Lake Michigan Railway, was built out of South Bend to the west, turning north outside of Lydick. This line would go to St. Joseph, Michigan. This would allow coal from Western Indiana, along the TH&I, to be carried by the trainload to coal barges at Benton Harbor, Michigan, to be shipped to the east coast. (Source: The Pennsylvania Railroad in Indiana, William J. Watt, pp 89) The Terre Haute & Logansport leased the line, with the lease dated 04 June 1889. The line opened on 04 August 1890. Between May 1892 and January 1893, the company ran a ferry from St. Joseph to both Milwaukee and Chicago.
Both the Terre Haute & Logansport and the Indiana & Lake Michigan fell into receivership in November 1896. As a result of the reorganization, the TH&L lost its lease of the I&LM. Due to this, the I&LM ended up being leased by what ended up falling under the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern, part of the New York Central in Indiana (prior to the Big Four consolidation). This line would be abandoned in 1942.
The Terre Haute & Logansport Railroad became the Terre Haute & Logansport Railway. This company was created, officially, by the state of Indiana on 30 November 1898, after being sold at foreclosure. This company would still be leased by the Terre Haute & Indianapolis.
So, where does the name Vandalia come from? Well, on 1 January 1905, the following companies were consolidated to become the Vandalia Railroad Company: Terre Haute & Logansport; St. Louis, Vandalia, & Terre Haute; Terre Haute & Indianapolis; Logansport & Toledo; and Indianapolis & Vincennes. This created a system that spanned from St. Louis to Indianapolis, South Bend to Vincennes, and east to Butler from Logansport.
The major owners of several railroads, the Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh & Erie, under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Company, would continue to consolidate properties. First, the Vandalia and the Panhandle were consolidated to become a larger Panhandle. This would not affect any operations into South Bend. The line’s existence would continue into the age of Penn Central. According to Indiana State Official Highway maps, the line would be truncuated to Culver in 1976 (1977 map is source). Penn Central had put in for abandonment of the line from Logansport to Culver, though, in 1974. But that section of the line would still be on maps, listed as Conrail, into the 1980s.