Abandoning The Monon

For clarification: I will be referring to the railroad subject of this post at the “Monon.” This is despite the fact that it did not officially become the Monon until 1956. Prior to that, it had an assortment of names. The longest held was that of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville, a name that it used from 1897 to 1956. For the ease of writing, every reference to the line in its history will be that of Monon. I wanted to make sure that I made it clear that I know that wasn’t always the case. In my defense, it only took the name Monon because that had been its nickname for years prior to it becoming official.

In 1971, the last Class I railroad based in Indiana was sold to interests in another state. The Monon was merged with the Louisville & Nashville. There were some that questioned how long the Monon could have survived in the railroad world of the 1960’s and forward. While the railroad connected three major cities (Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville), it had the disadvantage of running mainly north and south. This limited traffic along the line. Also, since the L&N bought the Chicago & Eastern Illinois, Monon’s competitor, Monon management became very worried about their place at the railroading table.

But this post is about what happened to the Monon, especially after the merger. The Louisville & Nashville would, in the same year of merging with the Monon, be completely purchased by the Seaboard Coast Line (itself a merger of the Seaboard Air Line and Atlantic Coast Line). The end of the L&N happened in 1986, and the technical end of the SCL would happen with the creation of CSX in 1986.

Perhaps the most well know part of the Monon, at least in Central Indiana, is that of the Indianapolis mainline connecting Monon to Indianapolis through Monticello, Delphi and Frankfort. Most of the southern end of this line is now known as the Monon Trail, a walking and biking path from almost downtown Indianapolis (10th Street) to Grand Park in Westfield (191st Street), with another section starting at 216th Street for 3.5 miles to Sheridan.

The parts of the old line that would become the Monon Trail were abandoned in sections by the railroad companies that would possess the right to do so. The Louisville & Nashville started the ball rolling in 1974 with the abandonment of the line from Indianapolis’ 17th Street (MP 181.0) south to 10th Street (MP 181.7). This was followed, in 1976, with the abandonment from 17th Street (MP 181.0) to 22nd Street (180.48). This would be coupled with the abandonment, by the Norfolk & Western, in 1974 of the Muncie Division tracks from Indianapolis 10th Street to Indianapolis 13th Street. This disconnected both the Monon (L&N) and the Nickel Plate (N&W) from downtown Indianapolis. At 10th Street, both lines connected with the Penn Central’s “Bee” Line.

The big blow to the Monon Indianapolis Line would occur in 1984 when CSX, now owners of the old Monon, filed for and received the permission to abandon the line from Frankfort (MP 137.5) to the end of line at Indianapolis 22nd Street (MP 180.47). This would set the stage for the Monon Trail in Indianapolis which came about around 15 years after the trains had officially stopped running.

But CSX would abandon a lot of the old Monon over the years. Most of the Monon Indianapolis Line finally came to an end in 1993. In 1992, the section from MP 137.5 (Frankfort) to MP 112.22 (Delphi) was officially abandoned. This was followed the next year with the abandonment from Monticello (MP 98.0) to Delphi (MP 112.22). An industrial track at Monticello (MP 88.33 to MP 98.00) would be abandoned in 2014. The rest of the Monon Indianapolis Line, known to CSX as “0QA,” from what I can tell, remains in service as of the beginning of 2020.

In a previous post about the Bedford & Bloomfield Railroad, I had mentioned a branch line that connected the Monon main to Victoria. I never gave the name of that branch. It would be the Indianapolis & Louisville Railway. When it came under the Monon sway, it was called the “I&L Branch.” This branch was 42 miles of track, from Wallace Junction to Midland. The Louisville & Nashville abandoned that branch in 1981. They also abandoned the last remaining six mile section of the B&B branch, from Dark Hollow to Bedford, in 1981.

The Monon had a branch line from its main at Orleans connecting to French Lick, West Baden, and Paoli. This line, consisting of 18.88 miles of track, was abandoned in two parts: MP 18.88 to MP 8.88 (French Lick to Paoli) in 1976, and 7.08 miles of the remaining 8.88 miles to Orleans officially removed from Louisville & Nashville inventory in 1981.

A major section of the original Monon mainline to Michigan City was the last section (not chronologically, but in terms of this post) to be removed by the Louisville & Nashville. 1980 saw the end of the Michigan City branch from Michigan City (MP 60.03) to Medaryville (MP 15.16). That was nearly 45 miles of track, on a right-of-way in use for 125+ years that was removed in one fell swoop.

The northern end of the line, at Michigan City, was sold to the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend. This included 2.3 miles of track and an industrial track at Michigan City. The 2.3 miles of the Monon Sub at Michigan City was abandoned by the CSS&SB in 1990. The industrial track followed in 2001.

The rest of the old Monon line that was abandoned (after 1945…more on that later) was done by CSX. The last 1.74 miles of the French Lick branch at Orleans was abandoned in 1990. The “Monon Michigan City Branch,” although it hadn’t reached that town in years, was shortlined from MP 15.16 to MP 14.79 in Medaryville. I don’t have a time period on that shortlining.

The northern end of what CSX called the Monon Sub, located on the line from Chicago to Monon, was abandoned in 1985 from MP 19.746 to MP 20.706 in Hammond. Most of the original line is still in service from Monticello to Hammond.

CSX called part of the original Monon mainline the “South Monon.” That line was removed from service in pieces. 1994 saw the end of the line from Bloomington (MP 222.5) to Bedford (MP 245.0). Gosport (MP 203.1) to Cloverdale (190.0) was removed in 1995. Abandonment was applied for, also in 1995, between Bedford (MP 245.0) and Mitchell (251.7). The track, according to Google Maps, is still in place between the last two points. Two years later, the track from MP 203.1 (Gosport) to MP 213.41 (Ellettsville) was abandoned. The section from Ellettsville to Hunters, west of Bloomington, was shortlined around this time. The last of the sections abandoned by CSX of the old Monon mainline occurred in 1999, which saw only included .35 miles of track in Cloverdale.

All of the above information was taken from the Indiana Department of Transportation Railroad Abandonment List. It includes all abandonments and shortlines applied for from the mid-1970’s to around 2012. It makes for an interesting read.

But there were two other sections of the old Monon line that occurred long before L&N merger. First, as mentioned in the Bedford & Bloomfield post, that line, from Dark Hollow to Switz City, went by the wayside in 1935. Another section, also taken from the same Society of Indiana History Enthusiasts post that led to the B&B Branch post, was the original Monon mainline from near Harrodsburg to Clear Creek through Smithville and Sanders, south of Bloomington. This original line contained very steep grades, up to 2.27% (a change of 2.27 feet for every 100 feet traveled). The bypass would be built through the Clear Creek valley, allowing for smaller grades. When the bypass was built, the original main became less used. A bridge washout in 1941 led to even less traffic. This caused the Monon to apply for, and receive, permission to abandon this line in 1945.

3 thoughts on “Abandoning The Monon

  1. There was also an approximately 3.5-mile line relocation around Cedar Lake in the late 1940s/early 1950s, discussed in the Dolzall’s IU Press Monon history volume, but I cannot recall ever seeing a definitive map of the project.

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  2. Monon also had a subsidiary branch, the Chicago & Wabash Valley, running north and west from McCoysburg (about halfway between Monon and Rensselaer) to just NW of Dinwiddie, with another short branch from Gifford to Asphaltum. It operated less than 30 years, and was lifted by 1936. (Source: Elmer G Sulzer, Ghost Railroads of Indiana, pp 34-36).

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