Railroad History – An Indiana Transportation History Recap

Over the past year, Indiana Transportation History has covered quite a few topics. Today, I want to focus on those articles that have been published so far when it comes to railroad history. Railroads have played a major part in the history of Indiana. Indianapolis, the Hoosier capitol, was legally just a town before the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad came to town in 1847. That same year, Indianapolis was made legally a city. Places like Fort Wayne and Logansport became major hubs when it came to railroads. Some have come, some have gone. All have played their part in building the Indiana we have today.

This article is essentially a lot of links, 59 of them to be exact, but it does go to show how much railroads were not only covered on ITH, but how important they were to Indiana in general.

The entire state was covered on 27 January 2020 in an article appropriately named Indiana – A Rail Center.

The first long distance railroad in Indiana was that of the Madison & Indianapolis. The company itself was set up and run by the state of Indiana. It saw both good times and bad during its history. Some of those bad times had as much to do with the management of the company as it did with the actual physical constraints set in place when Madison was chosen as the starting point. Two railroads (Shelbyville Lateral Branch and the Knightstown & Shelbyville), abandoned very early in Indiana railroad history, would play into the Madison & Indianapolis and its competitor (and ultimate buyer), the Jeffersonville. The M&I also found itself with an increased mission, covered in Expansion of the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad.

But the M&I wasn’t the first railroad in the state – that was in Shelbyville, and covered in Indiana’s First Railroad.

I have covered the Monon and its history several times. From its start (The Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway and The Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway, Part II) to its end (Abandoning The Monon), and some of the branches that would become part of the road (Bedford and Bloomfield Railroad), the Monon has been an important fixture to a lot of Hoosiers over the years.

What would become the Nickle Plate in Indiana started life as the Lake Erie And Western Railroad. Another small railroad that would become part of not one, but two, bigger companies would be The Midland Route. And, another eastern company that moved into Indiana was The Chesapeake & Ohio Railway of Indiana.

What would become the second largest railroad company in Indiana, the New York Central, would be covered, in whole and in parts, over the past year. Smaller lines, such as Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville Railroad and the Columbus, Hope & Greensburg. The majority of the New York Central, prior to 1930, was controlled by two companies: The Big Four Railway and the New York Central. The Big Four did have a large crash that was covered in two articles on the same day – 1903: Big Four Special crash kills 15 Purdue Footballers and Extra: Big Four Purdue Special Crash. One of the largest railroad yards in the United States was covered in Big Four Yards at Avon. And Avon was built after one of the former largest yard facilities in the country at Beech Grove.

Of course, it wasn’t the last time that I covered rail crashes. Major Indiana Railroad Disasters up to 1903 came about as a follow up to the Big Four Special crash mentioned above. 1968 also saw the Train Wreck at Dunreith, a large Pennsylvania Railroad crash that, in my mind, saw what was to come with the pending Pennsylvania – New York Central merge that would become official one month later. Another crash was covered in 1883: Train Wreck Near Salem.

Indianapolis, home of the first Union Depot in the United States, was covered several times on just that subject. Indianapolis Union Depot was the first such building. The combination of the trackage at the station was covered in an article called Indianapolis Union Station: How the Tracks Came to Be. I also spent time covering what was in place Before Indianapolis Union Depot, listing the stations that existed before they were consolidated into the Union Depot. And of course, the ultimate project when it came to Union Station would include Indianapolis Track Elevation.

While the New York Central was the second largest railroad company in Indiana, the Pennsylvania was the largest…by far. Its history in Indiana, including the Madison & Indianapolis mentioned above, was covered quite a bit, as well. Pennsylvania Lines West of Pittsburgh and Erie covered the holding company that represented PRR interests in the state until it was completely absorbed into the parent company. Part of the Pennsylvania Lines included the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago Railway that connected the title cities across northern Indiana. The Vandalia was another part of the the PL, and part of that was the Indianapolis & Vincennes Railroad. The PRR at Logansport detailed the history of the building of the PRR hub in Cass County. A PRR stub line was mentioned in The Pennsylvania Railroad in South Bend. Indianapolis PRR yards were covered in PRR’s Hawthorne Yards and Pennsylvania Railroad Repair Shops at Indianapolis.

What is now the Indiana Railroad was covered in a more detailed history called the Indianapolis Southern Railway. As a side note, the name of that company would be referenced in 1987 when the City of Indianapolis closed Bluff Road to replace an old bridge over the Indianapolis Southern Railroad, even though at that time it was the Indiana Railroad. The Indianapolis Southern was also affected by nature, as covered in White River on Indianapolis’ South Side, and its Effects.

Most of the railroads in Indiana were part of what could be considered “eastern” railways. But I did cover one of the “western” roads when I talked about The Milwaukee Road in Indiana.

Railroad towns were covered, as well: Brightwood, Railroads in Fort Wayne, 1880; and Cambridge City – Railroad Center.

Of course, Interurbans were covered in great detail, as well, since they played a very important, albeit short, part in transportation history in the state. Indiana Railroad (1930) was the company created to control most of the Central Indiana traction companies. Indianapolis and the Interurban covered how the electric traction companies entered the city, since they legally ended at the city limits.

More interurban coverage included:
Interurbans in Marion County, Where Were They?
End of the (Traction) Line in Greenfield
Indianapolis-New Castle Traction
Marion County Interurbans, and Their Remaining Property Lines
Chicago, South Shore and South Bend Railroad
Interstate Public Service
Street Car and Electric Traction Franchises
Martinsville Traction
Danville Traction
Lebanon Traction
1904: Interurbans Before the Traction Terminal
Fort Wayne Electric Traction Options
Interurbans, Part 1
Interurbans, Part 2.

And, finally, Railroad Abandonments in Indianapolis covered just that. And connecting to state roads, a popular subject here, was ISHC and Railroad Grade Crossing Removal: 1937.


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