Greensburg, Indiana. The city that had already been connected to the rest of Indiana via the Michigan Road would become a busy spot on what would eventually become the Big Four Railway. It started with the main line connecting Indianapolis to Cincinnati. Then came the line that connected Greensburg to Columbus – called the Columbus, Hope & Greensburg. Then there was the last connection.
In July 1879, a charter was issued to build a railroad that connected Vernon, in Jennings County, through Greensburg to Rushville in Rush County. At the south end, the railroad would connect to several routes that converged in North Vernon, namely the Madison & Indianapolis and the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern, connecting Vincennes and Cincinnati. At the north end, Rushville, connections were also plentiful – again with the B&O and the Pennsylvania, in the form of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis & Western (B&O) and the two separate sections connecting Rushville to both Shelbyville and Cambridge City (later Dublin) (PRR).
In October 1879, Colonel Horace Scott, with a group of investors, met with the Directors of the Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville to ask that the directors allow Colonel Scott to have part of the two percent tax to help build the Columbus, Hope & Greensburg. No decision was made at the time. However, it was passed on by Colonel Scott that his goal was to defeat another railroad, and that connections between the CH&G and the VH&R would have nothing but benefits for both companies. (Source: Columbus Republic, 25 October 1879)
The railroad itself was completed between Vernon and Rushville in July 1881. However, it found itself immediately leased to the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago Railway Company, one of the founding members of the Big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway). The sole operation of the VG&R would be the care of the CIStL&C starting on 1 July 1881. Keep in mind, this was only a lease at the time.
In 1893, M. E. Ingalls, President of the Big Four Railway, went before the State Tax Commissioners to plead the case when it came to property taxes. The VG&R, according to Ingalls, cost $7,000 a mile to build, never earned any money, and could not be sold for over $100,000. The connection line, which connected Rushville to points north (Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan) as far as Benton Harbor, Michigan, cost $15,000 a mile to build and had never earned a total of $100,000. It was also mention that it was possible that the Columbus, Hope & Greensburg would be dumped by the Big Four, and that another railroad, the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville Railroad, should be abandoned by the company, since it “has never seen the day when it earned fifty-cents profit.” (Source: Rushville Republican, 22 August 1893) The assessed value of the VG&R, just in Rush County, was $83,285 as of February 1891.
On 29 Jul 1901, the Indianapolis Journal published the railroad property tax assessment reports for the year so far. The Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville was reported to have 44.67 miles of main line track and 8.97 miles of side track, with no second main. For the main track that summer, the VG&R was assessed $6,000 per mile of track by the State Tax Board. The side track was assessed $2,000 per mile. The railroad that year had spent $3,460 on improvements. The company was also assessed $500 a mile for using 52.14 miles of the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern.
By 1941, passenger traffic was getting pretty slim. The New York Central had applied for the right to abandon trains 139 and 140, passenger runs between Anderson and Greensburg. They were scheduled to be taken out of service on 23 August 1941. That was extended until 30 August 1941. According to the Rushville Republican of 3 September 1941, the abandonment was pushed back indefinately. What made this abandonment even weirder was the fact that the trains to be removed only connected Anderson to Greensburg. The trains that made the run from Elkhart, through Anderson, to Greensburg weren’t on the abandonment list. The newspaper stated that “since the trains were not dropped as scheduled, there is speculation that the railroad may continue the local service.” Service that, at that point, had been running for over 60 years between Greensburg and Rushville.
The VG&R maintained separate stock ownership for many years after the lease started. There are references to stockholder meetings in the Rushville Republican into 1937. Those stockholder meetings were usually held at the Big Four train station in Greensburg. In January 1938, the Big Four asked permission of the Interstate Commerce Commission to consolidate its operations by merging eight railroads into the Big Four proper. Two of those connected at Greensburg: Columbus, Hope & Greensburg and the Vernon, Greensburg and Rushville. This would spell the end of those companies as separate entities, making them officially part of the New York Central Railroad. It wouldn’t affect the Big Four/New York Central much. For all eight companies, only 3,582 shares of common stock would have to be issued to cover the shares of stock the Big Four didn’t own. Those that owned the non-Big Four shares would have a choice: cash or shares.
With the merger of the Pennsylvania and the New York Central in 1968, the Penn Central found itself with multiple tracks running to the same locations. As mentioned above, the PRR met with the NYC at Rushville and North Vernon. The line from Rushville to Greensburg stopped appearing on Indiana Official Highway Maps in 1976. The section from Horace to North Vernon would be removed from the state maps for 1985. From Horace to Greensburg would disappear, at least according to state maps, in 1991.
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