In the Auto Trail era, roads were popping up everywhere. Road Associations were being formed to cash in on the idea that people in the United States were more mobile than ever with the explosion of automobile manufacturing. Some became quite famous – and still serve as highway names, in spots, to this day. Some came and went without any real notice. Some were pipedreams that would never really happen. One of those was called the Dixie Short Line.
The Dixie Highway was a multi-route major Auto Trail, connecting the north to Florida. Due to this, the Dixie Highway started having a lot of “daughter” roads, although they were never officially related to the original road. One of those daughters traversed western Indiana as the Dixie Bee Line, a play on words because it was designed to be the “B” route of the Dixie Highway, and a “bee” line to the south, or faster way to the same destination.
Another of these “daughters,” although it was specifically mentioned that the name chosen was not to be an “infringement” on the other highway’s name, was the Dixie Short Line. What made this a “short” line is the more direct route that it took from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. The Dixie Highway followed the National Road east out of the Hoosier Capital, then turned southeast out of Richmond towards Eaton, Ohio.
The creation of the DSL was put together by members of the Brookville Commercial Club and the automobile routes committee of the Rush County Chamber of Commerce. This was announced in the Rushville Republican of 2 July 1915. “The Brookville men agreed with the Rushville people that the short route between Cincinnati and Indianapolis should be listed in the auto guides and this will be one of the first things taken up by the two bodies.”
According to the news story, “the name, ‘Dixie Short Line’ was suggested by Brookville and was adopted. The name is not an infringement on the name ‘Dixie Highway.'”
The Rushville Daily Republican of 12 May 1916 reported that signs marking the route had been paid for, but hadn’t been installed to that point. The Rush County Chamber of Commerce had asked the county motor club to install the “$18.50 worth of signs to mark the ‘Dixie Short Line,’ through Rush County.” “The club has the matter under consideration.”
“The proposed marking of the ‘Dixie Short Line’ is the outgrowth of several good roads meetings here and at Brookville to boost the motor route from Indianapolis to Cincinnati by way of Brookville and Harrison, Ohio, which is the same route that will be followed by the Cincinnati extension of the I. & C.”
The name of the road was used locally quite a bit…mentions of farm sales into 1920 is the location of the sale as on the “Dixie Short Line.” Most mentions of the road were in 1915 and 1916, as the local businessmen were trying to get the road recognized by outside organizations.
The Dixie Short Line started on the east side of Indianapolis. It started at the corner of what is now Washington Street and Sherman Drive. (Sherman Drive is three miles east of downtown Indianapolis.) The DSL commenced going south on Sherman Drive, crossing the Baltimore & Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroads, to the old Brookville State Road, still called Brookville Road today.
From there, the DSL simply followed the Brookville Road to the title city. This would take travelers through Rushville to Brookville. After Brookville, the DSL followed the Whitewater River to cross the Indiana-Ohio State Line at West Harrison, Indiana/Harrison, Ohio.
While my collection of available maps is not inexhaustible, I have only ever seen this road listed on one map – and that is shown below. It is the “Standard Series Map of Indiana,” published by the Standard Map Company of Chicago in 1919. It is available from the Indiana State Library digital collection.
To end the discussion of the Dixie Short Line, I want to share a paragraph from the Rushville Republican of 24 August 1949. “How many remember the short-lived campaign about 35 years ago (1915 to be exact) to rename the Brookville Road (now U. S. 52) as the ‘Dixie Short Line’? The campaign was sponsored by the Brookville Commercial Club and the Rush County Chamber of Commerce as a means of attracting the increasing automobile traffic between Chicago, Indianapolis and Cincinnati. We don’t think the ‘Dixie Short Line’ name ever stuck, due principally to the fact that the famed ‘Dixie Highway’ through Louisville got its name about the same time and the proposed name for the Brookville Road was too near like it. Anyway the boys tried and a good share of the traffic came through here even if they didn’t get a fancy name for the route.”
By 1920, the route that would have been the Dixie Short Line was taken over by the Indiana State Highway Commission to be known as State Road 39. As mentioned above, it would become part of US 52 in October 1926.