1850: Status of Railroads In Indiana

In an article published in the Indiana State Sentinel of 10 January 1850, the editors of the paper were lamenting the fact that, when it come to eastern knowledge of Indiana, the state basically did not exist. “When any person, other than a resident of the State, speaks or writes of the improvements and resources of the west, them make but one stride from Ohio to Illinois or Missouri, and step entirely over the State of Indiana.” The article goes on to talk about the great strides the state was making in manufacturing and agriculture. But a good deal of the article was shining the light of information on the 18 railroads that were in use, under construction, or under charter, in the state.

“The Madison and Indianapolis railroad comes first, as it was the pioneer.” The railroad spanned a distance of 86 miles from Madison to Indianapolis. Originally, it was built with strap rail, but that had given way to 60 pound heavy “H” rail. 56 of the 86 miles had been, at the time of publication, been replaced with the new rail, with “the remainder is fast being completed.”

2) The Shelbyville Road. Officially known as the Shelbyville Lateral Branch. It ran from Edinburgh, on the M&I, to Shelbyville. Its total length was 16 miles. By the beginning of 1850, it was in “successful operation,” having been built on strap rail 2 1/2″ by 7/8″. Its “successful operation” wouldn’t last long, however. Within the decade, the Shelbyville Lateral Branch would be abandoned.

3) The Rushville Road. This railroad connected Shelbyville to Rushville, a total of 21 miles. At the time, grading had been completed for the railroad, and was quickly installing the same kind of strap rail that was being used at the time on the Shelbyville Lateral Branch. This railroad would last into the Penn Central era, as it was part of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s collection of lines that bypassed Indianapolis to the south and east.

4) The Knightstown Road. This road also started in Shelbyville, heading off to the northeast to connect to Knightstown. The entire road was 25 miles in length. The official name of the route was the Knightstown & Shelbyville. It was well under construction in the beginning of 1850, and was receiving the same strap rail that was used for the two railroads listed above. This railroad had a shorter life than that of the Shelbyville Lateral Branch. By 1855, it was almost gone. And in 1858, an attempt to revitalize the road failed. From there, it just disappeared.

5) The Columbus & Bloomington Road. “Branches from the Madison road at Columbus, and it designed to run to Bloomington, 37 miles west, where it enters the great coal basin of Indiana. A charter for this road is obtained and a sufficient amount subscribed and guarantied (sic) to insure its completion.” I will do more digging, but I can’t see that this road was ever built.

6) Jeffersonville Road. Starting at the Ohio River at Jeffersonville, this railroad ran north 66 miles to Columbus, where it officially ended at the time. It was designed to allow traffic from the Jeffersonville to use the M&I tracks to Indianapolis. It didn’t happen quite that way. The M&I refused to allow Jeffersonville trains on their tracks, starting a disagreement between the two roads until the Jeffersonville just bought the Madison. The railroad, at the time of the subject report, was receiving its iron in the form of 50 pound per yard “H” rail. This road survives today, having been part of the Louisville line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Today, it is the Louisville & Indiana.

7) Franklin & Martinsville Road. The road that would be 27 miles in length when completed was only located at the time of this article. One half of the route was to be let to contractors in February 1850. The road went through some very hard times in its history. Including seven years of no trains running at all. Eventually, it would be extended to Fairland, and become the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville Railroad. It would become part of the Big Four, and, as such, part of the New York Central. But it didn’t make it past 1950. In 1942, the section west of Trafalgar was abandoned. 1950 saw it removed from service west of Franklin. The extension to Fairland lasted until 1961.

8) The Lawrenceburgh and Greensburgh Road. (Before you ask, yes that it how they were spelled then. The “H” was dropped at the end of the 19th century, with very few towns putting it back.) “Running from the Ohio River at Lawrenceburgh northerly to Greensburgh, a distance of 42 miles, is at present under construction. The road will ultimately be extended about 30 miles from the latter place to intersect with the Madison and Indianapolis road between Franklin and Edinburgh.” That forecaster route never came into being, as it was eventually built to Indianapolis via Shelbyville. It would become a founding part of the Big Four Railway, and survived through the New York Central, the Penn Central and into the Conrail era.

9) The New Albany Road. Starting in New Albany, the road was designed to connect Salem, Bedford, Bloomington, Gosport and Crawfordsville, a total of 120 miles. In early 1850, it was located and under construction from New Albany to Bedford, some 60 miles. Iron had been delivered to cover 18 miles of that distance. “This road will be in operation to Salem next spring, and to Bedford next fall or winter.” It would go on to become a major part of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway…known to most Hoosiers as the Monon.

10) The Lafayette and Crawfordsville Road. This road was to commence at the end of the New Albany road mentioned above. It would continue carrying New Albany traffic another 28 miles to the Wabash River at Lafayette. It was nearly graded, and will “probably be finished next season.” It, too, like the New Albany road above, would form the backbone of the Monon.

11) The Evansville Road. This road was chartered to connect the 28 miles from Evansville to Princeton. It was speculated by the Sentinel that it would probably be extended another 28 miles to Vincennes, “from the latter place it will either run to Terre Haute, 65 miles, or direct across to Indianapolis, 110 miles, and will in all probability as the country becomes settled, diverge at Vincennes and run to both places.” The premonition came true, as railroads were built to both Terre Haute and Indianapolis. The road from Evansville to Terre Haute would become part of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois. The diverging route to Indianapolis would become part of the Pennsylvania.

12) The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad. “Commencing at Terre Haute on the State line of Illinois, runs from thence to Indianapolis, 72 miles, and from there 73 miles to Richmond, on the Ohio state line..” The first section, Terre Haute to Indianapolis, was under construction and would be fitted with 60 pound rail when complete. “The second division from Indianapolis to Richmond, will probably be abandoned, and the road diverted from Indianapolis direct to Rushville, and thence across to Cincinnati, via Hamilton, 110 miles, or from Indianapolis to Greensburgh, and thence Lawrenceburgh and Cincinnati, the distance in either case being about the same.”

There was a lot going on in that paragraph. For starters, yes the road from Indianapolis to Richmond was dropped. It would later be built by another company. In the end, it would become part of the Pennsylvania, just like the section from Terre Haute to Indianapolis. The Indianapolis-Rushville-Hamilton-Cincinnati route would also be built, by another company. This road would become part of the Baltimore & Ohio eventually, and formed part of CSX’s only non-former Conrail asset from Indianapolis to the east. The last route mentioned was added to the Lawrenceburgh Road mentioned five paragraphs ago.

13) The Indianapolis and Lafayette Road. Connecting the state capital to the Wabash River, and hence the Canal, at Lafayette, for a total of 69 miles. It was under construction in 1850, and was expected to be completed in 1851. This road would join forces with the Lawrencebugh road above to become a founding member of the Big Four Railway. It would survive into the Penn Central era, but not much past that.

14) Indianapolis and Peru Road. Another route to connect Indianapolis to the Wabash & Erie Canal, this time at Peru 76 miles away. Parts of the route, as of the time of the editorial, were completed using strap rail. “Some portion of it will be in operation next year.” The I&P would became, in its history, part of the Lake Erie & Western, part of the Nickel Plate, and in the end of its mainline life, Norfolk & Western. Parts of this line survive today.

15) Indianapolis and Bellefontaine. Covered yesterday in the entry “The ‘Bee’ Line,” the 83 miles from Indianapolis to the Ohio state line was under construction, and was said to be using heavy rail.

16) The Michigan And Ohio Road. There was a lot going on with the plan of this railroad, which at the time was just being surveyed in sections. Starting at Logansport, the road was to connect to Anderson on the Bellefontaine line. From there, it would connect to New Castle and Knightstown, where it would directly connect to the Knightstown & Shelbyville, thus creating a line from Jeffersonville and Madison to the Wabash & Erie Canal at Logansport. It was also speculated that the road would eventually connect Knightstown to Cincinnati. There are so many future railroads involved in this plan, I will be writing an entire article on this one.

17) Fort Wayne and Muncie Road. Connecting the Wabash & Erie Canal at Fort Wayne to the Bellefontaine road at Muncie 70 miles away. At the time, a charter had been obtained. A line along this route would eventually be built, forming the Nickel Plate line connecting the two cities.

18) Michigan Southern Railroad. The plan was, at the time, that the Michigan Southern would make a detour south at Coldwater, Michigan, forming a “not less than” 100 mile route through Indiana on its way to connecting Detroit to Chicago. The line would be built. It would become part of the New York Central System in Indiana before 1930 when the Big Four was officially absorbed. It still survives today as a heavily travelled route through Northern Indiana.

The article goes on to mention other forms of transportation in Indiana. But that will keep for another day.

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