1860: Railroads to Indianapolis

One of the things that I enjoy doing is reading the City Directories of years past. Quite a few of them are available online. They can even be downloaded to your local computer if you want. They are available from the IUPUI University Library. Anyway, what started as an effort to find out when exactly Michigan Road became Michigan Avenue/Southeastern Avenue and Northwestern Avenue turned into “oh, look at these railroad listings.” Is there any doubt why I have a YouTube show called Short Attention Span Theatre?

This topic caught my interest because it actually lists not only the railroad company names, but also the destination cities of that railroad. It is important to keep in mind that, at that time, there weren’t monster railroad companies like the Pennsylvania or the New York Central. Those came later by buying consolidations of smaller companies that would, originally, have two, maybe three, major cities in mind.

The list from the City Directories also made me change a few assumptions that I had always made about railroads leaving the Hoosier capitol. For instance, the Bellefontaine Line, as listed in 1860, is described as “in full operation. Whole length, 202 miles. Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cleveland Railroad Co. From Indianapolis to Columbus.” It never occurred to me that the line would be listed as going to Columbus, Ohio, since every map I have ever seen shows it aiming toward Cleveland. The local offices of the Bellefontaine were listed as being on the northeast corner of Meridian and Louisiana Streets. That location, today, is the headhouse for the historic Union Station.

One line under construction at the time was listed with a complete length, when done, of 149 miles from Indianapolis to Decatur, Illinois. The directory reports that $500,000 had already been spent on the future Indiana & Illinois Central Railway.

The Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad was listed as connecting the two title cities, via Lawrenceburgh (spelled correctly for that time), without changing cars. One might say “so?” Except the journey used “the Ohio and Mississippi broad gauge track from Lawrenceburgh to Cincinnati.” The Indianapolis & Cincinnati had offices on “south Delaware street, one square north of South street.” That location isn’t as simple to locate as it sounds. Keep in mind that section of the original city design contained very few “squares.” That can be seen in the ITH entry “Indianapolis’ Mile Square.”

Another railroad that connected Indianapolis to Cincinnati was the Indiana Central Railway. For those of you that know more about railroad company history, you are probably scratching your head right now. The Indiana Central was listed as “in full operation. Running from Indianapolis to Cincinnati and Dayton, via Richmond.” The line that would later become the Pennsylvania mainline from Pittsburgh to St. Louis would be a second route to Cincinnati as far as most were concerned at the time. The offices were listed as “corner Delaware street, and Virginia ave. Freight office, one square on Delaware street.”

The next three railroads listed would be short descriptions…and two of them were interrelated, but originally not entirely by choice. The first listed was the Jeffersonville Railroad, “in full operation from Indianapolis to Jeffersonville. Length of Road, 108 miles.” The third listed was the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad “in full operation. Running from Indianapolis to Madison. Length of Road, 89 miles.” These two companies had their offices at the Madison Depot. The Jeffersonville at 43 South Street, the Madison at 45 South Street.

The second railroad, listed between the two above, was the Lafayette and Indianapolis Railroad. With a total length of 64 miles between the two title cities.

“From Terre Haute to Indianapolis, seventy-three miles. Passenger trains leave Terre Haute, three trains daily, (Sundays excepted,) making close connections with all trains at Indianapolis, also, at Terre Haute, with through trains for St. Louis.” Thus was the entry for the Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad in 1860.

The last connecting railroad listed was the Peru and Indianapolis Railroad. It was “in full operation from Indianapolis to Peru, a distance of seventy-three miles. Connects at Peru with Toledo, Wabash and Western Railroad.”

There was one railroad company listed in the 1860 City Directory that had offices in Indianapolis, but nothing else was listed. The offices for the Evansville, Indianapolis and Cleveland Straight Line Railroad Company were listed as “Office No. 3, Post Office Building.” The post office, at that time, was “on Meridian street, near corner of Washington.”

All of these railroad companies would change hands several times during consolidations. It wouldn’t be long before the Jeffersonville and the Madison & Indianapolis would become the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis. It would find itself joining what here is listed as the Indiana Central to become part of the Panhandle. Later, the Terre Haute & Richmond, as the Terre Haute & Indianapolis, would become part of the Vandalia, which in turn became part of the Panhandle.

The Peru & Indianapolis would become the Lake Erie & Western, at one time a direct New York Central property. But the NYC sold it, and it became the Nickel Plate. Most of that line has now been removed.

The Indianapolis & Cincinnati, the Indianapolis, Pittsburgh & Cleveland and the Lafayette & Indianapolis would form the backbone of what would become the Big Four Railway in 1889. The Indiana & Illinois Central would later become part of the Baltimore & Ohio.


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