When State Road Construction Required A Railroad Siding

1932 Indiana State Official Highway Map
of SR 3 from Greensburg to Rushville.

1933. The Indiana State Highway Commission started working on upgrading, and moving, State Road 3 between Greensburg and Rushville. As was typical of the time, the route of the state road wasn’t exactly straight, as shown in the 1932 map to the left. Before the state decided to move the road, it left Greensburg along the road that is still, to this day, State Road 3. At Decatur County Road 800 N, or Williamstown, the original route turned east to Rush County Road 100 W. At Milroy, or what is now SR 244, the road once again turned east for a mile, then north on Base Road for the rest of the trip to Rushville.

In another typical ISHC construction decision, the new SR 3 would run very close to the railroad track that is in place. In this case, the New York Central (Big Four until 1930) line that would ultimately connect Anderson to North Vernon through Knightstown, Rushville and Greensburg. And this is where the contractor that is building the new state road decided to use the resources at the location to his advantage.

The story was reported in the Daily Republican of Rushville on 20 June 1933. “Preliminary work on construction of a railroad switch which will handle shipments for the paving of State Road 3 has been started along the Big Four railroad two miles north of Milroy.”

1933 Indiana Official State Highway
Map of SR 3 between Williamstown
and Rushville.

The railroad company was putting in a 40 car siding for the arrival of construction supplies. The company name of the contractor for the road project, the Johnson Construction Company, would be the name of the siding, called “Johnson’s Switch.”

“Located near the point where the new state road will leave the present Rushville-Milroy pike to swerve across new ground to State Road 244 west of Milroy.”

Plans at the time were for 20 cars of material a day to arrive at Johnson’s Siding. The construction company would set up their office at the siding location. The materials that would need mixing would be done near the construction office. The Daily Republican reported that “several pieces of the company’s road machinery were unloaded at this site prior to opening the work on the spur track.”

1937 Indiana Official State Highway Map
showing the new SR 3 south of Rushville.

“Until the side track is ready to receive shipments of material and equipment, there will be likely be little labor done on the state road.

It was also reported that Rush County men were lining up to get jobs working on the road. 1933 was the low point of the Great Depression. Work projects were being started all over the United States. Unemployment in the summer of 1933 was around 25% nationwide.

Local men were gathering at the office of the Rushville Township Trustee, Harry Patton, hoping to get work on the new road. “But it was not known when the contractor will be ready to hire extra employees.”

Johnson’s Switch didn’t last long after the completion of the road project. There was no need for such a siding otherwise. The new State Road 3 would be listed as completed on the 1934 Indiana Official State Highway Map. But there was a small time in history when the railroad helped with the construction of the state highway system. This new route of State Road 3 would last past the end of the railroad that helped build it. The road is still in use today (2020). The section of railroad where Johnson’s Switch was located was removed from state highway maps in 1976, nearly 45 years ago. The railroad opened in 1881, and was closed a little over 90 years later. The replacement of SR 3 from Williamstown to Rushville has been around nearly that long now.

More about the railroad can be seen in the Indiana Transportation History blog entry of 9 March 2020: “Vernon, Greensburg and Rushville Railroad.”

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