Railroads of Indiana, 1850

One of the beautiful things of the internet, one of the things that make doing something like the Indiana Transportation History blog so easy, is the access to a world of information. Yes, some is accurate, and some isn’t. But my favorite resources, as I have shown over the past almost two years, is maps. While maps can be wrong at times, or more to the point, based on “future” information that doesn’t come to be, they are still a great resource if you can figure where they went wrong.

Today, I found another map that grabbed my interest. Looking at a map of railroads in Indiana, even today, there are railroads all over the state. A railroad map from the turn of the 20th Century is a spider web of routes crossing the state in all kinds of directions. But the map that I found today is one of Indiana in 1850. It is an interesting look what was, and how many changes have come about in the 170 years since it was printed.

When railroads started being built in the state, just like everywhere else, it was a jumble of little companies, usually with destination cities in the company title. There were 15 railroads on the map at the time, with some that were proposed. One of them was in Ohio, but would later be part of an Indiana system when it was completed. The map that I found showed the railroad routes as straight lines, not the actual routes themselves. I am going to cover them in the order the map numbered them.

Number 1: Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. I have covered this railroad many times, as it was the first long distance railroad built in Indiana. The engineering of this route, which included the steepest railroad tracks in the nation, was top notch at the time. Although it was originally been on the cheap, using iron strapped rails instead of the “T” rail that would become standard (and much safer) later. In the end, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Number 2: Shelbyville Lateral Branch. This line was built as a feeder road to the Madison & Indianapolis. Its history isn’t terribly long. It connected the Madison & Indianapolis at Edinburgh to Shelbyville, opening up farm produce from Shelby County to the world at large. The railroad, depending on what history you read because it is very spotty, would last around five years before it was abandoned.

Number 3: Shelbyville & Rushville Railroad. Shelbyville was a “rail center” for a little while in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This route connected the two title towns, opening Rush County to the markets available on the Madison & Indianapolis.

Number 4: Shelbyville & Knightstown Railroad. Another short lived railroad, that would open southern Henry County to the same markets served by the above three. This company would last less than a decade, according to the source. Again, the history is spotty about this road at best. Later, part of route would become part of a railroad again, but instead of connecting Knightstown to Shelbyville, it would connect to Rushville.

Number 5: Columbus, Nashville & Bloomington. Trying to find any history on this road is difficult at best. I am not even sure if it existed at all. This will require more research.

Number 6: Martinsville Branch Railroad. Another road, like the one above. History is hard to find like the one above. It connected the Madison & Indianapolis to Martinsville. Later, the same connection would be made, in 1853, from the M&I at Franklin to Martinsville. That railroad would would be the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville.

Number 7: Indianapolis & Bellefontaine Railroad. This route connected Indianapolis to Pendleton, Anderson, Muncie and Winchester to ultimately Bellefontaine, Ohio. Down the road, this would be one of the founding parts of the Big Four Railroad. It is still in use today as part of CSX.

Number 8: Indianapolis & Peru Railroad. Today, this is mostly known as the Nickel Plate connecting Indianapolis, Noblesville, Tipton, Kokomo and Peru. Or at least what’s left of it. At one point, for about nine months, it was consolidated with the Madison & Indianapolis creating a route from Madison to Peru under one umbrella. Shareholders, and the courts, put an end to that marriage, creating two separate companies again.

Number 9: Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad. Another constituent part of what would become the Big Four Railroad. At one point, at the Indianapolis end, the line came down alongside the Central Canal. It would be also be the scene of a large train wreck that would kill members of the Purdue University football team (Part 1 and Part 2).

Number 10: Lafayette & Crawfordsville Railroad. This railroad would later become part of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville, later known as the Monon. At the end of this article, I will show the only proposed railroad that in included on this map, which would be a connecting route from Crawfordsville to Bedford, thus creating the remaining part of the Monon mainline through western Indiana.

Number 11: Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Richmond Railroad. The original plan for this railroad was to connect the entire state, east to west, following roughly the National Road corridor. It would never be built past Indianapolis. Over the years, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Number 12: New Albany & Salem Railroad. This would be the southern end of what would become the Monon. There were several companies between the New Albany & Salem and the Monon. I covered the history of the Monon in two parts, part 1 and part 2.

Number 13: Jeffersonville & Columbus Railroad. Most references to this road refer to it as the Jeffersonville, or “J.” The plan was to build the line all the way to Indianapolis. The problem came with the management of the Madison & Indianapolis. As the first railroad, the M&I assumed the attitude that they were the kings of the state’s railroads and others, especially direct competitors like the “J,” should just be good little kids and do what they are told.

There is a story about the M&I not wanting to help another railroad, because they weren’t in business to provide charity to other companies. The company they turned down would be the THI&R, which would be far more successful than the M&I in the end.

The M&I refused to cooperate with the J. So, ultimately, the J not only invested in feeder lines, taking traffic from the M&I, they started building a parallel track to the M&I. Ultimately, the J would end up buying the struggling M&I. And, like the M&I, would become part of the Pennsylvania system.

Number 14: Lawrenceburg & Greensburg Railroad. This road was built to connect the markets of Decatur and Ripley Counties to the markets at Cincinnati. Ultimately, the plan was to build the road all the way to Indianapolis, allowing a more direct route from the Hoosier capital to the Queen City of the Ohio. Traffic would be barged from Lawrenceburg to Cincinnati, which was faster than the already in place barged traffic from Madison to Cincinnati.

Number 15: Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. The only reason that I am mentioning this is because it would be the foundation of what would ultimately become the Baltimore & Ohio connecting Indianapolis to Cincinnati directly.

As mentioned above, the only proposed railroad on this map is the future Monon route connecting Bedford to Crawfordsville. Several towns along the proposed route would not be serviced by any other railroad company for years. And today, most of this route no longer exists, having been given back to the locals when the bigger companies were created, and the route became excessively redundant.

There is one more transportation facility included on this map. The Wabash & Erie Canal from Evansville to Fort Wayne and beyond is marked on it.

The entire map that I used for this article is available here: Railroad map of Indiana, by Col. Thomas A. Morris, Civil Engineer, | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

A Quick Look At Today’s State Roads, From A Historical View

A Facebook direct message from a reader of the blog started the research bug going again. Now, while I am still looking up information on his particular subject (transportation to Center Valley in Hendricks County, particularly a possible railroad there), part of his subject did come up. As well as a few others. Today, I want to look at the things that I have found while researching that topic…while not finding much about the topic.

The “town” of Center Valley is along the route that would become State Road 39 just north of the Morgan-Hendricks line. A post office existed there from 1855 to 1902. But what is important is the route that rumbles north to south through the town…the aforementioned SR 39. It wouldn’t be until 1932 when that section of SR 39 was added to the state highway system. But, the designation “state road” goes back quite a bit…like 1833.

The 17th General Assembly of Indiana passed into law several state roads. The first I want to mention would be the one that would make Center Valley (or, more to the point Centre Valley) a place. The route that would eventually become SR 39 was built as the Martinsville-Danville-Frankfort State Road. The southern end would be part of the state highway system from 1920 – the bridge over White River west of Martinsville. The northern end would be part of original State Road 6, connecting Lebanon to Frankfort. As original SR 6, it would become SR 39 with the Great Renumbering.

Two more state roads would from Martinsville would be added to Indiana with this meeting of the General Assembly. The first is one that would not become part of the state highway system. It was described as “an act to locate a state road from Martinsville, in the county of Morgan, by the way of Cox’s mill and Solomon Dunagan’s, in said Morgan county, to Stilesville, in the county of Hendricks.” This is an example of how the General Assembly would set up a “state road” through a particular person’s land. I would assume that what is now Tudor Road, southeast of Stilesville, was part of this road.

Another state road project including Martinsville did make it to the state highway system… eventually. The act created “a state road from Martinsville, in Morgan County, to intersect the state road leading from Madison to Indianapolis, at Edinburgh, in Johnson county by the way of Morgantown in said Morgan county.” This state road would be added back into the state highway system in the 1930’s…as State Road 252. A history of that road is available from ITH here.

But Martinsville wasn’t the only beneficiary of that particular meeting of the General Assembly.

A state road was created by the General Assembly to connect the town of Lagrange, in Tippecanoe County, to Logansport, in Cass County. Where is LaGrange? Well, it was a town along the Wabash River at the Warren-Tippecanoe County line. It was founded by Isaac Shelby in 1827…and had a post office from 1832 to 1835. It’s prime was with the Wabash Canal during the riverboat era. When the Wabash Railroad was built on the opposite side of the Wabash River, the town of LaGrange just dried up and disappeared.

Another road that was created at that time would connect Williamsport to the Illinois-Indiana State line via Lebanon (sic), now West Lebanon, and the now abandoned town of Chesapeake (about two miles east of Marshfield). This route will require some research.

Part of the road that would become, in time, SR 46 between Newbern and Bloomington would be added as a state road in 1833. The original road would start at the Michigan Road in Napoleon, travel through Camden (unknown today), Newbern, and Columbus to Bloomington. The section from Newbern to Columbus was part of the state highway system as SR 46, until INDOT truncated SR 9, turning the old SR 9 into SR 46.

Stilesville would be mentioned again as a state road was created to connect it to Crawfordsville via New Maysville.

The last road for this article would be a road that is still in existence, more or less, but not part of the modern state highway system. The description of the act was “to locate a state road from Green Castle, in Putnam county, to Carlisle, in Sullivan county, by way of Manhattan in Putnam county and Bowlingreen and New Brunswick, in Clay county.” Some day, I want to do more research on this road.

Michigan Road at Logansport, Revisited

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog entry about the Michigan Road at Logansport (“Michigan Road at Logansport“). In that article, I made a pretty good case for the route of the Michigan Road through the town, using an 1836 map of the towns of Logansport and West Logan (“Plan of the town of Logansport and West Logan“). This articles is not to counter that article. I want to show that source materials are important…and their distance from the original source, whether that be in distance or time, is also very important.

In 1914, the Indiana State Board of Accounts published a book called “Development and lands of Michigan Road.” I have mentioned this several times over the history of this blog. It is a very important research tool for those studying the Michigan Road in its entirety. The detail that the Board of Accounts gave to the book is incredible. And, because of the authoring organization of the book, it would be almost impeachable as a source. After all, the Michigan Road was built by the state of Indiana, which should have records of surveys, deeds, cash outlays, etc. And the Board of Accounts would have had those records.

If one looks at the map of the Michigan Road through Cass County (which is the link I provided above for the book from the State Board of Accounts), the map shows that the Michigan Road separates from what would become called the Burlington Road in Section 2, Township 26 North, Range 1 East, and heads due north to cross the Wabash River west of the town of Logansport. In today’s terms, this would be where Lynas Avenue turns away from Burlington Avenue.

Another important note. The Burlington Road was the same as the Michigan Road. The route out of Logansport, towards Burlington, would eventually be sold to a toll road company that would change the name. In Logansport, it was called Burlington Avenue because that’s where Third Street in town headed…to Burlington.

What is now Cicott Street from West Clinton Street to Wabash Avenue, is what is shown as the Michigan Road route through Cass County. This Board of Accounts book shows that the Michigan Road does not enter Logansport at all, but bypasses it.

Now this is where I said distance, in both time and location, are important. The Board of Accounts book was, as mentioned before, written in 1914. No matter the number of records available, it was still 80 years after the road was constructed.

The second thing at play is that nothing ever went completely to plan when it came to roadbuilding projects at the time. It is entirely possible that the surveyors purposely bypassed Logansport at the time. Granted, there was very little in that area of the state at the time. It would not have been like later road projects that were “encouraged” by local government and business officials to run the road through this town or that. (I call this the “oh, look at all the money I dropped” plan. It happened quite a bit…especially in the Auto Trail era.) There were very few people there.

I tend to err on the side of the 1836 Logansport map linked to above. First, it was created in 1836, while the town of West Logan was being planned. Two, the people making the map want it to be as accurate as possible, since it is a real estate company trying to sell lots in the aforementioned West Logan. Three, and most important, road builders, especially in that era, knew the importance of not skipping a town if they could at all help it. Logansport, no matter how small, would be an important place to get food, sleep and maintenance along the miles of vast forests and farms in northern Indiana at the time. Logansport, like Indianapolis, predated the road. Other points between those two came up because of the road.

Now, I know, there is nothing specifically showing in the 1836 map of Logansport that the route went through town. The closest thing to it is the word “Michigan Road” north of the Eel River, east of the Canal, and the fact that there is a bridge at Wall Street in West Logan to connect to Logansport. Oh, and the fact that the bridge from Biddle Island south is labeled “Michigan Road to Indianapolis.”

But these facts will keep my thought process as this being the original route of the Michigan Road.

Wabash And Erie Canal

On 2 March 1827, the Congress of the Unites States at Washington granted land for the states of Ohio and Indiana to build a canal from Toledo, Ohio, to Evansville, Indiana. That canal, following the Maumee and Wabash Rivers, it would connect Lake Erie to the Ohio River. Along the way, many important towns would be included, not limited to Fort Wayne, Logansport, Lafayette, Terre Haute and Evansville. What was to be an important part of Indiana transportation ended with a thud not long after construction would be completed.

The land grants given to Indiana were acted upon almost a year later with, on 5 January 1828, the General Assembly appointed three commissioner to lay out the route of the canal. Disagreements between railroad and canal interests would delay the groundbreaking for the longest canal in the United States until 22 February 1832.

Construction would be slow on the canal. Part of this would be attributable to the sheer length of the project: 460 miles. Another contributing factor would be the fact that canal building, by its nature, is a slow process requiring lots of both manual labor and engineering. By 1837, construction was moving along when the economic Panic of that year hit the United States. The canal had reached from Fort Wayne to Logansport by that time. Most of the internal improvement projects in Indiana came close to a halt. The Wabash & Erie was no exception. Construction continued…but on a very curtailed pace.

Further construction would continue, however. By 1843, the canal connected Toledo to Lafayette. Five years later, it reached Terre Haute. And five years after that, in 1853, construction was completed to Evansville. This marked the completion of the entire canal, and water traffic, albeit slowly, could traverse from Lake Erie to the Mississippi River and beyond unencumbered. This would not last, however. It should be noted here that the section from Worthington to Evansville had the original name of the Central Canal, and as such would be included as part of the Wabash & Erie.

Dawson’s Fort Wayne Weekly Times of 20 November 1859 reported that the canal would be closed soon to navigation. Whether that would be for the winter or for good was never explained in the short blurb in the newspaper. This was after citizens along the canal route had written a letter to the General Assembly in February 1859 commenting that the state should give money to the canal company in an effort to shore up its horrible finances to keep it open. Their argument being that even though the canal has been a financial failure, it has served a vital function in opening up, and maintaining markets to, the towns along its path.

Another argument is that the federal government gave the state 1.6 million acres of land to build the canal, which the state did sell excess portions of. The state owes it to the canal, and to the people along the route, to make good on their duties to keep the canal running.

It would fall on mostly deaf ears.

Most of the problems with the canal were natural. The soft topsoil of Indiana led to a lot of dredging needed along the entire route. This along required a lot of money. Add to it the native animals of Indiana, especially muskrats, that would burrow through the canal walls. Keeping the canal open was a constant, and expensive, job.

While portions of the canal would start closing to traffic as early as 1859, the ultimate end came at Terre Haute in 1876, when the canal company, then based there, decided to start selling off canal lands. The last canal boat would make its run from Huntington in 1874. By then, a majority of the canal had fallen into disuse and disrepair. Parts of it were filled in to create wagon trails. Other parts were sold to railroad companies (read Wabash, among others) for the railroad right-of-way. Parts would, in 1926, become part of US 24.

There are several places in which the canal route is marked or even sections of the actual canal maintained. In 1991, while construction I-469 near Fort Wayne, an original canal lock was found buried in the ground. That lock, Gronauer Lock No. 2, would be partially preserved. Parts of that lock are in the Indiana State Museum.

Another remnant of the canal age, and a piece of what was to become the southern part of what became the Wabash & Erie, is the Central Canal through Indianapolis. The Central Canal was to connect the Wabash & Erie at Logansport, through Indianapolis, to Worthington and beyond to Evansville. When the original Central Canal project fell through, the southern part of that project became lumped with the Wabash & Erie.

Michigan Road at White River

Indiana tends to be an enigma. The people, generally, tend to look at maintaining the status quo when it comes to government and institutions. Yet, somehow, the motto of “progress, progress, progress” rings when it comes to places and roads of historic value. There has been a lot of history torn out around Indiana in the name of progress. And this is very evident when it comes to the paths and trails that served Indiana, but are best left either bypassed or destroyed by the march of progress.

Indianapolis News, 30 August 1919

This subject started while looking for an article about the Michigan Road…and it being accepted into the state highway system. I will have to get back to that subject at some point. Anyway, I found an article in the Indianapolis News talking about the Michigan Road Bridge over White River (the one near Butler University) with the headline “Michigan Road Bridge Over White River, Numbered Among The Doomed, Will Give Way To A Modern Structure As Its Contemporaries Did.”

The bridge in question had been there so long that locals didn’t know what the County Commissioners were talking about when they called it the Northwestern Avenue bridge. It had always been (and still is today) the Michigan Road bridge, calling back to the time when the road was the primary north-south route from Indianapolis to South Bend. “The pioneers forget that Indianapolis is a growing city, and that the one far distant Michigan road bridge is now at the edge of town.”

The News goes on to talk about the interesting and romantic history of the old bridge. First, the talk of the cycling path for the days that riding a bicycle was all the rage. The cycling path in question ran along the southern/eastern bank of the Central Canal at the southern end of the Michigan Road bridge. A toll house on the cycle path (apparently, the path was a toll road for bicycles) was located at the Michigan Road bridge. “Wheelmen,” as bicyclists were called at the time, would detour to the cycle path to ride toward downtown. The cycle path would later cross Northwestern Avenue later, near 16th Street.

The White River sits between two rather large hills along the Michigan Road. When the age of the automobile came, climbing out of the White River valley was quite the chore. Of course, these hills were a challenge to the bicycles before the cars…and the horses before the bicycles. By 1919, the treacherous hills on both sides of the valley had been reduced in grade. In the early days of automobiles, the two hills were used for engine testing in hill climbs. Announcements months in advance would tell of the coming time to test your motors climbing the Michigan Road hills.

Closeup of the above image from the Indianapolis News showing just the Northwestern Avenue (Michigan Road) bridge over White River.

The bridge that was in place in 1919 was a replacement for an original wooden covered bridge at the site. “It has been gone for many years, having failed to stand up under heavy and constantly increasing strain of travel over the Michigan road.” The first image in this article also shows the Northwestern Avenue bridge over Fall Creek, or at least the one that had been replaced prior to publication of the 30 August 1919 article.

Despite the amount of traffic carried by the Michigan Road, it would take several more years before this section would once again become a state road. The replacement of the bridge over White River was taken on by Marion County, not the state.

Cambridge City, 1870

Today, I want to look at another historic map available from the Indiana State Library Online. This map is, as the subject states, of Cambridge City in 1870. It is available here: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/2896/rec/31

Cambridge City…for the longest time it was essentially a cross roads town, but not with the number of mud paths to the city. There was a state road to the north of town…but I have been unable to find where it went. Today, that state road is Delaware Street. But the major contributors to the transportation success of Cambridge City would be the National Road and the White Water Canal.

Later, the town was crossed by three different railroad companies, which would, in the end become the New York Central (Big Four), the Nickle Plate and the Pennsylvania. Of which only one exists today.

Cambridge City today shows its history, although a majority of the traffic passes a couple of miles north along Interstate 70.

I plan on just letting the map do most of the talking for me today. I really hope you find it as interesting as I do.

Terre Haute, 1854

The mid-19th Century in Indiana was both a traveler’s nightmare and dream. At that time, the state was criss-crossed, or soon would be, with multiple railroads and several canals. And Terre Haute found itself at the crossroads of both. Today, I want to look at Terre Haute through the use of a map that is available at the Indiana State Library online. That maps is at the following link: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/1064/rec/7.

First, the National Road came to the town. The idea was that the National Road would be an improved highway, in good condition throughout the state. By the time of this map, it had already been sold to toll road companies. Those companies, in exchange for keeping the road in good condition, would be allowed to charge people to use it. The National Road would connect to Wabash Street in Terre Haute, but didn’t cross the Wabash River along that path. There was a Terre Haute Draw Bridge that crossed the river along the Ohio Street corridor.

The second method of transport that would enter the town was the Wabash & Erie Canal. This canal was the longest such facility in the United States, connecting Fort Wayne to Evansville. It entered the city from the north, separating from the river near where Florida Street is, then finding itself next to the river again around Sycamore Street. At Eagle Street, the canal made a turn back to the north in a loop that would carry it back to a point along what would be Spruce Street, then Canal Street. This section is now part of the Indiana State University campus. It would turn south again just past Ninth Street, cross the National Road, then head off to the southeast as it continued its way to Evansville.

The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad, planned to connect the two title cities through Indianapolis, came into town from the northeast, with the railroad itself ending in a station on the north side of National Road at what is now 10th Street. The railroad that would become the Vandalia connected to the TH&R near what is now 13th Street, making a looping turn to head out along the Tippecanoe Street corridor to cross the Wabash River.

The other railroad in town, the Evansville & Crawfordsville, had its station on the southside of the National Road, across the street from the TH&R station. This railroad continued north out of town, following the current rail corridor on its way toward Crawfordsville. It, too, followed the 10th Street corridor before turning west, following the same Tippecanoe Street corridor up to and crossing the Wabash.

The area between 9th and 10th Streets at the National Road would, ultimately, include all four of these transportation facilities. Today, only the path of the old E&C still exists, although part of the old TH&R is available for use as a rail trail. The old canal bed has been removed for many years.

Fort Wayne Bypass

If one looks at a map of Fort Wayne, the first thing you would notice is the interstates that flank the city. I-69 flanks Fort Wayne to the west, and I-469 to the east. Between the two, it forms a circle around Indiana’s second largest city. But the designation of I-469 was a late comer to the whole plan.

When the idea of a bypass of Fort Wayne was floated, the idea was create a bypass removing US 24 and US 27 from the downtown area. The location of the new bypass would route both of those US routes far outside the bounds of the city. Most of the new bypass would be built outside the distant city limits.

The bypass would be constructed starting at Lafayette Center Road southwest of the city at I-69. The first section of the route would be built from that point to connect to US 30 east of New Haven, a distance of 19 miles. The contracts were let for this project starting 12 June 1984.

1989 Indiana State Highway Official Map showing the Fort Wayne area. The first completed part of the bypass is US 24.

But it wasn’t an interstate project at the time. When it was assigned a number, it was given the designation SR 469. Contracts for the road, posted in 1987, all referred to the route as US 24. What is so important about the designation as SR 469 is the financing for the project. As a state road, the state would have to pay 25% of the total project costs. If it were an interstate, that share would only be 10%.

By late July 1989, the project would acquire an interstate designation. However, that designation would not come with the boost in financing from Washington that would normally be expected. Since the project started as a state project, it would be continued to be funded the same way. When the type of road switched from state to interstate, it was expected that the road would be completed by 1992. The section from Minnich Road to Lafayette Center was expected to open in October, 1989.

In September 1989, it was publicly announced that the Fort Wayne bypass was the important project when it came to state. An additional $9.6 million was allocated to Indiana from Washington, DC. Of that, three-quarters of the money would be applied to a single interchange at Fort Wayne – SR 469 and US 30.

Work came to a screeching halt on SR 469 in June 1991 when workers found a wooden lock from the Wabash & Erie Canal while excavating for the new US 24/SR 469 interchange. This was unique in several ways. One, there weren’t any locks from the canal that were believed to have been still intact. None were thought to have survived the removal of the canal. Two, the lock was pretty much in tact, even though it had been buried. Having been built in the 1840’s, it was quite a find. INDOT agreed to halt construction until a plan was put in place for preservation ideas. The choice was redesign the highway, or remove the locks. This particular lock was called the Gronauer Lock, measuring 15 feet wide and 100 feet long. It was one of the largest on the canal. And while the rest of the locks along the canal deteriorated, this one was saved by the fact that it was buried between 10 and 15 years after the canal was abandoned. The canal was only used for a few years after opening in 1853. Corruption, mismanagement and the railroads saw the end of the londest canal built in the United States.

For a project that started percolating in the minds of INDOT in 1984, and started being built in 1987, the Fort Wayne Bypass was finally opened completely to traffic on 23 October 1995. With the completion of the road, the designation SR 469 was removed, and all signs were replaced with the shield of Interstate 469.

The Central Canal

16 January 1836.  The Mammoth Internal Improvement Bill passed the Indiana General Assembly.  With it, many projects were created to serve the residents of Indiana.  Two directly affected Indianapolis.  Those were the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad and the Indiana Central Canal.  Today, I want to focus on an article printed in the Indianapolis Jounral of 12 August 1900, which was actually a paper read by Mr. William H. Smith to the Indiana Centennial Association.

“At the time Indianapolis was a straggling village in the wilderness, containing less than than two thousand inhabitants.”  “It had been selected as the capital of the new State, but was located in the dense forests, without a cleared farm within twenty miles of it.”  At the time, there were no wagon roads in the state.  A buffalo trace connecting Vincennes and New Albany, and an Indian trail from the buffalo trace towards the center of the state.  Jacob Whetzel had obtained permission to build a trace from Brookville to the Bluffs of White River at what is now Waverly.  Transportation was very limited.  And hence, the call was put out to create infrastructure to open the state up.

The call for improvements started when the Federal Government built “a military road from Cumberland, Md., to St. Louis.”  The bill that passed the General Assembly consisted of a “number of canals, a railroad or two, and two or three turnpikes.”

The Central Canal was going to connect the Wabash and Erie Canal between Fort Wayne and Logansport to itself near Evansville via Muncie and Indianapolis.  The Wabash and Erie Canal “was being constructed under the aid of the general government.  It had been one of the dreams of Washington, the father of his country.” 

Two routes were considered for the canal.  The lawmakers preferred a route through Delaware County, as written into the law.  But another route, coming almost directly south from Logansport through Indianapolis.  This one was called the Pipe Creek Route.  To attach to Muncietown, as Muncie was called at the time, a feeder route would run to the town if the Pipe Creek Route was chosen.

Hundreds of men started work on the Central Canal almost as soon as the $3.5 million was allocated.  Real estate prices went through the roof.  A dam was built at Broad Ripple to funnel water into the future canal.  The canal was finished from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis by the spring of 1839.  The water, turned directly into the new canal, took several days to get to Indianapolis from Broad Ripple.  This was due to the construction of the canal.  The water was seeping though the gravel bed where the canal was built.  “After the water was turned in at Broad Ripple the people of Indianapolis spent their days on the banks, watching for the coming of the tide to tell them that the first section of their canal was complete.”

The first excursion along the canal from Indianapolis to Broad Ripple happened on 27 June 1839.  The canal packet was drawn by two horses.  But the canal was never used for navigation purposes.  “Once and a while a boat loaded with wood would come to town, and on one or two occasions hay was brought, but as the canal was never completed it failed of ever being of any use for navigation.”

“Suddenly the whole scheme of internal improvements collapsed.  The financial panic of 1837 made it impossible for the State to secure any more money, and much of what had been obtained had been recklessly wasted by bad management.” 

The State tried to sell the improvements for private completion…only to find that the only project anyone wanted was the railroad from Madison to Indianapolis.  The Canal turned into a water power source for industry.  A woolen mill, two cotton mills, two paper mills, an oil mill, two flour mills and two saw mills were located along the canal.  “The supply of water was not sufficient, and the canal was damaged several times by freshets, and those who had leased water power refused to pay their rent.”  In 1850, the Governor started suing those that would not pay their rent. 

A series of private owners, starting with the original $2,400 given to the state by Shoup, Newman and Rariden, led the facility to be ultimately to come into the possession of the Indianapolis Water Works.

“In the original construction many of the owners of abutting property gave the right of way, while in some instance the right was condemned under the law.  Through Indianapolis it had appropriated Missouri street it full width of ninety feet.  If the town ever gave any assent to this appropriation it was lost when the records were destroyed by fire some years afterward.”  “Along Missouri street the ditch was filled up, and finally the railroad to Lafayette was constructed along that thoroughfare.”

“As to the Central Canal, it was a great oversight that the city did not buy it in.  With it the city could have owned its own water works, its own lighting plant, and would have had power to rent out that would have more than paid the cost of maintenance.”

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.

Michigan Road in Marion County

It is often times mentioned that the Michigan Road, connecting Madison on the Ohio River to Michigan City on Lake Michigan, is the first state road in Indiana. However, that is not entirely accurate. There were state roads that were build before the Michigan Road. The special spot that the Michigan Road has is that it was the first state road to connect across the entire state. Most roads to that point connected one town to another. And it connected to the state capital at Indianapolis.

New Bethel, Indiana, 1889.

Crossing Marion County, it entered from the southeast section of the county, roughly two miles north of the Johnson-Marion County line from Shelby County. The road had been built to Shelbyville, and went in a directly line, more or less, from that county seat to Indianapolis. Not many towns were built along the Michigan Road in Marion County. The first built would be New Bethel, known today as Wanamaker. The town is located two miles north and three miles west of where the road enters the county.

The next location to pop up along the road would be where the road crosses from Franklin Township to Warren Township. That that location, the road meets a north-south road heading south, and a road that runs almost the entirety of the line that separates Franklin and Warren Townships. That location would acquire the name of “Five Points” due to the roads there.

It should be noted that through the 19th century, and quite a bit into the 20th, this section of the road had been known as the Michigan Road. It also had a turnpike, then a free gravel road, name: Lick Creek & New Bethel Turnpike (Free Gravel Road). This road, like many others in Marion County, would keep its original name until it entered the city limits of Indianapolis. Until the late 1890’s, the city street name for Michigan Road was Michigan Avenue. This was changed due to the fact that there already was a Michigan Street in the city which had been on the original design of the town of Indianapolis in 1821. The name was then changed to match the direction it left Indianapolis… Southeastern Avenue.

The first section of the road “ended” at the National Road east of downtown. That is now the (redesigned) corner of Washington Street and Southeastern Avenue. As with other state roads at the time…and even into the 1930s when state roads made a come back, no city streets were part of the original state road. Indiana had a history of “local, local, local” government mentality. This means the state would stand back while local government entities took care of the little things. In towns, that meant roads and streets.

But that is not to say that there wasn’t a plan on how to get the road from one end of the county to the other through Indianapolis. According to the Indiana State Board of Accounts, in a book published in 1914, the route of the road through the state capital would include Circle Street (now Monument Circle), Ohio Street, and Indiana Avenue. When the Michigan Road was built, Indianapolis was barely bigger than the original mile square. So once the road got to the corner of Indiana Avenue, West and North Streets, it was out of the town again.

Heading north, the Michigan Road was built as an extension of West Street, turning north northwest to travel in basically a straight line to the Hamilton-Marion County line. When street names were applied to the old road, the name West Street was continued until the old road crossed the Central Canal. At what was then Seventh Street, the name changed to Northwestern Avenue until the city limits…where ever those were at the time. When the city expanded, so did the name Northwestern. Eventually, the name got to 38th Street, where the city officially ended. From there, then as it is today, it still maintains the name Michigan Road.

Heading to the northwest, again there were very few towns built along the old road. North of the crossing of White River and (again) the Central Canal, a post office was installed. The post office had two names in its history: Mount Pleasant; and Alliance. The “town” of Mount Pleasant, most of which is long gone, was tucked between what is now Cold Spring Road and 51st Street. (A common mistake is that a lost of people will call it Cold Springs Road…it is singular.)

Augusta, Indiana, 1889.

Further north is the town of Augusta. It is centered at what is now 76th Street and Michigan Road. The post office there would be called Augusta, until it was moved 1.5 miles west of town where the railroad was built. A new town called Augusta was created in the 1860’s in Pike County. When the post office was reestablished in the original Augusta, it was called Eck.

The Michigan Road keeps going, uneventfully, to the Hamilton-Marion County line at what is now 96th Street. Commercialization along the route, especially from below 86th Street to past the county line, as led to a removal of the country scenes that had graced this section of Marion County for years.

The Michigan Road, especially in Marion County, has also been a second class citizen when it came to the railroads. I mentioned about that the Augusta post office had been moved 1.5 miles west due to the railroad. This was in 1852, when the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad was built connecting those two cities. It rain parallel to the Michigan Road for most of the journey through Marion County. A new settlement was built south and west of Augusta, originally called Hosbrook. It would be later called New Augusta. I have done some work on researching New Augusta, as it came up when I was working on my genealogy. One of the important families in the town is distantly related to mine.

Another place where the Michigan Road lost its importance to the railroad is in the southeastern section of the county. Two miles east, and three miles south of New Bethel (Wanamaker) is the railroad created town of Acton. Acton is along the line that connected Indianapolis to Cincinnati via Shelbyville, Greensburg and Lawrenceburg. The line was built in 1853 from Lawrenceburg to Indianapolis.

In a strange twist of fate, during the railroad consolidation era of the late 1860’s, the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad merged with the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad in 1867 to created the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway. Thus, two towns (Augusta and New Bethel) that were built along the same Michigan Road were basically replaced by two towns (New Augusta and Acton) built by what became the same railroad. The IC&L would become part of the founding members of the Big Four – the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway.

Lafayette, And Electric Trains

The county seat of Tippecanoe County has a very important distinction in the annuls of electric railroads. In 1888, it became the first city in Indiana to have a completely electrified street car system. But while not the subject of this post, this fact contributed to it. Today, I want to look at Lafayette’s two interurban lines, as shown in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 7 March 1976.

“The electric interurban! For those of us past 50, fond memories,” wrote Dave Chambers. He also made sure to mention that the interurbans and electric street cars used the same current, and same railroad gauge, as the street railways…so it used them.

Lafayette Journal & Courier photo of 7 March 1976. This image shows
the Indianapolis & Northwestern Traction Company’s Car #32
at Mulberry, Indiana. This picture was taken originally in 1907.

The first line to Lafayette was the Indianapolis & Northwestern Traction Company. “On Dec. 1, 1903, the Lafayette Street Railway has a visitor – Indianapolis and Northwestern traction car No. 21. This was the first interurban to come to Lafayette, the service entering the city via East Main St.”

Main Street was the Lafayette end of the old Lafayette State Road, which started at Indianapolis at the corner of North, West and Indiana as the Lafayette Road.

The interurban terminal, from the first day in 1903 to February 1923, was located at 16 North Third Street. To get there, the traction cars would loop around Courthouse Square. All of the city’s street cars circled around Courthouse Square. Outbound, the Indianapolis & Northwestern Traction would turn east on Columbia, north on Fourth, then turn eastbound on Main Street.

This route was followed even after the Indianapolis & Northwestern Traction was purchased by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern in 1907. Riding down the center of Main Street, the interurban started using its own right of way after passing Earl Avenue, where it moved to the eastern edge of the road. From there, it followed the current SR 38 out of the greater Lafayette area on on its way across the Tippecanoe County countryside. Near Dayton, it crossed the road to follow the then gravel road along the south side. “The tracks crossed in a treacherous manner from the north to south side of” the highway. “In the weeds and dust, only a traditional cross-buck sign stood sentinel to caution of the approach of the rapid and quiet traction cars.”

The horns on the interurbans were described in the article, as well. “Interurban air horns resembled the sound of an over-grown harmonica, melodious but not too penetrating.” Many accidents occurred at this crossing at the west end of Dayton.

The cars that ran along the line were described as averaging “61 feet in length , and weighed approximately 84,500 lbs.” The last car to run along the Indianapolis-Lafayette line would occur on 31 October 1930, less than three decades after it started.

The other line that entered Lafayette came from Fort Wayne, in the form of the form of the Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction Company. As mentioned in my previous article, Lafayette, the traction company was trying to obtain the old Wabash & Erie Canal towpath, starting in 1902, for use as the interurban right of way. As the new traction line entered Tippecanoe County, it basically paralleled the Wabash Railroad from Colburn to where both railroads crossed Wildcat Creek. Here the traction line turned east to cross, then follow, what was Springvale Road (now Schuyler Avenue) near Springvale Cemetery. Here it would follow the north edge of that road until it reached the city limits.

The interurban joined the city street car line at 18th Street and Schuyler Avenue. “The Monon Shops line was a series of six sharp-radius turns on the north side of the city, and it was a sight to be hold these big interurbans negotiating these sharp curves with the trucks squealing, and at nearly 45 degrees with the axis of the car body.”

The terminal for this traction line, until 11 February 1923, was located on Third Street between South and Columbia. Due to congestion, the schedules suffered from many delays at this terminal location. The freight depot for the line was on Ferry Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. The passenger station was moved to this location in February 1923. A lunchroom was added to the station in April 1923.

In January 1920, the name of the line changed from “Fort Wayne & Wabash Valley Traction” to Indiana Service Corporation, the name of the electric utility in Fort Wayne. The line was also used, under agreement, by the Indiana Union Traction Company.

This line ended service on 21 May 1932. In the end, Lafayette was serviced by the interurban for a total of 28 years.

Evansville, Indianapolis and Terre Haute Railway

In 1938, the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway took over one of two rail lines that connected Evansville to Terre Haute. That rail line was the Evansville, Indianapolis & Terre Haute Railway. Along the way, many different consolidations took place to create that company. Also, operating agreements had to be thrown out the window as they went. This is a brief summary of that history.

The EI&TH was the 1920 reorganization of a long line of consolidations over the previous 60 years.

The first consolidation took place in 1869, when the Evansville & Indianapolis, the Indianapolis & Evansville, and the Evansville, Indianapolis & Cleveland Straight Line Railroad were merged to create the second Evansville & Indianapolis. The latter company was created to build a line as described in the title. The consolidation allowed the competitors to build one line instead of three. The Indianapolis & Evansville, however, had been born as the Evansville, Washington & Worthington.

The trackage for the future EI&TH was built by three companies that would be consolidated in 1884. The (second) Evansville & Indianapolis built from a point north of Evansville called Straight Line Junction to Maysville, a total of 51 miles.

The second company part of the merger was the Terre Haute & Southeastern. It was created in 1878, and soon after bought two railroads: the Cincinnati & Terre Haute Railway, which had built a 26 mile line from Terre Haute to Clay City; and the Terre Haute, Worthington & Bloomfield, which had acquired the right of way of the old Wabash & Erie Canal to build their railroad. The Terre Haute & Southeastern would continue the C&TH line for 14 miles from Clay City to Worthington.

The third company was the Evansville, Washington & Brazil, which had built a 43 mile line connecting the two lines above from Worthington to Maysville.

The consolidation of 1885 was put in place in the interests of another railroad that connected Evansville to Terre Haute. That route, called the Evansville & Terre Haute, had a much straighter line between the two cities. It also owned the tracks from Evansville to Straight Line Junction that was used by the Evansville & Indianapolis to enter the southern Indiana city. Both companies were under the operation of the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad Company.

The C&EI bought the E&I in order to eliminate any competition to their mainline that was the Evansville & Terre Haute. But in the early 20th century, the age of anti-trust and anti-monopolies was dawning. The C&EI held off as long as they could. The company would sell the Evansville, Indianapolis & Terre Haute to the Big Four in 1920, shortly after that company had been created.

Lafayette Rail Relocation

Cover photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson, as was the idea for the post.

When the railroads started coming to towns across the United States, it was a sign of prestige to have a railroad company build a line through the middle of a city street. While the towns thought it was something to be proud of, crossing the tracks was almost impossible. Lafayette was a town of rail crossings…and street running. As I have written about before, Lafayette was the home of several railroad lines. But toward the middle of the 1990’s, this was going to change…with the help of a lot of federal, state and local tax money.

1941 USGS Topo Map of downtown Lafayette, IN.

The actual beginning of discussions about relocating railroad tracks through the city of Lafayette occurred in 1926, when the city first proposed such relocations. Between 1963 and 1973, a series of engineering studies were commissioned by city officials to look at the possibility.

The idea of moving the railroad tracks through Lafayette started moving forward in 1974, when a study was conducted by the Stanford Research Institute (SRI). It was announced by Mayor James Riehle, on 11 July 1975, that a project director was named for the relocation. That director would be Herbert Thomas, vice-president of transportation at Kaiser Engineers, Inc. His local resident manager would be James Ellis.

It was also announced that day that the first two phases of the project would be completed in about ten months from that time. Phase one included the above mentioned SRI study. Phase two would consist primarily of engineering. The final two phases, design and construction, were not put on any schedule as of July 1975.

Mr. Thomas said “relocation plans here are not the biggest he has seen in the country, but said ‘the Lafayette project would be a major one for any city,'” as reported in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 12 July 1975. He also referred to the “railroad-motor vehicle situation in Lafayette ‘a serious problem,’ noting that on a previous visit he was stopped by a train while hurrying to reach Weir Cook Airport.”

According to the Journal and Courier, “one important aspect of the Kaiser work will be to determine if the negative impact on the Monon Avenue area can be lessened.” Thomas said that “the alignment developed so far can only be reguarded (sic) as preliminary.”

One year later, in July 1976, Kaiser Engineering was set to begin look at the various alternatives to the new railroad location. Project Manager Ken Knevel said that the company would concentrate its work on the riverfront corridor since it received the most support locally. “Everything we’re doing now is just in response to individuals’ comments. The riverfront has been indicated as the preferred corridor.” (Source: Lafayette Journal and Courier, 24 July 1976.) Paul Stitt of the Norfolk & Western and Jack Smith of the Louisville & Nashville both agreed that the riverfront corridor would be best for both their companies’ operations. Conrail’s representative, John Partridge, said “otehr alternative corridors – bypassing the city and using the current N&W and L&N lines – is less satisfactory than the riverfront.”

The Louisville and Nashville, by way of their purchase of the Monon, was running trains through the middle of Fifth Street at the time. However, they did own a stub line that started just north of Main Street (and the Main Street bridge across the Tippecanoe River) traveling northeast to connect to the the street running route, and railroad yards, northeast of Fifth Street. Connecting this stub to the Nickel Plate and Wabash two blocks south along the riverfront would not be that much of a stretch.

Funding was going to be a constant problem, especially from the mid-1970’s to 1980. Washington had become very tight fisted when it came to money. The mayor of Lafayette had gone to Washington DC in March 1977 to ensure that funding would be available for the project through 1980. There were no guarantees.

There were as many as 19 railroad relocation projects in some sort of process in the late 1970’s. Lafayette had gained national attention because it involved consolidating three railroad companies into one line through the city.

Between 1976 and 1978, two neighborhoods were the focus of studies for the relocation plan. Those neighborhoods, the Wabash and the Monon, were going to be directly affected by the moving of the tracks.

The first construction phase finally started in October 1984, when Congress appropriated $7 million. Less than a year later, in September 1985, five homes were torn down to prepare to place Wabash Avenue 23 feet below the relocated train tracks. Things started looking bad again in 1987 when a pending Presidential Veto threatened $20 million in funding over five years for the project…and the insistence from Federal officials that state and local governments pony up 20% of the cost. Something in which INDOT said they weren’t really keen on participating. That veto was overridden by the House and Senate.

The next phase of construction after the override of that veto included a replacement for the Main Street bridge over the Wabash River, new approach ramps to the Harrison Bridge (now Old US 231) and a rail corridor between Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue to replace the Fifth Street street running tracks. A new $11 million North Ninth Street rail underpass was scheduled to being construction in late 1987.

Construction photo of the Lafayette Railroad Relocation, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Justin L. Grayson.

By 1994, the street running along Fifth Street had come to an end. According to the Journal and Courier of 22 July 1994, those were “crossings eliminated today.” Also according to the same newspaper graphic, phase 5 was to be completed in 1998-99 that would relocate the Norfolk Southern’s Wabash double-track corridor to the riverfront route, eliminating 24 crossings from Kossuth Street to Underwood Street.

Lafayette Courier & Journal, 2 August 2003,
announcing the end of the Railroad Relocation
Office in Lafayette.

The project’s offices would finally closed down on 1 August 2003. There were a lot of behind the scenes work that needed to be finished by the office, but the relocation was done. There was also one thing, historically, that was brought up when construction was occurring in 1993. While digging up the foundation of the old Big Four Station in Lafayette, some timbers from the Wabash & Erie Canal were found. The officials with the Railroad Relocation sent those timbers to Columbia, SC, for preservation. They were returned to Lafayette and given to the Tippecanoe County Historical Society for display.

The project would cost a grand total of $186 million in the end. It would not only affect rail transport through the area, but road transport changed as well. The old Main Street bridge in downtown Lafayette was changed to a pedestrian facility. Ultimately, all INDOT facilities in the city itself would be removed…leaving no state or US roads to downtown.

Creation of the Whitewater Canal

27 January 1836. An act was passed through the Indiana General Assembly that would create what would become the Whitewater Canal. Talk of a canal had been circulating the Whitewater River valley since 1822 or before. It was 1822 when articles about such a canal were being published. Around this time, delegates from Franklin, Wayne, Union, Randolph, Fayette and Dearborn Counties held a meeting at Harrison to look at the possibilities of creating a canal.

The talk of a canal had progressed to the point that a survey was started in 1824. The original surveyor, a Colonel Shriver, passed away while performing this function. A Colonel Stansbury took over the job of surveying the potential route of a canal. But winter set in before he could really start work, and the survey was put on hold. Until June 1834. That was when a survey performed by William Gooding was completed. That survey routed the potential canal down the Whitewater valley from Nettle Creek, near Cambridge City, to Lawrenceburg.

Support for all things transport would heat up in 1835. Work began on a large internal improvement bill to build railroads, roads and canals throughout the state. This would be the known as the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act (MIIA) of 1836. This law would create several projects that would help form early Indiana…and help bankrupt it, as well. This one bill helped push the state to create a commission to write a new state constitution in 1851…one that forbade the state going into debt.

The MIIA would specifically create what would become the Whitewater Canal. It was mentioned in section one of the act. “The Whitewater Canal, commencing on the west branch of the Whitewater river, at the crossing of the national road, thence passing down the valley of the same to the Ohio river at Lawrenceburgh, and extending up the said west branch of Whitewater above the National road as far as may be practicble.”

Anyone that has looked at a map of Indiana will notice one minor detail. The Whitewater River doesn’t go to Lawrenceburg. It actually connects to the Little Miami River northeast of Elizabethtown, Ohio. Those that wrote the MIIA noticed this, as well. It was mentioned in the bill that “if the state of Ohio shall ultimately refuse to grant leave for the construction of that part of the Whitewater Canal which passes through her territory” a railroad should be built from Harrison (Ohio) to Lawrenceburg. That railroad would have to stay within the borders of Indiana.

A total of $1.4 million was set aside for the creation of the Whitewater Canal. The act also allowed for a connection between the Whitewater and Central Canals (the Central Canal would connect through Indianapolis) somewhere in Madison or Delaware Counties.

Section 16 of the MIIA allowed for the board of Canal Commissioners “to enter upon and take possession of, and use any singular lands, streams, and materials of any and every description necessary for the prosecution and completion of the improvements contemplated by this act.” This gave the Commissioners, and anyone assigned by them, the right to take whatever was necessary to complete the Whitewater Canal, and the other projects listed in the MIIA.

The original minimum dimensions of the Whitewater Canal were later determined to be at least 26 feet wide at the bottom, 40 feet wide at the top, and have at least four feet of water depth. This was, however, subject to increasing, if such increase could be done without increasing the cost of construction. The tow path was to be at least 10 feet wide, with the berm bank (opposite bank) being at least six. Both banks would have to have sufficient footing at the bottom to allow a slope of 21 inches for each 12 of height. And the two banks would have to be built two feet above the canal’s waterline. The total right-of-way for the canal would then total 63 feet from outside shoulder of one bank to the outside shoulder of the other.

By 1839, the first section of the canal, from Lawrenceburg to Brookville, was opened. The first boat, the “Ben Franklin” owned by Long and Westerfield of Lawrenceburg, arrived at Brookville on 18 June 1839. Two more boats, the Litlle Western and the Niagara, arrived the next day.

1840 found the state in bad financial shape. The canal had been completed from Lawrenceburg to Brookville, and half of the work from Brookville to Cambridge City had been completed. This cost the state, to that point, $664,665. It was at this point all work on the projects listed in the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act was discontinued.

The Board of Internal Improvements, the government agency tasked with completing all of the MIIA projects, was abolished in January 1842. The plan was to move those projects from public works to private companies. The same month, on 20 January 1842, the Whitewater Valley Canal Company was chartered. The state then turned over all property involving the canal to the new company. The new company was to complete the canal to Cambridge City and receive, as compensation, all revenues from tolls, water power, rents and other incomes for 15 years after the completion of the project.

The canal slowly increased its length. By 1843, it had reached Laurel. Connersville became an active canal town in 1845. The end of the line at Cambridge City would be reached in 1846. The Whitewater Valley Canal Company spent a grand total of $500,000 to complete the original scope of the canal’s purpose.

Unfortunately, the hopes that the canal would prove a boon to the area were dashed relatively quickly. Most of the problems stemmed from bad engineering. By 1848, two aqueducts were swept away, and several feeder dams were nearly destroyed. Once fixed, navigation began again…lasting a year until the normal Indiana floods caused suspension of canal traffic once again.

The canal was put back into operational shape for a time. But things didn’t go well for the company that continued to lose money on the enterprise. It all came to a head on 26 November 1862 when the Cincinnati & Indiana Railroad Company took over the property under Indiana’s condemnation laws. The canal’s receivers were paid $55,000 for the property, and the railroad became the owner of the old canal. All property of the canal company within the state of Indiana would be deeded to the railroad. Ultimately, the railroad would become the White Water Valley Railroad, a part of the Big Four and the New York Central.

Bicycling Marion County, 1900, Part 2

Today is part two of two of covering a map I found on the Indiana State Library website about bicycling in Marion County, and the routes that were available.

Bluff Road: The direct route to Martinsville, Bloomington and points south. It was named after the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. It was one of the first trails to connect to the Hoosier Capitol, as a lot of settlers would start their journey into Marion County from Waverly.

Clifford Avenue Pike: The extension of 10th Street past the city limits. The bicycle route ended at what is now Arlington Avenue, which connected Clifford Avenue to National Road and Brookville Pike.

Flackville Pike: The town of Flackville was created near what is now 30th Street and Lafayette Road. The Pike leading to the town is an extension of Indianapolis’ 30th Street.

Madison Road: The Madison-Indianapolis State Road, which the later Madison & Indianapolis Railroad would closely follow. Today, Madison Road is now Madison Avenue.

Millers Pike: Today known as Millersville Road, since that is where the road ended. A connecting route back to the White River & Fall Creek Pike used what is now 56th Street.

Myers Pike: This road would, in later life, become Cold Spring Road, connecting the Lafayette Road to the Michigan Road on the west (north) side of the White River.

Pendleton Pike: The old (1830’s) state road to the Falls of Fall Creek, where the town of Pendleton was formed. The old road went through Oakland (now Oaklandon), instead of basically around it like it does now.

Rockville Pike: The original Indianapolis-Rockville State Road. Still called Rockville Road for most of its length today. The old road is hard to navigate at its original beginning, since it was removed when Holt Road was built north of Washington Street. Rockville Avenue is the old road.

Shelbyville Road: The original state road to the seat of Shelby County. Its importance dropped off after the building of the Michigan Road. Near the current intersection of Shelbyville Road and Stop 11 Road/Frye Road, a branch took riders to Acton. At Acton, a branch from the Michigan Road came from the north.

Spring Mills Pike: The original path of Spring Mill Road started at the city limits on Illinois Street, crossing the White River near where Kessler Boulevard does today. It then continued up what is now Spring Mill Road into Hamilton County.

Sugar Flats Pike: The continuation of Central Avenue outside the city limits up to the Central Canal towpath, then following what is now Westfield Boulevard through Nora and into Hamilton County. The bike path led, after leaving Marion County, to the downtown area of Carmel.

Three Notch Pike: What is now Meridian Street was, for around a century, known as the Three Notch Road. The bicycle route followed Meridian Street from the Bluff Road intersection down to the county line.

White River and Fall Creek Pike: Labeled on the map as the White River and Eagle Creek Pike, this old road turned bicycle route followed the continuation of Keystone Avenue past the city limits to its end at River Road. Keep in mind, what is now Keystone Avenue north of White River was built by the state as a replacement for SR 431, which used to use Westfield Boulevard.

Indianapolis in the Auto Trail Era

Indiana has been known as the “Crossroads of America” for most of its history. No other place in the state exemplifies that more than the Hoosier Capitol. Although Indianapolis, as a town, started as a remote outpost in the forests and swamps of central Indiana, it would soon become a transportation center. The National and Michigan Roads started the journey toward Indianapolis’ connections to the rest of the country. The coming of the railroads from 1847 to the middle 1850’s accelerated it. The automobile would seal the deal.

A quick look at a Rand McNally Auto Trails map of 1920 shows that Indianapolis was well served when it came to the new routes. Some of these were old roads, using names that had been used for almost a century. Others were new names on old country roads. Today, I want to look at the Auto Trails of 1920 radiating from Indianapolis. For this, I will be using that mentioned Rand McNally map, and using Rand’s numbering system.

8 – Range Line Road: Leaving Indianapolis due north, earlier on Illinois Street, later on Meridian, this route connected Indianapolis to South Bend via Kokomo, Peru, Rochester and Peru. In Marion County, the Range Line followed the Central Canal into Broad Ripple, then northeast along the Westfield Pike, which once it crossed the Hamilton-Marion County Line followed a survey range line north to Kokomo and beyond. In 1926, this would be the route of US 31.

22 – National Old Trails Road: In Indiana, this old route followed what was the first United States road that had been built to connect Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois. This was called the National Road. In Indianapolis, it followed that route as closely as it could. (Downtown, the original path of the National Road had been removed in 1904 with the demolition of the covered bridge over the White River.) In 1926, it became US 40.

24 – Hoosier Highway: This road crossed the city southwest to northeast. It would come into Marion County along the old Mooresville State Road, also known as the West Newton Pike/Maywood Road/Kentucky Avenue. It left the city along Massachusetts Avenue where it became the Pendleton Pike at the city limits. The Pendleton Pike was also called the Oakland (Oaklandon) Toll Road for a time. This routing, both ways, would become SR 67 in 1926.

25 – Dixie Highway: Indianapolis found itself in a very nice position when it came to this road. It was created by an Indianapolis resident, Carl G. Fisher. And it used four roads to enter and exit the Hoosier capitol. From the north, it entered Indianapolis along the path of the historic Michigan Road. From the west, the Dixie followed the old Crawfordsville Pike. Southward, the Dixie Highway left using the Bluff Road heading toward Waverly, Martinsville and Bloomington. The route also followed the National Road to the east toward Richmond and Dayton, Ohio. The former three routes are still known by those names today. With the Great Renumbering, Michigan Road became SR 29, Crawfordsville became SR 34, and Bluff Road became SR 37.

26 – Michigan Road: The historic old Indiana state road connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. Through Indianapolis, that would be Southeastern Avenue and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street/Michigan Road. The Michigan Road Auto Trail to the north ended at South Bend, even though the historic road left the west toward Michigan City. The entirety of the Michigan Road was made SR 29 in 1926.

42 – Hills And Lakes: This route was created to make a more or less direct route from Indianapolis to Lake Wawasee. It left Indianapolis along the Range Line Road, until it reached the Maple Road (now 38th Street), where the H&L turned east to follow the old Fort Wayne State Road, also known as the Allisonville Pike, out of the county. It did not get a state road number until 1932, when it became SR 13. It would later be renumbered SR 37.

47 – Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway: The original route of this road came through Indianapolis, using Rockville Road on the west and Washington Street/National Road to the east. It would later be moved to north of the city through Lebanon, Noblesville and Anderson. The original PPOO was made US 36 and US 40 in 1926.

69 – Jackson Highway: The Indianapolis section of this north-south long distance road used the old Lafayette State Road from the north (US 52 in 1926) and the old Madison State Road (US 31 in 1926) to cross the city.

92 – Terre Haute & Indianapolis Scenic Route: In Marion County, this duplicated the National Old Trails Road from downtown to the west, diverging in Belleville in Hendricks County.

Cambridge City – Railroad Center

Cambridge City, Indiana – 1893. This map is available at the Indiana State Library at:
http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/compoundobject/collection/p15078coll8/id/4224/rec/14

There was a time in Indiana when some smaller towns in the state became somewhat major railroad hubs. Cambridge City, a town founded along the National Road in 1836, would become not only a railroad center, but transportation in general. But today, I want to focus on the railroads in the town.

Ultimately, Cambridge City would be along the lines of four (three) different railroads. You may wonder about the “four (three)” comment. The four companies were the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis, the Indiana Central, the Connersville & New Castle Junction, and the White Water Railroad. Ultimately, before abandonments would rear their ugly head, it would be three railroad companies: Pennsylvania, New York Central, and Nickel Plate.

Cambridge City, Indiana – 1893. This is a close up view, taken from the map above, of the central railroad junction area of Cambridge City. It shows how all four railroad lines connected to one another.

Let’s start with the White Water Railroad, which would find its way to the New York Central via the Big Four Railway. The White Water Valley Railroad Company was formed under the general laws of Indiana on 8 June 1865. This company would build the line, from Harrison, Ohio, to Hagerstown, Indiana, in 1868. This would be 68 miles of track. It was mostly built along the line of the White Water Canal, connecting the same locations. The White Water Canal crossed the National Road at Cambridge City. The White Water Valley Railroad would be sold at foreclosure on 15 May 1878. It would take almost a year, but the property would be conveyed to the White Water Railroad Company, created on 28 May 1878 by the Indiana General Assembly. The new company would acquire the old railroad property on 12 May 1879. The White Water Railroad would remain separate until it was conveyed to the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Big Four) Railway on 1 November 1890, a little more than a year after the Big Four was created. The section between Connersville and Hagerstown, thus through Cambridge City, was removed from service in 1931 and ripped up in 1936.

The line that would become part of the Nickel Plate started as the Cincinnati & Chicago Short Line Railroad. This company was created by law in Indiana on 12 February 1853. On 1 May 1854, it became part of the Cincinnati & Chicago Rail Road Company, after it was merged with the Cincinnati, New Castle and Michigan Rail Road. The charter for these companies stayed idle for quite a long time. The company was sold at foreclosure, and the section that would be built through Cambridge City was given to Watton J. Smith, by sherriff’s deed, on 7 July 1860. Mr. Smith held onto the company, which was still in name only, until he deeded it, via quitclaim, to the Connersville & New Castle Junction Railroad Company on 26 February 1864. The latter company was created by law on 23 October 1863. The Connersville & New Castle Junction would build and open its 25.05 miles of track connecting Connersville and New Castle in 1865.

This rail line would go through a long series of consolidations over the next nearly half century. The Connersville & New Castle Junction would be consolidated with the New Castle & Muncie Rail Road to become the Cincinnati, Connersville & Muncie Rail Road on 2 January 1868. This company, in turn, would merge with the Fort Wayne, Muncie & Cincinnati Railway on 4 January 1871, to become the Fort Wayne, Muncie & Cincinnati (FtWM&C) Rail Road. 10 years later, the FtWM&C would be sold at foreclosure to become part of the Fort Wayne, Cincinnati & Louisville (FtWC&L) Railroad on 6 December 1881. Again, another consolidation merged the New Castle & Rushville Rail Road into the FtWC&L on 11 November 1886. FtWC&L would be the name that the company would maintain until it was merged into the Nickle Plate in 1923, even though the line was purchased, on 28 May 1890, by the Lake Erie & Western Railroad.

The Lake Erie & Western would be operated as a separate entity by the New York Central during the first two decades of the 20th Century. It was sold to the Nickel Plate in 1922. The Nickel Plate, legally the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, would exist as a separate company until it was merged into the Norfolk & Western on 16 October 1964. In the late 1970’s, the N&W filed for permission to abandon the rail line through Cambridge City, abandoning the New Castle Branch lines from New Castle to Connersville and from New Castle to Rushville. Both of these abandonments were withdrawn at the time. Although it looks unused, the railroad line is still in place through Cambridge City.

The Pennsylvania Railroad served, until the lines were abandoned, Cambridge City using two lines, both associated with the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Panhandle) Railway. A rail line connecting Cambridge City to Rushville started life at the Lake Erie & Louisville Railroad Company. It acquired the right of way, that was partly graded, from the Lake Erie and Pacific Railroad Company created on 23 December 1861. The Lake Erie & Louisville would be the company that would complete the building of the line per an agreement of 28 August 1866 with the Indiana Central Railway and the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis (JM&I) Railroad. The 21 mile route would open in 1867, and would be operated, under lease, by the JM&I. This line between Cambridge City and Rushville to finish a line that ultimately connected the Indiana Central line at Cambridge City to the JM&I at Columbus, via Shelbyville and Rushville. The JM&I would be merged with other companies, including the next mentioned, to create the Panhandle on 30 September 1890.

The Indiana Central actually was a replacement charter for the original Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad. The latter company would be formed to connected the two close to state line cities through Indianapolis. The line was completed from Terre Haute to Indianapolis, with the rest of the line to Richmond not having been even considered for construction by the company. On 16 February 1848 the Indiana General Assembly approved the creation of the Indiana Central Railway Company. This was after the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad was chartered on 24 January 1847. Although the TH&R built to Indianapolis, and decided to go no further, in 1852, it remained that company name until 6 March 1865, when it became the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Rail Road.

The Indiana Central would build from Indianapolis to the Indiana-Ohio State Line, some 71.94 miles of track, in 1853. Strangely, the Indiana Central Railway existed until 19 October 1864 (five months before the TH&R would change Richmond to Indianapolis in its name) when it was merged with the Columbus & Indianapolis Railroad to become the Columbus & Indianapolis Central Railway. Some dates get a little confused right about here, but suffice it to say that after a few consolidations, the line running through Cambridge City would connect Indianapolis to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and fall under the sway of the Pennsylvania Railroad. It would be part of the 30 September 1890 consolidation that formed the Panhandle. The TH&I, which was tasked with building the line by chartered, but decided not to, would also be added to the Panhandle when the company that it consolidated into, the Vandalia Railroad, would be consolidated into the Panhandle by the Pennsylvania.

The line connecting Cambridge City to Rushville was moved to the west, severing the Cambridge City connection, in 1910, with a revamp of the Panhandle mainline through the area. The connection between the east-west main and the Louisville line at Columbus would be moved to Dublin. There it would remain until it was abandoned in 1955. The mainline through the area would only survive until 1976, when the Penn Central, successor to both the Pennsylvania and the New York Central, would file for the permission to abandon the line from Cambridge City to Charlottesville, a total of 21.26 miles. This permission was requested on 31 March 1976, one day before the line would have been taken into the Consolidated Rail Corporation, or Conrail. The old Pennsylvania mainline east from Cambridge City, for 10.1 miles to Centerville, would be, 1982, put up for abandonment by Conrail.

Photo taken from the Richmond Palladium-Item of 2 January 1954. The headline of the article is about the station that was built by the Lake Erie & Louisville Railroad and the Indiana Central Railway. Both of those lines would become part of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis (Panhandle) Railway.

The Richmond Palladium-Item of 2 January 1954 published an article in their continuing series about the history of transportation in Richmond and Wayne County. This series commemorated the arrival, on 18 March 1853, of the first locomotive in Richmond. Luther M. Feeger wrote in that article that Cambridge City once had an elaborate Union Station, built in March 1866. That station was built as a joint venture between the Lake Erie & Louisville Railroad and the Indiana Central Railway. It was, reportedly, more elaborate than the station in Richmond. Unlike Indianapolis Union Station, the two railroads involved in Cambridge City would both become part of the same company – the Pennsylvania. (Indianapolis’ Union Station was created by five companies, three became Pennsylvania, two become New York Central…and the entire station would end up owned by the Penn Central in the end.)

For Cambridge City, it had gone from having four railroad lines to what is today one seldom or never used line crossing from northwest to southeast. At one point, trains out of the town could take you to Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Cincinnati, Columbus (Ohio), and Louisville. The lines also connected a rider from Cambridge City to places like Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Chicago and New York City. Today, Cambridge City sits along the historic National Road, sharing its transportation heritage with the world…along with some of the best antique shopping in the state.

Knightstown and Rushville State Road

I have mentioned many times about the creation of the original Indiana state roads. Those roads were passed into law by the General Assembly, built by the state, then turned over to county officials upon creation. Often times, these roads connected smaller Indiana towns to one another. Today, I want to focus on the Knightstown and Rushville State Road.

First, a little history. For starters, the very existence of Knightstown is a treasure trove of transportation history…due to its name. The town was named after Bucks County, Pennsylvania, native Jonathan Knight. Mr. Knight spent a great deal of his life working on transportation facilities. In 1816, he was appointed to map Washington County, Pennsylvania. While there, he became a county commissioner for three years. He was involved in the preliminary surveys of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal and National Road between Cumberland, Maryland, and Wheeling, (West) Virginia. The National Road would be laid out to cross Washington County, Pennsylvania, connecting to the county seat at Washington. In 1828, he went to work for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, which used some of the same right of way as the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. From 1830 to 1842, he was the Chief Engineer for the company. He later represented southwestern Pennsylvania in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Knightstown itself was built along the National Road in 1827. It was located north of the already in place state road connecting Indianapolis to Centerville. The National Road would also connect those two mentioned towns, although more directly. (Keep in mind that most early state roads were just the state improving roads that were already in place…so they tended to be more winding than later roads that were purposely built.) The old road would be located basically along the line separating Rush and Henry Counties.

The road that is the subject of this entry, the Knightstown-Rushville State Road, would leave Knightstown on what is now called Jefferson Street. An astute map reader will notice that today it is known as SR 140. It maintains that designation to a point south of what was the Indiana Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Children’s Home, now the Hoosier Youth Challenge Academy. The road then continues to the south southeast, twisting and turning its way to Rush County Road 550 North. The old road then turned east along that county road, then veered southeast on what is marked on Google Maps as either Rush County Road 140 West or Rushville Road.

After almost two miles, the old state road turned east again, this time along Rush County Road 400 North. And again, it veers south, where it is once again known as Rushville Road. It winds its way through the Rush County countryside, passing old School Number 5 at Rush County Road 300 North. Another twist and turn, the old road becomes an extension of Rushville’s Spencer Street. Roughly halfway between County Roads 200 North and 100 North, the old road’s route turns southeast along what is now Foster Heights Road. The road then turns due east before it connects to what is now Main Street in Rushville. Turning south completes the old state road’s route.

Rushville itself became the county seat of Rush County shortly after it was created from Delaware County (unorganized – and no relation to the current Indiana county of the same name) on 1 April 1822. But the time the county was created, and the town started being platted the following July, there was already a school at the location. The Post Office in the town opened teh same year the county was organized. Just like Knightstown, Rushville (and Rush County) was named after an eastern Pennsylvanian. This time, Benjamin Rush.

Bicycling Indianapolis

In 1896,the Indianapolis News published a series of articles about bicycling in and around Indianapolis. That series of articles is what I have been using to create these “Bicycling Thursday” series of posts here at Indiana Transportation History. These articles generally have covered riding different roads, usually old state roads, leaving Indianapolis. I will include links to all of those below. But this article is about something different. There was a proposed bicycling route that covered quite a bit of the north side of the city and Marion County.

Today’s information comes from the Indianapolis News of 14 March 1896. This plan was to be financed via the sale of subscriptions, much like the way that roads were paid for before this, and how Auto Trails, starting in the 1910’s, were going to be financed afterwards. Most of the route wouldn’t use roads in place. Where it did use roads, it would be built along side that road. Most of the route would make use of riding on the banks of water courses through the county.

Proposed bicycle route through Indianapolis and Marin County as described in the Indianapolis News of 14 March 1896.

The potential route started along Indiana Avenue in downtown Indianapolis. It would follow that road to where it crossed Fall Creek. It is mentioned in the News that the condition of Indiana Avenue, at that time, from West Street to Fall Creek, is such that “no worse road was found in going over the entire course than in this street.” The path would then follow the levee along the north bank of Fall Creek “south of the new pumping station of the Water Company.” The proposed route would continue along Fall Creek, then the east bank of the White River until crossing the Indianapolis Belt Railway. Here, the bicycling route would join the Crawfordsville Free Gravel Road until that road crossed the White River. The Crawfordsville Free Gravel Road is now Waterway Boulevard (after having been named Speedway Avenue), and it crossed the river at the Emrichsville Bridge, later replaced by the current 16th Street bridge.

The proposed path would then continue to follow the White River until after it crossed the “Flack Pike,” now 30th Street, passing “many giant sycamores, winding in and out with the deviation of the stream.” Just north of the Flack Pike the river and the Central Canal come close to one another, where the proposed route would switch over to the tow path along the north bank of the canal on its way to Broad Ripple.

“The ride up the tow-path every wheelman and wheelwoman in the city is familiar with – its beauties, its dangers and it tribulations often.” It is described as a beautiful ride. However, washouts, gullies, chuck holes and soft spots are common along the way, “and a sudden dip into the canal has a most dampening effect on enthusiasm.” The tow path continues through Fairview Park, now the site of Butler University. There is a fairly steep climb before the path would cross Illinois Street. Here, a bicycle rider could choose to use either side of the canal to get to Broad Ripple. But the official route would continue along the north tow path.

At Broad Ripple, the path would follow the Westfield Pike north past the Broad Ripple damn and across the White River on a large iron bridge. After crossing the river, the path then turns south to follow the river along the north/west bank to a point where it crosses White River again at what is now the 82nd Street crossing after passing the Haverstick Farm. After crossing White River, it would follow what was then the Fall Creek and White River Free Gravel Road (FCWRFGR) back towards the city. The first part of that free gravel road doesn’t now exist above what is now 79th Street. From there, it is known as River Road to the point where the FCWRFGR turned south on what is now Keystone Avenue.

The new path would be built along the FCWRFGR until it got to Malott Park, at what is now 56th Street. The route would then turn east “on the dirt road from Malott Park to Millersville.” It is mentioned that this dirt road is very narrow in places, with “scarcely room on either side for the path.” Here, the builders of the route hadn’t decided whether to follow Fall Creek’s north bank or the Millersville Free Gravel Road and the south bank of Fall Creek to Meridian Street. Here, riding down Meridian Street would bring rider back to downtown Indianapolis, and the point where the route started.

Some of the path, as described, has, in more recent times, been added to the Indy Parks trail system. It starts on what is now the White River Trail. It then crosses over to the Central Canal Trail above the old Riverside Amusement Park north of 30th Street. At Illinois Street, where the rider in 1896 had two choices, the path chosen by Indy Parks runs along the opposite bank of the Canal than was chosen to be followed then. Most of the rest of the route, that can still be traveled, can be followed by using the streets that exist now. There are a few places where this can’t happen.

The following is a list of the other entries in this “Bicycling Thursday” series.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race
Allisonville Pike (Allisonville Road to Noblesville)
Crawfordsville Pike (Old Crawfordsville Road to Crawfordsville)
Madison Road (Madison Avenue from Southport to Indianapolis)
Michigan Road North (MLK/Michigan Road north to Augusta)
Michigan Road South (Southeastern Avenue)
National Road West (Washington Street west to Plainfield)
Pendleton Pike (Pendleton Pike to Oaklandon and beyond)
Reveal Road (Dandy Trail through Eagle Creek valley)
Rockville Road (Old Rockville Road from Danville to Indianapolis)
Shelbyville Road (Old Shelbyville Road from Indianapolis to SE Marion County)
Three Notch Road (Meridian Street south to Southport Road)
Westfield Road (Westfield Boulevard and Illinois Street from Westfield south)