Bicycling the Westfield Road

I would like to wish all of my readers, and their families, a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your celebrations…and always, be careful in all you do!

In the early days of the state of Indiana, with the creation of a series of “state roads,” a road was built out of Indianapolis to connect to Westfield, and points beyond. The road would be, in Hamilton County, built along a survey line known as a range line. When, in 1896, the Indianapolis News started publishing a series of articles about bicycling routes along old roads in Marion and surrounding counties, the Westfield Road would be the way back to the city from Noblesville.

The source article for this post comes from the Indianapolis News of 25 April 1896.

The route taken back to Indianapolis started at the square in Noblesville. I am going to cover the short trek across Hamilton County before aiming back south into Marion County. The Lebanon Pike out of downtown Noblesville would leave that city north of where SR 32 and SR 38 cross the river. The old bridge across White River, the one that was part of the old state road built to Lafayette, is now the Logan Street bridge. (This would be part of old state roads that would connect Richmond and Greenfield through Pendleton to Lafayette.)

After leaving Noblesville along the Lebanon Pike (later original SR 37, then SR 32), the road was relatively flat and straight to Westfield. From here, there were two routes back to Indianapolis. The first was west of Westfield down the Indianapolis & Williams Creek Pike, which is now Spring Mill Road and Illinois Street (south of Kessler Boulevard). The other, the focus of this article, was the Indianapolis & Westfield Road.

The Westfield Road was located on the west side of the town of Westfield. “It runs past a school-house and two churches. There is a bit of a hill on leaving Westfield, with a little stream crossing the road at the foot of it.” After crossing the creek, the road becomes level (relatively) on its way, due south, to the town of Carmel, four miles away. Carmel is described as “built a great deal like Westfield, and is a pretty, good-sized village.” Between Westfield and Carmel, the road is slightly downgrade, “just enough to make riding a pleasure.”

Carmel (the village at the time) is four miles north of the Hamilton-Marion County Line. Between those two points, the old Westfield Road paralleled the Monon tracks. The old road jogged a little to the east at the county line then aimed the 1.5 miles to Nora. It is mentioned that the old road crossed the Monon tracks near this area, but that part of the article is incorrect. At Nora “there is a good east-and-west road that crosses the Westfield road…and goes clear across the county.” That road is now 86th Street. It should be noted that 86th Street is actually one mile south of the county line at 96th Street.

From Nora, the old road swings to the southeast and south towards White River, following the course of the river to Broad Ripple. “The road is hard and firm and in excellent condition.” Before Broad Ripple, the route crosses the river on a large iron bridge. That bridge was located south of the current Westfield Boulevard bridge, crossing the river more due west than does the one that replaced it in the 1970’s. After crossing the canal and the Monon, the route turned west to follow the canal. Along the way, it crossed Central Avenue before turning south along what is now called Illinois Street. At the time, it was still the Westfield Road above Mapleton, at Maple Road (now 38th Street).

The trip to downtown Indianapolis could be accomplished by either taking the Central Avenue route or the Illinois Street route. The Illinois Street route was part of the above mentioned Indianapolis & Williams Creek Road that would also take the bicyclist to Westfield. The Westfield Road was so important, in the grand scheme of things, to the state of Indiana that it would become the original state road 1 in 1917. The Spring Mill route would be considered, during the time of the Indiana State Highway Commission, for a second route to Kokomo, possibly helping to cut traffic along what was, at that time, US 31. That plan never came to fruition.

*Edited by Paula Trefun Simpson 06/03/2021 to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Central Canal.

Indianapolis and Its Decoration Day Race

If there is one thing that Indianapolis is known for, it is racing. Oh, yes. Almost anyone in the WORLD would respond “Indianapolis 500” if you mention the city. Memorial Day weekend has become a time when the population of the city doubles and triples, with all of the visitors coming to watch “the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” But the subject of this post isn’t something related to a farm field with a large rectangle with curved corners in Speedway. As a matter of fact, the subject article of this post dates from the Indianapolis News of 23 May 1896, some 13 years before that other race started.

Before it became known as Memorial Day, 30 May of each year was known as Decoration Day. The holiday floated depending on the location of 30 May on the calendar. It was declared a Federal Holiday in 1868. In Indianapolis, the end of May signified, among other things, the end of the “rainy season,” otherwise known in the rest of the world as Spring. The weather starts getting drier and hotter right after Decoration Day. So it made almost perfect sense to use that holiday as a day to get together to watch a race.

Indianapolis News, 23 May 1896. This map shows the route of the annual Decoration Day Bicycle Road Race of 1896.

The Indianapolis Cycle Club and the Cycle Board of Trade put together the annual Decoration Day Road Race through the streets of Indianapolis. At the time of the source article, thirty men were in the list of racers. Those racers, unlike previous years, weren’t all from Indianapolis. Entries would be taken until 26 May, the following Tuesday. It was estimated that seventy-five to one hundred riders would be at the starting line when the race kicked off. Batches of racers would be set off on the 13.625 mile course at intervals of one minute.

Prizes for the race, due to its amateur status, could not include money. But there were 38 prizes to be given to the riders. The rules state that each rider is only allowed to win one prize. Prizes include four different bicycles, tires, suits, caps, hats, electric lantern, a Kodak, fishing rods, shoes, lamps, golf hoses, sweaters, luggage and a speed indicator. These prizes came from merchants across the city. Carl G. Fisher, future creator of the Lincoln and Dixie Highways, and his bicycle store donated two sweaters, a pair of shoes, and a “speed indicator.”

The course was chosen due to the relative good condition of the route. “It is probable that not another road race will be run on Decoration Day throughout the entire country on a finer course than the one which will be used here.” There are a few bad spots along the way, but they are few and far between.

The race started at the corner of Meridian and 14th (now 21st) Streets , heading north to 30th (now 38th) Street. Here it turned west one block to follow Illinois Street, which since it was outside the city limits at the time, was called the Indianapolis and Westfield Road (which is now Illinois Street and Westfield Boulevard to Broad Ripple). From there, it followed what is now Broad Ripple Avenue to the Fall Creek and White River Gravel Road (now called Keystone Avenue). South along the Fall Creek Road, the course then turned southwest onto the Allisonville Pike (now Fall Creek Boulevard). The Allisonville Pike went as far as what is now 38th Street, with the Allisonville name being used across that numbered street. The route then turned south on Meridian Street at 30th, going back to the starting point at 14th.

A three block stretch of asphalt starts, and finishes, the course. Two bad street car track crossings, one at 26th (34nd) Street and the other at 28th (36th) Street, are encountered. From the Fall Creek bridge to 30th (38th) Street is “one of the worst spots along the whole course.” Potholes and loose gravel make this section a rough going. Turning at 30th (38th) Street gets interesting, with a wooden culvert to be crossed, with boards at one end being lose. Three-eighths of a mile after turning onto Illinois Street riders will encounter a small rise. Further along Illinois Street requires crossing a wooden culvert, a small wooden bridge and climbing a 200 yard long, fairly stiff hill. “This hill stops just beyond the carriage entrance for Fairview Park (now the location of Butler University).” This entrance would be at what is now 46th Street. From here, for the next one-half mile, is a gradual down grade. At the canal, the route drops along a steep grade for about 100 yards.

“Some riders may seek to cross the canal and take advantage of the cycle path, but this will not be allowed.” The first quarter mile along what is now Westfield Boulevard is reported in excellent condition. Then comes 300 yards of horrible conditions, including potholes on both sides of the road. After that, fresh gravel with wheel tracks already in place on each side of center.

At Broad Ripple, the course encounters the Monon tracks and follows the street car tracks along what is Broad Ripple Avenue (previously 62nd Street). The Broad Ripple section is reported as being the worst section of the entire course. One of the best parts of the route is along the Fall Creek and White River Road. “Men who are still in the hunt will be able to come down this road at a lightning clip.” This road runs along the west border of Malott Park (at what is now 52nd Street), and just south of the village is the crossing of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad (Nickle Plate). (As an aside, the street that runs along the railroad tracks is now called Erie due to the name of the railroad company. This is common throughout Indianapolis.)

A turn onto Allisonville Pike (Fall Creek Boulevard), the LE&W tracks are crossed again near 38th Street. Then the course, still following the old Allisonville Pike turns west along 38th Street until Meridian Street, while the Allisonville Road turned south on what is now Central Avenue. The Monon tracks are crossed again on the west side of the Fairgrounds. At Meridian Street, the repeat of the conditions encountered on the way out happens. To avoid having racers cutting across the course, checkers were located at each cross street. “If the race is at all close, there will be a great sprint from Fall Creek to the tape.”

Racing, it seems, has been a part of Indianapolis’s Memorial Day for much longer than the creation of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which included a partner that provided prizes for this race.

** edited 06/03/2021 by Paula Trefun Simpson to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Central Canal

Michigan Road at Logansport

The Michigan Road. Indiana’s first true state road that connected Lake Michigan at Michigan City to the Ohio River at Madison, through Indianapolis. As was typical of the time, the state would build the road to the edges of towns, allowing the towns along the way to decide where the route would actually travel. The last outpost of “civilization” along this grand old road between Indianapolis and South Bend, when it was built, was the town of Logansport. And tracing the old road through the town is a decidedly interesting business.

A brief history. The original plat of Logansport, from the point where the Eel River enters the Wabash to Fifth Street was dated 1828. The town grew quite rapidly from there, adding Sixth through Ninth Street was added by 1835. This corresponds with the coming of both the Wabash & Erie Canal and the Michigan Road. The map that is used for sources in this entry comes from a real estate sales map. The town of West Logan was platted on the north bank of the Eel River in 1835.

1835 map of Logansport showing the crossing of the
Wabash River by the Michigan Road.

For starters, the entry into Logansport from the south has really never changed over the years. The road was built heading northeast along what is now Burlington Avenue. It crossed the Wabash River to Biddle Island, then left the island in a straight line over to Logansport’s Third Street. It still, to this day, follows the same path. The one thing that makes the first crossing of the Wabash different than normal crossings is that the bridge was not built perpendicular to the river. Most bridges at that time were, so to make them more stable and cost less to build. According to a map of 1835, the bridge is angled across the Wabash to Biddle Island, but straight across the Wabash north of the island.

But once inside the town, which at the time was in the area between the Wabash and Eel Rivers, it was a good guess. Based on maps of the area, it moved at least a couple of times. The state really wasn’t concerned with the town’s streets that the road followed, just where it would connect to the northeast bound Michigan Road that started along the northern bank of the Eel River.

1835 map of Logansport showing the bridge across the Eel River to connect the Michigan Road on the north side of the river to Logansport’s (now) downtown.

The same 1835 map mentioned above shows a bridge at what is now Fourth Street. One thing that should be noted here is that the lines forming the Michigan Road and Third Street are solid…not open at each of the street intersections in the town. This leads me to believe that the route of the Michigan Road followed (originally) Third Street to what is now Eel River Avenue, then crossing the Eel River at Fourth Street. This is shown in the map to the left. Two other important features that should be noted are the aqueduct over the Eel River that carried the Wabash & Erie Canal and the bridge over the canal along the north bank of the Eel River. The road running along the bank of the river is also marked with solid lines, with no “access” to roads that meet this path.

A current Google Map satellite image of the Fourth Street end at the Eel River shows that there is no house on the corresponding north bank of the river. I am not going to say that there never was a building there. Just that there isn’t one now.

1835 map of Logansport showing the Third Avenue and the Wabash & Erie Canal.

In relation to the Wabash & Erie, it crossed through Logansport along Fifth Street, turning easterly south of Market Street. That turn is now under Erie Avenue.

1835 map of Logansport showing the northern route of the “Great Michigan Road.”

The old road still makes its way north out of Logansport along its original path, as shown in the map above.

Later maps of the area show that the crossing of the Eel River was moved from the end of Fourth Street to the end of Fifth Street. This would mean that the old aqueduct for the Wabash & Erie Canal became a road bridge after the demise of the canal. According to an 1876 map of the town, the crossing had been moved again, this time to the end of Sixth Street, where it still is today.

Lafayette

Situated near the head of navigable waters on the Wabash River, the town of Lafayette was founded in 1825. At that location, it became an important transportation hub in north central Indiana. As the county seat of Tippecanoe County, it became the confluence of several early state roads and railroads, and a place on the Wabash and Erie Canal. Today, it still maintains that position, albeit with a bit of moving things around for efficiency.

A little history. Tippecanoe County was created from parts of the unorganized Wabash County (which at the time encompassed almost all territory in the state west of the second principal meridian) on 20 January 1826, effective 1 March 1826. Part of this territory had already been, jurisdictionally, part of Parke County. Part of the county’s territory wasn’t ceded to the state until October 1826. Lafayette, platted in May 1825, was made the county seat at the same time. Tippecanoe County is among the very few counties that have not had any territorial changes since its time of creation, with the exception of some unorganized territory jurisdiction until those areas were incorporated into counties of their own.

Other than river travel along the Wabash, the first transportation facilities built into the town were state roads from assorted places in Indiana. These included the Crawfordsville Road (now roughly US 231), the Noblesville Road (roughly SR 38) and the Indianapolis Road (roughly US 52). The original junction of the last two was on the SR 38 side of what is now Tippecanoe Mall. This can be seen in the Google Map image below by the property lines that remain.

Google Map image of the area of the original area of the junction of the Noblesville-Lafayette and Indianapolis-Lafayette state roads. The property lines diagonally from left of center bottom to the northwest show the location of the original Indianapolis road. Image snipped 14 September 2019.

The next facility built that connected to Lafayette would be the Wabash and Erie Canal, finished to the town in the 1840s, although the canal would actually be across the river from the town (through what is now West Lafayette). This canal would allow traffic from Lake Erie, at Toledo, to connect to the Ohio River, via the Wabash and White Rivers, at Evansville. The Wabash and Erie would end up being the longest canal built in the United States, a total of 497 miles. The canal itself competed with another canal from Toledo, connecting to Cincinnati. It connected to Lafayette in 1843. It would be the premium transportation facility to the town for less than a decade. It would be superseded by the railroad, even though canal traffic would continue for decades.

Three years after the coming of the canal, on 19 January 1846, the state of Indiana incorporated the Lafayette & Indianapolis (L&I) Railroad company. This was the most successful attempt at creating a railroad to connect the two cities. The first was an addition to the Madison & Indianapolis to connect to the town. Later laws allowed for this addition to be either a railroad, or if more financially efficient, a road to connect Lafayette to the Hoosier capitol town. (Indianapolis was legally a town until October 1847.) The original plan was to connect Indianapolis, via Crawfordsville, to Lafayette.

The L&I finished construction, on a more direct route, in 1852. On 14 February 1867, the L&I merged with the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad to form the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette Railway. That, in turn, was reorganized on 10 July 1873 to become the Indianapolis, Cincinnati & Lafayette (IC&L) Railroad. This version of the IC&L would be sold at foreclosure on 2 February 1880, becoming part of the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis & Chicago (CISTL&C) Railway on 6 March 1880. This, in turn, would be consolidated into the new Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, better known as the “Big Four,” on 1 Jul 1889. The Big Four would have strong connections with the New York Central system, although it was technically its own company, starting in 1906. By 1930, the Big Four was merged into the NYC, ending its separate existence.

Between 1846 and 1852, a new railroad would be built from the south, starting in Crawfordsville, to connect to Lafayette. While this sounds like the original plan for the Madison, Indianapolis & Lafayette mentioned above, it wasn’t that company that had anything to do with it. Incorporated on 19 January 1846, the Crawfordsville & Wabash Railroad was created to build north from the title town. The 28 miles to Lafayette were finished in 1852, just in time for the C&W to be sold to the New Albany & Salem Rail Road company. This would become part of the ultimate line idea to connect New Albany to Chicago and Michigan City. Seven years later, the company would change its name to better show off its size: Louisville, New Albany & Chicago. This company went from being a (legally) railroad (24 October 1859), to a railway (7 January 1873), to a consolidated railway (10 August 1881), all while keeping the same base name. The last consolidation would include the Chicago & Indianapolis Airline Railway (“airline” in this context means the fastest and most direct route allowed for a railroad). Another name change in the company formed the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway. It wouldn’t be until 1956 when the name changed to the nickname the line had for many years during the CI&L period: Monon. The line is now part of CSX, like the old New York Central line mentioned above.

The next railroad to reach Lafayette would become the Wabash Railroad. Like the Wabash and Erie Canal, the railroad would connect Lafayette to Toledo. To the west, the line continued toward Danville, Illinois, through Attica. The original company to build the line was the Wabash & Western Railway, incorporated in Indiana on 27 September 1858. After several consolidations, and bankruptcies, the line would come under the umbrella of the nearly 2000 mile Wabash system.

On 13 July 1869, the Lafayette, Muncie & Bloomington (LM&B) Railroad was incorporated in Indiana to connect the title cities (Bloomington being in Illinois). Construction on the line started shortly after the incorporation was passed into law. It would start at Bloomington, Illinois, headed toward Lafayette. From there, it would traverse the Indiana countryside through Frankfort to its terminus at Muncie. The line was completed, for a total of just shy of 36 miles, to Lafayette from the Illinois-Indiana state line in 1872. The other 85 miles, to Muncie, was completed in 1876. The LM&B would not last long as a separate entity after its completion, being purchased by the Lake Erie & Western (LE&W) on 28 April 1879. 1879 was the year that several lines were purchased to create the overall LE&W. The railroad itself would find itself controlled by the New York Central from 1900 to 1922, when it was sold to the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, better known as the Nickel Plate.

These two railroads would become part of the Norfolk & Western (N&W) Railway on 16 October 1964, but in different ways. The Nickel Plate became part of the N&W flat out, via merger. Technically, the Nickel Plate ceased to exist that day. The Wabash, however, was leased by the N&W. As such, the Wabash maintained a more separate existence even through the N&W/Southern merger creating the Norfolk Southern (NS). The Wabash still existed, on paper at least, until the NS finally absorbed, in merger form, the Wabash in November 1991. Stock in the company would be traded until that time.

In 1902, a new form of transportation was aiming to come to the city. The Fort Wayne, Logansport & Lafayette Traction Company was trying to get the tow path from the (at that time) old Wabash and Erie Canal “from the west line of High street in Logansport westward to the county line” condemned for use as the right-of-way for the new interurban line. This was, as reported in the Indianapolis Journal of 27 August 1902, because the company claimed that the right-of-way was “necessary to construct its line in, through and between the cities of Fort Wayne, Huntington, Wabash, Peru, Logansport, Delphi and Lafayette.” The defendants in this action were the owners of property along that tow path. Another suit, involving the same company, sought the same action for the entire tow path, 39 miles, from Lafayette to Logansport. This would culminate in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (14 December 1902) headline “The Fort Wayne, and Lafayette Traction Company Can Have Tow Path if it Pays the Price.” The value of the land between Logansport and Lafayette was determined to be $38,750.80.

Another line entering Lafayette was built from Indianapolis. By 27 June 1903 (Indianapolis Journal), the Indianapolis & Northern Traction Company, building a line from Indianapolis along the Michigan Road, through Zionsville, Whitestown and Lebanon (roughly following the Big Four Lafayette Line), then through Frankfort to Lafayette was two miles away from the city. This line would become part of the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company, owners of a large number of the routes leaving Indianapolis. In 1930, this line was purchased by Midland Utilities, and consolidated into the Indiana Railroad (1930). After this purchase, the line wouldn’t last long before it was abandoned due to profitability issues.

With the (second) creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1919, Lafayette would be connected to the state highway system using state roads 29 and 32. State road 29 started in Boswell, connecting Oxford, Otterbein, West Lafayette, Lafayette, and Russiaville, ending at the Range Line Road, then SR 1 (now US 31) south of Kokomo. State road 32 started in Lafayette, connecting to Bloomington via Crawfordsville, Greencastle, Cloverdale and Spencer. State road 29 west of Lafayette would become US 52 and SR 22 in 1926. East of Lafayette, the number would be changed from 29 to 26. State road 32 would become part of SR 43. This would change with the addition of US 231 to Indiana, removing the SR 43 designation in favor of the new US route number, in 1951.

With the Great Renumbering, more state roads were added to, or authorized to be added to, the city of Lafayette. US 52 would follow the old Indianapolis state road to that city. Northwest out of Lafayette, there were already plans in place to move the newly designated US 52. Northeast out of town, a new state road was authorized to be built to Delphi. This was to be designated SR 25. Also authorized was an extension to SR 43 north from the city, ultimately connecting to Michigan City. In the years to follow, Lafayette would also be connected to SR 25 to the southwest and SR 26 to the west. The number 43 would remain north of town, as the new US 231 would follow US 52 and then replace SR 53 north from Montmorenci. The last state road to head toward the city would be SR 38, which roughly followed the original state road from Noblesville.

Many changes in transportation facilities have occurred in Lafayette since the creation of all those mentioned above. US 52 and US 231 have been rerouted around the city. The railroads have consolidated routes for efficiency through downtown. Lafayette is served by both of the major railroad companies in the eastern United States: CSX and NS. Prior to 1999, it was actually served by all three. The third being Conrail. Lafayette still serves as the transportation hub in the area.

Bicycling the Michigan Road

Toward the end of the 19th Century, and into the early 20th, a movement was underway in the United States called “the Good Roads Movement.” This movement led to a great many things that helped make the current transportation situation much better: state highway departments, Federal funding of roads, Auto Trails, hard surface roads, etc. But what is usually lost in the whole scheme of things is the fact that when the Good Roads movement started, motor vehicle transportation was not the primary concern. It started as a two pronged effort to improve the roads for two purposes: bicycles and mail delivery.

Most of the longer distance roads in the state had been given to toll road companies for maintenance. The idea was that the companies would take the money from tolls to keep the road in good condition. Unfortunately, most of the time these roads turned into a cash grab for the toll road owners. What started out as fairly good condition roads devolved into mud paths connecting distant points. Most of the toll roads turned into basically wider paths through the rural areas that were dusty in dry weather, and mud pits in wet. When bicycles started becoming more and more common, this was unacceptable. When the counties bought back the toll roads, money was tight and it didn’t get much better.

Throughout the mid-1890s, the Indianapolis News would publish articles of interest to bicyclists. Many of these articles covered routes for those riders to follow. Today’s subject is from the News of 18 April 1896, covering “Bicycle Route North,” or the old Michigan Road.

Keeping in mind that the Michigan Road was laid out in the 1830s, and designed for horse transport, the newspaper stated that “the Michigan road is rather in ill repute among cyclists, on account of the many bad hills which mark its pathway for several miles out of the city.” Due to these hills and valleys, the Michigan Road ended up with two reputations: 1) it was only recommended for expert hill climbers, and 2) the “Michigan road to the north is forgotten,” with cyclists using other roads to the north and “it is probably less used than any of the gravel roads leading out of the city.” The News commented that “wheelmen in this make a serious mistake, for there is no prettier trip leading out of Indianapolis than the one out over the Michigan road to Augusta, or even further.”

Indianapolis News, 18 April 1896, map showing routes to the north of Indianapolis.

The subject article goes on to describe the recommended route for cyclists to follow. This series of articles usually included the subject road out of the city, with another route back. This particular article starts by recommending that riders avoid the Michigan Road south of Fall Creek. They state that riders should start out of the city on Illinois Street, instead, “and it is only a run of four blocks across to the Michigan road.”

“Once beyond Fall Creek, the road becomes a hard, firm gravel road, which is in excellent condition.” The road, at the time, ran parallel to the street car tracks taking passengers to North Indianapolis. The first hill is just north of the suburb. “The first hill is not so bad. It is simply a forerunner of what is to come.”

After running along the west edge of Crown Hill Cemetery, a big hill to the north of the cemetery is encountered. A small valley, “before passing the Country Club lane,” gives a little respite before more hill climbing begins. There were two more hills, considered “bad,” before reaching the Central Canal. Between the canal and White River, the road narrows quite a bit. The bridge over the White River is said to be an old covered bridge with a deck, while being replaced that spring, was in bad condition. The News reports that until the deck is replaced “the rider going at a good rate of speed will think he has run foul of a bucking bronco before he gets through.”

After crossing the river proper, the river bottom of about 1/4 mile was crossed. This is where the International School is today. Then begins another big hill. The road in that section as in rough shape, that will “try the mettle of any rider indeed.” Once at the top of the hill, however, the view of the White River was very beautiful. At the top of the hill, a “dirt road turns west and then south running along the river for a short distance, then swinging out through Brooklyn Heights, and connecting with the Meyers gravel road.” This is now Cold Spring Road.

Two more short hills would be encountered before reaching Mount Pleasant (Mount Alliance Post Office) at what is now Grandview Avenue. From there, the old road is listed as being tree lined, and therefore, a great place to ride on a hot day with all the shade. Many crossroads are encountered before reaching Crooked Creek (at the current Kessler Boulevard). After Crooked Creek, the old road then starts across farm fields, losing what is considered, by the newspaper, all of its beauty. The road at Crooked Creek leads to Crow’s Nest, if the rider so chooses to follow that road.

1.5 miles north of Crooked Creek is the town of Augusta. The town was the namesake of the toll company that had owned the road prior to Marion County buying it back. Just before Augusta is the New Augusta turnpike, which is now 71st Street west, and Westlane Road east. Going west, the road goes to, get this, New Augusta, which started as “Augusta Station” on the Lafayette & Indianapolis Railroad. It is stated that going into Augusta, however, is recommended “as there is an excellent well in front of one of the stores. There is also a blacksmith shop, who says he knows something about a bicycle.”

From there, “the ride north over the Michigan road can be continued for many a mile if desired. The road is in excellent condition in this county, but is reported to be badly cut up in Hamilton county.”

The article then goes into side journeys from the Michigan Road. Those are beyond the scope of this entry. But I will be covering more of these articles in the future, and covering the side journeys listed in separate blog posts.

Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836, Briefly

1836. The Indiana General Assembly passed a law so large that it threatened, ultimately, to bankrupt the state. I have covered several projects included in this bill in several other posts. But, you never know exactly what was completely included until you read the whole thing.

Google Books has available quite a few digitized books containing the laws of Indiana passed by the General Assembly. Most of these are small. They vary in size from a little over 100 pages to around 350 or so. But 1836’s book is over 900 pages. Admittedly, there are quite a few pages dedicated to other items, including the creation of several counties. Also, for some reason, the scanned book includes other years’ laws. The Improvements bill is Chapter II, and starts on page 6.

“Chapter II, AN ACT to provide for a general system of Internal Improvements. (Approved January 27, 1836.)” This is the start of one of the largest bills ever passed in Indiana. Sections One through Three cover the creation and organization of the “Board of Internal Improvements.” It consisted of six new members, appointed by the Governor and approved by the Senate, and the present Canal Commissioners.

The major part of this bill starts in Section 4, which stated “said Board of Internal Improvement is hereby authorized and directed to adopt such measures as may be necessary to commence, construct and complete, within a reasonable time, the following public works.” This contains eight projects. This list starts on page seven of the Acts of 1836 book. The following is a brief list of the projects included. The text for most of the projects include the amount of money to be expended on that project. I will not be including those in this post.

1) The White Water Canal, commencing on the west branch of the White Water 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 said west branch of the White Water above the National Road as far as may be practicable. A connection between this canal and hte Central Canal is also authorized. If it can not be completed by a canal, then a railroad is authorized from the National Road to the Central Canal in Madison or Delaware county.

2) The Central Canal, commencing at a suitable point between Fort Wayne and Logansport on the Wabash and Erie Canal, thence to Muncie(town), Indianapolis, and then down the White River West Fork to the East Fork of the same river. From there, the most practicable route to Evansville.

3) An extension of the Wabash and Erie Canal from the mouth of the Tippecanoe River to Terre Haute.

4) A railroad from Madison, through Columbus, Indianapolis, Crawfordsville to Lafayette, called the Madison and Lafayette Railroad.

5) A McAdamized Turnpike Road from New Albany through Greenville, Fredricksburgh, Paoli, Mount Pleasant, and Washington to Vincennes.

6) Resurvey of a route from Jeffersonville, via New Albany, Salem, Bedford, Bloomington, and Greencastle to Crawfordsville. It is determined whether it is more practicable to construct a railroad or a McAdamized road. If it is to be a road, then it is to connect to the Salem and Ohio Turnpike Company.

7) Removal of obstructions to navigation in the Wabash River from Vincennes to the mouth of the river.

8) A survey to determine whether it is more practicable to build a canal or railroad from the Wabash and Erie canal at Fort Wayne by way of Goshen, South Bend, and LaPorte to Michigan City, to be called the Erie and Michigan Canal or Railroad.

The bill continues after Section Four. Most of the rest of the bill, contains authorizations for bonds to be issued and loans to be taken to accomplish the projects listed in Section Four. There were a total of 41 sections of the law. In the Acts of 1836 book, the last section is listed on page 21.

Early Railroad Projects, Even Some Became Roads

In the early days of Indiana, much attention and money was spent on transportation facilities. Most of Indiana was a wilderness, and connecting remote places in the state became a priority. Starting in 1832, the General Assembly started passing laws creating railroad companies. In those early days, railroad technology wasn’t as advanced as it would be in the decade or so to come. Some of these projects would be dumped as railroads, becoming toll roads instead. One even took over, in the eyes of locals, the routing of the National Road.

On 3 February 1832, an act was passed by the Indiana General Assembly to “incorporate the Richmond, Eaton and Miami Rail Road Company.” However, less than one year later, on 2 February 1833, an amendment to that act had been passed. The amendment stated that the company is “vested with full power and authority to construct a turnpike road, in lieu of the rail road.” (1833 Acts of the Indiana General Assembly, Chapter XCVII) The toll road that would be built as a result of this act and amendment would, in the Auto Trail days, become part of the National Old Trails road. It was treated as part of the old National Road between Richmond and Springfield via Eaton and Dayton.

Chapter CXXVI of the 1834 Acts of the Indiana General Assembly, approved on 24 December 1833, sets forth an act “to incorporate the Evansville and Lafayette Rail Road Company.” The act specified that the railroad should connect Evansville, Princeton, Vincennes, Terre Haute, Covington before ending in Lafayette. While investigating ICC reports from 1917-1922, I can find no reference to this company whatsoever. The part of the route south of Terre Haute would be followed by what would become the Chicago & Eastern Illinois.

Two chapters after the last one, an act “to incorporate the Indianapolis and Lafayette Rail Road company.” This railroad was different than the one that would eventually be built through Lebanon and Thorntown. This route was laid out to connect Indianapolis, through Jamestown, Crawfordsville, Columbia (Tippecanoe County) to Lafayette. The route prescribed roughly follows what became part of the Big Four route to Crawfordsville, then along the Monon to Lafayette.

The 1835 Acts of the General Assembly list several possible railroad or turnpike projects. One section (13) of Chapter XVI, “an act to provide for the further prosecution of the Wabash and Erie Canal and for other purposes,” would allow the governor “to employ a competent engineer or engineers” for the following projects: a railroad or turnpike from Madison, by way of Indianapolis, Danville and Crawfordsville to Lafayette; a rail or turnpike road from Crawfordsville by way of Greencastle, Bloomington, Bedford and Salem to New Albany; and a railroad from Evansville to Vincennes via Princeton.

Section 16 of the same act provided that “engineers shall examine a route for a canal from or near Indianapolis to the Ohio river, at or near Jeffersonville, and if found not practicable to construct a canal between said points, then said engineers shall survey a route for a rail or turnpike road from Jeffersonville to intersect the rail road line in this act (mentioned in Section 13 above) directed to be surveyed from Madison to Indianapolis, at or near Columbus.” Both a toll road and railroad would be built in this case…the road would become part of US 31 later, and the railroad would become the Jeffersonville. The Jeffersonville would end up buying the railroad that it was to connect to “at or near Columbus.”

Section 18 allocated money for surveying a railroad from Terre Haute to Vincennes. The “report the same with an estimate of the probably cost of constructing the same, to the next General Assembly.” Section 19 allowed the same for the Lawrenceburgh and Indianapolis railroad. All of the money spent on this act was to come from funds allocated for the Wabash and Erie Canal.

This is the total list of railroad projects put forth by the Indiana General Assembly prior to the massive projects that would ultimately nearly bankrupt the State of Indiana implemented in 1836. Part of that plan was covered here.

1967: Kokomo Plans a Second and Third Bypass

US 31 has always been a rather important road in Indiana. So much so that before it was US 31, it was SR 1. This importance is shown by the fact that the original US 31 has been bypassed in several places throughout the state…and some of those are bypasses of bypasses.

An example is in Carmel. When the “new” US 31 was built along what is Meridian Street north of the Central Canal, it was, for a long time, a two lane road through Carmel. When the state decided to expand it to a four lane divided highway, the section that is now Old Meridian Street was bypassed for its current alignment.

But Kokomo was a different story. The US 31 bypass of that town opened in 1951. This moved the US 31 route from the city streets through downtown to a new alignment then east of the city. But for several years after construction, the new US 31 would be an alternate route. (The Vidette-Messenger of Porter County reported that the ribbon cutting on the Kokomo bypass was held in December 1959.) It wouldn’t take long until Kokomo moved out to the east to crowd the new bypass, making traffic overbearing on the new road.

How long, you ask? How about less than a year. There were already news stories at the end of 1951 stating that the new bypass was a traffic problem. But the State Highway Department decided to stand pat for a little while longer: almost two decades, sort of.

In the Kokomo Morning Times of 18 October 1967, it was announced that a NEW US 31 bypass was being planned…possibly. State and Howard County officials were contemplating several projects to make traffic smoother through the area. These projects involved US 31, US 35 and SR 19. It would take until the mid-2010s for two of these projects to come into full fruition. The SR 19 plan, which included extending that road from its end at US 35 north towards and into Peru, still has not happened. It is likely never to happen at this point.

Map of the planned highway program in Howard County, as published in the Kokomo Morning Times of 18 October 1967.

The two US route projects were to go hand-in-hand. The plan was to build a new northern bypass of Kokomo for US 35. At the time, US 35 still entered downtown Kokomo, along Markland Avenue. The road then turned north on Washington Street until it followed Davis Road to the northwest out of the city. The 1967 plan called for US 35 to break from Davis Road roughly where it does today, bypassing Kokomo on the north and east to a point between the then current US 31 bypass and SR 19. Unlike the now almost decade old US 31, this new road would be a limited access route, allowing better traffic flow.

But the other part of the plan would be even more ambitious. US 31 would bypass Kokomo on the west, in an area between Howard CR 300W and CR 400W. It would start leave the then current US 31 south of SR 26, connecting back to its mother road near the Howard-Miami County Line. It would then cross the new US 35 bypass north of Kokomo. This would have the effect of creating a three-quarter loop around the city of Kokomo. This new facility, like US 35, would become a limited access alignment. This was, again, unlike the US 31 bypass completed in 1959.

The projects in this plan were, according to the newspaper, “projected for work by the year 1982.” The bypasses were to be taken into consideration with the “still planned for a near-future construction program will be completion of dual-laning between Kokomo and Peru of U.S. 31.”

The Morning Times also mentions that the “current” US 31 bypass wasn’t working as planned by the State Highway Department. “The present bypass was built to gear traffic away from the congestion of the city’s center. But, planners were not far-sighted enough to implement limited access as part of the present bypass.”

The newspaper also added an editorial comment to the end of the article. “It may be ten years until active efforts materialize to spark construction of the new bypass and an expansion of Ind. 19, but planners have committed themselves in 1967 as favoring these projects for the future.”

As it turned out, this project never came into being. SR 19 still ends at US 35. The newspaper claims that “the Ind. 19 to Peru stretch would accomplish three things at once. It would link Ind. 19’s broken portions, it would provide a north-south route around Kokomo and on the east side, and it would provide an adequate access route toward the Misissinewa Reservoir.”

The northern bypass of Kokomo would be accomplished with the completion of the current US 31 bypass of the city, some 40+ years after the plan mentioned above was created. US 35 now connects, and multiplexes, with US 31 east of Kokomo, following the new route to almost the end of the newly constructed bypass. The new bypass is also controlled access, or interstate standard. In the end, a bypass of Kokomo on the north, east, and south sides was completed. And, even though it added a couple of miles to the route, it would cut the travel time from Indianapolis to South Bend by up to 30 minutes.

Railroad Abandonments in Indianapolis

At one time, Indiana was crisscrossed by many railroad companies. After quite a few consolidations, the number went from hundreds of railroads to tens of them. With a handful of cities in the state having been an important hub for one or more railroads, transportation became a very important industry, and big business, in Indiana.

And then, railroads weren’t important.

Locations all over the state were hit with abandonments of railroad routes. Even the first railroad in Indiana, the Madison & Indianapolis, found itself cut in half in 1976 when the temporary United States Railroad Administration (the government agency that would start paring down the railroad network that would become part of Conrail on 1 April 1976) abandoned the section from Columbus to North Vernon.

Due to the concentration of railroads in the Indianapolis metropolitan area, there were more miles of track removed there than any other place in the state. This is not to say that Indianapolis was hit hardest, far from it. There were towns all over the state that lost their railroad completely. Just in the nine county metro area, the following come to mind: Plainfield, Zionsville, Carmel, Mount Comfort, and Greenfield. To a certain extent, Castleton, Fishers and Noblesville can be included on that list. But many miles of railroad track were removed from the landscape of Indianapolis, usually the only remnants of which are (now) unexplained humps in roads that crossed them. And occasionally a bridge over or under nothing.

Most of the trackage in Indianapolis that was abandoned originally belonged to companies that became part of the Penn Central in 1968. When Conrail was created in 1976, the only parts of the new company that were in Central Indiana were Penn Central lines. Other companies that became part of Conrail were mostly located in northern Indiana.

But one day before Conrail came into being, on 31 March 1976, the Penn Central officially abandoned the old Peoria & Eastern line on the east side of Indianapolis. The line, which connected Indianapolis to Shirley (originally to Springfield, Ohio, but the section from Shirley to Lynn, Indiana, had been abandoned in 1974), was removed from a point east of Post Road.

1982 saw a massive abandonment of what was once the Pennsylvania Railroad in the Indianapolis area. Conrail, the owner of the line at the time, officially abandoned the old Pennsylvania Mainline from Limedale to Bridgeport, and from Pine (the PRR junction with the Indianapolis Belt on the east side of the city) to Charlottesville.
This was after the section from Charlottesville to Cambridge City had been abandoned in 1976.

Two years later, the original Indianapolis & Vincennes line, connecting downtown Indianapolis to the Eagle Creek connector (a line the PRR built to connect two sections of the old Vandalia – the I&V and the TH&I – between Holt Road and Tibbs Avenue) was officially removed by Conrail. That line went across property which is now the Eli Lilly campus that has also taken over Kentucky Avenue from Morris Street to Harding Street. It was then known as the Kentucky Avenue Industrial. Two industrial tracks attached to the old I&V also were removed at the same time. Known as the Caven Industrial, it consisted of two tracks: Maywood Avenue to Petersburg Secondary (aka the old I&V/Vandalia/PRR, now Indiana Southern) (4.5 miles) and Allison Plant to Maywood Avenue (4.3 miles).

At the same time as the I&V abandonment, Conrail decided to remove what was left of the original Lafayette & Indianapolis line, which had become the North Stret Industrial. This track had been removed in three sections: one) 2.7 miles from Methodist Hospital to the Water Company; two) 1.4 miles between Acme Evans to 16th Street; and three) .88 miles of track that ran east of the Central Canal (that would include the track that ran through what is now the Indiana Government Complex). The Acme Evans spur tracks at West Street would not be removed until 1989. The last of the North Street Industrial, owned by CSX, is listed as “pending” on the official INDOT abandonment list. But this list hasn’t been updated since 2013. The abandonment section is listed as “Northwest Belt and North Street IT.”

Another New York Central track, the Louisiana Street Spur, which connected Union Station almost due east to the NYC Coach Yard at Shelby Street was also officially abandoned by Conrail in 1984. The bridge that was built in 1975/1976 over Interstates 65/70 just south of Bates Street is part of this route. The bridge was refurbished when the interstate was closed from major reconstruction. At that point, the railroad had been removed for almost two decades.

1987: CERA abandoned the Rolling Mill Industrial, which connected Indianapolis Union Station to the N. K. Hurst Company building on McCarty Street. CERA had obtained the line in 1982 from Conrail.

The CSX Decatur Sub, which it had acquired with the consolidation of the C&O and B&O, was removed in Indianapolis in several sections.
– 1989: 26.73 miles from Indianapolis MP 132.45 to Roachdale.
– 1992: Indianapolis from MP 129.2 to 132.45.
– 1996: From Moorefield Yard (MP 127.8) to Speedway (MP 129.2)
– 2002: Indianapolis (MP 127.8) to Speedway (MP 129.19).

All of these abandonments would occur as part of CSX. The entire route, from Decatur, Illinois, to Speedway, was on the chopping block by the B&O before it was taken into CSX proper.

The Monon line through Indianapolis was taken away in sections starting in 1974. First, in 1974, the Louisville & Nashville chopped the section between 10th and 17th Streets. Two years later, the L&N extended that to 22nd Street. Then, in 1984, CSX removed the rest of the line all the way to Frankfort.

Most of the information for this entry came from the list of abandoned railroads maintained by the Indiana Department of Transportation. That list, apparently, has not been updated since 2013. It is available here.

The Cline Avenue Bridge

East Chicago, 15 April 1982, 1040. The biggest Indiana Department of Highways project to that date suffered a major accident. The ramp to the Cline Avenue bridge, built to replace a lift bridge over the Indiana Harbor Ship Canal, collapsed. The resulting accident, one of the worst industrial accidents in Indiana history, killed 12 people and injured 17 more.

Chronology of the collapse of the ramps to the Cline Avenue Bridge in East Chicago, Indiana. Image courtesy of The Times of Munster, Indiana, 16 April 1982, via newspapers.com.

The Cline Avenue bridge was part of a larger project known as a replacement SR 912. SR 912, at that time, crossed the Indiana Harbor Canal on Dickie Road, a lift bridge with numerous traffic delays. The goal was to replace this grade level road with a six lane expressway, eliminating at-grade crossings, and soaring over the canal with a bridge 130 feet high.

One of the rare things about the bridge project was that the construction company could decide for itself how to build the bridge. The decision was made to use concrete girder construction. This type of construction had been used, at that time, for nearly three decades. Instead of casting the sections of the bridge in a factory and shipped to the site, the casting was done onsite. The type of construction used meant for lower concrete usage and less cost, but still had the advantage of being very strong.

As the chronology above shows, the first section started its downfall at 1040. That section of the ramp was 250 feet in length. Two minutes afterwards, the first ambulances started arriving on the scene. The problem that was immediately noticed was that there were still six or seven construction workers now on an orphaned section of the bridge. The section lost all connection for those men to safely escape the area. That section had no support, and collapse was deemed imminent. That section collapsed five minutes after the first.

The first 11 dead were taken to a make-shift morgue near the site. As of the reporting of the incident the next day, the 12th victim was still trapped in the debris “encased head-down in concrete that workers had poured just before the collapse.”

“‘Presumably what fell was the false work – the scaffolding that holds up the forms for the concrete,’ said Gene Hallock, director of the Indiana Department of Highways.” (source: Journal and Courier; Lafayette, Indiana; 16 April 1982) According to a History Channel documentary on the project, the footers for the false work was concrete left over from the bridge pour.

It was determined in October, 1982, that, in fact, the problem stemmed from the concrete footers for the false work. Stress tests showed that the concrete used for those footers could only support half the weight necessary for the work. After a redesign of those footers, the construction company completed the original Cline Avenue project in 1984.

But that would not be the end of the bad news for the Cline Avenue bridge. In 2009, it was determined that the bridge suffered from major corrosion and was in need of replacement. The bridge was closed 4 January 2010. Traffic volumes on the bridge had dropped from a high of 80,000 vehicles a day to around 30,000. INDOT determined that replacing the structure was necessary, but not financially feasible. A deal was made to replace the bridge by a private company. Now, nearly a decade later, the replacement bridge is still not built.

Admittedly, the inspiration for this post came from my watching YouTube. Specifically, the above mentioned History Channel documentary.

State Roads, 1831 (Part 2)

This is a continuation of yesterday’s entry: State Roads, 1831 (Part 1). Remember: The concept of “state road” was completely different that it is today. Today, a state road is a road that has become the responsibility of the state transportation authority (for instance, now INDOT). Then a state road was a road that was authorized by the state, paid for by the state, but built and maintained by the county through which the road passed. So, basically, the state using Federal land proceeds to pay for, what will be, county roads. Some of these routes DID cross the line between the two different types of state roads.

Section 7: The section first listed in this act, from Frankford (Frankfort) to Delphi roughly follows US 421. The route to connect to the road that was mentioned in Section 6 of the same chapter, this road could have basically used a (more or less) straight line that follows SR 18 from downtown Delphi to SR 43. Or, followed what is now US 421 from Delphi to Michigan City. I am leaning toward the former.

Sections 8, 9 and 10: These sections talk about the Commissioners: their oaths, duties, paperwork to be done, and payment for service. Other things discussed was the fact that although the state is paying to make the road, it is the county’s responsibility to open and maintain them. The minimum requirement for the road to be open is that it be no more than 40 feet wide.

The three percent fund is the money that the Federal Government gave the state after the sales of Federal land. The state was given three percent of the sale price.

Section 11: Of the several places mentioned in this section, one (Baltimore) disappeared when the Wabash & Erie Canal was built on the opposite bank of the Wabash River, and another (Legrange) is very hard to find out any information. There is one old brick house left of Baltimore. It is located on SR 263 at Warren CR 1025S. (Strangely, Google Maps has SR 263 labeled “Old State Highway 63” as the street name.) The road starts at the Warren County line as Warren CR 600W. The original road has disappeared between US 136 and the old location of Baltimore.

Section 12: This is one of those “special acts” that I mentioned in my Indiana Toll Road(s) post on 24 May 2019. The state road starts at one person’s farm? Really? Exactly where IS Walker’s Farm in Parke County? At least from Clinton to Newport, the road roughly resembles SR 63 (or, at least, old SR 63).

The Acts of 1830, available here, shows more state road laws put into place that year. I will be covering those at a later date.

US 40 at Terre Haute

Terre Haute, Indiana. Opinions of the town vary. No matter your opinion of the city on the Wabash, one thing is certain. Terre Haute’s place in transportation history is set in stone. There are so many subjects that can be covered about that city. Today, I am going to focus on one of the early important parts of that history: the National Road.

But before we can focus on the National Road history, a little bit of Terre Haute history is in order. The “high land,” or terre haute in French, had been the site of a Wea native American village for an unknown number of years before white settlement came in the form of Fort Harrison a few miles north of what would become the town of Terre Haute. When the Wea were forced to move from the area, their orchards and meadows became the site of the new town which would become the Vigo County seat of government with the creation of that county in 1818.

Fast forward to 1834, when the National Road was completed across Indiana. The reason for Terre Haute being on the route was simply because the route was to connect the capital cities of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. The capitals of Ohio and Indiana are still in the same location as they were then: Columbus and Indianapolis. But, the capital of Illinois was at Vandalia, meaning a southwestly route from Indianapolis. (Had the capital of Illinois been moved to Springfield when the road was being planned, it’s entirely possible that what is now US 36 west of Indiana would be US 40.)

Because Terre Haute was on an almost straight line between Indianapolis and Vandalia, it was natural for the road to connect to what, up to that point, had been an important town on the Wabash River and the Wabash and Erie Canal. The original road would come into town via the same route it does today, Wabash Avenue. Below is a 1925 map of the route of the National Road through Terre Haute. (The complete map, which I recommend if you have any interest in Terre Haute, or any of the other connections to the “Capital of the Wabash” at the time can be found here: http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/3626/rec/2)

1925 map of Terre Haute centering on the National Road

To show that little had changed, the following map (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15078coll8/id/2890/rec/6) is from 1907. According to the hand written notes on the map, the red lines represent Terre Haute, Indianapolis and Eastern tracks, whether they be city street cars or the interurban to Indianapolis. The blue lines are the city boundary. (Honestly, the way those blue lines are drawn confuse the living Hades out of me. Check out the link!)

In 1917, the old road through Terre Haute was taken into the State Main Market Highway system as Road #3. (There were only 5.) Or, at least, it was supposed to be. Due to fighting about the Constitutionality of the Highway Law of 1917, the road would be designated but not officially under state maintenance until the new rewritten law of 1919. Thus, the National Road, along its original route, became State Road 3. In 1926, that was changed to US 40.

No changes would take place in the routing of US 40 until about 1974. At that point, westbound US 40 ran to US 41 (Third Street) on Wabash Street, turning north one block in multiplex, then turning west again to cross the new Cherry Street bridge over the Wabash River. Eastbound, it entered downtown on a new Ohio Street bridge to Third Street, where it turned one block north to Wabash Street and the original route.

1974-1975 Indiana Official Highway Map inset of Terre Haute

The next change would appear in 1977, when the eastbound used Ohio Street to 10 1/2 Street (at least that’s what it looks like on the official map of that year). The westbound route would turn north on Ninth Street to Cherry Street. It would stay this way until the mid 2010’s, when US 40 was completely removed from Terre Haute. At that time, the official US 40 route would be moved to “Old SR 46” (name on the street sign at this point), running south with SR 46 to I-70. US 40 then multiplexes with I-70 to just west of the Illinois-Indiana State Line.

1977 Indiana Official Highway Map inset of Terre Haute

West of Terre Haute, there would be several changes in the official route of US 40. Those I plan to cover at a later time.

Before Indianapolis Union Depot

In the 1850’s, the owners of the railroad companies that converged on Indianapolis decided to create a first of its kind Union Depot, a place where all passengers could catch any train in or out of the city in a central location. But exactly brought on this grand plan? What was catching a train in Indianapolis like before the consolidation of passenger depots? I am going to explain the difficulty of getting from one train to another using an 1852 map of the city.

1852 location of the Union or General Passenger Depot

Let’s start with the location of the “Union or General Passenger Depot,” later to be replaced with Union Station. The Depot is between Illinois and Meridian Streets, on the south side of Louisiana Street. From what I can tell, there were two reasons for picking this location. One is the central location. It’s not a stretch to believe that all of the railroad companies could connect to this area, with several roads already within site of the destination. The second, when looking at the map, tends to stick out like a sore thumb. The waterway running from the south, turning east north east, is Pogue’s Run. That stream had, to this point, been a thorn in the side of the growing city. The fact that the first three years of the town of Indianapolis had major malaria outbreaks due to the swamps surrounding this stream come to mind. It was less used, and hence cheaper, land to use for this purpose.

1852 location of the TH&I Depot

TERRE HAUTE & INDIANAPOLIS

Just west of the Union Depot, between Mississippi Street (after 1894, Senate Avenue) and Tennessee Street (after 1894, Capitol Avenue) on the south side of Louisiana Street is the Terre Haute Depot. It’s location puts it four blocks south and two blocks west of the Circle.

1852 location of the L&I Depot

LAFAYETTE & INDIANAPOLIS

North of the original mile square, the Lafayette & Indianapolis depot was located on land surrounded by Mississippi, North, Missouri and St. Clair Streets. This put the station six blocks north and three blocks west of the circle. The connection rail to the new Union Depot would run along the canal, through what is now the state office complex.


1852 location of the Bee Line Depot

BELLEFONTAINE

Located in the middle of Broadway Street, between Arch and Vine (now Ninth) Streets, the Bellefontaine ended its Indianapolis run here. This location is eight blocks north and six blocks east of the circle. This was also one of the few stub end depots that were present when the Union Depot came into being.


1852 location of the P&I Depot


PERU & INDIANAPOLIS

This depot is located on land that wasn’t part of the original Indianapolis design done by Alexander Ralston. The diagonal just to the north of the depot is the location of the original North Carolina Street. New Jersey Street would have ended at that point, and restarted at the diagonal line south of the depot, which would have been South Carolina Street, had either of the Carolina Streets been built. The first street north of the depot is Maryland Street. This puts the depot four blocks east and two blocks south of the circle.

As an aside, the original connection rail to the new Union Depot for the Bellefontaine ran a separate route from the Peru line. Later, both would be moved next to each other two blocks east of the location shown on the map.

1852 locations of the Union Depot, Madison Depot and Cincinnati Depot

INDIANAPOLIS & CINCINNATI

Two blocks east of the new Union Depot, located in the middle of what would have been South Carolina Street, was the Indianapolis & Cincinnati Railroad Depot. This, too, was in an area that wasn’t originally laid out in the plat of Indianapolis. The depot was two blocks east and four blocks south of the circle.

MADISON & INDIANAPOLIS and the
JEFFERSONVILLE

The first depot in Indianapolis was located just outside of the mile square, between Pennsylvania and Delaware Streets, south of South Street. That would make it one block east and five blocks south of the circle. The Jeffersonville Railroad would have also used this depot, as they had trackage rights, or soon would, over the Madison & Indianapolis.

The only railroad at the time that didn’t have a depot in place was the Indiana Central that went east to Richmond. Since it was completed about the same time as the Union Depot, one would assume that the company decided to “move in with the furniture.”

Just looking at the locations of the different depots through the city, one could get an idea of what it must have been like to go from one point to another in the state when having to go through Indianapolis. Imagine trying to go from, say, Pendleton to Columbus. That would have required offloading on the north side of the city, finding transport to the south side, and boarding another train.

The creation of the Union Depot made traveling a lot easier when coming into Indianapolis. The Madison, Terre Haute, Cincinnati and Peru Depots wouldn’t just disappear when all was said and done. Those stations would be used as the freight depots for those railroads for years to follow.

Shelbyville Lateral Branch

Personal note. I have never spent so much time in Shelby County as I have since I met my wife, Paula. For most of her life, her family has lived in a place I describe as just past the middle of nowhere, north of the Bartholomew-Shelby County line legally in Flatrock. What does this have to do with this entry? My investigative interest started in this direction due to my going to Paula’s family house. Let me explain.

There are two ways from my old house, and her old condo, to her family’s house. One way used US 421 to Shelbyville and south on SR 9. The other way would use I-65 south, and exit either at SR 44 in Franklin or at SR 252. The SR 44 route is the one that piqued my interest in what I found out to be the Shelbyville Lateral Branch (SLB). Going out the old Greensburg State Road from Franklin, we would go through the town of Marietta. The main street in Marietta is Railroad Street. Wait. What? There’s no railroad in Marietta. And no sign that there ever was. What in the world?

And hence, I started to look into a strangely named street in an out of the way little burgh.

The history of the Shelbyville Lateral Branch has more to do with other, competing, railroad companies. The SLB was done in by both that “war,” but also by roads that directly competed with it.

The SLB started, and ended, life as a feeder line for another railroad. The route connected Shelbyville to Edinburgh through the Shelby County countryside. It connected to two railroad projects at Edinburgh: the Madison & Indianapolis (M&I) and the Jeffersonville (J). The former was the first long distance railroad in Indiana, connecting the two title cities on 1 October 1847. The latter was started to connect Indianapolis to Jeffersonville (and hence Louisville). The latter would run into hard times, not financially, but due to the conceited management practices of the former.

The Jeffersonville had thought, maybe rightly so, that once their line reached Columbus, and the M&I there, that an agreement would be reached to get traffic from Jeffersonville and Louisville to Indianapolis along the M&I. Not so much. The M&I was having none of that. They were afraid that the J would take river traffic out of Madison, hurting the road financially. So the J built a parallel track from Columbus to Edinburgh. 10 miles of track, built side by side, by competing companies. And this is where feeder lines come in.

Let me say this at this point. The Madison had reason to believe that river traffic would be moved from Madison to Jeffersonville. Madison, while closer to Indianapolis, didn’t have something that Jeffersonville had – an impassible Ohio River. Right at Jeffersonville, Louisville and New Albany are the Falls of the Ohio, a shallow area where almost all river traffic had to disembark to go around the area. This was until a canal was built on the Kentucky bank of the river. (Almost said Kentucky SIDE of the river…but the Kentucky side is legally all the way to the low water mark on the Indiana bank.)

(** Edited by Paula Trefun Simpson 06/03/2021 to note that the ‘canal’ mentioned was the Louisville and Portland Canal**)

The Shelbyville Lateral Branch was built by local citizens in 1850. At Shelbyville, there were two routes out of town: the Knightsville & Shelbyville and the Rushville & Shelbyville. This ultimately connected Shelbyville, already served by the Lawrenceburg & Indianapolis (future NYC), to the Indiana Central (abandoned PRR) at Knightstown and the Junction (future B&O) at Rushville.

Now we get back to the M&I and it’s denial of service to the Jeffersonville. The Jeffersonville had been leasing the K&S in 1850. The M&I had furnished much of the rolling stock to the SLB. The M&I profited nicely from this arrangement, for a while, anyway. In an effort to reach Indianapolis, without having any chance at an agreement with the M&I, the J purchased the SLB right out from under the M&I. While not ideal, this would give the J access to Indianapolis in spite of the M&I.

By the time the Jeffersonville’s own tracks reached the connection point at Edinburgh, the Madison realized the error in their ways, making the SLB essentially pointless to the Jeffersonville. What started as control of the SLB on 1 July 1851, basically started a downslide when the J and the M&I finally came to terms in 1855. The writing was on the wall for the SLB. By this time, the Columbus and Shelby had also been built and put into service, giving Shelbyville, and its connections, direct access to Columbus, something it would have until the early-1980’s.

When it was originally built, the SLB used flat bar rail. This was basically flat iron strapped to pieces of wood or stone. While this was quick to install and cheap to build, it also had the potential to be very dangerous. The strap iron would sometimes break lose of the attachment, and, under the weight of the traffic, would bend and curve its way into the bottoms of the wooden rolling stock. The Jeffersonville would replace some of the rail with T rail. That project was never finished before the Shelbyville Lateral Branch breathed its last in 1859.

Looking at it now, the only real thing left of the the SLB is several ads that I have seen and copied, and the name of a street in Marietta that started my imagination and investigation. Unlike most abandoned railroads in Indiana, this one didn’t last long enough to make permanent marks on the landscape. Nor was it really ever elevated the way most railroads were. There are no roadbeds to see, and very few maps that I have seen even show the existence of this route. It, along the the Knightstown and Shelbyville, just up and disappeared within essentially a decade of their creation. They were both basically replaced with the line that connected from Columbus to Shelbyville to Rushville.

And, in the end, the SLB just was a microcosm of the entire railroad battle between the Jeffersonville and the Madison & Indianapolis. By 1864, after a bankruptcy and new management, the M&I ended up just becoming owned and operated by the very company that they were afraid would ruin the M&I – the Jeffersonville.

Canals and the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act of 1836

27 January 1836. The state of Indiana was eleven months shy of celebrating 20 years of statehood. On that day, Governor Noah Noble signed what was to turn out to be one of the biggest disasters in state history: the “Mammoth Internal Improvement Bill.”

But this law didn’t come out of the blue. It actually had its roots following the War of 1812. Transportation throughout the United States needed improvement. Major improvement. Due to the expenditures, the federal debt over twenty years after the war amounted to $225 Million,

In Indiana, the history of the canal system started with an act of Congress approved on 2 March 1827. That act granted money to the states of Ohio and Indiana to build a canal to connect the Maumee River to the Wabash River. There were many political fights and alternatives recommended. So many, in fact, that it took until 3 October 1829 for an agreement between Ohio and Indiana to build the sections of the canal in their respective states. Work finally started in Indiana on 22 February 1832 on what would become the 459 mile long Wabash and Erie Canal. This canal would connect Toledo, Fort Wayne, Peru, Delphi, Logansport, Lafayette and Terre Haute. When completed, it was actually possible to travel by water from New York to points inland, and even to New Orleans, without going around Florida.

In an effort to further improve transportation to the center of the state, the subject law was passed. The Mammoth Internal Improvements Act allowed the state of Indiana to issue bonds up to $13 million at 5 percent. While $13 million is a lot of money today, it made up one sixth of the entire wealth of the state of Indiana at the time. This was a massive undertaking.

The law provided for several projects: canals, roads and railroads. At the time, the most “wow” projects were canals. While relatively expensive, canals could move more freight faster than other types of projects. For instance, it was reported that the Wabash and Erie Canal could move freight at 8 miles per hour. That’s lightning fast at that time.

And canals would be the major focus of the bill, much to the chagrin of Governor Ray of Indiana. He preferred railroads. At the time of passage, two canals were completed in Indiana: the Wabash and Erie and the Whitewater. Canal projects included in this law would connect these two canals. The Fort Wayne & Lake Michigan Canal was planned to connect Fort Wayne with Michigan City on Lake Michigan. A Whitewater extension was planned to connect Cambridge City, on the Whitewater Canal to a point in western Madison County west of Anderson. There it would connect to the Central Canal, connecting the W&E at Peru to near Marion, west of Anderson, Noblesville, Indianapolis, Martinsville, and Spencer. It would then connect back to the W&E near Bloomfield in Greene County.

The Central Canal started building in several places. One section near Anderson, the section from Broad Ripple to downtown Indianapolis, and one section through souther Marion County to the Bluffs of the White River at Waverly. Only the Indianapolis section was opened. It ended up being used for water power for mills and factories. Eventually, it came under the ownership of the Indianapolis Waterworks, later the Indianapolis Water Company.

The Wabash and Erie Canal ended up being quite the success…for about two decades. It then started falling into disuse. With not using the canal, it fell into disrepair. With neglect, and outright sabotage, most of the canal path today is gone.

And in the end, the Mammoth Internal Improvements Act ended up putting the state of Indiana almost into bankruptcy. The credit of the state was ruined. It also led to Article 10, Section 5 of a new Constitution adopted in 1851. That section states “no law shall authorize any debt to be contracted, on behalf of the State, except in the following cases: to meet casual deficits in the revenue; to pay the interest on the State debt; to repel invasion, suppress insurrection, or, if hostilities be threatened, provide for the public defense.” This, later, would affect the original State Highway Commission law enacted in 1917.

1903: Big Four Special crash kills 15 Purdue Footballers

31 October 1903. A football game is scheduled in Indianapolis between Indiana and Purdue Universities. Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four) locomotive 350 was leading the first of two special trains bringing the Purdue football team and fans along the old Indianapolis & Lafayette tracks.

At around 10:00 AM, due to a combination of limited sight lines and lack of communications, the Big Four Special smashed into a cut of coal cars near “the old gravel pit,” which at the time was at the west end of 18th St. The area is now part of Peerless Pump Company, I-65 and the Methodist Hospital complex.

The old Lafayette and Indianapolis Railroad route, which in 1889 became the Chicago Division of the Big Four, started by running north along the tow path of the Indiana Central Canal/Missouri Street. When the canal turned northwest, the route continued north to a spot south of 16th St.. Then another curve occurred at 19th St. The tracks would then head toward 30th St. and another curve before heading off to New Augusta and Zionsville.

The curve at 16th Street, in addition to the plant of the United States Encaustic Tile works south of 16th Street, created a serious slight line issue. A switch train hauling coal cars to North Indianapolis was backing up northbound slowly, the engineer believing he had right-of-way. He had no knowledge of the Big Four Special coming south along the same line.

1898 map of the “Old Gravel Pit” area of Indianapolis

Coming into the northern curve, southbound, was Big Four #350 and its special consist. Along the west side of the track, at this point, was a siding that was occupied by a cut of box cars. This led to even more slight line issues. It wasn’t until the trains were within a city block of one another that the engineer and fireman of #350 noticed the switch engine.

The Special was running at a high rate of speed at this point. The engineer, W. H. Schumaker, reversed his engine and jumped from the side of the cab. The fireman, L. E. Irvan, jumped on top of the coal in the tender, where he remained an instant before the collision.

Of the 14 coaches (carrying 954 [Indianapolis News] or 963 [Indianapolis Star] passengers and the Purdue football team) that were part of the Special, four were completely wrecked. This was in addition to the engine, tender, and several coal cars of the switch train. The first coach was, according to the Indianapolis News of the day, “reduced to kindling wood.” The second was thrown into the gravel pit down a fifteen foot embankment. The third coach was thrown to the west side of the track, badly wrecked.

The list of the dead included two assistant coaches, several players and substitutes. The list of dead and injured from this wreck took up roughly 20 to 24 column inches of the Indianapolis News that evening – in the seventh extra.

In the pending investigation, the train crew of the Special were held responsible for the crash, though that crew states they had specific orders for their train. They deny having any responsibility for the crash. The crew of the switch train were given no indication that a special train would be running that day, as was standard operating procedure. The switch engine would arrive at 10:16, pulling on to a siding at North Indianapolis to allow the passing of the daily train southbound, as part of its normal everyday work.

Mentioned in the Indianapolis Star the next morning, “it is said, however, that the operator at one of the stations near the scene of the accident failed to notify the switching crew of the coming of the special train and that they made no efforts to get out of the way.”

Big Four officials, claiming that there are standing orders to maintain control of a train between North Indianapolis and Indianapolis, i.e. maintaining slower speeds to allow stopping in cases like this, dispute the claiming innocence of the crew of CCC&STL #350. The exact rule is “trains not scheduled, when permitted to run between North Indianapolis and the shops, must keep under control, expecting to find track occupied by yard engines.”

Particularly damning was a quote by H. F. Houghton, assistant superintendent of the Big Four: “Whether it is a straight track or a curve, clear weather or foggy, a heavy train of a light train, must be considered by the crew. The method of stopping a train is perfectly simple. By the exertion of small muscular force, such as a boy of ten years could furnish, the train can be brought to a standstill.” He went on to add “the rules provide that the conductor and the enginemen are responsible for the safety of the train.”

Beginning of the End of the Original L&I

It wasn’t long after this that the original L&I route through the Gravel Pit was bypassed. The Chicago Division line was, at first, cut just short of 30th Street. The new Chicago Division was routed along the Peoria & Eastern (on some maps called the Peoria Division due to operational contracts between the P&E and the Big Four) to a point just north of 10th Street. The rails then, and still do, run along the east side of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This track ran due north to connect to the original Lafayette line around 60th Street.

Eventually, the line would be dismantled a section at a time. The south end was removed for, among other things, the building of the Indiana State Government Center. The north end became only accessible from the Indianapolis Belt Railroad.

The sight lines along the bypass were much better than the original line, since the bypass is far straighter than the old line.

Information and quotes used in this entry come from the Indianapolis News of 31 October 1903 and 3 November 1903, and from the Indianapolis Star of 1 November 1903, courtesy of newspapers.com. Map sources used include the Indiana State Library (http://cdm16066.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/search/collection/p15078coll8) and Google Maps.