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)

OSR 37/SR 37 in Hamilton County

When one looks at a current map of Hamilton County, one notices a very distinct line that runs around Noblesville. That line used to connect Indianapolis to Fort Wayne (or more actually, Cleveland, Ohio) directly in the time before the interstates. The route of that line would be directly replaced by the interstate. Ironically, it would also do so south of Indianapolis, as well. Or will in the future. That line is marked SR 37.

But that is not the SR 37 I want to talk about. Nor do I want to focus on the SR 37 that was replaced by that “new” highway SR 37. But why bring up Hamilton County? Because the original road that was given the number 37 did travel through Noblesville. It just did so in the opposite direction.

I have made a relatively large number of posts about the current, and previous, SR 37. The section of the post-1926 SR 37 didn’t make into the state highway system until the 1930’s. And even then, it was known as SR 13. The Allisonville Road, originally the Indianapolis-Fort Wayne State Road, became the route of the new SR 13. SR 37 ended in downtown Indianapolis with SR 35 (later SR 135).

In 1920, when the Indiana State Highway Commission finally found its legal footing to exist following the Indiana Constitution of 1851, there were a lot of numbered highways added to the maps of the state. As I have mentioned before, there were already five state roads designated. 1920 saw a major explosion of them. To the point that 37 wasn’t even really the last number for them.

Original State Road 37 started at Original State Road 1 in Westfield. Today, the intersection would be known as Main and Union Streets. In this area, OSR 1 was the state’s version of the Range Line Road, connecting Indianapolis to Kokomo and beyond. OSR 37 then travelled east through the Hamilton County country side. Just east of what is now Hague Road, the OSR 37 traveled straight to Cicero Creek, then turned north on Cherry Tree Road. The road that used to be OSR 37 is, today, called Metsker Lane. Metsker is the name of the postal delivery person that had that route back in 1910.

1910 map from the United States Postal Department showing the route of what would, a decade later, become part of Original State Road 37 connecting Westfield to Noblesville. The lower case words on the map are not towns. They are the names of the postal delivery people for that route.

The modern road that follows the same corridor as OSR 37 gently curves to cross Cicero Creek. When it was originally planned sometime between 1830 and 1850, the road, as shown in the map above, crossed straight over Sly Run, and turned abruptly to the east to cross Cicero Creek.

As best as I can tell, the original Westfield Road/OSR 37 crossed the White River on Logan Street. The Westfield Road would end there at 10th Street in Noblesville. From here, the original route of OSR 37 would turn north along the old Fort Wayne State Road to what is now 191st Street.

I should also mention here that this was also an Auto Trail route, as well. The Crawfordsville To Anderson Highway was made part of OSR 33 from Crawfordsville to Lebanon, and OSR 37 from Westfield to Anderson.

For the rest of Hamilton County, what is now 191st Street sufficed as several designated roads: originally it was the Noblesville-Anderson State Road (given that designation in the 1830’s); the Crawfordsville To Anderson Highway (an Auto Trail); and Original State Road 37.

Now, again, those that have looked at a map of Hamilton County notices that SR 37 runs north and south. And that the road I am describing sounds miraculously like what is now SR 32. And that, my friends, would be correct. What is now SR 32 was originally SR 37. And what would become SR 37 eventually would be a part of SR 32 from Logan Street to 191st Street along 10th Street/Allisonville Road. So I guess that means the section of 10th Street shown on the Google map to the left was State Road 37 twice. One of a very few sections of road that would have the same number before and after the Great Renumbering.

Another that I know about is SR 2 southwest of Rolling Prairie. When the original state road numbers were laid out, the Lincoln Highway was given the number 2. This would change in late 1923 as the “more direct” Lincoln Highway route (now the US 30 corridor) was given the number 2, and the original highway was given assorted numbers. With the Great Renumbering, most of the original Lincoln Highway was renumbered to State Road 2 – from Fort Wayne to South Bend, and from Rolling Prairie to Valparaiso. The latter section still has that designation.

Through the years, SR 32 would be moved a block south, rerouted directly out of Noblesville to the east, and removed from 191st Street. SR 37 would bypass Noblesville…mostly. Now that Noblesville has expanded out to the current SR 37, the word bypass just doesn’t fit anymore, does it?

Indiana Vs. Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad

In 1899, the state of Indiana brought forth a lawsuit against the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad for tax money due for the school fund. It started with a charter. In the early days of Indiana, to create a railroad company (and basically any company, as far as that goes), a charter for the company and its goals would have to be written and taken before the Indiana General Assembly for approval. I would love to say that these things were basically rubber stamped…but I truly have no way of knowing without extensive research.

The Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad was issued it original charter by the Indiana General Assembly in 1831. The name on the charter was the Terre Haute & Indianapolis. The TH&I was then issued a special charter as the Terre Haute & Richmond Rail Road on 24 January 1847. The company was to build a railroad between the two title cities, through Indianapolis. The official name of the company had changed twice between the special charter of 1847 and the court case of 1899. First, in 1850, the space was taken out between rail and road, making it the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad legally. Then, in 1865, the name was changed to suit the actual extent of the railroad company. It became the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad Company.

Newspapers of the time often refer to the legal action against the Terre Haute & Indianapolis as the Vandalia Case. By the time of the legal action, the TH&I was already leasing the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute, the only line (for a while) connecting Indianapolis to St. Louis. The St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute was known most of the time as the Vandalia. The Vandalia was in financial trouble while under construction. Money was floated from five railroad companies to complete the route in 1870: Terre Haute & Indianapolis, Pennsylvania, Panhandle, Steubenville and the Indiana Central. The last three being consolidated later into the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway, also nicknamed the Panhandle. The Pennsylvania would gain control of the Panhandle and the Vandalia…although the Terre Haute & Indianapolis would fight it the entire way.

The whole case stemmed from how the charter for the TH&I was read, and who was doing the reading. The State of Indiana was of the opinion that the TH&I owed the School Fund somewhere between $1.2 and $2 million dollars. Obviously, the TH&I was of the opposite opinion. The entire case stemmed from a special charter that had been issued for the company in 1847, give or take a year. The new charter, keeping a provision from the old one, would allow the railroad to set its own passenger and freight rates, and allow for a 15% profit to be split among its shareholders after all of the construction bills have been paid.

The state, in its case, claimed that the TH&I was setting its rates to a point where it was earning 18% to 35% profits. Since the limit was 15%, the rest, the state continued, would be required to be paid to the state school fund. Vandalia saw things differently.

The South Bend Tribune of 4 October 1899 describes the beginning of the case as such: “Noble C. Butler, as master in chancery, began taking testimony, Monday afternoon (2 October 1899), in the case of the state against the Vandalia railroad for money due the school fund on account of the special charter under which the road operated 20 years ago.”

“Experts have been examining the company’s books to ascertain the exact earnings and the proportionate amount due the state, and their testimony is expected to be interesting. About $2,000,000 is claimed to be due the school fund from the railroad.” (Source: South Bend Tribune, 4 October 1899, pp 1 via newspapers.com.)

When the time came to defend itself, the Vandalia brought out John G. Williams, a man, according to the Indianapolis News of 17 January 1900, “who is said to know more about the affairs of the road than any other man.” Attorney Williams started talking about the charter of the Terre Haute & Richmond, the charters of other railroads, and the fact that when the original charters were written for the early railroads, the company had a choice between building a railroad and building a toll road. The state saw no real difference between the two.

He also mentioned that, according to the News, “one of the first roads built in the State was the Baltimore & Ohio. In the beginning, its cars were moved by horses and, when the wind was favorable, sails were hoisted on the cars to help propel them.” I would be that the News meant in the United States, as the Baltimore & Ohio wouldn’t have been in Indiana in 1831.

Reference is also made by the attorney for the railroad that in the beginning, the B&O charged 4 cents a ton a mile for moving of freight. “Modern railroads” (1900) are lucky to get one half cent per ton/mile. And passengers were actually weighed and charged essentially a pro-rated charge of 4 cents per ton/mile. If I am reading this right, since I weigh 200 pounds, it would cost me eight cents to travel by train from Indianapolis to Greenfield in those days. If I lived then…and the train actually was built to connect the two.

Mr. Williams went on to argue that the ability to regulate tolls by the state was left out of the charters of seven of the eight railroads that were incorporated in 1832. All eight of these charters allowed for the company to build a railroad or turnpike. Also in 1832, a company applied for a charter to build a bridge across the Ohio River at the Falls, the location of New Albany and/or Jeffersonville, and Louisville on the Kentucky side.

In 1832, five more railroads were incorporated, including the Evansville & Lafayette. It, like the Terre Haute & Indianapolis (1831 charter), had a clause stating that the State of Indiana could purchase the road after a certain period. Very few railroad company charters included the state regulation of the amount of dividends to its shareholders.

Ultimately, the Vandalia won the original case. Special Master Butler determined that the state was owed nothing by the Vandalia. The State appealed to the Superior Court, in which it was determined that the Vandalia owed the state of Indiana $913,000.

According to the Indianapolis Journal of 18 June 1902, as the case was being brought before the Indiana Supreme Court, “the charter provided that the company should pay the State its surplus earnings over the operating expenses and 10 per cent to the stockholders. The company surrendered its special charter in 1873 and has since operated under the general railroad law.” The company claimed that the surplus money was spent to improve the road, and there was no money left to pay the state.

The case before the Indiana Supreme Court lasted three days, ending on 19 June 1902. When the ruling went against the Vandalia, the Pennsylvania Railroad announced that they would appeal the decision to the United States Supreme Court. That decision was made on 28 November 1902.

The Indiana Supreme Court judgement ruled that the Vandalia must pay $913,905, and a six percent interest from the date of the Superior Court judgement. This brought to total to $1,028,143. Of course, the state was to only receive $771,107 of that, with the rest going to attorney’s fees. The Vandalia would fall into receivership after the ruling, and arguments between Illinois and Indiana receivers would follow.

31 May 1904, and the United States Supreme Court ruled, after much deliberation, that the Vandalia Railroad owed a grand total of nothing to the state of Indiana School Fund. This would go on to allow the Vandalia to consolidate the following railroads into one corporate entity: Terre Haute & Indianapolis, Indianapolis & Vincennes, Logansport & Toledo, Terre Haute & Logansport, and the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute. A consolidation which created the Vandalia Railroad Company on 1 January 1905.

US 40: Bridgeport to Plainfield

When the National Road was surveyed in the 19th century, the people that laid out the road had very little to worry about when it came to man made obstructions to its path. The road was built in the most efficient way possible. Not necessarily the straightest, but the most efficient. An example of this is just west of downtown Indianapolis with the National Road bridge. The original route crossed the White River at a 90 degree angle…typical of bridge building at the time. And although that bridge would be later supplemented, then replaced, by a straighter Washington Street bridge, the old bridge would survive until 1904…a little over 70 years.

Another section of the old National Road that would survive into the 20th century before getting the straightening treatment would be the section starting just west of Bridgeport, heading toward Plainfield. Here, for two and half miles, the National Road would first curve its way across a creek, then find its way, in 1852, across a dangerous railroad crossing near the Marion-Hendricks County line.

Let’s start with the railroad crossing. In 1850, the Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad was chartered to create a route between its two title cities through Indianapolis. Typical railroad construction involves laying out the route to be as flat as possible. Through most of Indiana, being that most of the terrain is relatively flat, this is not a problem. The routing of the the TH&R west of Plainfield found itself winding through some very hilly territory. At Plainfield, the road started on a straight path to the Hoosier capital. When construction was completed in 1852 to Indianapolis, the railroad was a very straight line from west of Plainfield to Indianapolis.

Railroad construction at the time also didn’t take into consideration the roads that were in place when they were built. One half mile west of the Marion-Hendricks County line, at a spot that would later become known as Six Points, the TH&R was built to have a very flat crossing of the National Road. A crossing of about 15 degrees. On a clock, that is about the angle from 12:00 to 12:02:30, or half way between 2 and 3 minutes. Given the little amounts of traffic, the speed of trains, and what little there was normally involved horses, this was not seen as a problem.

Fast forward to the Auto Trail era when automobiles were taking over. Train traffic was booming, locomotive speeds were much higher, and the traffic was getting clogged with cars and trucks. The crossing at Six Points became one of the most dangerous in the state. With the state takeover of the old National Road as Original State Road 3 in 1917, the Indiana State Highway Commission became responsible for the conditions of both the road and the railroad crossing at this point. As traffic increased, this dangerous situation would remain into the mid-1930’s, when the ISHC started turning what had become US 40 into a divided highway across the entire state. The routing of US 40 curved to the north of the old road, crossing the Hendricks County Road (later to become 1050 East) a little over .1 mile north of the old crossing. The railroad, by this time the Pennsylvania Railroad, was then crossed at a 30 degree angle three tenths of a mile west of the Six Points Road.

This improved the situation at the crossing…but didn’t fix it completely. There were news stories of crashes, sometimes fatal, between cars and trains at that crossing, as well. But it did improve the situation.

The other quirk in the National Road would be the crossing of the creek at the west edge of Bridgeport. Bridgeport was an old village, mainly started as a watering hole along the old National Road. It is located less than 1/2 mile east of the Marion-Hendricks County line. At the west edge of town, the National Road curved slightly north of its straight path to cross over the White Lick Creek. The road then turned to become a straight line again aiming towards Plainfield.

This Google Map snippet shows the property lines of the old National Road from a point west of Raceway Road to west of Bridgeport. The road labelled “Old Washington Street” is the original path of the National Road/US 40.
This MapIndy aerial photograph, taken in 1941, shows the construction of the new US 40 west of Bridgeport.

When the state started working on connecting the two sections of already widened US 40, the section that remained was through Bridgeport and over the White Lick Creek Bridge. The work started on this section in 1941. The first task was to eliminate the curve at the White Lick Creek, making a straight line road between the 1936 bypass of Six Points and Bridgeport. It was mentioned in the Indianapolis News of 7 July 1941 that traffic through Bridgeport had dropped quite a bit with the old National Road/US 40 being closed for this construction. By 1942, the new section of US 40 would be completed, and the old road was left to flounder in the weeds.

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.

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.