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.

Plymouth

In north central Indiana, where the Yellow River is crossed by the Michigan Road, is a town that, ultimately, would be connected directly to Indianapolis if three ways, connected directly to New York City and Chicago the other way, and would become a home on two major Auto Trails of the early 20th Century, although one would be a reroute. That town is the county seat of Marshall County, Plymouth.

A little history: Marshall County was organized by an act of the Indiana General Assembly on 4 February 1836, which became effective 1 April 1836. The territory that became part of Marshall County would take parts of St. Joseph County directly, with some of the county having been under the jurisdiction, legally, of St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties. Because the original law creating the county was actually put together on 7 February 1835, the actual law creating Marshall County, passed the following year, moved the Marshall-St. Joseph County line three miles north. As originally enacted, the county line was the dividing line between townships 34 and 35 north. The law a year later moved that line north to the center point of township 35 north. Commissioners appointed on 1 April 1836 decided on 20 July 1836 that Plymouth would be the center of government for Marshall County.

By this time, the area around Plymouth was already connected to the rest of the state when it came to transportation resources. Okay, well, sort of. The Michigan Road had been created and built through the central part of Marshall County, north to south. Both Fulton (Rochester) and Marshall Counties were created at the same time. The Michigan Road, as such, was a route connecting Logansport and South Bend, with nothing in between. Also, the center of the county would be surveyed different than the rest of the county and state. For more information about that, check out my post “Survey Lines and the Michigan Road,” published 6 August 2019.

Railroads would come to the area in three forms, two of which would ultimately fall under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella. The first would connect Plymouth to both Chicago and Pittsburgh, via Fort Wayne. This railroad would start life on 11 May 1852 as the Fort Wayne & Chicago Railroad. By 6 May 1856, when the railroad was consolidated with two other struggling railroads to create the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago (PFtW&C), only part of the route between Plymouth and Columbia City (45 miles) was partially completed. The PFtW&C would complete the route between Fort Wayne and Chicago in February 1858.

The second railroad that came to Plymouth would be what would become the Lake Erie & Western, and, in 1922, the Nickle Plate. The Cincinnati, Peru & Chicago Rail Way built a line south from LaPorte to end at Plymouth in 1855. Between 1863 and 1867, the Indianapolis, Rochester & Chicago Railroad began construction of the line connecting Peru and Plymouth. It was to be completed by the Chicago, Cincinnati & Louisville Railroad company in 1869. This company was sold at foreclosure and, along with the original Peru & Indianapolis (and its successors), formed the foundation of the Lake Erie & Western Railroad in 1887.

The last railroad to be completed to Plymouth was built by the Terre Haute & Logansport Railroad in 1883 and 1884. This was a line from Logansport to South Bend. In time, this line would become part of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad company, also known as the Vandalia. Ultimately, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system, connecting the PRRs two major subsidiaries, the PFtW&C and the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis Railway (aka the Panhandle), together at Plymouth.

Into the 20th Century, with the coming of the Auto Trails era, Plymouth found itself on multiples of these routes. First and foremost was the Michigan Road, which had been the catalyst for its location in the first place. The Dixie Highway, connecting Michigan to Florida, was also using the Michigan Road for its route from South Bend to Indianapolis. Also connecting those two cities was the Range Line Road, which separated from the Michigan Road at Rochester, with the Michigan Road heading towards Logansport, and the Range Line heading toward Peru.

East and west through the area gets to be a bit fun. Originally, the city was located on a road that connected Plymouth, Massachusetts, to Seattle, Washington, with a spot on the road in Wyoming that gave the route its name: the Yellowstone Trail. From the west, the Yellowstone would come into town along the Valparaiso-Plymouth State Road, then would share the Michigan Road/Dixie Highway/Range Line Road south out of town to what is now 12B Road, then headed east toward Bourbon. (Side note: there is a small jog in 12B road east of the current US 31, which is also an original part of Michigan Road. That jog is a remnant of the survey of the Michigan Road mentioned in the link above in the third paragraph.)

Now, because of the chronological order of things, the story of transportation in Plymouth moves to the Indiana State Highway era of 1917. Yes, 1917. Plymouth was one of the cities connected to the original original ISHC system when it was created in 1917. It is located on what was Main Market Road (MMR) 1. Because the law of 1917 was questioned under Constitutionality issues, it wouldn’t be until 1919 that the dust settled creating the ISHC that survives today as INDOT. MMR 1 would become Original SR 1. By 1920, another state road would connect to Plymouth, this time given the number 44. OSR 44 would follow the path of the Yellowstone Trail through the area. This would be changed to OSR 2 in 1923. OSR 2 was the original designation of the Lincoln Highway through Indiana. This will be important later. (Unless you have already looked at modern maps of the area and know the answer.)

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, OSR 1 became US 31 and OSR 2 became US 30. It should also be noted that US 30 still didn’t leave Plymouth to the east. US 30 followed US 31 south to, again, what is now 12B Road. But the plans were in place to change this. The road that was being constructed to change the route of US 30, at least the first time, is currently called “Lincoln Highway.” Now, it wasn’t entirely officially the Lincoln Highway…not yet anyway. The Lincoln Highway Association set up two routes in Indiana. The first route, established in 1913, went through South Bend. The second route would more or less follow US 30 across the state (and into Ohio and Pennsylvania). This would be made official in 1928 (after the Great Renumbering).

The reroute of US 30 had been completed by 1929 (maybe earlier, still looking at sources that are hard to find). This reroute would straighten US 30 quite a bit between close to Wanatah to Warsaw.

Changes after that, as far as roads go, are these: the coming of SR 17 to the city in 1935; the US 31 bypass (and the naming of US 31A through town) in 1963; the building of the US 30 bypass north of town (while still maintaining US 30 through town) in 1965; and the removal of US 31A and US 30 through Plymouth in 1968. At the time of the removal of US 31A, SR 17 was continued along the route of the old US 31 (and its numerous names I won’t repeat) to the junction with the US 30 bypass.

The Vandalia line connecting Terre Haute and South Bend would also go away in time. Most of the Plymouth section would be officially abandoned by Conrail in 1984. The Nickle Plate line, or at least the tracks, are still in place connecting to Rochester, and for a short distance northwest out of town. Even the PFtW&C, which had been one of the most profitable lines, and home of one of its crack passenger trains (Broadway Limited between Chicago and New York), under the Pennsylvania Railroad umbrella, has been sold by the Norfolk Southern to another company.

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.