Fort Wayne And Southern Railroad

When one looks at a railroad map of Indiana, especially ones like one of my favorites for this subject like this from 1898 (Railroad map of Indiana. | Library of Congress (loc.gov)), it is easy to see that the numerous railroad companies sprang up independently to connect the towns of Indiana. Unfortunately, the truth is never quite that simple. Today, I want to look at a railroad that had goals of being a rather long route, but ended up being bits and pieces of other larger companies: the Fort Wayne & Southern Railroad.

The mid-1800’s were a railroad building boom in the state of Indiana. Many companies were chartered to put down rails across the state. Some of these never came to be in their original form. Others were influenced by eastern companies with loans and bond purchases to allow construction. In a special act of 15 January 1846, the Indiana General Assembly chartered a railroad company that was to connect Fort Wayne to the Ohio River at Jeffersonville. Over the years, this would be a link in the railroad system that would make Fort Wayne a major railroad hub in northern Indiana.

Construction started slowly on the route. The plan was to build the road from Fort Wayne, through Bluffton, Hartford City, Muncie, New Castle, Rushville, Greensburg, Vernon and Charleston to finally end at Jeffersonville. The plan sounded rather extravagant, but it made sense in the grand scheme of things. Jeffersonville, being near the Falls of the Ohio, was a natural breakpoint in traffic transiting the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to the Mississippi. Ohio River traffic, at the time, had to stop at Jeffersonville, New Albany and Louisville to change from one barge to another. Building a railroad from the Falls of the Ohio to Fort Wayne allowed, it was thought, to funnel freight into Indiana’s second largest city. Ultimately, this, along with connections to Fort Wayne from Lake Michigan, Lake Erie, and points east (like Pittsburgh), would open the markets of the city, and towns along the railroads, to the entire nation.

Grading was started at two different places on the planned Fort Wayne & Southern. First, a route between Fort Wayne and Muncie. Second, the road was graded between Vernon and Jeffersonville. No rail had been put down on either of these sections. The company floundered as it tried to find funding for construction.

The question that comes up is, what happened to the company? No map ever showed a single company route that connected Fort Wayne and Jeffersonville, although such a route existed through the use of three different companies.

The Fort Wayne & Southern, like many railroads in Indiana, fell into receivership. The company found itself in a situation where they were still spending money on a route that wasn’t completed, in any section, enough to allow traffic to offset the losses. The entire route was sold at foreclosure on 19 January, 1866. But that sale was set aside, and the company continued to flounder until the route was conveyed to new owners on 7 November 1868.

But unlike other railroad companies in Indiana at the time, the Fort Wayne & Southern was broken into two different sections when it changed hands.

The section from Fort Wayne to Muncie, and then further to Rushville, would become a new railroad company, the Fort Wayne, Muncie & Cincinnati Railway. In June 1869, the former Fort Wayne & Southern between Muncie and Fort Wayne would merge with the Cincinnati, Connersville & Muncie to create the Fort Wayne, Muncie & Cincinnati Railroad Company. With the addition of rails to the route, this would connect Fort Wayne to Connersville. The FtWM&C Railway did not complete any construction before the merger with the CC&M. The railroad would open nearly 64 miles of track from Muncie to Fort Wayne in 1870.

The southern section, 53 miles of graded roadbed from Vernon to Jeffersonville, was conveyed to the Ohio & Mississippi Railway Company. That company was a consolidation of several companies that would build a railroad from St. Louis, Missouri, to Cincinnati, Ohio. This would create a branch to connect the company to another point on the Ohio River.

The complete route, from Fort Wayne to Jeffersonville, would ultimately be built…but not by one company. The 16 mile section from New Castle to Muncie would be opened in 1868 under the title Cincinnati, Connersville & Muncie Railroad. The next section, from New Castle to Rushville, would be completed in 1881 by the New Castle & Rushville Railroad. This route was 24 miles in length.

Another company that came into existence in 1879 would be the Vernon, Greensburg and Rushville. It would connect the title towns with rails opening in 1881.

All of the above would complete the original plan of the Fort Wayne & Southern. It would ultimately fall into three major railroad company systems. For a while, the section from Rushville to Fort Wayne would fall under the control of the New York Central system as the Lake Erie & Western, and later, the Nickel Plate. This would end when the New York Central sold its interest in that road. The Vernon, Greensburg & Rushville would be leased by what would become the Big Four Railway. The Big Four would later replace the Nickel Plate in the New York Central system.

The Ohio & Mississippi, after several consolidations, would become a leased company called the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad. Although still legally a separate entity, in 1925 the management of the B&OSW was replaced by management of the Baltimore & Ohio.

Today, the entire route can be seen in the Hoosier landscape. The Baltimore & Ohio section would be abandoned piecemeal in the 1980s. 28 miles from North Vernon to Nabb was abandoned in 1980, and from Nabb to Charleston following in 1985. Two very short sections in Charleston were abandoned in 2000 and 2001.

The ultimate owners of the Nickel Plate, the Norfolk & Western, would attempt to abandon what was called the New Castle branch from New Castle to Rushville. Since it was withdrawn, there is no date of that attempt in my source. Ultimately, this would happen, however.

Parts of the route that was to be covered by the Fort Wayne & Southern are still in use today as parts of the Norfolk Southern and CSX. A map is available at the Library of Congress for the railroad at A section of Colton’s large map of Indiana with the Fort Wayne and Southern Rail Road marked upon it, as located also a map of the United States showing Road and its connections together with a profile of the Ohio river and lands adjoining and a section of the double track rail road tunnel under the Ohio river at Louisville, Kentucky & Jeffersonville, Indiana for the year 1855 ending Oct. 1, W. J. Holman, President and Chief Engr. | Library of Congress.

OSR 2/US 30 at Plymouth

When the Indiana state highway system was being expanded in 1920, one of the additions was what was, at the time, the Yellowstone Trail from Valparaiso to Fort Wayne. This Auto Trail snaked its way across the Hoosier landscape, nowhere near anything resembling a straight line. It was added to the system as SR 44, connecting at both ends with SR 2, or the Lincoln Highway. The original route had the road entering Plymouth from the west and the south. The Yellowstone Trail, and the state highway that came after, didn’t go straight through the Marshall County seat.

1923 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 2 between Hamlet and Columbia City.

That was about to change. But first, a number change was in order. In 1923, the Indiana State Highway Commission started changing state road numbers. One of those that would change would be the Lincoln Highway…and SR 44. The SR 2 designation was moved from the Lincoln Highway to the Yellowstone Trail. This “straightened” the road between Valparaiso and Fort Wayne…SR 2 no longer ran through Goshen, Elkhart and South Bend. But the road still was a winding mess between Warsaw and Plymouth.

With the concept of federal aid funding sitting in the background, the state decided it wanted to fix the twists and turns of the original Yellowstone path. The first reference to this project that I found was in August 1925…but it wasn’t good news. The project was “abandoned” due to a $5 million shortfall in federal funding. Or, more to the point, a belief that the state was going to get $5 million from the federal government that hadn’t quite made it to Indianapolis. Two projects were actually put on hold with that shortfall…both of which were in northern Indiana. One was the SR 2 project. The other was the Dunes Highway along Lake Michigan.

The article that made it to most Indiana newspapers in mid-August 1925 lamented that the northern part of the state would be paying for the delays in funding. It also mentioned that most of the road was a hard surface (paved) road from Columbia City eastward to Fort Wayne. The section shown both in the map above and the one below show that the road is “gravel or stone (not treated)” between Warsaw and at least Hamlet…through Plymouth.

1926 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing the new US 30 (former SR 2) from Hamlet to Columbia City. This map also shows the pending reroute of the same road from Warsaw to Hamlet.

The new maps issued in late September and early October 1926, with the Great Renumbering, show the construction is at least still planned, as the circles on the map are listed as “proposed relocations.” The new US 30, which was SR 2, would be given a straighter route from Warsaw to Plymouth. And it would actually enter Plymouth from the east, not follow SR 1/US 31 south out of town like it did originally.

In relative terms, it wouldn’t take long for this new road to be completed. The South Bend Tribune of 20 November 1927 reported that construction was almost complete in a plan to avoid crossing the Pennsylvania Railroad for 75 miles, something the old Yellowstone Trail/SR 2/US 30 did quite a bit. As of the writing of the article, 16 miles to the west of Plymouth were completed. This connected US 30 to SR 29 (now US 35), a “recently improved asphaltic macadam” road.

As a side note, the section west from SR 29 to Hanna was also part of the project, but was in a serious holding pattern. The road was “a stretch of about 10 miles in which no concrete has been laid and cannot be laid this year because of two sink holes in the vicinity of the Kankakee river which have materially resisted grading and filling by the contractors.” That section of US 30 is still in use today…albeit a bit wider than it was at that time.

East from Plymouth, the road was open, according to the Tribune, to Bourbon, a span of 10 miles. Four bridges being constructed between Aetna Green and Warsaw were all that was standing in the way of opening the road on or about 1 December. The article mentions that the route actually enters Plymouth from the east along Pennsylvania Avenue. This is due to a bridge on what is now called Lincoln Highway over the Yellow River being built. Pennsylvania Avenue connects to Michigan Street (old US 31) just north of the old Pennsylvania Railroad Fort Wayne Line (and, for those that are landmark oriented…right at the Penguin Point restaurant).

And, in case you are wondering, the name Lincoln Highway would be officially applied to this road in 1928, one year after this construction. The places where the name “Yellowstone Trail” still exist as a road name were sections of the original path of that road…parts that weren’t improved as a part of the state highway system.

SR 37, A Review

One of the blogs that I follow everyday is that of Jim Grey. I started reading his blog over a year before I created the Indiana Transportation History Facebook page. It was because of that blog that I asked him to help me admin that group. He was also the one that encouraged me to start this blog…telling me, correctly, that it would be easier to keep track of the information I have been sharing in blog form than in a Facebook group. His blog is called “Down The Road.”

Jim had been sharing his passion for photography and road trips in the Facebook group. His topic has been that of SR 37. Due to those posts, I decided to put together a collection of posts that I have shared over the past 16 months that cover the same subject. Check out his photos on the subject at his blog, or through links on the Facebook group.

Waverly

In the early years of the state of Indiana, a small village located at the Bluffs of the White River became the meeting place for commissioners that set out to determine the location of the new state capital. Two years before that, in 1818, a trail was cut through the wilderness from Brookville that came to be known as the Whetzel Trace. Later on, a road was built north to the new state capital at Indianapolis. Because it went to the Bluffs of the White River, it was called Bluff Road.

Paoli State Road

When the Bluff Road was built, it was included in a longer “state” road that stretched from Indianapolis, through Martinsville, Bloomington and Bedford to Paoli. It would become the basis for original state road 22, and later, the original path of State Road 37.

White River on Indianapolis’ South Side, and its Effects

This article focused more on the effects of the Indianapolis Southern/Illinois Central Railroad, but it DID affect the routing of State Road 37. When SR 37 came into being, it ended at Washington and Meridian Streets, following Meridian Street south to Bluff Avenue (now Road) for its journey out of Marion County. The White River was moved, and the state built a new SR 37 over the old river.

Road Trip 1926: SR 37

On 1 October 1926, the entire state road system was renumbered. State Road 37 was given to what had been State Road 22 from Indianapolis south. The new State Road 37 was designated only south of the capital city.

Winners and Losers, Routing the Dixie Highway Through Indiana

When the committees met to create Carl Fisher’s Dixie Highway, political and personal gain played a part. Especially south of Indianapolis. While Fisher wanted the route to go directly from Indianapolis to Louisville, someone else wanted the same thing…just with a detour through Paoli. The latter won.

Original SR 22 – The “Fight” For the Way to Martinsville

The fastest way to Martinsville from Indianapolis wasn’t always the Bluff Road. When the state started taking over roads, a discussion was had to decide what road would be taken over to get to Martinsville. The choice was between the Vincennes Road and the Bluff Road. Eventually, it would be both.

Removing the Bluff Road Bridge Over the Illinois Central/Indiana Railroad

The Indianapolis Southern Railroad was chartered in 1902, and it crossed the old Bluff Road at an odd angle. The Dixie Highway used the route starting in 1914. In 1923, it became State Road 22. In 1925, a bridge was built over the railroad due to increased traffic on both the road and the railroad.

The Dixie Highway In Morgan County

One of the most bypassed roads in the state is SR 37. And very few more so than SR 37 in Morgan County. But this article focuses on the Dixie Highway through the county…and how it was originally routed through the area.

State Highway Department Construction Plans for 1963-1965

This article is included because part of the plan was to build a new SR 37 through the west side of Indianapolis, and connect it to I-465 at Harding Street. The Harding Street connection would be made. It would be a complete reroute of SR 37 from I-465 south to Martinsville. It ended up that SR 37 would be routed along I-465 from Harding Street to East Street (US 31), and be multiplexed with US 31 all the way to 38th Street on the northside of the city.

Expanding SR 37 from Martinsville to Oolitic

The last article about the routing of SR 37 I want to share is the latest one posted. In the 1970s, SR 37 was being moved and widened from Martinsville to Bedford. The section north of Martinsville had already been moved and widened…in conjunction with the construction of I-465 around Indianapolis.

Removing the Bluff Road Bridge Over the Illinois Central/Indiana Railroad

The year is 1902, and the Indianapolis Southern Railroad has just been chartered to enter the city of Indianapolis and rumble through the Marion County countryside south of the city. Once the railroad entered Perry Township from Center Township (at what is now Troy Avenue), the railroad right of way followed the survey line one mile west of the Three Notch Road (Meridian Street) and two miles west of the Range Line (Shelby Street). Just south of what would become Stop 8 Road, now Edgewood Avenue, the railroad crossed the Bluff Free Gravel Road.

Rail and road traffic near this intersection of the Indianapolis Southern and the Bluff Road wasn’t a real problem for several years after the building of the railroad. In 1914, the Bluff Road was to become part of the Dixie Highway. This highway, connecting south Florida to Chicago and northern Michigan, actually connected to Indianapolis, the hometown of its creator, in four different directions. This led to a traffic increase along the Bluff Road, creating more problems at the railroad crossing which was at a very bad angle to begin with.

The problem was made worse when the state took over the Bluff Road in 1923, making it original State Road 22. This made the Indiana State Highway Commission responsible for the maintenance of the very old road. In 1925, the state decided that enough was enough, and a bridge was built over the Indianapolis Southern railroad, which had become part of the Illinois Central.

The bridge that was built was a very narrow facility. Two lanes wide, at best. But it would serve its purpose, creating a safe crossing of the Illinois Central by SR 22, or as it would soon become, SR 37. And it did just that until the state started moving SR 37 to the west in 1964, and completing the job in 1965. The overpass then became property of Marion County. And here is where it went downhill.

MapIndy 1937 aerial image of the Bluff Road bridge
over the Illinois Central Railroad.

Reconstruction work on the deteriorating span was scheduled in both 1971 and 1977. The Indianapolis Transportation Board posted a long list of bridge projects for that year in newspapers in mid May 1971 and early April 1977. By 1984, the city was looking at removing the bridge all together. Unfortunately, getting the right of way to do this proved troublesome. The bridge was built with very little clearance when it came to the actual right-of-way used. It was suggested by John Willen, DOT Chief Engineer, that land acquisition was a problem, and that the bridge would not be replaced due to decreased rail traffic at that location.

Legal notice was published in the newspapers in December 1984 that the Indianapolis Department of Transportation, with the cooperation of the Federal Highway Administration and the Indiana Department of Highways, had decided that the overpass on Bluff Road over what was then the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad would be removed and an at-grade crossing would be put in its place. “The proposed project begins at a point approximately 210 feet south of Banta Road, then extends in a northerly direction mostly along the existing alignment of Bluff Road, and terminates at a point about 750 feet south of Edgewood Avenue for a total project length of 0.42 mile (2,210 feet).” In addition to the removal of the overpass, the following was listed as part of the project: “The portion of Bluff Crest Drive between Bluff Road and Bluff Crest Lane, approximately 280 feet will be removed and Bluff Crest Drive access to Bluff Road will be terminated.”

MapIndy aerial image from 1986 of the
Bluff Road bridge over the Indiana Railroad.

In September 1986, the city of Indianapolis introduced a resolution to implement a five ton weight limit on the overpass. The notification of the resolution in the newspapers of the time stated “whereas, the Indianapolis Department of Transportation Street Engineering Division was notified that certain portions of this structure had a stage of deterioration.” Prior to this, the bridge had had a ten ton weight limit. In May 1987, the bridge was closed completely as the city of Indianapolis decided it would be better off replacing the structure with an at-grade crossing. The city reported that the work would be completed by 15 July 1987. The original plan to remove Bluff Crest Drive was apparently just dropped along the way. That residential street still connects to Bluff Road in the same location as it had before the removal of the overpass.

On 29 July 1987, the Indianapolis Star announced that “Bluff Road, closed since April from Banta Road to Edgewood Avenue for extensive reconstruction, was reopened for traffic Tuesday (28 July 1987).” The project cost the city $540,000 and involved the removal of the “severely deteriorated Indianapolis Southern Railroad overpass built in 1925.” Even in the end of the overpass’ life, the newspaper still called it the Indianapolis Southern instead of the company that had taken it over just the year before, the Indiana Railroad.

Beech Grove Traction

1906. A rural station stop on the Big Four Railroad, originally called Ingalls (or Ingallston), has just been incorporated as a shop town for the same Big Four Railroad. It’s official name at this point became Beech Grove. The new town that grew from the building of the railroad shops, covered in my blog entry “Beech Grove,” found itself barely accessible by anything other than the very railroad that built it. It wouldn’t be long until that would change.

First, the town was actually accessible by route of an old toll road that had been built to reach the farm of a local resident, a Mr. Churchman. That road, for the longest time, had been called the Churchman Pike, even after the county bought it back from the toll road company. The Churchman Pike connected to the town via what would become Albany Street, a survey section line that also acts as the separator between all of the southern townships and the central townships in Marion County. Dirt roads along the other survey lines – which would later become Troy and Emerson Avenues – also led to the area that would become Beech Grove. The old train station, Ingalls or Beech Grove, was at the survey line (Emerson Avenue) and the railroad track. Today, that would be under the Emerson Avenue bridge over the railroad.

But it wouldn’t be long before another method of transportation would make its presence known, and try to work its way into the railroad city. Electric Traction, also known as the interurban, had made its way into Indianapolis, officially, with the opening of the Greenwood line on 1 January 1900. After that, companies started popping up all over the United States. And Indianapolis became a hub for the new transportation form.

But this would create a problem. Steam railroads, which all standard railroads were called at the time, saw the new Traction companies as direct competition. Even though the gauge (width between the tracks) was the same on both, traffic interchange was one of those things that the steam roads were going to keep to an absolute minimum. And since the Traction companies specialized in moving people, this was even more reason for the steam roads to dislike the interurbans.

And now someone wants to add an interurban route to a town BUILT by the railroad? The short answer…yes. The reason for this was actually based in the nature of the steam railroad itself. Passenger trains, taking people from Beech Grove to downtown Indianapolis, weren’t scheduled at very convenient times for citizens of the new town. While the company that had invested in, and created, the town, the Beech Grove Improvement Company, tried running its own special trains to downtown Indianapolis, it was at the whim of the very busy Big Four line from Indianapolis to Cincinnati. In comes the planners of the electric traction.

It started in 1909. A company called the Shore Line Traction Company applied for a franchise to run a traction line from the Indianapolis city limits (point unknown) to Beech Grove. Louis McMains, a real estate agent, put in the petition to the County Commissioners. In October 1909, the petition asked that the Shore Line Traction Company be allowed to use the Churchman Pike from the city limits near Keystone and Churchman Avenues to the corporation limit of Beech Grove. It also asked for some straightening work along the road, and the right of way be widened by 27 feet (adding 13.5 feet on each side). “The petition signifies that the property owners on each side of the pike are willing to part with the necessary land to widen the road.” (Source: Indianapolis News, 14 October 1909)

The county had problems with the widening…especially when it came to the Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek (between Walker and Southern Avenues today). The bridge had been in disrepair for years, listed as such as early as 1891. Whether the bridge had been repaired or replaced at this point is unknown. Suffice it to say, the county wasn’t really likely to spend money to replace the bridge.

The petition mentioned that the plan for the Churchman Pike is to widen it to 66 feet, allowing two tracks to be built in the center, with only one track being built to start the company. The new company already had a franchise in hand for the route inside Beech Grove itself.

The Shore Line Traction Company found itself trying to come up with a new route to Beech Grove when the county balked at the Bean Creek bridge. With that, the company was not heard from again.

But shortly after the above petition was filed, a new company would be incorporated – the Beech Grove Traction Company. This company was officially started on 30 December 1909. It had the same goal as the Shore Line Transit Company – connect Beech Grove and downtown Indianapolis.

There was more progress with the Beech Grove Traction than there was with Shore Line. The Indianapolis News of 2 April 1910 reported that the Beech Grove company had elected its corporate officers and announced that grading work would begin soon on the line. Rails, ties and cars had already been ordered. Work on the new Churchman Pike bridge over Bean Creek had begun on 28 March 1910. Officials of the traction company were negotiating with the Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company “for use of the tracks of the latter company in Shelby Street and Virginia Avenue for entrance to the business district.”

The franchise rights had been awarded by Marion County and the town of Beech Grove. When construction was to begin in April, the company had no agreement with the city of Indianapolis about using the city street railway tracks to enter the downtown area. This agreement would not have been reached until September 1910. This caused construction to be delayed until November 1910.

Even before the track was complete, the first train run over part of the line happened on 20 March 1911. Seven days later, regular service began. The Beech Grove end of the line was on what became Garstang Avenue east of First (Emerson) Avenue. The track then ran north on First Avenue to Main Street. Following Main Street west, it turned north on 17th Avenue (Sherman Drive) for one block, to turn northwest on Churchman Pike (Avenue). The route then turned west on LeGrande Avenue to connect to the city street railway system at Shelby Street.

1917 Map of the route of the Beech Grove Traction Company.

At first, the company found itself very popular. The Beech Grove Traction only owned, at the start, four cars to travel between the two ends. But there were so many people that wanted to use the new train that the company found itself running trains every 40 minutes from daybreak to midnight. The time table showed that first car left for Indianapolis at 0530, with the first car from Indianapolis arriving at 0610. A nickel would get a rider from Beech Grove to Shelby Street and LeGrande. A dime would get you all the way to the Traction Terminal.

Now, one might ask about why someone would get off the interurban at Shelby Street. Rightly so. But a trip to Garfield Park would require a change to a city street car. Or, one could catch the interurban to Greenwood, Franklin, Columbus and even Louisville at the end of the city Shelby Street line…which was at the Greenwood Line Stop 1 at Perry Street, south of Troy Avenue, on Shelby Street.

But business along the Beech Grove Traction line would start falling off rather quickly. The Big Four, with the completion of the traction line, stopped issuing passes to employees and families to ride the steam train. This made the interurban the best way to get to downtown Indianapolis. In the early days, most traffic was Big Four shop employees coming to and from work from their homes in Indianapolis. Due to the success of the town of Beech Grove, these employees were moving to the town. This caused a drop in traffic on the traction line. And due to shops being built along Main Street, the traffic drop wasn’t made up for in shopping trips to the stores of downtown Indianapolis.

By 1914, an average of 24 round trips ran each day along the line, with a schedule of 1 hour 10 minutes between trains. That had slowed down to 16 round trips a day by March 1916. And, as is typical of Indiana railroads of the time, the Beech Grove Traction Company found itself falling into receivership in December 1917, caused by increased costs without the subsequent increase in revenue.

Lawsuits were filed. Newspapers reported that the traction line wouldn’t be necessary for much longer, since with the improvement of city streets, bus service between Beech Grove and Indianapolis would replace the electric traction line. In a strange twist of fate, the operator of the bus competition to the Beech Grove Traction ceased his bus company and took over the traction line as railway superintendent. Fortunes improved…for the time being.

One of the things that the line started was carrying mail from the Fountain Square post office to the post office in Beech Grove. This started shortly after completion of the line until it was discontinued in the late 1920s.

The little line lumbered on for almost two decades after receivership…barely. It was recommended in November 1923 that the line be closed and sold. Revenues increased with the permission given to raise fares. But the company found itself sold to make up $30,000 in debt due to maintenance and new rolling stock in 1925. The new buyer made a condition – if a bus line was approved, the sale would be null and void, and the line would be junked. Again, lawsuits were filed, and a bus line was granted an injunction to operate. And the bus company was purchased by the traction line…and both were operated at the same time. It found itself teetering financially, yet still managing to survive.

The Great Depression hurt the line, just like it did almost everything else at the time. But it managed to survive…for a while. The Public Service Commission of Indiana, on 7 January 1937, officially told the company that it was to close the line. Indianapolis Railways, the power provider for the line, complained to the PSCI that Beech Grove Traction owed in the neighborhood of $20,000 for power…which Indianapolis Railways turned off at 0100 on 8 January 1937. And hence, the end of the Beech Grove Traction line. Some people hadn’t seen the notices about the end of service, and were waiting at stops on a cold 8 January morning.

The last vestiges of the traction company would last until 21 August 1973. The company’s car barn, at First and Garstang, would last until demolition started that day.

The Riley Highway

Indiana had been a very busy state when it came to roads built during the Auto Trail era. With the creation of the Indiana State Highway Commission in 1919, the Auto Trails didn’t just disappear from the landscape. Many of them were absorbed into the new state highway system. For the longest time, the old highway names were still used along side the new state road numbers in those areas. But one would have thought that the coming of the state road would lead to the end of the creation of new named highways. That was far from what happened. These roads would still being created after the state entered the road building business. The logical question would have been “why bother?” One such named highway would be planned as the Riley Highway.

I covered part of this route when I discussed the coming of SR 9 to locations south of Greenfield. But what wasn’t covered was the actual plan of the complete route. Planning started for this highway in 1925, long after the ISHC had taken a lot of roads into its care. It was Summer 1925 when organizations started planning a “Jame Whitcomb Riley Memorial Highway” from Petoskey, Michigan, to Miami, Florida, through the poet’s hometown of Greenfield. Yes, you read that right. A cross country route through Greenfield.

Memberships in the organization was launched in Goshen in October 1925. (South Bend Tribune, 23 October 1925) It was hoped to sell 125 memberships at a cost of $25 a piece. The primary selling point of the road was that it would cut the travel from Michigan to Florida by nearly 600 miles compared to the already establish Dixie Highway. Strangely, the plan for the new named highway would use other Auto Trails that were already in place between Elkhart and Anderson. From Elkhart to Goshen, the Lincoln Highway would be used. The 110 miles between Goshen and Anderson would follow the route of the Hoosier Dixie Highway.

From Anderson to Greenfield, the plan was to use what was then SR 11 between the two cities via Pendleton. This had been the original Anderson-Greenfield State Road. South of Greenfield, the a collection of roads would be used to connect to Shelbyville, Hope and Seymour. South of Seymour, the Riley Highway would use what was then SR 1 to New Albany and Kentucky. The planned route had, for the most part, the benefit of already having been improved by the state of Indiana.

In my other post about the Riley Highway, I had mentioned that the route left south out of Greenfield using Franklin Street. This wasn’t entirely accurate. But the difference was not by much. According to the Hancock Democrat of 8 October 1925, signage was being posted along the Greenfield section of the new highway. These signs were posted along North Main Street, West Main Street, and South Riley Avenue. Part of this routing was to ensure that the highway bearing Riley’s name would pass by the homestead of the poet. From there, the highway would run west along what is now Tague Street to Franklin Street. From there, it was a relatively straight shot (as straight as could be accomplished in early Indiana!) to Fountaintown. A winding path would be followed from there to Shelbyville. From Shelbyville south, the road was relatively straight through Norristown and Hope, skirting to the east of Columbus, before curving to the southwest, then south, onward toward Seymour.

Shelby County would be an early adopter of the Riley Highway plan. The committee for the road had been put in place as early as mid-August, 1925. (Greenfield Daily Reporter, 15 August 1925) The committee included 36 businessmen from the Shelbyville area, and six residents of Fountaintown. Shelby County would have to come up with at least 100 memberships in the Riley Highway Association before there was even consideration of routing the road through Shelby County. These memberships cost either $10 a year or $25 for three years. One of the advantages that was touted for the Riley Highway was that the Fountaintown Road would become part of the state highway system. This wouldn’t happen until late 1931.

Marking of the route through Shelby County was started, according to the Shelbyville Republican, in October 1925. $2,500 was raised to sign and advertise the road through the county. (The Shelbyville Republican, as printed in the Greenfield Daily Reporter, 8 October 1925) “The road, designed to run from a point in Michigan to Miami, Florida, leads from Greeenfield, the boyhood home of Riley, into Shelby county. It comes from Fountaintown to Shelbyville, over what is known as the Greenfield road, and from here passes along the Norristown road, south and west to Hope.” Again, the selling point of the state highway system was used to raise the money. “It is figured that at the end of the three years the road would be taken over as a part of the State system of highways.” Along with marking the route, signs at all points of danger were also posted, as were curves along the route. The road was marked at road intersections along the way.

Backers of the road were many. According to the Greeenfield Daily Reporter of 26 August 1925, towns that had contributed to the plan were listed: Elkhart, Goshen, Warsaw, Wabash, Marion, Alexandria, Anderson, Pendleton, Shelbyville, Columbus, Seymour and New Albany. One sentence in the article is tinged with irony. “Every town and city in the State through which the road passes has contributed its quote of finances except Greenfield.”

Not all outside Indiana were onboard with the project either. An editorial in the Grand Rapids Press, republished in the South Bend Tribune of 14 May 1926, mentions that “Western Michigan had better make serious inquiry into the why and wherefore of the Indiana Riley Highway proposition before it subserviently hands over its Mackinaw trail designation and its established good will to the purposes of a one-man promotion scheme from another state.” It wasn’t finished there. “In the first place, it might be a wise precaution to send investigators into Indiana, to discoved (sic) what actual possibilities there are behind the optimistic ‘Riley highway’ plan to run another north and south road through that state. It is one thing to name a road and another to build it.” The editorial goes on to question what the ISHC would say about the project. “What does the Indiana state highway department say about this proposition? What does it say about the projected highway from Alexandria to Wabash, dodging the present state route?” The article ends with the question “wouldn’t cooperative work toward these highway linkings be a more practical and profitable plan for Michigan than the blind surrender of our Mackinaw trail with its traditions dating back to the romance of earliest Michigan history?”

Greenfield City Council voted in April 1926 for the improvement of “Riley avenue from Main street south to Tague street, and thence west on Tague street to the west corporate limits, by grading, draining and paving with cement or concrete in such manner and to such extent as may be ordered bu the county commissioners in a petition for improvement of this part of the proposed Riley highway, now pending before said Board.” (Hancock Democrat, 22 April 1926)

Though only parts of the ultimate route would be marked by the white and yellow bands of the Riley Highway, the name was used all over the state to give directions. Especially for the section from Greenfield south to Hope. A popular location in Shelby County was the Flat Rock Caves. Those caves were just off the Riley Highway at the Flat Rock River. The road is now Vandalia Road connecting Shelbyville to Geneva and Greensburg. (The road was originally part of the state road connecting Franklin to Greensburg.) The caves are still there, but have been closed for many years.

Ultimately, it looks like the national trail idea fell through. From what research I can gather, the Riley Highway designation was mostly only used from Pendleton to Seymour. This was especially true in Shelby County, which still maintains that as the name of the road, even though south of Shelbyville it is marked as SR 9. Most of the road can still be followed between these points, with a few places where the state replaced turns with curves. And, with the exception of Pendleton itself, and the section from Greenfield to Shelby County Road 750N, the route was, indeed, taken into the state highway system as SR 9.

Indiana Reroute of the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean Highway

When the Pike’s Peak Ocean to Ocean (PPOO) Highway was created in 1915, a meeting in Indianapolis was held “to promote the acquaintance of the people of Colorado with those of the states to the East.” (Source: Indianapolis Star, 21 April 1915) “The Cumberland and the National Roads form the eastern part of the Ocean-to-Ocean highway as it has been mapped by Pike’s Peak boosters.” While this is mostly true, between Richmond, Indiana, and Springfield, Ohio, that route wasn’t. I covered that on 13 September 2019 with the post US 40 East of Richmond.

Starting in 1916, the PPOO started its Indiana journey across the state by entering along what became US 36 from Illinois, connecting Rockville to Indianapolis (along the Rockville State Road). From Indianapolis, the road followed the National Old Trails Road to Springfield, Ohio, via Greenfield, Richmond, Eaton and Dayton. After Springfield, the PPOO connected to Columbus and Coshocton. This will be important soon.

Fast forward to the Muncie Sunday Star of 16 July 1922. The city of Muncie was looking forward to becoming accessible via a transcontinental highway. The PPOO was changing the route through the state. More to the point, the PPOO organization was thinking about it, but “as now seems certain.” This would make Muncie “the largest city in Indiana on the route and probably the largest city for a stretch of 250 miles or more through this section.”

The article goes on to state that “the trail already had been assured as far as Anderson on the west. The success of the effort to orgnaize a local chapter of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway Association will determine whether the highway will continue on east over the proposed route or whether it will traverse points to the north of the city.”

So, what was the proposed route? At least in the 1922 change listed in that newspaper article? At Rockville, the new path would turn northeast to Crawfordsville. While a path is not specifically mentioned, maps of the proposal show a direct route between the two towns, making it possible for the PPOO to travel through Guion and Waveland on its way to Crawfordsville. From there, the route is pretty much a straight line through Lebanon, Noblesville, Anderson, Muncie, Farmland, Winchester and Union City. On the Ohio side of the state line, Greenville and Piqua would be on the new route before connecting to the original route at Coshocton.

Muncie Sunday Star, 16 July 1922, showing proposed route change to PPOO in Indiana.

When the PPOO was rerouted in 1923, Muncie got its wish. It was included on a transcontinental highway. The difference between what was proposed in 1922 and what became reality in 1923 was the section west of Crawfordsville. Instead of entering the state west of Rockville, the route through Illinois had also been moved north, leaving that state east from Danville. This made the PPOO come through Covington instead of Rockville.

Controversy again arose in 1925 concerning the routing of the PPOO. The Indianapolis Star of 08 March 1925 received a statement from H. D. Judson, of St. Joseph, Missouri, General Manager of the Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway. The message read that a new map of the routing was released erroneously. What did this map show? In western Indiana, the route would be changed to connect to Attica. The reason for the controversy was that it was alleged that the change in the route was made with the assistance of the Indiana State Highway Commission…with Attica being the hometown of Chairman of the ISHC, Charles W. Zeigler. Since the proposal was listed as erroneous, I can find no maps that show the routing between Danville, Illinois, and Crawfordsville.

It was determined, according to Mr. Judson, that “it was with forethought and careful consideration of future needs that the highway was purposely rerouted to avoid Indianapolis, Dayton, Columbus, Springfield, O., and other cities on the National Old Trails.” A problem occurred when the Indiana PPOO association had taken subscriptions of money from towns along the abandoned route, including Dana and Montezuma. But Mr. Judson made it a point that sections of original SR 33 (became SR 34 [US 136] west of Crawfordsville and SR 32 east of that city in 1926) were in the list to be paved in 1925, making a good anchor for the road through the state.

Indianapolis News, 14 May 1934. Indianapolis is U. S. Crossroads

After the Great Renumbering, and the creation of the US Highway system, Auto Trails started disappearing from the landscape, having served the purpose of getting good roads supported by the government. A mention in the Indianapolis News of 14 May 1934 states the PPOO, at that time, had been rerouted through Indianapolis at some point, following the Rockville Road to the west of the city. A classified ad in the Franklin Evening Star of 23 January 1932 lists an 80 acre farm “located 26 1/2 miles west of Indianapolis, 6 1/2 miles west of Danville, and 1/2 mile east of New Winchester, Hendricks county, on State Road 36, known as Pike’s Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.” The PPOO is still listed on SR 32 according to the Noblesville Ledger of 14 February 1931. This is listed in a classified ad for another 80 acre farm for sale north of Fishersburg and Lapel.

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.

US Highways: They are actually State Roads

I originally posted the following in the Indiana Transportation History group on 11 Jun 2014. It has been slightly edited to correct some “oopsies” in my original.

For those old enough to remember (and I, unfortunately, am not one of them) before the Interstate system came into being, and US routes were the cross-country method of auto transport, this post is for you.

Somewhere lost in the history of transportation is the true story behind the US Highway system. Believe it or not, the Federal Government was late to the “good roads” party, and really only joined it half-heartedly. Let me explain.

Near the end of the 19th Century, there was a craze sweeping the nation – bicycling. The problem was that most roads at the time were basically dirt paths through the country. Some were graveled, yes. Some were bricked, but mainly only in towns. Those that rode bicycles started clamoring for better roads to reliably and safely use their new-fangled transportation method.

The US Post Office was also involved in this movement, mainly because mail was that important. And delivering the mail in some rural locations was troublesome at best.

With the creation of the automobile boom in the early 20th century, the Good Roads Movement started including the drivers of the horseless carriage. Again, because most roads at the time were dusty at best, and practically impassible at worst.

Clubs started nationwide to encourage auto travel (the Hoosier Motor Club was one). Clubs were also started to encourage the creation of travel routes that were more than dirt roads to the next county seat.

These last clubs led to many named highways throughout the nation. For instance, Indianapolis was served by the (Andrew) Jackson Highway, Dixie Highway, Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, National Old Trails Road, the Hoosier Highway, Michigan Road, the Range Line Road, the Hills & Lakes Trail, and the Hoosier Dixie.

The most famous of the Road Clubs was the Lincoln Highway Association, which crossed Indiana through the northern tier of counties. On its trip from New York to San Francisco, it passed through Fort Wayne, Ligonier (included because it was the SECOND Ligonier on the route – the other being in Pennsylvania!), Goshen, Elkhart, South Bend, La Porte, and Valparaiso. (As you can guess, it wasn’t exactly a straight line at first!)

In 1926, the American Association of State Highway Officials (AASHO), in cooperation with the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Public Roads finalized a national route system that became the US Highways. This was to combat the numerous named highways that led to some major confusion among the automobile traveling public. The system was discussed starting in 1924, with a preliminary list issued in late 1925.

Named highways painted markers on utility poles most of the time. It, apparently, was not unheard of to have numerous colored markers on one pole. And new named highways were popping up monthly. (They even kept appearing after the numbered highways started appearing.)

A misconception is that a US Highway is a Federal road. US Highways have a distinctive shield with a number. It can also have, legally, a State Road marker. That’s because US highways were really just state roads that shared the same number for its entire distance. So SR 40 in Indiana was also SR 40 in Illinois and Ohio, and so on. (INDOT has even posted SR 421 signage on SR 9 at the entrance ramps to I-74/US 421 in Shelbyville.)

While US highway numbers have come and gone across the state, most of them appeared in one of two phases – 1927 and 1951.

The original US Highways in Indiana were: 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 31, 31E, 31W, 36, 40, 41, 50, 52, 112, and 150.

The second major phase included US 136, US 231, and US 421.

Between these two phases, the following roads were added:
– US 6 (1928)
– US 33 (1937)
– US 35 (1934) It required changing SR 35 to SR 135.
– US 36 – Yes, it is listed twice. US 36 originally ended at Indianapolis from the west. It was extended east in 1931.
– US 152 – Mostly followed US 52 (Lafayette Road) north from Indianapolis from 1934 to 1938. It never left the state, so it was downgraded to mostly state road 53 (which, strangely, was added BACK into the federal numbering system as US 231).
– US 224 (1933)
– US 460 (1947-1977)

These were added to the system in sections. For instance, US 6 came into Indiana from the east and ended up being routed along what, at the time, was Indiana State Road 6.

There have been many changes in the original US highways. Some have bypassed towns in many places (like US 31). Some have just been removed from the system (like the northern end of US 33). Some were replaced by the interstate system created in 1956 (like US 27 north of Fort Wayne).

The beginning of the end of the major importance of the US Highway system started in 1947, when AASHO deemed it “outmoded.” This led to the creation of the interstate system with a law signed by President Eisenhower in 1956.