Cambridge City – Railroad Center

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1967: Kokomo Plans a Second and Third Bypass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Railroad Abandonments in Indianapolis

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

And then, railroads weren’t important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cline Avenue Bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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