Indianapolis Track Elevation, Revisited

In the early 1910’s, the City of Indianapolis and the several railroad companies that entered downtown came to an agreement to elevate the tracks connecting to Union Station. But, technically, it was one railroad that was responsible for dealing with doing the work. The tracks leading to the Union Station all belonged to the Indianapolis Union Railway (IU).

The original contracts that were let for the work, as reported in the Indianapolis Star of 28 January 1913, also included a determined elevation level for the tracks and the grade to be put in place.

The story in the Star reported that there were problems in the City Council about the contract, and delays involved with it. The Law Subcommittee, consisting of R. W. McBride, Caleb S. Denny, Ralph Bamberger, Reginald H. Sullivan and Frank E. Gavin, “reported adversely on the contract.” The main concern was that the city would be on the hook for helping to pay for “increasing the facilities of the railroads.” The Council announced that they want to talk to lawyers about this situation.

Now to the specifics of what is to be done. Article Two of the contract laid out grades and elevation levels of the tracks through downtown. The tracks were to be elevated to the level of the railroad bridges over the White River, rising at a grade of 4/10 of a foot per 100 feet eastward to Illinois Street. From Illinois to Pennsylvania Streets, the tracks were to be level. After Pennsylvania Street, the downgrade would be .256 feet per 100 feet to Virginia Avenue. It would go back up .335 feet per 100 feet until the center of Washington Street. The Panhandle (PRR) and Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton (B&O) tracks were to descend .7 feet per 100 from East Street to Noble Street (College Avenue). The grade of the wye to connect the Madison line, also part of the Panhandle at that point, would ascend at a rate of .76 feet per 100 from Meridian Street to South Street. From Delaware Street to South Street, the wye would ascend .88 feet per 100.

The street clearances were also laid out in Article two of the contract. The following is what was decided, from the newspaper itself:

Indianapolis Star, 28 June 1913, Elevations for Indianapolis Union Railway tracks through downtown Indianapolis.


Of all the streets that would be affected by the elevation, only one was to be removed from the map of the city of Indianapolis. That street was then called Liberty Avenue. Today, it is called Park Avenue.

What caused part of the problem with the City Council is the idea that the ordinance basically ordering the railroad to perform this work (passed in 1905) stated that the city and county would contribute to the elevation of the tracks. But the city refused to pay for any expansion of railroad facilities during this time. Any expansion of the yard facilities that would occur while the elevation was taking place would be borne by the railroad.

The cost was broken up in the contract as follows: Indianapolis Union Railway pays 75%; the remaining 25% would be shared by the City of Indianapolis, the County of Marion, the Town of Woodruff Place and the Indianapolis Street Railway Company/Indianapolis Traction and Terminal Company (both at this point are owned by the Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Eastern Traction Company).

“It is provided, however, that the railway company alone shall bear the cost of laying the tracks after the elevation is completed.”

The history of the track elevation in Indianapolis was covered in the Indiana Transportation History entry of 7 October 2019 called “Indianapolis Track Elevation.”

Bicycling the Brookville Pike

Today’s Bicycling Thursday will be focusing on a road that, while named the “Indianapolis-Brookville State Road” when it was created, never actually connected directly to the capital city. Its end was actually just shy of three miles east of the Circle, as shown in the post “The Indianapolis end of the Brookville (State) Road.”

The start of this trip is along the National Road, which in 1896 was also called the Irvington Pike. Just past the Indianapolis Belt Railway, a road turns to the south. This road now runs behind the shopping center at Sherman Drive and Washington Street. As shown in the above mentioned post, the original road crossed the railroad tracks (at the time the Junction [B&O] and Panhandle [PRR]) at a very strange angle and at grade. At this location was an old railroad station on the Junction called Stratford.

The road then continues in a straight line to the east-southeast toward the county line. The Junction Railway runs in a parallel path to the old road just to the north. The Brookville Pike skirts the south edge of Irvington. From there, the road continues on its straight line journey crossing the Noblesville-Franklin State Road near the village of Fenton. The only jog in the road in Marion County occurs between the Bade Free Gravel Road (Bade Road) and Franke (German Church Road).

There is a hill (described as “a short, sharp pull going eastward, and a longer pull, if going west”) just west of the village of Julietta. After that, the Pike becomes relatively flat to New Palestine. On the east side of that town, the road drops into the valley of Sugar Creek. After climbing out of the valley, it again becomes flat again to Fountaintown.

The route in the article in the Indianapolis News of 10 April 1896 was actually submitted by a reader of the newspaper. The route was a 47 mile trip out the Brookville Road to Fountaintown, north to Greenfield along what would become the Riley Highway, then back to Indianapolis via the National Road.