Railroads of Indiana, 1850

One of the beautiful things of the internet, one of the things that make doing something like the Indiana Transportation History blog so easy, is the access to a world of information. Yes, some is accurate, and some isn’t. But my favorite resources, as I have shown over the past almost two years, is maps. While maps can be wrong at times, or more to the point, based on “future” information that doesn’t come to be, they are still a great resource if you can figure where they went wrong.

Today, I found another map that grabbed my interest. Looking at a map of railroads in Indiana, even today, there are railroads all over the state. A railroad map from the turn of the 20th Century is a spider web of routes crossing the state in all kinds of directions. But the map that I found today is one of Indiana in 1850. It is an interesting look what was, and how many changes have come about in the 170 years since it was printed.

When railroads started being built in the state, just like everywhere else, it was a jumble of little companies, usually with destination cities in the company title. There were 15 railroads on the map at the time, with some that were proposed. One of them was in Ohio, but would later be part of an Indiana system when it was completed. The map that I found showed the railroad routes as straight lines, not the actual routes themselves. I am going to cover them in the order the map numbered them.

Number 1: Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. I have covered this railroad many times, as it was the first long distance railroad built in Indiana. The engineering of this route, which included the steepest railroad tracks in the nation, was top notch at the time. Although it was originally been on the cheap, using iron strapped rails instead of the “T” rail that would become standard (and much safer) later. In the end, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Number 2: Shelbyville Lateral Branch. This line was built as a feeder road to the Madison & Indianapolis. Its history isn’t terribly long. It connected the Madison & Indianapolis at Edinburgh to Shelbyville, opening up farm produce from Shelby County to the world at large. The railroad, depending on what history you read because it is very spotty, would last around five years before it was abandoned.

Number 3: Shelbyville & Rushville Railroad. Shelbyville was a “rail center” for a little while in the 1850’s and 1860’s. This route connected the two title towns, opening Rush County to the markets available on the Madison & Indianapolis.

Number 4: Shelbyville & Knightstown Railroad. Another short lived railroad, that would open southern Henry County to the same markets served by the above three. This company would last less than a decade, according to the source. Again, the history is spotty about this road at best. Later, part of route would become part of a railroad again, but instead of connecting Knightstown to Shelbyville, it would connect to Rushville.

Number 5: Columbus, Nashville & Bloomington. Trying to find any history on this road is difficult at best. I am not even sure if it existed at all. This will require more research.

Number 6: Martinsville Branch Railroad. Another road, like the one above. History is hard to find like the one above. It connected the Madison & Indianapolis to Martinsville. Later, the same connection would be made, in 1853, from the M&I at Franklin to Martinsville. That railroad would would be the Fairland, Franklin & Martinsville.

Number 7: Indianapolis & Bellefontaine Railroad. This route connected Indianapolis to Pendleton, Anderson, Muncie and Winchester to ultimately Bellefontaine, Ohio. Down the road, this would be one of the founding parts of the Big Four Railroad. It is still in use today as part of CSX.

Number 8: Indianapolis & Peru Railroad. Today, this is mostly known as the Nickel Plate connecting Indianapolis, Noblesville, Tipton, Kokomo and Peru. Or at least what’s left of it. At one point, for about nine months, it was consolidated with the Madison & Indianapolis creating a route from Madison to Peru under one umbrella. Shareholders, and the courts, put an end to that marriage, creating two separate companies again.

Number 9: Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad. Another constituent part of what would become the Big Four Railroad. At one point, at the Indianapolis end, the line came down alongside the Central Canal. It would be also be the scene of a large train wreck that would kill members of the Purdue University football team (Part 1 and Part 2).

Number 10: Lafayette & Crawfordsville Railroad. This railroad would later become part of the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville, later known as the Monon. At the end of this article, I will show the only proposed railroad that in included on this map, which would be a connecting route from Crawfordsville to Bedford, thus creating the remaining part of the Monon mainline through western Indiana.

Number 11: Terre Haute, Indianapolis & Richmond Railroad. The original plan for this railroad was to connect the entire state, east to west, following roughly the National Road corridor. It would never be built past Indianapolis. Over the years, it would become part of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Number 12: New Albany & Salem Railroad. This would be the southern end of what would become the Monon. There were several companies between the New Albany & Salem and the Monon. I covered the history of the Monon in two parts, part 1 and part 2.

Number 13: Jeffersonville & Columbus Railroad. Most references to this road refer to it as the Jeffersonville, or “J.” The plan was to build the line all the way to Indianapolis. The problem came with the management of the Madison & Indianapolis. As the first railroad, the M&I assumed the attitude that they were the kings of the state’s railroads and others, especially direct competitors like the “J,” should just be good little kids and do what they are told.

There is a story about the M&I not wanting to help another railroad, because they weren’t in business to provide charity to other companies. The company they turned down would be the THI&R, which would be far more successful than the M&I in the end.

The M&I refused to cooperate with the J. So, ultimately, the J not only invested in feeder lines, taking traffic from the M&I, they started building a parallel track to the M&I. Ultimately, the J would end up buying the struggling M&I. And, like the M&I, would become part of the Pennsylvania system.

Number 14: Lawrenceburg & Greensburg Railroad. This road was built to connect the markets of Decatur and Ripley Counties to the markets at Cincinnati. Ultimately, the plan was to build the road all the way to Indianapolis, allowing a more direct route from the Hoosier capital to the Queen City of the Ohio. Traffic would be barged from Lawrenceburg to Cincinnati, which was faster than the already in place barged traffic from Madison to Cincinnati.

Number 15: Cincinnati, Hamilton & Dayton Railroad. The only reason that I am mentioning this is because it would be the foundation of what would ultimately become the Baltimore & Ohio connecting Indianapolis to Cincinnati directly.

As mentioned above, the only proposed railroad on this map is the future Monon route connecting Bedford to Crawfordsville. Several towns along the proposed route would not be serviced by any other railroad company for years. And today, most of this route no longer exists, having been given back to the locals when the bigger companies were created, and the route became excessively redundant.

There is one more transportation facility included on this map. The Wabash & Erie Canal from Evansville to Fort Wayne and beyond is marked on it.

The entire map that I used for this article is available here: Railroad map of Indiana, by Col. Thomas A. Morris, Civil Engineer, | Library of Congress (loc.gov)

County Roads – Getting Named

County road names. Most people don’t give it much thought. A year ago, I wrote an article about the names used around the state for the county roads. Today, I want to look at some of the histories that I have found about the subject.

The subject of naming rural roads was taken up at different times in different parts of the state. Until that point, roads may or may not have had names…but not as some sort of system. Marion County, for instance, had names like Wall Street Pike (West 21st Street from Speedway west) or the name of the resident that paid to have the road maintained. There really was no pattern to any of it.

The Cambridge City Tribune, of 9 August 1900, described the rumblings like this: “In some parts of Indiana a plan is being discussed for having all the county roads named. At the road crossings the names will be placed on posts, something like the old fashioned finger boards. In addition to that each farmer will have his name displayed on a post at the road side at the entrance to his grounds. Something of the kind will be done in all rural districts with the next few years, and it is very much needed. Farmers are beginning to discuss the matter at their meetings.”

St. Joseph County, according to the South Bend Tribune of 2 April 1918, had been working on names for the county roads since the summer of 1917. A plan was accepted and adopted by the St. Joseph County commissioners on 4 March 1918. The current names were placed on the county roads then. In 1934, the South Bend Tribune made sure to point out that rural roads in St. Joseph County were all marked the same way city streets were…with signs hanging high above the road.

The reasons for naming county roads involved things like mail delivery and safety. In the days of the automobile, it made sense to name the roads for travelers to be able to find places. But it started out as an attempt to be able to speed mail delivery. With rural routes all over the state, it was not unheard of that someone’s mail would be delivered to the wrong part of the county. Giving houses numbers, and roads names made mail easier to locate. As for safety, it goes without saying that if the farmer on such and such road had a structure that was on fire, unless the emergency crews where such and such road was, and where the farmer lived, that fire was going to be completely destrucutive.

The most common method of naming county roads in Indiana was called the “Purdue Grid Coordinates.” It is a system where every place in the rural areas of the county are assigned a location based on a central point in the county. This system often involves the north-south middle of the county to be called “Meridian,” and the east-west to be called “Division.” But that is up to the particular county, actually. Some counties do use “00” for the center.

The system was created by researchers for Purdue University’s Joint Highway Research project in the School of Civil Engineering. The plan was to create a system that would allow easier directions for rural areas. For example, the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 9 Jan 1954, used the following example of Doc Smith trying to find Ben Miller’s farm: “take this highway north about five miles, and then instead of turning with the highway at the big pear orchard, continue straight ahead on the County Farm gravel road. It winds a bit, but after about two miles you’ll come to a five-point intersection. Take the road that cuts slightly to the left, follow it to the second crossroad, then turn left. It’s only about a mile from that corner to Wahoo. You’ll have to inquire at the grocery store for Ben’s farm.”

Franklin County, in 1953, was still considering a naming system for the roads of that area. It had been recommended several years earlier, but nothing was ever done.

Hamilton County decided to start looking at their road names in 1958. It started with a report by the Jaycees. That took several years to work on. It was decided that Hamilton County would not use the Purdue grid system, since most people preferred names to numbers. Numbers were assigned from Indianapolis, giving rise to street numbers above 96th to 296th. Each county road, however, that went north and south was given a secondary number to show how far east and west of Indianapolis’ Meridian Street you were. While names were decided upon in the early 1960’s, most addresses weren’t completely determined until the 1990s.

On 10 October 1961 the Rushville Republican printed the following question when it came to county road names: “Is Rush County going to be among the last in the state to get its county roads named and numbered and house numbers for its rural residences? Decatur County is the latest to join the fold. It’s not a costly procedure and it makes it so much easier to locate places in the country. All it takes is a nod, and a bit of cash, from the county commissioners to permit this community to keep up with its neighbors.”

It would be 1962 when all counties in Indiana finally had a system in place, and signs posted. Indiana had passed a law in 1961 requiring all county road intersections to have road name signs posted.