ITH Greatest Hits of 2020

Happy New Year, 2021. When I wrote the post for the greatest hits of 2019, little did I (or anyone else, actually) know what was in store for what could be constructively called the dumpster fire that was 2020. It didn’t change much for me, actually, since I was considered an “essential employee” all year. I did miss a few posts here and there as things got nuts. And I did cut out Saturday entries.

As such, the output of ITH for 2020 was one post less than 2019: 278 (2020) vs. 279 (2019). But that was the only number that was down. Views were up over 166% (53,620…up from 20,085) and visitors were up the same percentage (35,149 in 2020, compared to 13,171 in 2019).

Number 10: Planning I-465…and Arguments (668 views)

18 August 2020: The idea of Interstate 465 was a very contentious one. There were many discussions about the planning, location, and construction of the Indianapolis Belt Highway that would replace State Road 100. The most major of these was the location of the northern leg of the highway. The road it was replacing used the 82nd Street/86th Street corridor across the northern part of Marion County. It was possible that the new highway would be as far north as above 111th Street. The final plan was closer to Marion County than that.

Number 9: Indianapolis’ Downtown Interstates – Original Idea (675 views)

24 July 2020: The first of two posts going over the history of the Innerbelt, that section of interstate downtown that includes both I-65 and I-70. There were a lot of things that were planned that never occurred. And I am not talking about the possibility of I-69/I-169 being added to the mix, since it wasn’t originally…and was never going to be approved by the Federal government footing 90% of the bill. The second part of this post, “Indianapolis’ Downtown Interstates – Original Idea, Part 2,” didn’t fare as well, ending the year number 53, with 1/3 of the views as part 1. It was published the very next day.

Number 8: Madison Avenue Expressway (735 views)

31 March 2020: Plans were made in the early 1950’s to help fix traffic issues coming from the south side of Indianapolis. At the time, Madison Avenue above Troy Avenue was US 31. But it was a very narrow road, with houses and businesses on both sides. It was decided that the new Madison Avenue would be an expressway from Pleasant Run Parkway to Terrace Avenue, and a very wide street until the traffic directions split ways at Delaware Street. Seven days later, I wrote about the corruption that occurred due to that project (“Corruption and the Madison Avenue Expressway“), a post that would have me banned from a Facebook group concerning the south side of Indianapolis because the post was too political. Excuse me? The subject of the article was over 60 years old at the time. Oh, well. I said my peace, and left the group. Not one of the nicest opinions that I have ever expressed.

Number 7: Ben Davis and Mickleyville, Wayne Township, Marion County (736 views)

16 November 2020: One of the topics that I covered several times this past year is the creation of towns…especially in Marion County. As a matter of fact, this general idea is number 7, 6, and 2 on this list.

Ben Davis was a town on the westside of Marion County founded along the Terre Haute & Indianapolis Railroad (later Vandalia, Panhandle and Pennsylvania). Mickleyville was a town that was very close to Ben Davis on the National Road. Both were basically wiped out by the building of Interstate 465 on the west side.

Number 6: Valley Mills (and the Naming of Southport) (807 views)

20 November 2020: Valley Mills, a town along the Indianapolis-Vincennes State Road in southeastern Marion County would, one would think, have little to do with a town on the Indianapolis-Madison State Road in the south central part of the county. But, that belief would be wrong. Southport was named, partly, because it was south of Northport, the original name of the town of Valley Mills.

Number 5: Indianapolis Interstates, Planning and Replanning (808 views)

13 May 2020: The interstate system in the Hoosier Capital was a very contentious creation. Even the planned routes of the highways were subject to change…or attempted dictated to change at the whim of the City Council/City-County Council. The State Highway Department made some changes, then ignored them. This article covers some of the “requests” made by citizens and politicians alike…that mostly fell on deaf ears with the State and Federal Governments.

Number 4: Replacing SR 44 From Shelbyville and Rushville (809 views)

24 April 2020: The route connecting Shelbyville to Rushville was, originally, a very curvy and sometime death defying route that had once been part of the Minute Man Route auto trail. (See “Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville” [25 October 2019].) The new route that would become SR 44 between the seats of the counties of Shelby and Rush would mostly tag along the Pennsylvania Railroad’s tracks connecting the two towns…instead of crossing it several times like it did in Rush County. The reason I used the conjunction “and” instead of “to” in the title is that the road was built from both towns toward the middle.

Number 3: The Building of I-465 (950 views)

17 July 2020: This was a collection of news stories that showed what what being reported (mostly) in the Indianapolis News about the construction of the highway system around Marion County.

Number 2: More History Than Transportation – South Indianapolis (1149 views)

6 November 2020: This article was a spur of the moment thing that ended up doing quite well. It is about two neighborhoods on the south side of Indianapolis. They each would become part of the city of Indianapolis…one in the 1920’s, and the other officially with the creation of UniGov. But having grown up in the latter, I spent a lot of time as a kid trying to figure out why I went to Perry Township schools when there was an Indianapolis Public School less than 1/2 mile away. This article tells why.

Number 1: I-465 On the East Side of Marion County (1190 views)

15 May 2020: The title almost says it all. It was basically news coverage of the planning and construction of Interstate 465 on the east side of Marion County, from Interstate 74 to Fall Creek. What I especially love about the maps that are included is that the railroads aren’t Pennsylvania and New York Central – they are shown as the PCC&StL (Panhandle) and the CCC&StL (Big Four). Those names were LONG gone when the interstates were being planned and built.

I hope that you enjoyed this past year on the Indiana Transportation History blog. Most of the times that I missed making an entry, it was running out of time trying to find a topic. I hope that I will have less of that in 2021. I also hope that 2021 is far less of a dumpster fire for the world. I would love to say it can’t get worse, but I have learned not to challenge worse.

Here’s to a safe, healthy and happy 2021! Raise a glass if you got one! Or, in my case, a tea mug!

Replacing SR 44 From Shelbyville and Rushville

When SR 44 was extended west of Rushville, the State Highway Commission did what they normally do – take over old county roads for maintenance and worry about it later. Looking at old state highway maps, one can see this in full force. And the section of SR 44 from Rushville to Shelbyville shows this quite well.

1935 Indiana Official State Highway Map showing SR 44 from Shelbyville to Rushville.

The extension of SR 44 took half a decade to accomplish. I covered that in the article “Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville.” When the road was taken into the state system in 1932, it followed the route as shown in the 1935 map above. The winding road that became SR 44 had been used for the Minute Man Route, an Auto Trail that connected Farmersburg to Liberty across Indiana.

The big problem with this section of the route was not winding route. It had been that way for almost 100 years at that point, in one form or another. No, the big problem was created in the 1850’s, when the Shelby & Rush Railroad was built to connect Shelbyville and Rushville. That railroad was built pretty much in a straight line between the two towns. Because Rushville is east northeast of Shelbyville, and most county roads are located on survey lines that are (almost) true north-south and east-west, this led to more than its fair share of dangerous crossings of the railroad tracks.

1935 map of Shelby County showing the route of SR 44 north and east of Shelbyville. This map shows the new SR 44 under construction along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks connecting the two towns.

This was not as big a problem in the days before mass amounts of car and truck traffic. There has always been an “I can beat the train” mentality when it came to some drivers. Unfortunately, this manifested itself exponentially with the increase of traffic on relatively good quality roads.

1935 map of Rush County showing the route of SR 44 south and west of Rushville. This map shows the new SR 44 under construction along the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks connecting the two towns.

With the opening of the new section of SR 44 in 1932, it didn’t take long for the state to decide that something needed to be done about the circuitous route through the Rush and Shelby County countryside. With that in mind, 1935 saw the state going out to purchase the right of way for a new SR 44.

The Rushville Republican of 17 July 1935 reported that quite a bit of the acquisition of the right of way had been completed. By the time of the report, almost all of the purchasing had been completed in Shelby County, from Shelbyville to Manilla. Only about half the purchasing was done from Manilla to Rushville.

“The new highway will follow the Pennsylvania railroad on the south side of the tracks between Rushville and Shelbyville and will not cross the railway except at the entrance to Shelbyville. Road 44 will connect with road 29 a short distance east of Shelbyville and will be a straight highway with none of the curves, turns and railroad crossings which harass motorists on the present route.”

This was especially true in Rush County. The route of SR 44 crossed the Pennsylvania tracks five times between Manilla and Rushville. But not all of the right of way had to be purchased. East of Manilla, the original SR 44 route was used for a short distance east to Homer. This is the one location that the new SR 44 ventured very far from the railroad tracks. This is shown in the highlighted route in the Rush County map above.

1936 Indiana Official State Highway map of SR 44 from Shelbyville to Rushville, showing both the original route and the route then under construction.

By the end of 1936, the new route had been completed. This created a high quality route between Shelbyville and Rushville, as the old road was still mostly a dirt/gravel combination. The railroad that would give the new route its “backbone” would be removed by Conrail in the 1980s.

Indiana Auto Trails, Revisited

Indiana. The Crossroads of America. When the Auto Trails came to the state, there were quite a number of them. In 1922, there were 34 to be exact. While the State Highway Commission was busy putting state road numbers everywhere, people at the time still followed the colorful markers that appeared on utility poles throughout the state. In November 1922, an article was published in several newspapers across Indiana describing those Auto Trails. Those articles showed the signs that were posted along the way, and a brief description of the route. Anyone that has seen these lists in person know that the order of the highways is a bit weird. Yellowstone Trail is always listed first. Why? Because Rand McNally, when publishing the “official” Auto Trails maps in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s listed it first. It wasn’t the first such road…but Rand decided it would be.

Tip Top Trail

By 1920, the state of Indiana was crossed by a vast number of named routes, called Auto Trails, that connected many of the bigger towns of the state. Some of these were cross country routes. But many were only in Indiana. Today, we are focusing on the Tip Top Trail, one of those Indiana only roads. The maps included in this post are from the Rand McNally Auto Trails Map of 1920. The Tip Top Trail is labelled as [3] throughout those maps. A downloadable copy of this map is available from the Indiana State Library.

This route crossed eastern Indiana, starting near Madison on the Ohio River. Technically, the road ended at the Michigan Road in North Madison. Starting due west along what is now SR 62, the TTT turned northwest along the old Indianapolis-Madison State Road which is now SR 7. This routing took travelers through Wirt, Dupont and Vernon to enter North Vernon. At North Vernon, the French Lick Trail crossed west to east across town. The French Lick Trail here would later become US 50. The French Lick Trail is marked on this map as [90].

As the Indianapolis-Madison State Road continued to the northwest, the TTT left North Vernon due north aiming the same direction as what is now SR 3. This connected Brewersville, Westport, Letts and Horace before connecting, and multiplexing, with the Terre Haute-Columbus-Cincinnati (THCC) Trail (labelled as [82]) west of Greensburg. West of Greensburg, the THCC became, roughly, the route of SR 46. East of Greensburg, the THCC connects to Batesville and Lawrenceburg, where the above mentioned French Lick Trail begins at the junction of the THCC.

At Greensburg, the TTT crosses what Rand McNally labels as [26], known as the Michigan Road. The southern end of the TTT actually ends at the same road.

There are places between North Vernon and Greensburg where the old TTT would later become part of the state road system. Other places, the TTT went screaming across rural Indiana on county roads that, in some circumstances, have been removed from maps.

The next section of the road continues along the SR 3 corridor north on its way to connect to the National Road at Dunreith. Before getting there, the towns of Sundusky, Williamstown, and Milroy are traversed before the county seat of Rush County, Rushville. Here, the Minute Man Route crossed west to east. The Minute Man route, although connecting several county seats, was almost not ever included in the state highway system later. It would be long after the Great Renumbering that it would make it…I covered that with the post “Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville.”

Still following, roughly, the SR 3 corridor, the TTT continues northward. 13.5 miles north of Rushville, the TTT connected to, and multiplexed with, the National Old Trails Road. This multiplex only lasted about one half mile. Here the TTT turned north out of Dunreith on West Street, soon to become Old Spiceland Road. This carries the route through Spiceland into New Castle. The TTT is crossed by the Hoosier Dixie Highway.

Parts of the old TTT would be added, and removed, from the route of future (current) SR 3 between New Castle and Muncie. It leaves the current SR 3 south of Mount Summit, continuing due north (more or less) before turning west due east of Springport. There it, again, aims due north through Oakville to Cowan. West of Cowan, the TTT turned north once again, following Cowan Road and Hoyt Avenue into Muncie. At Muncie, the TTT connects to the Hoosier Highway (connecting Muncie to Indianapolis and beyond) and Hub Highway (Greenville, Ohio, to Lafayette).

The Hoosier Highway and the Tip Top Trail travel together north out of Muncie. At Hartford City, they split ways, with the Hoosier Highway multiplexing with the Auto Trail called the Belt Line, which winds its way across Indiana. The Tip Top Trail continues north toward Warren.

North of Warren, the road keeps going toward Huntington. Here, the TTT connects with three Auto Trails. First is the Wabash Way [81]. This trail connects Fort Wayne with Peru, Logansport, Delphi and Lafayette. Second is the Ben Hur Route, which I covered earlier. Third is another Indiana only Auto Trail called the Huntington-Manitau-Culver Trail, connecting Rochester, Indiana, to Lima, Ohio.

The next destination for the Tip Top Trail is Columbia City. Here, the east-west Auto Trial that connected to the TTT was a coast-to-coast highway known as the Yellowstone Trail. Later, after the creation of the United States Highway System, the Lincoln Highway was rerouted along roughly the same corridor.

From Columbia City to the end of the Tip Top Trail roughly follows the current SR 9 corridor through Merriam, Albion, Brimfield, and ends at Rome City. At Merriam, the TTT crossed the original routing of the Lincoln Highway. At Brimfield, the Toledo-Chicago Pike crosses east to west. At Rome City, the end of the Tip Top Trail comes with the junction of the Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way.

Fight for Adding SR 44 from Martinsville to Rushville

When the Great Renumbering occurred on 1 October 1926, most of the roads were just that, renumbered. One of the purposes of the State Highway system in Indiana was to connect the centers of county government to each other in the form of state roads. There was, however, a large missing section in this plan. In the “donut” counties surrounding Marion County, to get from, say, Martinsville to Shelbyville using the highways required going far out of the way to accomplish this task. Today, people use SR 44…but this was a very late addition to the entire plan.

When SR 44 was created on that day in 1926, the road only connected Connersville to Liberty on a less direct route than is used today. The road was also under construction from Rushville to Connersville, although the route hadn’t been completely set out before maps were issued showing the new road numbers. The centers of government of Shelby and Johnson Counties were served by only one state highway each. The seat of Morgan County was served by two, but they were both north-south routes. Shelbyville was on SR 29, Franklin was on US 31, and Martinsville was served by SR 37 and SR 39, with a connection across the White River to SR 67.

For someone to travel from, say, Martinsville to Rushville, using state highways, required going either through Bloomington, Columbus and Greensburg via SR 46 and SR 3, or going through Indianapolis using SR 37 and US 52. Both Franklin and Shelbyville were suffering from the same fate.

But this wasn’t always the case. In the Auto Trail era, these three cities were connected to Rushville using a road called the Minute Man Route. This Auto Trail connected Farmersburg, on the Dixie Bee Line (future OSR 10/US 41) through Clay City and Spencer to Martinsville. From there, it was a (more or less) direct line through Franklin, Shelbyville, and Rushville to Connersville. At Connersville, the Minute Man Route used a more northern route to Liberty than the 1926 version or the current SR 44.

The Minute Man Route was designated when the Lexington Automobile Company, which had a plant at Connersville, started building a new model of car. That car was called the Minute Man, with the name being chosen for the highway that would be marked at that time.

The four counties from Martinsville to Rushville started very quickly to get the State Highway Commission to accept the Minute Man Route into the state highway system. It began before the Great Renumbering, with newspaper articles published on 17 July 1926 in both the Rushville Daily Republican and the Martinsville Reporter-Times reporting that the Franklin Star covered a meeting on 15 July 1926 “for the purpose of promoting the movement to have the State Highway Commission take over and improve the Minute Man route which connects Shelbyville, Franklin and Martinsville.” It was brought up that the ISHC was “neglecting southern Indiana.” An investigation into the subject “found that in comparison to other counties, the counties crossed by the Minute Man route do not have the east and west improved roads that they are entitled to.”

The Franklin Evening Star of 13 September 1929, three years after the start of the movement, reported that Shelby County was taking a decided step in the direction of getting the road accepted by the state. The county government in Shelbyville authorized $15,000 “for the purpose of widening the narrow grade between Shelbyville and Franklin.” It was believed by the newspaper that this improvement would help in the effort to get an east-west state highway across these counties. The state rebuffed such efforts at that time.

In 1930, the ISHC added some 600 miles of roads to the state highway system. Alas, according to the Franklin Evening Star of 09 October 1930, “the 600 miles of road taken over by the state, did not however, include the proposed state highway between Rushville, Shelbyville, Franklin and Martinsville.” It went on to state “agitation for the inclusion of this route in the state system has been urged by business men of the four cities at various times during the four years but no formal action has been taken by the highway commission.” The ISHC stated that “action was prevented at that time by a lack of finances but that the route would be placed on the preferred list and taken over as soon as conditions would permit.” One problem with this excuse, at least in my eyes, is that the Three Notch Route had been taken over by the state, connecting Nashville and Trafalgar to Indianapolis as SR 35. The state saw this as a relief route to US 31 to southern Indiana.

This rebuffing by the ISHC of taking the Minute Man Route into the state highway system continued. The Franklin Evening Star of 10 December 1931 stated that a report to the ISHC made it “Hardly Possible That Cross-State Road Will be Put in Highway System Soon.” This report was made by I. N. Brown after a conference with John J. Brown, the director of the State Highway Commission. The study included extending the route to Richmond.

Partial success occurred in early 1932, with the Franklin-Shelbyville section of the road taken into the state highway system. The section of the road between Martinsville and Franklin was in limbo at the time due to failure to reach an agreement with Morgan County officials regarding the payment of a bill for $8,000, which the county owed the state.

Over the years, SR 44 has been straightened in many places between the four cities involved. There are many sections of road through especially Johnson, Shelby and Rush Counties marked “Old SR 44.” The route, however, is no longer a continuous road. In the past decade (as of this writing on 25 October 2019), SR 44 was decommissioned through Franklin. SR 44 ends, on the west, at SR 144, west of the city. East of the city, the official beginning/end of SR 44 is at Interstate 65. Parts of a truck route around Franklin exist, but an official state routing requires a long drive to either Indianapolis or Edinburgh.

Auto Trail Quick Take, Part 1

This entry is a quick description of the Auto Trails, as listed in the Lafayette Journal and Courier of 1 November 1922. It gives a general idea of the roads that most of which would be accepted into the State Highway System. The numbering used corresponds to the numbers used on the Rand McNally Auto-Trails maps of the late 1910s through the mid 1920s.

(Note – all information in this entry comes directly, word for word, from the mentioned newspaper. Some may disagree with what was written.)

(1) The Yellowstone Trail enters Indiana from Chicago, extending by way of Gary, Valparaiso, Plymouth, Warsaw, Pierceton, Columbia City, Fort Wayne and thence to Cleveland. Well marked with metal signs on poles.

(2) The Chicago Trail barely cuts the corner of the state, extending from Detroit to Chicago, entering Indiana and Michigan City, passing through Gary, Indiana Harbor and Whiting.

(3) The Tip-Top Trail, extending from Lagrange on the north straight south by way of Albion, Columbia City, Huntington, Hartford City, Muncie, Newcastle, Rushville and Greensburg. Thoroughly marked by H. S. A. A. (Hoosier State Automobile Association).

(4) The Dixie Bee Line, extending from Chicago down the edge of Illinois, entering Indiana near Danville, Ill., going through Clinton and Terre Haute, and leaving at Evansville to cross Kentucky and Tennessee to Florida. Thoroughly marked and re-marked by the H.S.A.A.

(8) The Range Line, extending from Indianapolis to Rochester by way of Carmel, Westfield, Kokomo and Peru. Was marked by the county organizations enroute and is now replaced by State Road No. 1.

(9) Ohio-Indiana-Michigan Way, extending from Cincinnati by way of Richmond. Fort Wayne and Kalamazoo, Mich. First marked by the county organizations and remarked by the state organization. Some parts of this route are yet to be remarked. “O-I-M” on the poles.

(12) The Toledo-Chicago Pike enters Indiana at Butler, extending west through Waterloo, Kendallville and joining the Lincoln Highway at Ligonier.

(13) The Belt Line, same being a continuation of the Bloomington Way in Illinois, entering from Hoopeston, Ill., crossing the state by way of Lafayette, Kokomo, Marion, Hartford City and Portland. Marked by the county organizations – on schedule for remarking by the state association outfits.

(16) Hoosier Dixie Highway, extending from Goshen to Cincinnati by way of Warsaw, Wabash, Marion, Anderson, New Castle, Cambridge City, Connersville and Brookville. Marked by the Hoosier Dixie Highway association through its county organizations and remarked in parts by the H.S.A.A.

(17) Minute Man Route extending from Farmersburg on the west, across the state by way Spencer, Martinsville, Franklin, Shelbyville, Rushville, Connersville and Liberty. Marked by state association – on our list from remarking now.

(22) National Old Trails Road, established by government, marked by red, white and blue bands partly by local clubs and partly by the state organization, but more dependable marked by special enamel steel signs placed at frequesnt intervals across the state. Coincides with State Road No. 3 across Indiana from Terre Haute to Richmond. (The section east of Richmond is not the same road established by the government.)

(23) Wonderful Way, same being a branch of the Atlantic-Pacific Highway branching off from that route at Paoli and extending south by way of Corydon, New Albany and along the river by Charlestown, Madison, Vevay, Patriot, Rising Sun to Cincinnati. Marked by the H.S.A.A.

(24) The Hoosier Highway, extending from Detroit to Memphis, crossing Indiana by way of Fort Wayne, Bluffton, Huntington, Muncie, Anderson, Martinsville, Spencer, Worthington, Washington, Petersburg, Oakland City, Princeton and Evansville. First marked by the Hoosier association with a red “H” on a white background and now remarked with a black “H” on a white background. Northern half of route just repainted.