US 40 and the National Road in Western Indiana

The Jim Grey Page Roads


Over the Interurban

Until about 1940, electric light railways connected cities and towns over much of Indiana. I first heard of these interurban railways as a student at Rose-Hulman. I read a history of the Institute and it spoke of how the interurban ran right by Rose and how professors used to ride it to work every day. I never made the connection that the tracks behind the school were the old interurban tracks.

Also, while I was a student at Rose in the late 1980s, the Pi Kappa Alpha (Pike) fraternity formed. They lived in a house a mile or two east of campus, past 84 Lumber and a little bridge. Access was strange -- you turned left off US 40, and then immediately left again onto a short segment of paved road that ran right alongside 40, and then after maybe 200 yards when that segment ended you turned right onto a gravel road that led to the house. How like an old alignment of US 40! But until the day of this trip, I never put the pieces together.

The map shows the road segment, and for fun I included the (now former) Pike house. I believe the abutment for the bridge that used to be there is also visible. It's that sliver that juts out from US 40 at that odd angle, just past where the old alignment ends.

We didn't plan to stop here. As we whizzed by this little road, I said to Dawn that it was the way to the Pike house. Then she noticed a bridge abutment on our right. We stopped and looked and saw where a bridge used to be, and how it used to line up with US 40. And then I realized that the little access road had to be an old alignment, and it had to end at the abutment. We drove this road until it ended, but it didn't reach the abutment and the vegetation looked too thick to walk through in our weenie shoes.

The bridge abutment is heavily obscured by trees and brush. It was remarkable that Dawn even noticed it; at 60 miles per hour you'd have to look fast to see it. This photo looks at the abutment from the north, on the current bridge. The shoulder was thin on the bridge. It was, uh, invigorating to feel the turbulence off the cars that zipped by.

Neither of us could tell by looking just what this bridge spanned. While doing research for this writeup, I found a railfan site that had late autumn photos of this abutment and its companion on the other side, taken from the...drum roll...interurban rail bed below. While I was a student at Rose the tracks were still there; today they're gone, replaced by a paved trail.

We walked across the bridge to look at the other side. This photo looks eastward. In the 1980s I noticed this little guardrail and used to puzzle over it, since it was behind another guardrail. Now I know it's there to keep roadfans like us from falling off the bridge abutment!

The original bridge was just long enough to span the tracks. The abutments both ran parallel with the rail bed. The new bridge is longer, its abutments perpendicular to the road's direction. A friend of mine who works in civil engineering tells me that the odder the abutment's angle to the road, the harder the bridge is to maintain. Perhaps that contributed to this bridge's demise.

This photo shows how the old road, its pavement soft and crumbly under our feet, merged neatly into the current road and is on the same line as the road ahead.

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Start 1 Washington Street Bridge 2 Six Points 3 White Lick Creek 4 Deer Creek
5 State Prison 6 Pleasant Gardens 7 Big Walnut Creek 8 Indiana 340 9 Interurban
10 Downtown Terre Haute 11 Toad Hop 12 Illinois State Line

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Created July 2006. Last update 29 February 2008.
These pages, including text and photographs, are copyright 2007 by Jim Grey. (Replace # with @ if you click that link to send me e-mail.)
Maps are screen shots from Windows Live Local. All copyrights acknowledged.