The Monon Rail Road Logo

The Monon Railroad

Known as “The Hoosier Line” because its tracks were located in the state of Indiana, the Monon Railroad was founded because of the efforts of Salem businessmen.

 

In the 1840s, with limited methods of shipping and receiving goods, the Salem business community decided a railroad might be the answer to their problems.

Salem businessmen met with New Albany businessmen at what is now Borden and on July 8, 1847, organized the New Albany & Salem Rail Road. The intention was to building a line from the Ohio River to Salem.

Construction began the following year, with the line reaching Borden and Pekin in 1850 and Salem in 1851.

On Jan. 14, 1851, the first passenger train arrived from New Albany and was greeted by 5,000 people who had assembled in downtown Salem to witness the historic event.

The railroad’s board of directors, however, had already decided if they could build a railroad through the forests of southern Indiana to Salem, they could build one the full length of the state. By the time that first train arrived in Salem, much of the right-of-way had been acquired to build north to Michigan City.

In 1854 the railroad was complete, connecting the Ohio River at New Albany with Lake Michigan at Michigan City.

Unfortunately, the cost of construction and other problems forced the railroad into receivership in 1858 and when it emerged, Salem was no longer part of the name. It was now the Louisville, New Albany & Chicago Railroad. In 1897, the name was changed again to the Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railroad.

The Monon’s purchase of the line from Indianapolis to Chicago in 1881 created an “X” out of the system, with the two lines crossing at the town of Monon. From this came the railroad’s nickname.

Another important addition to the line occurred in 1887 when the Monon purchased a small railroad that was being constructed from Orleans into the French Lick-West Baden Springs area. This line gave the Monon fame among travelers because of the many people who rode Monon trains to the French Lick Springs and West Baden Springs resort hotels in these two communities.

In 1956, the Monon Railroad became the road’s official name.

In 1971, the Monon was merged into the Louisville & Nashville Railroad which subsequently became a part of other systems. Currently, the old Monon line through Washington County is part of the massive CSX system.

The Depot commemorates the role Salem residents had in organizing the railroad that served Indiana for 120 years. Portions of its track continue to serve the state.

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To learn more about the railroad, The Monon Railroad Historical/Technical Society maintains a web site that provides an invaluable collection of data you'll enjoy reviewing.