December 5, 2002
Mike Hayes, stationed in Germany, asked some questions concerning the Michigan Division from Rushville to North Vernon. I answered these questions by e-mail and Mike suggested that I write an article for the web site, Railroads of Madison County. This is not a full history but an overview of the area at this time in history.
The towns of North Vernon and Rushville Indiana were the terminals for the Vernon, Greensburg and Rushville RR. The VGR was started in 1879 and finished in 1881 and leased to the Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago RR. I can remember the old turntable pit foundation west of the depot atRushville.
I don't know when the depot at Rushville was built but the agent found a transfer book, (a written record of cars transferred between the VGR and the Lake Erie and Western) that was dated before 1891. The gap between Rushville and Anderson was completed in 1891 so that makes one think that the depot was there before 1891.
Mike wanted to know what the speed was in 1950 and at the time the railroad was abandoned. It was 30 mph from 1959 until the trains stopped running to Jeffersonville Indiana (ca 1965-66). At the very last it was 10 mph. To expand on this, before 1950 passenger trains were 60 mph and freight 40 mph.
Here is a little story from the 1946 Railroad Magazine by Alvin Harlow. Mr. Harlow in his article is describing the depots in and around North Vernon and referred to the VGR depot as, a separate shack over whose track one passenger and a mixed train ambled into town daily. This had to be around 1885-1891.
On this piece of track were several small towns who contributed to the traffic on the line. Both terminals were county seats, Rushville-Rush County and North Vernon-Jennings County. Milroy is a small town of 300 + or - souls. As with all small towns in the early years most were self sufficient, meaning they had a grocery store, dry goods, drugstore, hardware, barbershop, blacksmith, bakery, lumber mill and feed mill. Of course much of these supplies had to be shipped in making business for the railroad.
Williamstown, three miles south of Milroy, was one of those towns that almost was but did not quite make it. Sandusky was two and a half miles south of Williamstown and six miles north of Greensburg. Sandusky, half
as large as Milroy, had need of supplies as did Milroy. Greensburg, county seat of Decatur County, was about half way between Cincinnati and Indianapolis, making it a natural terminal. With the VGR and the Columbus Hope and Greensburg RR coming into and through Greensburg and the Cincinnati Indianapolis Line, Greensburg was a busy place.
One mile and a half west of Greensburg was the CH&G Junction, later called Craig. At Craig the VGR turned south five and a half miles to Horace, another small town. Two miles farther south was Letts Corner, another of those small towns with everything. Westport, four miles south was a larger town and also the eastern terminal for the Southern Indiana Railroad. Harper, two and a half south of Westport, was a small village. Four and a half miles farther south was Brewersville, located along Sand Creek and finally North Vernon.
This gives an outline of the small farm communities that dot central Indiana. Most Indiana towns are five to seven miles apart and the reason for this was simple. In the days before the automobile and trains the distance between towns was just right for travel with horse and wagon.
In part two we will discuss the tracks at each town, the sidings, block stations, etc. and the final abandoning of the track.
In the 1950s, I spent a number of summers in Westport staying with my grandparents and will attest to bakeries, groceries, general store, mercantile, farm implement dealers, hardware, restaurants, barber shops, a post office and grain elevator. I do remember the depot, seeing an occasional train and recall that there were a large number
of churches. The Milwaukee Road ran into Westport. That was the furthermost point east that any west coast railroad ever reached until now.
Odd things stick in one's mind. I remember the movie on Saturday nights. It was outdoors with the film projected on a large sheet fastened to the back of a building. Talk about an outdoor movie! It was well attended by the local kids. - rph
Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."