More Than 100 Attend Presentation of “History of the Monon”

(BLOOMINGTON) – The Monroe County History Club presented the “History of the Monon” by George Carpenter on Tuesday afternoon. 

The presentation was attended by more than 100 guests who listened to Carpenter’s historical account of one of Indiana’s well-known railroads that passed through Bedford and Bloomington.

George Carpenter presents ” History of the Monon” Tuesday afternoon at the American Legion in Bloomington

The New Albany and Salem Railroad were organized in 1847 by James Brooks, President. The New Albany and Salem Railroads were built to link the Ohio River and Lake Michigan and were completed in 1954.  The New Albany and Salem were the first names the Monon Railroad.

During the Civil War, the Monon provided timely service to the Union Forces. The Monon carried volunteers to mustering centers and hurried sick, wounded or discharged men home at half-price.

Confederate John Morgan’s raiders came to Kentucky in July 1863 and tore out Monon tracks, pulled over water tanks, burned trestles, and damaged the depot in Salem, Indiana.

In April 1865, a Monon Engine pulled President’s Lincoln funeral train at 5 miles per hour, per orders over the 90 miles from Lafayette to Michigan City.

From 1854 on, the Monon provided inestimable service to the limestone industry of Southern Indiana.

Indiana Limestone was used to construct the Empire State Building, Pentagon, National Cathedral, Washington Monument, and countless private buildings, museums, bridges, churches, walkways, monuments, statues, and gravestones. Each new slab of Indiana limestone rode a Monon flat car first, regardless of its destination.

More than 100 people attended Tuesday’s presentation “The History of the Monon”

In 1946, John W. Barriger III became president of the Monon. Monon changed its operations, built new passenger cars, purchased diesel F03 for passenger and mainline freight service, and made the Monon a modern, efficient and competitive railroad.

The Monon Railroad was the first Class “A” railroad to become fully dieselized.

A postcard depiction of the Thoroughbred, with an EMD F3 in the lead.

The Monon operated entirely within the State of Indiana and was only a few files of out of state trackage rights which connected it to its two major terminals, Chicago and Louisville.

The Monon trackage crosses its namesake City of Monon in Northern Indiana. The mainline runs from Chicago to Monon to Louisville, while the lines from Monon to Michigan City and from Monon to Indianapolis were operated as branch lines.

Another branch line ran from Orleans, Indiana then Southwest, stopping on the grounds of the French Lick Springs Hotel, where it connected with the Southern Railway. The Monon also ran a branch line into the coalfields of Southern, Indiana at Wallace Junction.

The Monon served five major universities in Indiana; Purdue University in West Lafayette, Wabash College in Crawfordsville, DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana University in Bloomington, and Butler University in Indianapolis. 

At one time, railroads crisscrossed the state carrying every type of commodity you could imagine, including people. Photo courtesy Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society Photo Archives

The college traffic was so important that the Monon painted it’s passenger rolling stock the crimson and gray of Indiana University. It also painted it’s freight engines black and gold for the colors of Purdue University.

The Monon merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971, and some of the former Monon right of way is still operated by the CSX transportation.

Part of the information in this story was provided by the Monon Historical-Technical Society with World Headquarters in Salem, Indiana. It is a non-profit organization to preserve the history of the Monon Railroad. You can contact the Monon Historical Society by Mail at Post Office Box 11 Edinburg, Indiana or call 812-526-5660.

Those in attendance of Tuesday’s presentation had some family members who worked with the Monon Railroad, or they themselves worked the Monon. People who attended were from different areas of the state including Paoli, Bedford, Muncie, and other places the Monon Railroad touched.

The Monroe County History Club presents monthly presentations at the American Legion Post in Bloomington. The Monroe County History Club started in February of 2013 with only six people in attendance.  Now, the group has outgrown space so presentations are now done at the American Legion with lunch available.

“There are many more topics we would like to cover. The Showers Building, History of Bloomington Hospital, and Bloomington Fire Department, and Police Department, to name a few,” said Mike Carter, current president of the organization.