“The Milwaukee Road” Dr. Clay Stuckey provides a history of the railroad in Lawrence County

BEDFORD – The Lawrence County Historical and Genealogical Society resumed in-person meetings. Moving forward, the meetings will now be held on a monthly basis.

On Monday night Dr. Clay Stuckey talked about the ” Milwaukee Railroad in Lawrence County” providing quests of the history and how the railroad company made its way into Lawrence County – thanks to the Limestone Industry.

Dr. Clay Stuckey

The railroad itself did not quite start out as the Milwaukee. The first railroads were:

  • Evansville & Illinois (1849-1854)
  • Evansville & Terre Haute (1854-1911)
  • Evansville & Richmond ( 1886 -1897)
  • Bedford Belt (1893-1898)
  • Southern Indiana owned by Limestone Company owner John R. Walsh ( 1897-1910)
  • Chicago, Terre Haute & Southern (1910-1921)
  • Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul (1921-1985)

Dr. Stuckey took those in attendance to some of the local quarries where the railroad provided rail service to deliver limestone throughout the United States. Most of the quarries are no longer in service but were instrumental in putting Bedford, Indiana on the map as the Limestone Capital of the World.

John R. Walsh was a prominent newspaperman from Chicago and banker. He established the Chicago National Bank and controlled many others. Walsh established the Bedford National Bank. After the Evansville & Richmond Railroad went bankrupt in 1894 it was taken over by the bondholders in 1897 which Walsh led. He soon owned it exclusively and named it the Southern Indiana Railroad Company.

In 1891, he provided the money for the Bedford Stone Quarries Company to build the Bedford Belt Railroad. The company could not pay the money back so Walsh took over the stone company and the Bedford Belt which became part of the Southern Railway Company in 1898.

Walsh was convicted of banking fraud in January 1908 and was sentenced to five years in prison. He was paroled in October 1911 and died nine days later.

The Bedford Belt in blue

The Bedford Belt route included Bedford, North Bedford, Standard, Dark Hollow Junction, Dark Hollow, Oolitic, Buff Ridge, and Hoosier. It also included the area around Bedford, north to Oolitic that ran rails to the quarries that operated in those locations.

The Bedford Belt crossed over the Monon Line. This is just to the west of GM Powertrain’s current location. The trestle no longer exists.

The Bedford Belt Railroad was to compete against the Monon Railroad, however, some of the owners of the quarries were bondholders in the Monon Railroad which sometimes made the railroad connections to those quarries a bad business decision. Most of the business went to the Monon Railroad instead of the Bedford Belt.

Dr. Stuckey shared with those attending the many locations along the tracks from Bedford to Heltonville. He also described some of the derailments. On of which included information about a notable passenger train accident when the train derailed near Heltonville.

Passenger train derailment in Heltonville, Indiana

He also took the crowd on a trip from the once Milwaukee tracks, known now as the Milwaukee Trail, passing many Limestone companies and quarries to Mt. Olive station in Martin County.

Milwaukee had tracks that ran underneath Oolitic Road into Oolitic and the Dark Hollow Quarry that sits west of Oolitic.

The area around where General Motor’s current location was a flurry of locomotive shops, turn tables, and rail yard for the Southern Railroad Company.

Railroad Abandonments:

  • Bedford to Seymour – 1978
  • Bedford Belt ( Oolitic) -1985
  • Bedford to Crane – 2009 ( Indiana Rail Road Company)

In 1985, the Milwaukee disappeared from the Bedford area with the Soo Line, then to the Canadian Pacific and finally, Indiana Rail Road Company took over.

In 2009, the rail service in Bedford, Indiana, finally came to an end.

Some in attendance at Monday evenings presentation traveled long distance, others worked for the railroad or had family who worked for the local limestone companies mentioned in the presentation.

Frankie Potts came from Okoee, TN Monday night to hear the presentation.

Frankie Potts came from Okoee, TN just to hear Dr. Stuckey describe the Milwaukee Road around Bedford. Edward Edinger’s daughter was in attendance who owned a stone company north of Bedford.

Dewayne Terry, who also worked for the Milwaukee Railroad around 1972, brought old timetables, memorabilia, and his last lantern given to him when he worked for the railroad.

Dewayne Terry shows the crowd his last lantern he used as an employee for the Milwaukee Railroad

The Bedford High School Media recorded the presentation and will be available for viewing shortly on Youtube for those who missed out on the informative presentation.

Dr. Stuckey has written more than 22 books on a wide range of topics on the history of various subjects. Dr. Stuckey gave a presentation in 2019 to the Monroe County History Club on the “Railroad Tunnels of Indiana”. Dr. Stuckey has walked many miles of the old abandoned rail lines throughout the area.

The next guest speaker, Jei Jeeyea Kim, Assistant Professor Indiana University will present as a part of Limestone History month on June 14th at 7:00 p.m.