Monon Railroad

Monon Railroad
Monon Railroad
Reporting mark CIL, MON
Locale Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky
Dates of operation 1847–1971
Successor Louisville and Nashville
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) (standard gauge)
Headquarters Chicago, Illinois

The Monon Railroad (reporting mark MON), also known as the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway (reporting mark CIL) from 1897–1956, operated almost entirely within the state of Indiana. The Monon was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971, and much of the former Monon right of way is operated today by CSX Transportation.[1]


Colleges served

Restored caboose, which in reality is a Reading Railroad caboose painted as a Monon, in Monon, Indiana

The Monon directly served six colleges and universities along its line:

The university traffic was important enough to the Monon, that the railroad used the schools' colors on its rolling stock as the railroad's official paint schemes. The red and white of Wabash College (and very similar to the colors of Indiana University) was used on the railroad's passenger equipment, and the black and gold used by both DePauw University and Purdue University adorned the railroad's diesel freight locomotives and later replaced the red and white on passenger equipment as well.


  • Monon Railroad[2]
    • Chicago and South Atlantic Railroad 1879
    • Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railroad 1956
      • Chicago and Wabash Valley Railroad 1914
      • Indianapolis and Louisville Railroad 1916
      • Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad 1898
        • Bedford and Bloomfield Railroad 1886
        • Chicago and Indianapolis Air Line Railway 1883
        • Indianapolis, Delphi and Chicago Railroad 1881
        • New Albany and Salem Railroad 1873
          • Crawfordsville and Wabash Railroad 1852
        • Orleans, Paoli and Jasper Railway 1886

Monon route

BNSF waiting for yard clearance in Monon, Indiana.

The railroad earned the name Monon due to the convergence of its four main routes in Monon, Indiana. From Monon, the mainlines reached out to Chicago, Louisville, Indianapolis and Michigan City, Indiana.[1] In Chicago, the Monon's passenger trains served Dearborn Station. Smaller branches connected points on the Louisville mainline to Victoria, Indiana and French Lick, Indiana.

The Monon line was unusual in that its main line ran down the middle of streets in several cities, most notably Lafayette, New Albany and Bedford. It also installed an unusual "home grown" warning signal at many grade crossings; these utilized a green signal light (similar to and adapted from a standard highway traffic signal) that stayed lit at all times, except when a train was approaching. A sign below or to the side of the signal read, "STOP When Signal Is Out." This design had an inherent fail-safe mechanism, in that when the signal bulb was burned out, an approaching vehicle driver would assume a train was coming — and, it must be assumed, that same driver would eventually realize there was no train and just a burned-out signal after a sufficient time.

The Monon line was divided into seven sections. Beginning in the north, Section One was from the Indiana line to Lafayette, passing through the Monon switch in Monon. As a primary passenger route, it connected to Section Four running between Lafayette and Bloomington. This route reached the Ohio River over Section Five from Bloomington to New Albany. From this southern route, Sections Six and Seven were spurs to the west. Section Six served the Coal Fields between Midland and Clay City connecting to the main line at Wallace Jct, just south of Cloverdale. Section Seven provided passenger service to the resort hotels in West Baden and French Lick, through a connection at Orleans.

The other primary line, which was considered a Freight line, included Section Two from Michigan City on Lake Michigan to Monon and then Section three from Monon to Indianapolis. Although each route had its primary traffic, freight and passengers were carried over all parts of the line.

Section #1

Chicago to Lafayette[3] The Chicago to Lafayette route is used by Amtrak for the 'Cardinal' and the 'Hoosier'.[4]

Monon Crossing in Battle Ground, Indiana

Google Map - [2]

Google Map - [3]

Section #2

Monon to Indianapolis[3]

Abandoned Monon Trestle over Wildcat Creek

Section #2 was a freight route from Indianapolis. It has been completely abandoned and the rails removed from the entire line. Much of the right-of-way has been returned to neighboring landowners. Where farm fields surround it, evidence of the route has nearly been obliterated as the land has been returned to farming. In Indianapolis, the Monon Trail is a bike and walking route serving the north side of the city following the right-of-way. No rails are left in place and the route is disappearing as new uses occur on and adjacent to the right-of-way.[5]

  • Guernsey
  • Monticello
  • Yeoman
  • Delphi
  • Radnor
  • Ockley, south of Ockley station, the viaduct over Wildcat Creek still stands. This is just north of Owasco and visible from US 421/SR 39. In 2004, it was damaged by heavy run-offs in Wildcat Creek, which moved the legs of the steel piers out of alignment. It was still standing in 2007.[6]
  • Rossville
  • Frankfort
  • Kirklin
  • Sheridan
  • Westfield
  • Carmel
  • Nora
  • Broad Ripple is near the northern end of the Monon Greenway, which ends to the south near Fall Creek and 35th Street.[7]
  • Boulevard Station
  • Indianapolis, home of Butler University. The Monon appears to have used Union Station south of the circle.

Google Map - [4]

Section #3

Michigan City to Monon[3] This line runs parallel to U.S. 421 as far as Brookston. The Indiana Rail to Trails group is developing a bike route from Michigan City to La Crosse, using the Monon right-of-way, where it still exists. A section south of Michigan City by I-94 has been consumed by a Landfill and the bridge over the interstates I-94 and I-80/I-90 have been removed.

Section #4

Lafayette to Bloomington[3] From Lafayette southward, the Monon follows along U.S. 231 to Crawfordsville. At Crawfordsville, the right-of-way moves eastward of the highway several miles, but continues south to Cloverdale, returning closer to U.S. 231 at Greencastle. Amtrak uses this route south to Crawfordsville and then the old New York Central – Conrail tracks into Indianapolis.

White River crossing of the Monon near Gosport and Stinesville.
  • Greencastle, home of Depauw University
  • Limedale
  • Putnamville
  • Cloverdale, tracks end here from Lafayette
  • Wallace Jct provided access to the coal fields of Midland, Howesville and Clay City along Section Six of the Monon line.
  • Quincy
  • Gosport – South of Gosport, the Monon crosses the White River.
  • Stinesville is the northern edge of quarry country. From here, south through Bedford and Mitchell, quarries of fine Indiana Limestone exist.
  • Adams
  • Ellettsville, tracks end here from Bloomington
  • Bloomington home of Indiana University

Section #5

Washington County Courthouse, Salem, Indiana

Bloomington to New Albany[3]

Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site in New Albany, Indiana

Section #6

Wallace Jct. to Midland (Coal Fields) [3] This section has been completely abandoned and the tracks have been removed.

Section #7

Monon Station in French Lick, Indiana

.This section has been completely abandoned. Tracks only remain in French Lick and is used as an excursion route.

Orleans to French Lick[3]


Railroad artifacts on display at the Monon Connection Museum
  • 1847: The New Albany and Salem Railroad is organized with James Brooks as president.
  • 1854: The NA&S trackage stretches from the Ohio River (at New Albany) to the Great Lakes (at Michigan City).
  • 1859: The overextended and struggling NA&S is renamed the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad.
  • 1873: The LNA&C Railroad is reorganized as the Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railway.
  • April 30, 1865: The LNA&C becomes one of twenty railroads to haul Abraham Lincoln's funeral train, from Lafayette, Indiana to Michigan City, Indiana.
  • 1881: The LNA&C consolidates with the Chicago and Indianapolis Air Line Railway, and the trackage of the new division is soon extended to reach into its namesake cities.
  • July 1, 1897: The LNA&C is reorganized as the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway.
  • 1932: The 300 pound (136 kg) Monon Bell is first presented as the trophy of the annual football matchup between DePauw University and Wabash College.
  • 1946: John W. Barriger III becomes President of the Monon, bringing aggressive plans for modernization.
  • June 29, 1949: Final day of steam locomotive service, as the Monon becomes one of the first Class I railroads to fully convert to diesel motive power.
  • January 11, 1956: The CI&L officially adopts its longtime nickname, Monon, as corporate title.
  • 1959: The Monon's passenger service between Chicago, Illinois and Indianapolis, Indiana is discontinued. By 1965, only "The Thoroughbred" remained, with its single daily roundtrip from Chicago to Louisville.
  • September 30, 1967: Final day of regularly scheduled passenger train service on the Monon.
  • July 31, 1971: The Monon is merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
  • 1999: Portions of the line around Indianapolis were converted to a bicycle and pedestrian trail known as the Monon Trail.

The line today

A restored Monon boxcar CIL 1620 at the Linden Railroad Museum in Linden, Indiana. The former Monon mainline is in the background.

The remains of the line are operated by CSX Transportation. Large segments have been abandoned in recent years: most of the line from Monon southeast to Indianapolis, the line north from Monon to Michigan City, and the line segment between Cloverdale and Bedford (this segment was abandoned largely due to a washout). A portion of the French Lick branch is now home to a railroad museum, with part of the line wired for trolley service.

Between Bedford and Mitchell, CSX owns the line but does not operate any of its own trains. Until 2010, the only service came from trains of the Indiana Rail Road, which in 2006 purchased the former Latta Subdivision of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which connected with the former Monon at Bedford. INRD operated over the old Monon from Bedford to Louisville through trackage rights negotiated by the Latta Sub's original owner, The Milwaukee Road, when the L&N took over the Monon. Those trackage rights went from the Milwaukee Road to its buyer, The Soo Line Railroad; "The Soo" later became a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In May 2010, INRD ended service and removed trackage from the former Monon junction in Bedford to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division west of Bedford. Consequently, CSX placed the ex-Monon line from Bedford south to Mitchell out of service.

CSX does operate trains between Louisville and St. Louis, Missouri over the Louisville-Mitchell segment; these trains have to make an unusual reverse movement to go from the Monon to the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line to St. Louis, owing to an unfavorable track arrangement at the crossing of the lines in Mitchell. As of 2010, CSX has stopped making regular movements over the line, with trains being shifted to the nearby Louisville and Indiana Railroad via a trackage rights agreement.

Monon line crossing Hoagland Ditch in White County

The Monon's original semaphore signals are still in operation between Salem and Mitchell. These are some of the last semaphore signals remaining in mainline operation in the United States. From Crawfordsville to near Lafayette, some semaphore signals were removed in 2009, however several are still in service, including two sets in Crawfordville, with their replacement signals adjacent for the day CSX makes the conversion (as of November 10, 2010).

Amtrak's combined Cardinal and Hoosier State trains traverse the former Monon from Crawfordsville to the Indiana state line near Chicago, with one train in each direction daily. Station stops along the former Monon include Lafayette, Rensselaer and Dyer.

The line through Lafayette was relocated in 2000 to an alignment along the Wabash River, parallel to the similarly relocated Norfolk Southern Railway line. Previously, the Monon line ran down the middle of Fifth Street, with a hotel serving as its passenger station well into the Amtrak era.

The Monon Line has been abandoned in Hammond and Munster north of the junction with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, and the corridor is being considered as part of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District's proposal for the West Lake Corridor to Lowell and Valparaiso, Indiana.[5]

All of the Monon's street running segments remain, except for the relocated Lafayette trackage. The last of the Monon's green-light grade crossing signals was apparently removed from service at a crossing a few miles north of New Albany in 2004, though this cannot be confirmed as the last such installation — many of those signals were installed on lightly traveled roads, out of notice of all but the most dedicated railfans.

Museums of the Monon Line

French Lick, Orange County
The Indiana Railway Museum operates trains south from French Lick to Cuzco, Indiana, out of the former Monon (Union) depot in French Lick, Indiana. .[9]

Monon, White County
Opening in 2005, the 'Monon Connection' is on U.S. 421 north of Monon. .[10]

Monon Museum Linden Indiana Station.jpg

Linden, Montgomery County
Located in a disused Monon Railroad Station, the Linden Railroad Museum is run by the Linden-Madison Twp. Historical Society. In 1852 the Michigan City, Salem and New Albany (later Monon) Railroad cut through Montgomery County. The old stage road between Crawfordsville and Linden was given to the railroad as an inducement to get them to build through Linden. 1852 also saw the building of the first Linden depot, on a site behind the present day Post Office. The building was moved to the current location in 1881 when the Toledo, St. Louis and Western Railroad was built through Linden, crossing the Monon at this location. The museum is a joint venture between the Linden-Madison Twp. Historical Society and the Monon Railroad Historical/Technical Society[11]

Salem, Washington County[12]

John Hay Center has its Depot Railroad Station, honoring Monon

Carmel, just north of Indianapolis, hosts the Monon Depot Museum.

Other locations of Monon equipment Located in New Haven, Kentucky the Kentucky Railway Museum displays Monon's Diesel Engine No. 32 in its original black and gold paint scheme. Located in Noblesville, Indiana the Indiana Transportation Museum operates the Monon's first owned & operated diesel, SW1 No. 50.

See also

  • John W. Barriger III
  • CSX Transportation, successor to the Monon line
  • Monon Bell, trophy between Wabash College and Depauw College
  • The Boilermaker Special, the official mascot of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. A brass bell and steam whistle were donated to Purdue University by the Monon Railroad in 1940 for installation on the original Boilermaker Special I. The brass bell is still in use on the current Boilermaker Special V.


  1. ^ a b Historic Marker in Monon, erected by the Monon Historical Society, 1982
  2. ^ RAILROADS IN NORTH AMERICA; Some Historical Facts and An Introduction to an Electronic Database of North American Railroads and Their Evolution by M. C. Hallberg (April 24, 2006) [1]
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Monon, the Hoosier Line and connections; undated, predates, 1970's
  4. ^ Amtrak Route Guide, 2008
  5. ^ Google Earth
  6. ^
  7. ^ Indianapolis Map, AAA, 2006
  8. ^ a b Google Maps, Victoria, Indiana
  9. ^
  10. ^ Monon Connection Museum
  11. ^ The Linden Depot Museum
  12. ^ The Depot Railroad Museum

Further reading

  • Dolzall, Gary W., and Dolzall, Stephen F. Monon: The Hoosier Line, Interurban Press (1987).
  • Hilton, George. Monon Route, Howell-North Books (1978).

External links

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