Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

How to make an old roadgeek happy

14

Have I ever mentioned how happy it makes me when I find an old bridge or old pavement that used to serve on an important highway? Oh my, but it does. I unexpectedly came upon some old brick pavement while looking for an old bridge on Indiana’s Dixie Highway mainline. I couldn’t reach the old bridge, but finding the bricks almost made up for it.

Brick New Ross Road

Looking at the map, it’s easy to tell this road’s story. The Dixie Highway originally cheerfully passed through New Ross about 12 miles southeast of Crawfordsville, but just east of town the road crossed a railroad track awkwardly. Indiana’s highway engineers devised a new route that crossed the tracks more safely, bypassing New Ross in the process.

Imagery © 2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Indiana Map Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

At some point, the bridge that carried the Dixie’s older alignment was demolished. The brick road begins east of where the bridge was. This entire alignment was once paved in brick, but this remnant is all that’s left. It provides access to one property. The resulting ultra low traffic is certainly why this segment has never been covered in asphalt.

Imagery © 2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, Indiana Map Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2012 Google.

Here’s a westbound shot of the brick road as it heads toward the creek.

Brick New Ross Road

When you zoom the map in a little closer, another bridge becomes visible – the one I was hoping to see. If you go back to the previous map, you can see how the road used to be aligned to cross this bridge. My guess is that when the Dixie Highway was paved in bricks, probably during the 1920s, this old bridge was for whatever reason judged insufficient. A newer bridge (now demolished) was built and the road realigned to use it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the old bridge is still used by the landowner.

Imagery © 2012 GeoEye, Indiana Map Framework Data. Map data © 2012 Google.

Sadly, I found no way to get to that bridge without trespassing. I sure would have loved to see it. But at least I got to see the old brick road. Here it is just north of where it crosses the railroad tracks.

Brick New Ross Road

I’ve also found plenty of old brick highway
on the National Road in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio.

14 thoughts on “How to make an old roadgeek happy

  1. Ted Kappes

    It is interesting to look at places that were once a center of activity and are now a back-water. It amazes me that such long stretches of major roads were once brick. My uncle told me that the old Coast to Coast Highway(Route 36) where it passes through here was once brick. He even remembered seeing the bricks being laid as a young man. I also think it is interesting how many changes we have gone through road-wise in just the course of one lifetime.

    1. Jim Post author

      Very often the old brick road is still there, buried under layers of asphalt. Can you imagine how slowly a brick road must have been built?

      1. Ted Kappes

        It sure must have helped lower the unemployment rate. I remember once seeing a beautiful brick pavement be uncovered on Main Street in Paris Illinois. I thought maybe they were planning to restore it to traffic. Instead they covered it again in Asphalt.

        1. Jim Post author

          Brick streets are slipperier when wet and are harder to plow, so it’s not surprising that they covered them again. This reasphalting scenario is common – a buddy in Terre Haute said that they scraped the asphalt off his street a couple years ago to reveal brick, and then reasphalted it.

  2. ryoko861

    Find the homeowner and ask him if you could see the bridge. Tell him what you’re doing. I’m sure he won’t mind. He might even have some more info for you on it!

    1. Jim Post author

      Sometimes you get lucky and encounter the property owner. In this case, the copious No Trespassing signs deterred me from knocking on his door.

      1. Ted Kappes

        Back when I was more adventurous I learned that often the people who put up the most signs often were very friendly when I actually met them. I started to figure that maybe they put up all the signs because they had a hard time saying no in person.

      2. ryoko861

        But if you just go up to his door and ask him instead of just traipsing onto his property with your camera he may have a change of heart. I do understand your apprehension though.

    1. Jim Post author

      Heh, it certainly would help!  It occurs to me now that I might be able to see some of the bridge from US 136 at the railroad bridge.

    1. Jim Post author

      Me neither. I’ve been doing this roadgeek thing for six years now and this is the first time I’ve ever seen or heard of anything like this.

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