Straightened, widened, and moved

My last post mentioned how the National Road and US 40 has been repeatedly straightened, leveled, widened, and outright moved. As I began this trip west down the National Road from Indianapolis, I came across three out of four of those right away.

This image from Bing Maps shows the road around the Marion-Hendricks county line as it is now.

Compare it to this image, which I stitched together from 1937 and 1941 aerial images available at the Indianapolis General Data Viewer. (Gaps in the images made stitching necessary.) I highlighted US 40’s original alignment in green. Can you find the remnants of this alignment on the map above?

As early as 1937, the Six Points area just inside Hendricks County had already been bypassed. This was probably done for safety’s sake, as the original National Road intersected a railroad track there a dangerously shallow angle. The 1941 image shows a new alignment being built to straighten the curve and cross a creek at Marion County’s western border.

Remnants of the original alignment remain. East of the creek, at the extreme right edge of the aerial images above, faint traces of the original road remain. I’m told that until a few years ago, you could clearly see the original two-lane alignment of US 40 here.

Old Washington St.

This is westbound Old US 40, west of the creek, and its concrete dates probably to the 1920s. Check out how narrow the road is – two scant lanes! Modern US 40, just to the south, is five lanes wide. The old road has been torn out beyond the next crossroad, which is the county line.

Old Washington St.

Do you see the red billboard in the distance in the photo above? It stands right where the original alignment separates from the bypass around Six Points, just inside Hendricks County.

Bisected National Road

When I was last here, which was on my first-ever road trip three years ago, road-construction signs were posted here. Figuring the road was blocked, I decided to come again when construction was finished and I could drive through to the end of this alignment. Turns out I never had a chance. (Update: The segment in the photo above was removed entirely a few years after I made this visit.) The National Road was being permanently bisected by the new Ronald Reagan Parkway. Here’s the westbound scene today. I suppose it didn’t make sense to build an overpass for this little-used road, but seeing the route cut like this still hurts a little.

Bisected National Road

Never wait to see something along the old road; you may lose your chance! With that lesson freshly in mind, I drove around to the bypass to photograph a couple well-known fixtures along the road. The first is The Diner. The aluminum portion, made in 1954, used to stand alone; the limestone-faced building behind it was added later. Despite a temporary closure in 2007, it is said to still be operating, although it was closed this Saturday morning. (Update: It was moved to downtown Plainfield, restored, and reopened. See a photo here.)

The Diner

Next to The Diner is the former 40 Motel. This is its sign, the “MOTEL” letters across its middle long gone. The motel and the diner used to be owned by the same people, but no longer. The motel appears to be vacant.

Roadside businesses on US 40

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


7 responses to “Straightened, widened, and moved”

  1. Lone Primate Avatar
    Lone Primate

    I love stuff like this. :) Those aerial photos in comparison are just my cup of tea.

    “Motel” and “Diner”, eh? Those folks should be working on Madison Avenue, I swear. :D

    Whereabouts does the new parkway with the unfortunate name bisect the old road? I can’t discern that in the topmost aerial shot. Is it effectively off camera?

    I sure agree with you on shooting a location when it occurs to you — this just came up yesterday in discussions. If I may make so bold — a discussion here:

    …that refers to here:

    1. Jim Avatar

      The motel and the diner used to be co-owned. The diner was “The Oasis” but at some point that sign disappeared and the place just became known as “The Diner!” The link in the paragraph between those two photos includes a postcard showing both properties as they were.

      This trip reprised a trip I made along the same route in 2006. I am really surprised by how much has changed in just three years. I used to think that eventually I’d run out of Indiana to explore, but now I see that things keep changing and so remain interesting.

      1. Lone Primate Avatar
        Lone Primate

        Yeah, I love when a place I’ve known for a long time changes, subtly, over time. Especially when I’ve got some shots of what it once looked like and can compare it. What a shame you didn’t have a shot to compare before they built the parkway through that spot.

        On the other hand, think of what you’ll be able to do 20 years from now. :)

  2. Steve Avatar


    Nice photos of the Old National Road (US 40).

    Thanks for sharing those and your stories with us.

    Steve :)

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks, man! There’s always something interesting to see on US 40.

  3. bernie kasper Avatar

    I love the The Diner, I can vaguely remember so many places like this as a kid when we would drive the old highways in Indiana, nice post and images Jim !!

    1. Jim Avatar

      Thanks Bernie! Too bad The Diner wasn’t open that morning or I’d’ve stopped.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: