Road Trips

A quiet drive down Old Old US 50

US 50’s first path between Washington and Vincennes in southwestern Indiana is cleverly disguised today as a series of country roads. They’re so cleverly disguised that when you drive them today, you think, “This used to be a major US highway?”

Old Wheatland Road

Yep. And when it was the highway, it was a gravel road. Check out this excerpt from a 1927 Indiana State Highway Commission road map. (I got it from Indiana University Libraries, which has an online cache of official Indiana highway maps covering many years from 1917 to 1932.)

I had to make a couple guesses when I traced this path on a modern map, but the overall shape is right.

And so when I had completed Old US 50 west to Vincennes, I turned back and followed Old Old US 50 east to Washington. It began on Old Wheatland Road in Vincennes. Very quickly I found myself out in the country.

Old Wheatland Road

A mile or two of State Road 550 was built over Old Wheatland Road just west of Wheatland, past which Old Old US 50 continues on its way through the country, soon crossing the White River. I hoped to find a grand old bridge back here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Washington Road Bridge

This three-span Pratt through truss bridge was built in 1909 and rehabilitated, including replacing its original wooden deck with a steel deck, in 2006. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington Road Bridge

It was very peaceful here. I spent a lot of time on this bridge and never encountered another car. Several houses stand (on stilts) next to this bridge and I felt a little jealous of the families who live in them, as they get to enjoy both that peace and this bridge every day. Really, this whole drive was peaceful and quiet. It was a warm, still day, so I had been driving with all my windows down. Country scents of crops and livestock wafted in and out of my car, and drivers of the few trucks I encountered all waved as we passed. I kept enjoying these things as I pushed on from here to Washington, where my summertime exploration of US 50 came to an end.

Last summer I explored US 40 across Indiana. Check out where that trip ended.

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4 thoughts on “A quiet drive down Old Old US 50

  1. Lone Primate says:

    I may not have read deeply enough… is that 1909 triple-truss still in use for vehicular traffic? It looks like it is (and sounds like it is) but in my experience, the approaches to a bridge can be closed a long way way.

    Pretty snazzy. If it is in use, did you drive across it? :)

    Like

  2. Nancy Bennett says:

    Couldn’t figure out how to directly email you so………I am originally from Aurora, IN and love your ‘trip thru our town’. Yes, that was a Gulf station. And if you really want to stand on that bridge go during the Saturday of Farmer’s Fair in October and it will be traffic free while they stage the parade along George St.

    We lived along old US 50 (Conwell St.) just east of the jct with the new 4 lane and Lower Dillsboro Rd. You are right about the path of old 50 on your maps. That’s about all that’s left of the old 2 lane that used to wind up Trester Hill. Our family home was moved back a length for improvements to that curve there in the early 50’s. Oh, one other thing. That shop with all the signs used to be Gabe Shusterman’s (sp?) tire and repair, those are mostly the signs he collected over the years.

    If you really love the old iron bridges you need the book by James L. Cooper, ‘Iron Monuments to Distant Posterity’. The book was sponsored by DePauw University and others. If you can’t find a place to purchase it you might contact the university.

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    • I’m so glad you enjoyed my report from your stomping grounds. Thank you for confirming my suspicions about Trester Hill Road, and also for tipping me off to Cooper’s book.

      Like

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