One of my favorite stretches of road anywhere is US 40 and the old National Road in Putnam County, Indiana. To get there, head west from Indianapolis or east from Terre Haute – it’s about in the middle. Indiana’s best old National Road alignments are all there, including a brief brick segment, a gravel segment, a few strips of 1920s concrete, a rolling section on the grounds of a prison (which therefore you can’t drive), and three concrete arch bridges.
In particular, an old alignment just east of Putnamville keeps me coming back because I’ve heard reports that an even older alignment lurks nearby. I have searched for it on several occasions to no avail. But on a recent trip I think I finally found part of it. Here it is from the air, with the approximate location of the segment I found marked in green.
I normally take my road trips during the warm months, as Indiana winters are usually hostile to man and beast. But this winter has been the mildest of all 44 I’ve experienced here. It was sunny and 40 degrees when I made a trip to Terre Haute recently, so I took the leisurely route along US 40 and drove all the old alignments in Putnam County.
And with the leaves off the trees, there it was, plain as day.
What you’re looking at here is the approach to a bridge. This photo shows the abutment still in place.
Remarkably, the 1891 iron truss bridge that once stood here still serves. When the newer alignment and its concrete arch bridge were built in 1925, the iron bridge was moved around the corner to carry County Road 25 across the same creek. Here it is, with my frequent road-trip companion Dawn taking it in. I wrote about this bridge once before – go read about it.
On this trip I was wearing clothes not well suited to exploring through the brush, so I’m looking for another unseasonably warm day this winter where I can get away and go back. I want to know where the road went on the other side of the creek!
How do old alignments get left behind?
When the road is straightened, widened, or moved!