The one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana and the mystery of Star Blvd.

There’s but one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana, and it stretches 4 miles from Dunrieth west through Raysville to the east edge of Knightstown. From there it’s about 33 miles to downtown Indianapolis.

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

Modern US 40 was built in about 1940, leaving this old route behind. Here’s where it begins on Dunrieth’s west edge. This is an eastbound photo. It’s cut off from US 40; to reach it, you have to turn south in Dunrieth proper and follow the town’s streets to this location.

Old NR/US 40

Turning around from the same spot, here’s the westbound road. Whenever I see an old alignment covered in asphalt I’m intensely curious to know what paving materials lurk beneath. Concrete? Brick?

Old NR/US 40

As the road enters Raysville it runs under this old Pennsylvania Railroad overpass.

Railroad overpass

On the other side of the overpass, facing eastbound, this little sliver of road breaks off from the old National Road. It’s signed Star Blvd.

Possible old US 40 alignment

As you can see in the map snippet below, it curves up and around much like modern US 40 does. I wondered for a long time whether this was a newer old alignment of the road. Did the state reroute the National Road more or less along its modern alignment between Dunreith and Raysville some number of years before building the modern four lane, divided road?

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

I asked the wonderful Indiana Transportation History group on Facebook. I got my answer fast: it’s a previous routing of that PRR line. It was actually part of the old Indiana Central Railroad before PRR bought it and built the grade separation and new alignment. They did that in the 1900-1920 timeframe. Star Blvd. is the old PRR rail bed.

Star Ave

There it is, the old PRR bed, currently a narrow road for local traffic. The old National Road and US 40 had but two alignments here: the original and the 1940 US 40 expressway.

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.

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6 responses to “The one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana and the mystery of Star Blvd.”

  1. retrocrank Avatar

    Very curious about Star Ave – looking at the satellite photo, one wonders why the curve – laying track is expensive, taking the straight line would have been cheaper to build and cheaper to run. Why the curve? Between that and looking at the RR overbridge, I wonder if it wasn’t electrical light rail – interurban? Also two passages under the overpass – in 1920 I doubt anybody thought they’d need that much room for automobiles and so again – was there an interurban line parallel to the National Road in this alignment?
    I love these kinds of pictures and explorations!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes, the Interurban ran here, too. It was the THI&E line between Terre Haute and Indy.

      I can’t answer “why the curve.” It is puzzling to be sure.

  2. Andy Umbo Avatar
    Andy Umbo

    You know Jim, I love these entries!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m happy to hear that, because these posts don’t get nearly the views as my photography posts!

  3. Roger Meade Avatar
    Roger Meade

    A very interesting post. First thing i noticed was a lack of clearance notice on the RR bridge. I wonder if anyone has ever taken off the top of their truck on that low bridge?

    And the Star Rd. alignment is similar to a residential street in Royal Oak, MI that uses the original Grand Trunk Western RR right of way from downtown Royal Oak to Woodward Ave, the major north-south highway between Detroit and Pontiac. The GTW ran alongside Woodward before 1929, when a new elevated and more direct ROW was built from Royal Oak to just south of Pontiac. It was free of road crossings for better than ten miles.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hunh yeah, there are no clearance notices. Odd.

      Ah the Grand Trunk! I grew up in a town that line served and posted a pic from there of a RR overpass emblazoned “Grand Trunk Western” not long ago.

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