This was the moment I became hooked on following the old roads. Online maps showed a little bit of bypassed pavement here, but I didn’t know an abandoned bridge was in there, too — and holy cow, was it ever cool! Here’s what it looks like from the air.

Image © 2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies, USDA Farm Service Agency. Map data © 2020 Google.

(Notice the clearing in the upper right of the image. That’s Iron’s Cemetery, a 19th-century burial ground well hidden from view. Read about it here.)

The map shows a gray area at the eastern end of this segment that turns out to be a landing of sorts. We pulled onto it, but didn’t see any road we could drive on. We parked and got out to look. We found a tiny opening in the wooded area that led to the roadbed. In this photo, which shows US 40 westbound at left, the opening is about on the horizontal centerline, about one-third of the way from the right edge.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

Here’s what that opening looks like, close up.

Abandoned US 40

Inside, we found a heavily overgrown road that was cracked and, in some places, buckled. The bridge appeared almost immediately, and it, too, was heavily overgrown, as this photo shows. When I first looked at this photo, I had to look twice to see the bridge’s concrete guardrails.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

This was incredibly exciting. I had no idea that old road infrastructure could be abandoned like this! I’ve been back a number of times, since this isn’t terribly far from home. It’s easier to see the deck in the winter months when the vegetation has died back. The next two photos are from March, 2013.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Trees are growing through the deck. Concrete-arch bridges are often filled with soil. (I once documented the demolition of a concrete-arch bridge built around the same time as this one; click here to see the soil under the deck.) As the deck cracks and crumbles, plants can take root. Also: note the Posted No Trespassing sign. Oops. That wasn’t there on any prior visit. I stay off this bridge now when I visit it. A good road tripper respects private property.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

This bridge is mere feet away from the twin bridges built in about 1940 when US 40 was widened to four lanes here. My educated guess is this bridge was built between 1920 and 1925. I don’t know why the state built two new bridges and abandoned this one, rather than using this one for the new westbound lanes and building a single new bridge alongside it for the eastbound lanes. Guessing, by 1940 standard highway travel lanes were wider than in the early 1920s, rendering this narrow old bridge functionally obsolete.

US 40 bridge in Plainfield IN from abandoned US 40 bridge

I revisited this spot in 2009 and made this photo of the abandoned bridge from the 1940 bridge. When you drive by, it can be hard to spot.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

The pavement looked like concrete, but it contained large stone chips. I’ve never seen chipped stone used in pavement before.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

The road was passable only on foot because it had become so overgrown. I am amazed by how nature slowly reclaims road that is not maintained.

As a kid, I saw a TV movie where the United States was wiped out by nuclear bombs, but years later a few people who survived came out from underground to see if the land was habitable. They found a lot of things intact and untouched, including roads, which they promptly drove on. Where’d they get the gasoline?

I’ll bet that in another 20 or 30 years, it’ll be hard to tell that there ever was a road in here.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

I turned around to look back. This is what happens to a neglected roadway, dystopian movies be damned.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

The wooded area cleared out and the road passed in front of a house. The front of the house is parallel with the old road, which suggests that the house was built when this alignment was still in use. As the photo shows, the road disappears before it meets US 40, but is in perfect alignment with its westbound lanes.

Abandoned bridge/road of US 40 west of Plainfield

If my guess of 1920-1925 is correct for this bridge’s construction, it predates US 40. Indiana established its network of state highways in 1917, when the National Road became Main Market Highway No. 3. There were some legal challenges to the state’s authority to do this (some details here). Long story short, the state overcame the challenges and in 1919 this became State Road 3. It wasn’t until the creation of the US highway system in 1926 that this became US 40.

Update! Someone posted this photo of this bridge By the looks of it, the photo must have been taken shortly after the new bridges were built nearby and this bridge was abandoned.

Courtesy of the Plainfield-Guilford Township Public Library, Plainfield, IN

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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12 responses to “Abandoned US 40 bridge west of Plainfield, Indiana”

  1. J P Avatar

    I find abandoned things of all kinds endlessly fascinating, so thanks for feeding us these bridges.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      You’re welcome!

  2. Phil Avatar

    Great sleuthing (as always), Jim, with particularly interesting results.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thank you Phil!

  3. Matt Avatar

    This is so interesting to read and fun when one sees abandoned roads in their own area. Makes your mind work.

    Any idea the cameras and films used for these photos?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yes! The 2006 photos are from an Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on Fujicolor 200. The 2013 images are from an iPhone 5.

  4. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

    When the provincial government of Newfoundland (where I’m from) upgraded the highways in the 70s (I think. That’s when the railway was removed), some sections were abandoned, much like the road section in your article. There is an abandoned section of road near my home town that was taken over by people who wanted to build cabins. The road is in hard shape, but it’s driveable because people are using it and not giving trees and plants a chance to grow up.
    I think Korea is too small and densely populated to have abandoned roads. When new highways are built, the old roads just get downgraded in status from highway to local road. I don’t drive anymore, but I always prefered the less busy older roads to the new highways. A lot more to see and very little traffic.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      “A lot more to see and very little traffic” applies to the old roads in the Midwest, too. US 40 was supplanted decades ago in Indiana by I-70. This is a typical scene along US 40 in western Indiana — all this road, empty.

      US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana

      1. marcusterrypeddle Avatar

        Driver’s Dream . . .

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  6. ALEX HOFMANN Avatar

    there are 2 more bridges from 40 in putnam county as you continue west from plainfield. The old road is indicated on 40 with an arrow and you can drive on a good section of old us40 and even across the bridges

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I know them well!

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