On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins southwest of Indianapolis in Mooresville and ends in Terre Haute.
As I drove west from Eminence, the road became lined with trees as it approaches Mill Creek. This photo is eastbound.
In 1939, the state built a steel truss bridge over Mill Creek. A similar bridge up the road made the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, but this one has not. I hope somebody in Putnam County picks up the mantle!
I thought it was standard that these bridges be painted green, but word has apparently not reached Putnam County. (This bridge completed a renovation in 2015, at which time it was painted baby blue, the new standard color for Indiana highway truss bridges.)
The view of Mill Creek is lovely. I took this photo off the south side of the bridge. But wait – what’s that in the photo’s lower left?
See it there? That neat row of cut stones?
Please consider the following:
Just beyond the bridge is a road that pulls away and then turns to be right in line with current SR 42 after it completes the curve west of the bridge. This fairly screams “old alignment.” Notice how the suspected old alignment, if extended southeast, would cross Mill Creek directly, instead of at a bit of an angle as it does today. In the olden days bridgebuilders’ bags of tricks were fairly limited, leading them to build bridges straight across creeks and rivers. That row of stones has to be part of an older bridge’s foundation, and the stones around it probably bits of the demolished former abutment here.
Incredibly, here’s a small photograph of the previous bridge alongside the newer one, taken at about the time the newer one was built. It was a wooden covered bridge! This would have to be an eastbound photo from the west end of these two bridges.
In the excitement over all this, I forgot to drive the suspected old alignment. I did, however, think to take a shot of some of the fall color just west of the bridge.
State Road 42 skirted Cloverdale on its south edge and then the terrain became more challenging. The road stopped the 90-degree-curve nonsense and began to curve around the terrain. At Doe Creek, a narrow concrete bridge awaited.
My experience is that bridges only as wide as the road, with concrete railings like this, were built in the 1910s and 1920s. I could see a clear path down the bank, so I walked down to see what the old girl looked like in profile. Sadly, she was a bit ungainly.
Shortly I came upon Cagles Mill Lake, also known as Cataract Lake, one of many lakes the US Army Corps of Engineers built to control flooding. Here, SR 42 makes a brief dip into Owen County.
The bridge over the lake did not disappoint.
As I approached the bridge, there was a traffic signal flashing yellow, and cones everywhere. Clearly, this bridge had just been renovated, and the finishing touches were still being put on. It was built in 1951, when the lake was created.
I’m not sure how such a minor road warrants such a major bridge, but this one is a real gem.
I passed through the remainder of the lush lake area and into Clay County. I zipped through the little town of Poland without even slowing down because I knew another steel truss bridge awaited on the other side – but it turns out I missed an old church on the National Register of Historic Places in so doing. I guess my consolation is that the steel truss bridge over the Eel River is on the Register, too.
Have I mentioned how much I enjoy steel truss bridges? (This bridge, too, has received a coat of baby blue paint since I photographed it.)
A sure sign of autumn is how low the sun is at midafternoon.
Next: Vigo County and Terre Haute.
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