Ride Across Indiana, Road Trips

Old National Road from Dunreith to Knightstown in Indiana

I rode my old Schwinn 3-speed across Indiana for a number of reasons: to prove to myself that I could do it; to enjoy one of my favorite old roads, the National Road, at ten miles per hour; and to be able to photograph things along it that were more difficult when I’ve traveled it by car.

I’ve documented the old National Road and US 40 alignment that stretches from Dunreith to Knightstown in eastern Indiana before, here. But I made few photographs of the road itself, in large part because I drove it.

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

At bicycle speed, I could keep my little point-and-shoot camera in my hand and make photographs all along the way.

This is the character of US 40 westbound from the center of tiny Dunreith, right by where the original alignment begins.

Dunreith, IN

The old alignment fades in about 100 feet south of US 40. You can reach the old alignment by car using some Dunreith streets. That route is well marked with National Road signs and is easy to follow. Because I was on my bike, I just rode through the grass to this spot.

National Road west of Dunreith

The character of the old road could hardly be more different from modern US 40.

National Road west of Dunreith

Shortly the road crosses State Road 3.

National Road west of Dunreith
National Road west of Dunreith

US 40 was widened in place to four lanes across most of Indiana in the 1930s and 1940s, a story I told here. Six former alignments of the original road were left behind.

Four of them are in Putnam County, all short. Three of them still wear concrete pavement poured in the 1920s when Indiana first upgraded this old road. These Putnam County alignments were bypassed to straighten what had been a quite curvy road.

Another former alignment is in Clay County, and it remains a state highway. State Road 340 stretches from the west end of Brazil to the Vigo County line. I assume that it was not possible for some reason to widen the road here, and so a brand new four-lane road was built to its south.

I’m only guessing at why this Dunreith-to-Knightstown alignment was left behind, but I’d say it’s because of the Pennsylvania Railroad intersection in Raysville, just east of Knightstown. Widening this road to four lanes would have involved rebuilding the PRR overpass. I’ll bet the solution was to build a new road that skirted the rail line.

National Road west of Dunreith

It’s fortunate for us fans of old roads that alignments like this sometimes get left behind. They’re a historic record that shows the road’s original character. The only thing that would make this more authentic would be if old pavement were present — this was likely improved to be a concrete road in the 1920s. But I’m sure that pavement suffered the ravages of time and traffic. The people who live along this road probably very much appreciate this fresh, smooth asphalt.

National Road west of Dunreith
National Road west of Dunreith

This road has a rural character. You mostly pass farm fields and associated buildings until you reach Raysville.

National Road west of Dunreith

This is the east edge of Raysville. A number of houses are here, all set back off the National Road.

Railroad bridge, old NR, east of Knightstown

This is the old PRR bridge on the west edge of Raysville. The rail line was abandoned some time ago, and this portion of it has been converted into a rail trail. I didn’t know about the trail when I was here, or I might have ridden some of it, too, to be able to look down on the National Road from this bridge.

Railroad bridge, old NR, east of Knightstown

This looks to be a very solidly built bridge.

Old NR entrance off US 40, EB E of Knightstown

Shortly past the bridge, this road curves to meet current US 40. I made this photo from US 40 looking at Old National Road eastbound. Originally, Old National Road didn’t curve here; it went straight over a bridge that’s no longer present, right into Knightstown.

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