Photography, Road Trips

My stats tell the story: you like my photography posts best, by far. So why, then, do I keep writing about old roads and the places on them?

Abandoned National Road

First, because I love them. Why do you think this blog is called Down the Road? I intended to make this blog be primarily about the old roads. But then I rekindled my love of old film cameras and caught the photography bug. The blog’s purpose shifted toward photography over time, and that’s how I attracted the bulk of my readership.

But second, these posts become public services, of sorts. Google search brings readers to them all the time. Every now and then someone will share one on Facebook and I’ll get a flood of views. There are plenty of people who live on or near one of the old alignments I write about, and finding my research really delights them, or tells them a story they never knew about a place familiar to them. A few of them even leave a comment saying so. In this way I feel like I’m leaving a small gift to the world.


Why do I write about old roads on a photography blog?

Road Trips

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.

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Road Trips

Classic motels on US 40 in Wayne County, Indiana

One of these days I ought to survey all of the classic motels on US 40 in Indiana. There are quite a few, primarily in Wayne, Marion, and Hendricks Counties with a few others popping up here and there. Many of them still serve guests, even if those guests stay for months or years at a time and call their room home.

Wayne County borders Ohio and so is the eastern gateway to Indiana along what was once the National Road. It still has these operating classic motels.

Holiday Motel

First is the Holiday Motel, which is within the Richmond city limits. Like all of the Wayne County hotels, it uses a plastic box sign. It once had a larger sign lit with neon tubing, according to an old postcard image I found on the Web (here).

Holiday Motel

The Holiday Motel’s U configuration makes efficient use of limited city space.

Holiday Motel

You come upon the City View Motel after you leave Richmond proper. It’s most of the way to Centerville, actually, and has a Centerville address.

City View Motel

In contrast to the urban Holiday Motel, the outskirts-of-town City View sprawls out across a wide lot.

City View Motel

Whenever I see a plastic box sign on a classic motel, I assume there was once a more interesting neon sign in the hotel’s past. A Web search turned up one postcard that showed the City View’s onetime neon sign (here).

City View Motel

The Richmond Motel is even farther away from Richmond than the City View. It’s on the eastern edge of Centerville.

Richmond Motel

It, too, once had a far more interesting sign. You can see it here.

Richmond Motel

It also sprawls wide, taking advantage of its more rural setting. I think it’s the most cheerful looking of the Wayne County motels with its red and gray color scheme.

Richmond Motel

There’s just one more Wayne County hotel, on the very western edge of Centerville. I made just this one photo of it. There’s no sign, which leads me to believe this motel serves as inexpensive apartments now. But at one time this was the Green Acres Motel; see an old postcard of it here.

Unsigned former motel

Motels have been an occasional subject here — click here for photos and stories of all the motels I’ve written about on all kinds of old roads.

Preservation, Road Trips

Madonnas of the Trail

In 1928, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed 12 statues across the United States to honor pioneer mothers, those women who, with their husbands and children, went out West to build their lives.

These statues were all placed on the National Old Trails Road, an auto trail established in 1912 to connect New York to Los Angeles. Future President Harry S. Truman headed up the National Old Trails Road Association and worked with the D.A.R. to have these statues erected, one in each state.

The National Old Trails Road was routed largely over the old National Road in the east and the Santa Fe Trail in the west. Today, very broadly, if you drive US 40 to St. Louis and old Route 66 west from there, you are on or near the National Old Trails Road.

Having driven the National Road from end to end, I’ve seen five Madonnas, in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Although the National Road begins in Maryland, the National Old Trails Road left the National Road so it could go through Washington, DC. The Maryland Madonna ended up on the road in Bethesda, which is not a National Road town. Also, the one time I visited the Ohio Madonna, it was inconveniently placed and I wasn’t able to photograph it. It has since been moved to a park with plenty of parking; I hope to go back and visit it one day.

The various Madonnas are colored from creamy white to reddish brown, and several of them have seen restorations, some of them more than once. Here, then, are photos of the Madonnas I’ve been able to see.

Madonna of the Trail

Beallsville, PA (2009)

Wheeling Madonna of the Trail

Wheeling, WV (2009)

Richmond Madonna

Richmond, IN (2009)

Madonna of the Trail

Richmond, IN (2018)

Madonna of the Trail

Vandalia, IL (2007)

Madonna of the Trail

Vandalia, IL (2014)

Road Trips

The scenery changes

Welcome to Thorntown

I’ve been making road trips since 2006. The photo above is from one of my earliest trips, down State Road 47 and US 41 in western Indiana. What a great day it was! And I was exploring and learning about places I’d never really known before.

Welcome to Thorntown

I’ve seen a lot of Indiana now with my camera in my hand. Where I was once driven by the desire to see new things, increasingly I want to visit places I’ve been before. They’re like old friends, and I want to catch up. So here’s how this same scene in Thorntown looks as of a few weeks ago — much the same, but a little worn.

Stone bridge, Michigan Road

Nature also changes the view. This is the Shepard Bridge, way down in Ripley County on the Michigan Road. This is how I found it in 2008.

Shepard Bridge

In 2018, it’s becoming overgrown. It’s a shame, because unhidden it provides such a lovely view.

Stone bridge, one-lane alignment

Sometimes the man-made elements themselves change — or go away. This is the Middletown Bridge as I found it in 2008. It was on a one-lane alignment of the Michigan Road south of Shelbyville.

Site of the former Middletown Bridge

A section of the bridge collapsed and, after a fight to save it was lost, it was removed. I went to see in 2015 and was greeted with this.

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The Huddleston Farmhouse

Tea service in the 1800s
Pentax K10D, 55mm f/3.5-5.6 SMC Pentax-DA AL

Inside the Huddleston Farmhouse everything is set up as if a family still lived there. This tea service was on a table in the parlor, as if guests are expected.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Tea service in the 1800s