Road Trips

1925 pony truss bridge on Old Indiana State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

Not a quarter mile south of the end of the Martinsville segment, the next segment of SR 37’s old alignment appeared.

This segment began quietly among a field of yellow-flowered weeds. The road seemed unusually narrow. I wondered if it widened when it met the original SR 37 roadway.

Beyond the curve, the road didn’t widen. The road lacked the two-foot “extensions” on either side I had seen since Johnson County.

Old SR 37

Shortly I came upon this wonderful old bridge. This three-span pony truss bridge was built in 1925.

Pony truss bridge

I love this bridge, and have returned to it several times since 2007. Here’s a photo I made of it in 2012.

Pony trusses

The posted 3-ton limit was a big clue that this old bridge was not as strong as it once was.

Pony trusses

Sadly, in 2015 this bridge failed an inspection and was closed. Here’s a photo from the last time I visited it, in 2017. I wrote about that visit here.

Abandoned bridge on Old SR 37

The I-69 plans use a lot of the old SR 37 alignments as frontage roads, but the plans don’t make clear what will happen here. I’m not optimistic about this bridge’s chances for survival.

Let’s return to 2007 now. It seems like this segment, which is about a mile long, just provides access to a couple neighborhoods to the east. The narrow pavement along this segment was smooth and even but unstriped. Soon I reached the end. Most segments of old alignments that end this way clearly complete a line with the current road or pick up on the other side of the road, at least in my experience, but that was not true with either end of this segment.

Old SR 37

Next: A stretch of early-1920s concrete pavement in Morgan County.

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Cushing St.

Cushing Street
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Today I begin a “single frame” series on brick streets and highways. As bicycles and automobiles created a thirst for hard-surfaced “good roads” in the early 20th century, brick was one of the surfaces tried. The brick era ended by about 1930; asphalt and, to a far lesser extent, concrete won the contest. Except for some modern brick streets built largely for aesthetic reasons, when you find a brick road, it is 90+ years old.

My hometown of South Bend has a large number of brick streets in its core. The main roads were all paved in asphalt decades ago, often right over the original brick. You’ll still find brick only on the side streets.

My mom grew up on one of South Bend’s brick streets, in a large house just north of downtown. My brother had an apartment for a while on the one block of Main St. that’s still brick.

As a kid, I didn’t enjoy riding on the brick streets. They rumbled the car so! I don’t mind them at all today. What I’ve found as I’ve explored the midwest’s old roads is that South Bend’s brick streets are especially rumbly. Some of the brick roads I’ve driven on are as smooth as concrete or asphalt.

This is Cushing St., on South Bend’s northwest side. I made this photo from its intersection with Lincolnway West — the old Lincoln Highway, which in South Bend was routed along the old Michigan Road.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Cushing Street

A brick street in South Bend, Indiana.

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Road Trips

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway in Martinsville, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

My old maps show that State Road 37 used to go through Martinsville. My maps lack enough detail to show the exact route, so I made some guesses.

But I do know where the original alignment breaks off from the old on its way south into Martinsville. The map shows it. Notice on the satellite image that a ridge appears to flow back from Morgan St. all the way to current SR 37 at Teeters Road, which has all the earmarks of an old alignment. Morgan St. goes straight into downtown Martinsville.

Here’s the turnoff from State Road 37 onto Morgan Road, where it then curves to follow the original State Road 37 path.

To Old SR 37

Where Morgan St. finished curving, I looked to the north and was faced with a church’s parking lot. I drove in and found this short segment of road that looked an awful lot like what I had been seeing as Old SR 37 everywhere else up to now. The utility poles running along the road were another clue.

Abandoned Old SR 37

Morgan St. is wide for a segment of Old SR 37. Surprisingly, it lacked striping. This shot is northbound from just south of the church.

Old SR 37
Windows Live Local map, 2007

Morgan St. does not naturally flow back into State Road 37; actually, it ends at State Road 39 on Martinsville’s western edge. But the Martinsville street map showed that if I turned left at Main Street and then veered right at Morton Avenue, I would merge right into current State Road 37 on Martinsville’s southwest side. The map even had this route highlighted, suggesting that it is a major route. I decided it was the likely route for SR 37 and so I drove it.

This photo shows where Morgan St. intersects Main St. at the town square. I drove in from the photograph’s left on Morgan St, turned left at the intersection, and drove out of the photo on the right down Main St.

Old SR 37 in Martinsville
Windows Live Local map, 2007

Where Morton St. merged into State Road 37 wasn’t too remarkable. Because there was a fair amount of traffic, I decided to play it safe. I pulled onto the shoulder and snapped a photo of this merge through my windshield.

Merging with SR 37

Next: A three-span pony truss bridge on an old alignment in southern Morgan County.

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Road Trips

Short original segment of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway north of Martinsville, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

After the police chased me off the abandoned bridge, I shook off a shaky feeling and got back on the road. The next segment of the original State Road 37 alignment came about two miles later. It’s still in Morgan County, southwest of a dot on the map called Adams, just south of Egbert Road. Here’s the map of its northern end.

Notice that there’s no sign of where Old SR 37 went to the north of where the access road meets it. I found no sign when I stood in that curve, either. This photo shows the access road. The curve to Old SR 37 begins at the Marathon station.

To Old SR 37

I revisited this old alignment in 2017 and made this photo of the Marathon station. The project in 2020 to convert SR 37 to I-69 claimed this mom-and-pop business; the building is gone.

Country Marathon
Windows Live Local map, 2007

I wonder how many other businesses I-69 is causing to close permanently. I support the I-69 project overall. It stretches all the way to Evansville, finally giving that city a direct Interstate link to Indianapolis. I-69 already links Indiana to the Canadian border north of Detroit. When it is complete it will link Indiana to the Mexican border in Texas.

But back to 2007 and this road trip. There wasn’t much to this segment, which lasted 1.2 miles. It ended in a curve that met current SR 37. The original road continued beyond the curve. Here’s what it looked like at the curve.

Old SR 37

Unlike at the abandoned portion where the police chased me away, this time the old road was clearly and cleverly marked as private property. I stayed out.

Do you think they wanted me to stay out?

Next: The original alignment of State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway through Martinsville.

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Road Trips

Me on abandoned US 50 in Illinois

As I’ve been moving my road-trip reports from my old site to this blog, I’ve looked back through my photographs.

Sometimes I brought a friend along on these trips. I loved sharing my odd hobby with others! When I explored US 50 in Illinois in 2009, I invited my longtime friend Michael along. He lives in Terre Haute, which was on the way.

Michael made a couple photos of me as we explored the road, shots with lots of context. They help me remember that very good day and my time with my friend.

I frequently brought my dear, departed Gracie along on road trips. She loved to go! We’re standing on the original alignment of US 50 where it enters Illinois after crossing the Wabash River from Indiana. The property owner was using part of the brick road as a patio for his home!

Here I am on an abandoned bridge, one of three in a row on a long abandoned section of US 50 that runs right alongside current US 50. I’m using my Kodak EasyShare Z730 to photograph the current US 50 bridge.

I started making road trips both to scratch a curiosity itch and to distract myself from the pain of my divorce and ongoing difficulties raising children with an acrimonious ex. These trips were a tonic. They were always better when I shared them.

My road tripping started to fall off about five years ago. I’d met Margaret, the woman I’d marry. I focused my time on her and on getting my old house ready for sale. It needed a lot of work inside and out. And then Margaret and I married, and I moved into her house, and we’ve had one incredible challenge after another in our family since then. Last year, for the first time, I made no road trips at all. Given COVID-19 and family priorities, I’m not sure I’ll make any road trips this year, either.

There are still roads I want to explore! I’ve long wanted to drive the many old alignments of State Road 67 between Indianapolis and Vincennes. I want to drive the National Road in eastern Ohio again — so many great old alignments with original brick and concrete pavement! I’d like to drive the Lincoln Highway across northern Indiana. And I want to search for old and abandoned alignments, especially with original pavement, anywhere they are to be found in Indiana.

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Road Trips

Abandoned bridge on Old State Road 37 in Morgan County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway between Indianapolis and Bloomington. Normally I’m just copying text and photos from my old road-trip site, but this time I have some new things to say.

After experiencing the exciting abandoned segment of Old State Road 37 north of Waverly, I got back into my car and drove the length of this segment as it crossed into Morgan County. It was paved and in good shape. I had it all to myself as it swayed gently through the countryside. I passed through the tiny town of Waverly on the way, but it didn’t interrupt the pleasure of this drive.

Old SR 37
Windows Live Local map, 2007

At the other end of this segment, the road curved to intersect with current SR 37, as the map shows. But a ridge is visible that extends from the old road. Spoiler alert: it’s abandoned road, and there’s an old bridge in there.

In 2020, SR 37 is becoming Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Bloomington. It means widening the road, building exits, and closing all roads that currently intersect.

The section between Bloomington and about Martinsville is done. Work is just now beginning on the final section, from Martinsville to Indianapolis. When I made a trip to Bloomington in early March 2020, trees were being cleared the whole way.

About halfway to Martinsville, near the town of Waverly, I spotted it: an abandoned bridge, about 100 feet away. Trees had been reduced to stumps all around it, exposing it.

I know that bridge. I discovered it when I toured State Road 37’s old alignments in 2007. This bridge was on an abandoned part of the old alignment that ran through Waverly.

Here’s where the abandoned part of the old alignment begins, as it looked in 2007.

Old SR 37

I drove in.

Abandoned Old SR 37

I was surprised to find the bridge in there! It was heavily overgrown.

Abandoned bridge

I didn’t have anything to go on but the railing to date this bridge. That railing is typical of Indiana highway bridges from the 1920s and 1930s.

Abandoned bridge

Because modern SR 37 was close by, the predominant sound was of traffic. This old bridge was probably briefly visible to those who whizzed by, if they knew to look for it. I’ll bet hardly anybody knew it was there.

SR 37 from Old SR 37

The abandoned alignment ended shortly past the bridge. Notice the dirt path off its end, and the paved entrance/exit to SR 37 on the left. This led to someone’s house.

Abandoned Old SR 37

I’m betting it was whoever lived in that house who called the cops on me.

I had just finished making these photographs and was about to get back into my car when I saw the “Private Property, Keep Out” sign. Now, I heed “No Trespassing” and “Private Property” signs when I go exploring. I don’t want any trouble, and I empathize with property owners not wanting strangers traipsing around on their land. But this sign faced the road. You wouldn’t see it unless you stopped next to it and looked right at it, as I did.

I hoped that it meant only that the land behind it was private property. But when the police car arrived and hovered anxiously, I realized that this was not the case. The property owner probably called the cops on me. I turned around and hightailed it out of there. Fortunately, the officer let me be chased off.

I don’t know, but I imagine, that this relic of a highway era gone by will be demolished so that I-69 can be built.

Next: a short segment of the original alignment in Morgan County just north of Martinsville.

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