Road Trips

Beautiful old bridges on Indiana State Road 42

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.

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!

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

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.)

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

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?

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

See it there? That neat row of cut stones?

Steel truss bridge, Mill Creek

Please consider the following:

©2008 Google Maps

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.

Courtesy bridgehunter.com

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.

Fall on SR 42

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.

Old concrete bridge

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.

Old concrete bridge

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.

©2008, Google Maps

The bridge over the lake did not disappoint.

Bridge over Cagle Mill Lake

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.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

I’m not sure how such a minor road warrants such a major bridge, but this one is a real gem.

Bridge over Cagles Mill Lake

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.

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

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.)

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

A sure sign of autumn is how low the sun is at midafternoon.

Steel truss bridge near Poland, IN

Next: Vigo County and Terre Haute.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Side-by-side bridges on Narrows Road in Indiana’s Turkey Run State Park

People come to Parke County, Indiana, for two main reasons: to see the many covered bridges there, and to hike over the hills and through the canyons in Turkey Run State Park. Within the park, you can hike to one of the covered bridges.

Narrows Covered Bridge

The Narrows covered bridge was completed in 1882, and is considered the first of J. A. Britton’s many covered bridges in the county.

Narrows Covered Bridge

Like most of Parke County’s covered bridges, it features a Burr arch truss design. Those giant curved members are the Burr arches.

Narrows Covered Bridge

The bridge spans Sugar Creek where it narrows, hence the name of both the bridge and the road. If you’re ever out this way, you can rent a canoe and paddle through Turkey Run on the creek. I did it once with my sons, and except for the fact that my sons weren’t interested in helping paddle, it was fun.

Narrows Covered Bridge

It’s easy to get underneath this wooden bridge, as a rocky path passes beneath it on its north side. If you look hard, you can see those curved Burr arches jutting out and into the rock on the far end of the bridge.

1958 bridge alongside Narrows Covered Bridge

A concrete arch bridge carries Narrows Road today. Bridgehunter.com says that the concrete arch bridge was built in 1958, while the Indiana Covered Bridge Society says that the covered bridge was bypassed in 1966. Perhaps both bridges carried traffic during those eight years.

1958 bridge

1958 is mighty late for a concrete arch bridge to be built in Indiana. It came at the very tail end of the concrete arch era. I’m surprised a common steel beam bridge wasn’t built here then. They became all the rage at about this time and are the main kind of bridge built in the US today.

Narrows Covered Bridge

If you’re interested in seeing this bridge, you can get there from Narrows Road of course, or by hiking Trails 1 or 2 inside Turkey Run. The trails give you these lovely side views of the bridge.

Narrows Covered Bridge

I made these photos in 2011 on a trip to Turkey Run with my sons. We went at least once a year while they were still growing up. I found them while I was culling junk and duplicates from my photo library, and liked them enough to share them now.

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Bridge over the St. Joseph River at Leeper Park

Leeper Bridge
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2008

Of all the bridges I’ve documented, this is one of my top favorites. It carries Michigan Street, former US 31, over the St. Joseph River in South Bend. Built in 1914, its 56-foot-wide deck was unusually broad in its day. Even today it carries two lanes of traffic in each direction, which certainly helped it survive. Starting in 1917, it carried State Road 1; in 1926 it began to carry US 31. A great deal of traffic passed over this bridge over the years. Had it been able to carry only one lane of traffic in each direction, it would have been insufficient and would have been replaced long ago. Even though US 31 was rerouted onto a bypass of the city many years ago, this road remains a highway as State Road 933 today. It carries about 31,000 vehicles each day.

Bridge standards evolve over time, and today this bridge’s 56-foot-wide deck is considered intolerable for that volume of traffic. I’m sure it survives primarily because it is in fair condition overall, according to its last inspection. I hope it gets good maintenance so it can keep serving, because it’s a beautiful bridge. Many excellent views are available in Leeper Park, which hugs the south bank of the river here on both sides of the bridge.

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Photography, Road Trips

single frame: Leeper Bridge

A beautiful concrete-arch bridge north of downtown South Bend.

Image
Road Trips

The original alignment of US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Parke County, Indiana

Let’s return to my 2007 road trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway in western Indiana.

West of Rockville the map showed two places where a road diverged from US 36 only to return to it. That’s a sure sign of an original alignment.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This looked to me remarkably like the shape of the road at this spot in the 1915 TIB Guide strip map that I saw at the Federal Highway Administration’s Web site where they were tracking the route of the old Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

About 3½ miles past Rockville I came upon where this road split from US 36.

US 36 alignments

I turned in, and the road immediately turned to gravel. This westbound photo was taken several feet away from US 36, and you could hear the traffic whizzing by. But doesn’t this photo seem to be miles away from anything? Doesn’t it look like it ought to be pin-drop quiet?

PP-OO in Indiana

I checked my old state maps, which go back to 1936. They aren’t detailed enough to accurately render the shape of US 36 through here, but they do say that US 36 was paved. It’s possible this segment was never US 36, but it was certainly the PP-OO.

After about a quarter mile this road became paved and its name changed from W 25 N to N 350 W. A couple houses appeared. Another quarter mile later, it deposited me back onto US 36. This eastbound photo shows the old road’s ascent to the highway.

PP-OO in Indiana

Another quarter mile or so down US 36 the next segment began. The map suggests to me that this segment used to flow smoothly from the previous one, and that it came in from the gravel driveway on the left in this photo.

PP-OO in Indiana

Off the road goes westbound. The presence of utility poles suggests that rural electrification reached here before US 36’s current alignment did.

PP-OO in Indiana

Soon this old alignment meets Arabia Road. The Phillips covered bridge is a couple hundred feet down this road. It was built by J. A. Britton in 1909.

Phillips Bridge

There wasn’t much along this old PP-OO alignment but soybeans.

PP-OO in Indiana

Shortly I came upon the 1883 Sim Smith Bridge, a Burr arch truss bridge also built by J. A. Britton. I didn’t think much of the “Warning Flooding Possible” sign as it blocked this, the best angle I found of the bridge.

Sim Smith Bridge

Here’s a better look at those curved Burr arch trusses.

Sim Smith Bridge

After crossing the bridge the land deepened into a mild valley overgrown with weeds. US 36 came into view on my right. I could see that the road made an unusual jog to the left up ahead, and when I reached it I felt a mild bump and heard my tires make a different sound, as if I had just changed roads. I pulled right over to have a look. I could see a faint double yellow line on the road.

Mystery US 36 alignment

The road had a shoulder on its north side, and it looked like the road and its shoulder were summarily chopped off beyond a certain point, as this photo shows. The little red, white, and black sign at right says “Danger Flooding Possible.”

Mystery US 36 alignment

The only evidence I found of the road’s former path was a drainage trench. It hugged the road’s shoulder to where the road was cut off, and then it snaked around the ridge.

Mystery US 36 alignment

I drove on, and soon the old road was blocked by these gates. Fortunately, a curve had been built here to connect the road to current US 36.

Mystery US 36 alignment

It looked to me like the road used to go through where these gates are now. This land looks built up like a roadbed.

Mystery US 36 alignment

From this evidence, I conclude that a former US 36 bridge over this creek was built in the flood plain. That became enough of a problem that the state built a new bridge nearby, raising it far above flood levels, and rerouted US 36 onto it. The blue line on this map shows where I think old US 36 used to go.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

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Road Trips

US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway at Indiana’s Billie Creek Village

Let’s return to my 2007 trip along US 36 and the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway.

It’s not clear to me whether outdoor history museum Billie Creek Village still operates. News of financial difficulties surfaced in the early 2010s, and the site went on the auction block in 2012. But it was open in 2007 when I passed through on my US 36 trip. Not that I stopped.

Billie Creek Village is just east of Rockville, sandwiched between the original and current alignments of US 36. The original alignment was also the Pikes Peak Ocean-to-Ocean Highway and the Rockville State Road.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

This old alignment begins about a mile west of the dirt and gravel segment I shared in the previous post.

Old US 36

Two cars wide on a good day, this asphalt road soon comes upon a little covered bridge built by J. J. Daniels in 1895, as was the covered bridge over Big Walnut Creek earlier in the trip. Curiously, though the village, this bridge, and the adjoining road (the right turn just before the bridge) are all named Billie Creek, the bridge crosses Williams Creek.

Old US 36

Here’s a view of the trusses inside the bridge. The curved members are Burr arches, a common truss style among Indiana wooden covered bridges.

Old US 36

From an earlier visit, here’s an eastbound photo of the bridge.

Billie Creek Covered Bridge

Let’s look westbound again. On the map, notice how High Street follows roughly the same line as Old US 36. High Street goes right into downtown Rockville. Could High Street have been part of the Rockville State Road? In the photo below, High Street is the left turn; Old US 36 continues ahead.

Old US 36

Slightly more than two miles in, this segment ends at US 36. This is a mighty tight squeeze for two vehicles.

Old US 36

For completeness’s sake, from an earlier visit here’s a view of this end of the alignment from current US 36.

US 36 at Billie Creek

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Road Trips

North on the Dixie Highway from Bloomington

A couple weeks ago I drove to Bloomington to see my son, who lives there. When I headed home, I followed the Dixie Highway, old State Road 37, as far as it would take me. Since SR 37 had been upgraded to become I-69, which removed all of the turnoffs to the old alignments, I wasn’t sure what I would find. I was pleased that the old road took me almost to Martinsville. Here’s its route, which now includes some new-terrain road.

Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway to where it ended on my September, 2020, trip. Map data ©2020 Google.

For about 14 miles, Old 37 and the Dixie follow a winding path nowhere near the new Interstate. But for the next four miles or so, until it ends, the old road parallels I-69 and acts as its frontage road.

Within those first 14 miles, the old road is just as it always was: lightly traveled and lush. I’ve written about this segment before, here and here.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

I had this road entirely to myself this Friday afternoon. On past trips I’ve encountered bicyclists out here; not this time.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This long segment used to exit onto State Road 37, but Interstates are limited access by their nature. Here’s how it exited onto SR 37 northbound when I first visited it in 2007.

Old SR 37

Today, the old road curves the other way into a brand new frontage road.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

Shortly the frontage road meets the next old alignment of Old SR 37 and the Dixie Highway. When I last wrote about it, here, I said that an old bridge had been left in place after a new bridge was built alongside it. I got to see the old bridge. It was saved because its qualities put it on the state’s Select list of bridges, which prevents it from being demolished without the state jumping through a whole bunch of hoops. It looks to me like some repairs have been done to it to stabilize it. But it is open now only to pedestrians.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

This southbound photograph from the new bridge shows that the old road has been significantly upgraded. Notice how wide it is, compared to the old road on the right.

Old SR 37/Dixie Highway

The new road ends about 2½ miles later, where the older, narrower pavement resumes. Shortly the road dead ends at this old bridge.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I was happy to find this bridge still here, as I’d heard a rumor that it had been removed. But I’m still saddened that it’s closed to traffic after failing an inspection in 2015. Here it is the last time I got to drive on it, which was in 2012. Read more about this bridge here.

Pony trusses

The old highway north of the bridge has been removed, however. What a strange sight.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

I’ve heard that this bridge will be repurposed as a pedestrian bridge. I’ve studied the I-69 plan map for this area and it looks like there’s no plan to continue the frontage road from here.

Here’s one final look at this old bridge from the north.

Abandoned bridge on 37/DH

Until I-69 is built around Martinsville, it’s easy enough to return to SR 37: back up from here to the first side road, follow it east until it Ts, turn left, then follow that road until it reaches SR 37.

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