Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 in Livingston, Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and several visits: two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

Shortly US 40 and the National Road reach Livingston, a very small town just east of Marshall. I’m not sure why the National Road Historic Byway considers the road through Livingston a spur route. All of my research indicates that the road through Livingston was the National Road.

Livingston

I wasn’t so sure of that when I first researched the road here. The aerial maps, and the labels placed on the roads, confused the heck out of me. But after looking at historic aerial imagery (the only source of which I could find is copyrighted, and would cost to be able to share here) I’m pretty sure that the original routing through Livingston and on into Marshall followed the route I added in green, to include what the map labels Hill Top Orchard Road in Livingston. The western (left) edge of this map is the eastern outskirts of Marshall. Modern US 40 disrupted the original National Road route a little here, but you can trace where it would have been easily enough. Click the map to see it larger.

Bing Maps, 2021.

The eastern end of this alignment is covered in grass. I made this eastbound photo in 2007.

Abandoned National Road

Westbound, the old road heads into the woods.

Abandoned National Road

Shortly the road emerges from the woods, bricks intact. Eastbound.

Abandoned National Road

It heads on into tiny Livingston, the bricks covered in asphalt. Westbound.

National Road, Livingston, IL

There isn’t much to show about Livingston; it’s just a handful of houses. After it passes through Livingston, the road curves to rejoin US 40. The old brick highway continues straight. Westbound.

Abandoned National Road

The bricks end on the banks of Big Creek. The bridge here was removed. On our 2007 trip, Michael and I found the road on the other side of this creek. I didn’t get a good photo of the bridge’s remnants, but Michael did. He made this eastbound photo from the creek’s west bank.

Michael A. Ray photo, used with permission

Here’s the road leading away from the creek, westbound. 2014 photo. The curve at the end is not part of the National Road; it was added to connect this segment to US 40. The National Road originally kept going straight from here.

Illinois National Road

I’m not sure why, but the roadway is covered with earth from that point. 2007 photo, westbound.

Abandoned National Road

We found a state right-of-way marker along this path, confirming for us that we were still on the National Road. Later, I found concrete consistent with the edge of the U-shaped roadbed into which the bricks were once laid.

Abandoned National Road

I found a few bricks like this one, all broken, some in the ground. Is that a date on the brick? February 12, 192x? The bricks along the road so far had all been plain-faced and in shades of red, so I wasn’t sure whether this was a road brick or not.

Abandoned National Road

Fallen trees blocked our path. We felt like we’d seen enough anyway, so we walked back to the car and drove US 40 the short distance to where the National Road crossed 40 on its way to Marshall.

Abandoned National Road

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Road Trips

The brick National Road and US 40 east of Marshall, Illinois

I’ve written about the National Road in Illinois many times before. But as I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois from there to here. This is one of them. This is based on recent research and several visits: two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

As you drive west into Illinois on US 40, it’s easy to see sections of the 1925 brick alignment of this road lying abandoned alongside it. The road varies in condition. Some of it was removed and some of it is overgrown. The bridges were all removed so people couldn’t drive the old road anymore. Despite that, you can still reach some segments with your car, as this westbound 2014 photo below shows.

Abandoned brick road

After you enter Illinois and get past where I-70 intersects with US 40, this is actually the first segment of the brick road that you see. Construction of the current US 40 in the 1950s disrupted what had been a curvy section. I’ve filled in where the brick road used to go. All that’s left here are three short segments — one at each end south of US 40, and one in the middle north of US 40. I’ve highlighted the missing road in green. Ignore where the map below shows “Old National Hwy” — it’s incorrect, except at the eastern end.

Bing Maps, 2021

This eastbound photo from 2014 shows where the middle section ends at current US 40.

Abandoned brick road

Here’s this segment westbound. This is probably the best-kept segment of this old brick road. The house at the end was, at the time, a radio studio. I got to visit the owner of this station on a trip in 2007, and he told me about the dangers of this old highway. Read the story here.

Abandoned brick road

As this road approaches Crooked Creek, which is on the left end of the map excerpt above, the road is blocked with a mound of debris. It’s mostly chunks of concrete, which I suspect was taken from the road bed here. 2007 photo. I’m only pretty sure this photo is from Crooked Creek — I didn’t do a great job of taking notes, and I’m sure I’ve inaccurately geotagged some of my photos.Westbound photo.

Abandoned National Road

The roadbed beyond leads to these two posts. I’ll bet at one time a “Bridge Out” sign was strung between them.

Abandoned National Road

We walked to Crooked Creek’s bank and looked across. We could see evidence of the bridge that once stood here. Westbound photo.

Abandoned National Road

Beyond Crooked Creek lie a couple segments of the old road still in use to access the farms they border. Eastbound photo.

Driveable brick National Road segment

On one of my 2007 trips, the Department of Transportation used a segment of the old road to store Jersey barriers. Westbound photo.

Jersey barriers on the abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with my friend Michael, I drove a stretch of this old brick road while he filmed it. I’m pretty sure it was in or near this area. Michael filmed me coming in from the east.

Most of our driving was on modern US 40, which gave us a strong feeling of “westbound lanes.” The road looked like it had been built to be one way westbound. We wondered if Illinois had planned to make a US 40 expressway here, with the idea to build the eastbound lanes over the old brick road. I feel sure if that were the case that when I-70 went on the drawing board, Illinois realized that a US 40 expressway made little sense as that traffic should follow I-70 instead. As a result, historic brick pavement remains.

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Road Trips

The National Road and US 40 at the Indiana/Illinois line

I’ve written extensively about the National Road, especially in Indiana and Illinois. See everything I’ve written here. As I work to deprecate my old Roads site, I need to bring a few articles about the road in Illinois here. Here’s the first of them, about the many changes at the Indiana/Illinois state line. I’ve updated and expanded it. This is based on recent research and a bunch of visits: one in 2006, two in 2007, one in 2009, and one in 2014.

The National Road and US 40 have changed dramatically at the Indiana-Illinois state line thanks to repeated improvements in this corridor. I’m going to try to explain the changes and show the various alignments. It gets confusing, so strap in.

The Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index (IHAPI) at the Indiana Geological Survey shows these roads’ progression. Click any of these maps to make them larger. This first image is from 1946, showing the original two-lane US 40 running from upper right in Indiana to lower left in Illinois. The thick white line at about the ¼ mark from the left is the state line.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

In about 1949, in Indiana the road was moved slightly north and improved to four divided lanes. On the Illinois side, sometime during the 1950s the original road was abandoned and a new two-lane alignment built immediately to the north. This 1958 aerial images shows it all. In the bottom left corner of this image, you can see a trace of the original National Road alignment just below the new US 40.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

I-70 was built here in the mid-late 1960s. About a mile and half of it on either side of the state line was built directly onto the US 40/National Road alignment. This 1966 aerial image shows I-70 under construction. When I-70 was finished, US 40 was routed onto it for about three miles. Also under construction here is a two-lane road that connects US 40 in Indiana to what would shortly become old US 40 in Illinois.

Indiana Historical Aerial Photo Index image

Finally, this is what the scene looks like today. Click this map to make it larger. I’ve widened the view a bit to show the interplay between US 40 and I-70, placing the state line near the middle. In 2011, US 40 was rerouted onto I-70 to bypass Terre Haute, placing the 1949 alignment of US 40 here under county maintenance. Notice especially Illiana Drive, which branches off W. National Dr. in Indiana and flows into the old alignment of US 40 in Illinois.

Bing Maps, 2021

From a road trip I made in 2009, here’s what the original National Road/US 40 alignment looks like in Indiana. This is a westbound photo. This bridge over Clear Creek was built in 1919.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

Shortly past that bridge is the last opportunity to turn off the original alignment before it ends. This is the last 200 feet of the original National Road in Indiana. The 1949 alignment of US 40 is about 200 feet to the north (right) of here, and I-70 is about 200 feet to the south (left). The turnoff is immediately to the right of where I stood to make this photo, and it connects right to Illiana Drive. If you squint, you can see it on the map above.

Old US 40 near Toad Hop

If you make that turn and cross the 1949 alignment of US 40, Illiana Drive curves hard to the left and heads toward Illinois. While this road was never the National Road or US 40, the Indiana National Road Historic Byway was routed along it by necessity. You can see a National Road guide sign just beyond the speed limit sign in this 2006 photo.

Toward Illinois on old US 40

Shortly you come upon the Illinois state line. On my 2006 visit, I drove into Illinois a little bit and found US 40 shields on this section of road, even though US 40 was officially routed onto I-70. On this visit in 2007, the US 40 shields were gone. I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that Illinois maintains this road and counts it as part of US 40. Beyond this curve, Illiana Drive flows into the 1950s alignment of US 40.

Into Illinois

This was the day of the annual Ride Across Indiana (RAIN), a bicycle tour across Indiana that follows US 40 all the way. This was the starting line, just inside Illinois. That’s my friend Dawn standing near my car; she’s been a frequent road-trip companion for many years.

RAIN

Shortly after you curve onto the 1950s alignment of US 40, you can see the original alignment standing abandoned alongside. In this aerial image, two roads are marked E US Highway 40. The lower segment is the original National Road alignment.

Bing Maps 2021

This eastbound view shows the road as it emerges from the woods. 2014 photo.

Abandoned brick road

If you walk into those woods, the old roadbed is largely still there. The bricks are just an inch or so into the soil, and you can easily reach them by clearing soil away with your foot. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

As you emerge from the woods you see that the road had a noticeable grade. That’s my car at the top. 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

On one of my 2007 visits, turning my car around there I accidentally backed it off the access road and got it stuck. A woman who lived nearby came out to help, as did a passing motorist. My friend Dawn was with me too. We ended up lifting the front end of the car and pushing it back into the ditch, right onto the brick National Road. It must have been 50 years since anyone had driven on those bricks! I backed my car up to get a good running start and then made a break for it up the hill. The bottom of my car scraped the lip at the top of the hill as it went over, but no fluids or parts trailed behind me so I hoped all was well.

Abandoned National Road

The woman asked why we were out on that hot morning. When we pointed excitedly and said, “We’re driving the National Road all the way to Vandalia!” she said, “Oh, that.” I suppose if the National Road runs through your front yard, you take it for granted. She did mention that the neighbor from whom she and her husband bought their property had helped build the brick road, watched US 40 go in ten yards to the north, and lived long enough to watch I-70 start to be built on what used to be some of his land. The neighbor told her that when US 40 was built, all the bridges and culverts along the National Road were torn out. That meant no long drives on the brick.

Incredibly, some years ago I found a set of photographs showing this road being built, in about 1925! Here’s one; you can see more in this article. Notice that this road is a shallow U-shaped concrete pad with a layer of sand laid in, and then the bricks laid on.

Building the Illinois National Road

This diagram from a 1923 report of the Illinois Department of Highways shows this construction. I wonder why Illinois bothered with the bricks; why not just pour a concrete slab and be done with it? But these were experimental days in highway construction, and highway engineers were figuring out what worked best. It didn’t take long for road-builders to give up on brick. I’d say that after about 1925, nobody was building brick highways anymore.

Looking west from Dunlap Road, you get a better sense of the brick road (despite the equipment stored on it). 2007 photo.

Abandoned National Road

This road is in poor condition here. I brought my friend Michael along to see it on the second 2007 visit and we walked this segment until it ended, near where I-70 intersects. Here he is standing on it, in a place where most of the bricks have been removed to reveal the concrete pad below.

Abandoned National Road

On the 2007 trip with Michael, we found an intact bridge on the old road. It would probably be more accurately characterized as a box culvert. I’m pretty sure this culvert spans Hawks Creek. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure thanks to my poor note-taking. But given where these photos fall in order the day I made them, if I’m off, it’s not by far. This eastbound photo shows the road, bricks removed, ending abruptly.

Abandoned National Road

The place where the road used to be continues, rather obviously.

Abandoned National Road

Here’s the culvert. It’s an odd affair: the culvert is topped with earth, which is topped with a concrete slab.

Abandoned National Road culvert

This is a sizeable culvert. Here you can see my friend Michael having a closer look at it.

Abandoned National Road culvert

At the I-70 intersection, US 40 exits I-70 and follows the 1950s alignment. But large sections of this brick road continue to appear all the way to Marshall, about 5½ miles away, and then from the other side of Marshall about another 5½ miles, almost to Martinsville.

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Film Photography, Photography

Family Christmas photographs

I shot my family’s 2020 Christmas celebration on film. I decided to do it when I stumbled across a roll of Kodak T-Max P3200 I forgot I had. I shot it in my Nikon N90s with the 28-80mm f/3.3-5.6G AF Nikkor lens attached. I developed it in LegacyPro L110, Dilution B, but I misread the Massive Dev Chart and developed it for a few minutes less time than specified. The negatives looked plenty dense, but when I scanned them on my flatbed, the grain was pronounced.

I decided to print them. I don’t have a darkroom; I just sent the scans to my nearby CVS pharmacy’s photo department. The paper they use in their machines is thin, nowhere near as sturdy as the stuff they used as recently as 10 years ago. But the prints looked all right. I laid them on the dining table with the Christmas tablecloth still on and photographed a few of them with my Canon PowerShot S95. Even rendered this way, you can see the huge, ugly grain in these photos.

These scans are straight off the scanner. No amount of Photoshopping made them look any better, so I quickly gave up. I did tweak VueScan’s settings to bring out shadow detail, however.

When that roll was done I wanted to keep going, but I was out of P3200. Then it hit me: I develop my own film now and can easily push process it. I had some Ilford Delta 400 in the freezer, so I thawed a roll, loaded it into the N90s, mounted my 50mm f/1.8 AF Nikkor lens, and set the camera to ISO 1600. I knew this stuff would push well because fellow photoblogger Alyssa Chiarello did it recently and got great results.

Ilford still prints developing instructions inside their film boxes. They listed a developing time in Ilfotec HC (their HC-110 equivalent, also equivalent to the L110 I use) for the film at 1600! I followed their instructions and got gorgeous negatives and the best scans my flatbed can deliver (which still aren’t great). They look better than the P3200 photos — the grain is smaller and much more pleasing. Delta 400 is a darn sight less expensive than T-Max P3200, too. I think I need never buy P3200 again — I’ll push an ISO 400 black-and-white film to 1600 instead. I had CVS print these scans, too.

This was fun, but I don’t see this experience leading me to print my work more often. I get it that a photograph is meant to be printed, a physical object. But I’m an online kind of guy and that’s the way I show 99% of my work. My wife prints family photographs all the time, and I figured she’d like to add these to her collection, so I gave them to her.

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Big old house

Big old house
Canon PowerShot S95
2021

Where Margaret and I will live next is a frequent topic of our conversation. We agree that it’s time to move on from this house. We’d stay in Zionsville if we could afford a house in the original town. It’s lovely and charming there, and a small but vibrant downtown is within walking distance.

Trouble is, homes here are among the most expensive in the state. The median list price for a home here is about $450,000. My neighborhood is the least expensive way to get a Zionsville address, but you can’t move in here for less than $200,000. I know that these prices may not shock you if you live on the coasts or in a major population center, but here in Indiana these prices are ridiculous. In Indianapolis, the median house list price is only $179,000. Outside of Indianapolis, it’s even lower than that!

We’d like to have a large home so we can host our seven kids, their partners, and their children. And our parents, while they’re still with us. This one would be a grand-slam home run for us with five bedrooms and four bathrooms. Built in 1870, it oozes character.

Unfortunately, it’s listed at three quarters of a million dollars. A similar house in Indianapolis, even as well cared for as this one, couldn’t command anywhere near that. If it were in a desirable neighborhood, I’d say half a million tops. In an average neighborhood, even less.

I’m not willing to pay a half million, either. But man, this house would be a lovely place to live.

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Personal, Photography

single frame: Big old house

A grand old house in Zionsville.

Image

It’s time for another look at the spectacular sunsets we get here on the western edge of Zionsville, Indiana. Our back yard overlooks a retention pond, a Toyota dealer, and I-65. It gives us a pretty good view of the setting sun. I made all of these images except the last one with my Canon PowerShot S95. A couple of the sunsets pushed the S95 slightly beyond its limits, but the sunsets were interesting enough that I’m showing the images to you anyway.

Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer
Sunset over the Toyota dealer

I found this final sunset when I looked through the images on my iPhone 6s before I traded it in. I made this in 2016, before the Toyota dealership was built. We aren’t thrilled to have a Toyota dealership in our view, but looking at this sunset it’s clear: the towering sign provides a strong anchor to these images.

Sunset before the Toyota dealer was built

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Photography

Still more sunsets over the Toyota dealer

Another look at the incredible sunsets we get here.

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