Road Trips

The National Road/US 40 at Reelsville, part 2

If you’re just joining us, we’re following two old alignments of the National Road near Reelsville, Indiana. Last time, we followed what is probably the National Road’s original alignment here, highlighted in green on the image below. This time, we’re going to follow an alignment built in about 1923, highlighted in red. The two routes’ overlap is highlighted in yellow.

The 1920s alignment is in two sections. The eastern section is in pretty good shape up to where the older alignment turns away, but doesn’t appear to get much maintenance west of there. It provides access to a few houses, but beyond them it fades away, as this photo shows.

Old US 40 alignment

This alignment used to be continuous, of course, but the current road’s right-of-way appears to have overlapped a few hundred feet of the older alignment, and when that happens, old road gets ripped out. The western section begins here.

Old US 40, Putnam County

This section is badly overgrown end to end. The road has gotten very little maintenance and is broken and potholed – but that’s not too bad for concrete poured so many decades ago. If it weren’t for a couple houses along this road, I’d call this abandoned. 

Old US 40, Putnam County

Soon the road crosses Big Walnut Creek over this bridge. The deck and railings are in poor condition.

Old US 40, Putnam County

I took this photo of the bridge from US 40’s current alignment.

Old US 40 alignment

This is where the 1923 alignment ends, curving left to a T intersection with US 40. It used to curve to the right, through what is now woods, and flow into the older National Road alignment. The concrete road still exists along that alignment, as I wrote about last time.

Old US 40, Putnam County

UPDATE: Later research revealed the timeline of every one of these old alignments. Read about it here.

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

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Road Trips

Straightened, widened, and moved

My last post mentioned how the National Road and US 40 has been repeatedly straightened, leveled, widened, and outright moved. As I began this trip west down the National Road from Indianapolis, I came across three out of four of those right away.

This image from Bing Maps shows the road around the Marion-Hendricks county line as it is now.

Compare it to this image, which I stitched together from 1937 and 1941 aerial images available at the Indianapolis General Data Viewer. (Gaps in the images made stitching necessary.) I highlighted US 40’s original alignment in green. Can you find the remnants of this alignment on the map above?

As early as 1937, the Six Points area just inside Hendricks County had already been bypassed. This was probably done for safety’s sake, as the original National Road intersected a railroad track there a dangerously shallow angle. The 1941 image shows a new alignment being built to straighten the curve and cross a creek at Marion County’s western border.

Remnants of the original alignment remain. East of the creek, at the extreme right edge of the aerial images above, faint traces of the original road remain. I’m told that until a few years ago, you could clearly see the original two-lane alignment of US 40 here.

Old Washington St.

This is westbound Old US 40, west of the creek, and its concrete dates probably to the 1920s. Check out how narrow the road is – two scant lanes! Modern US 40, just to the south, is five lanes wide. The old road has been torn out beyond the next crossroad, which is the county line.

Old Washington St.

Do you see the red billboard in the distance in the photo above? It stands right where the original alignment separates from the bypass around Six Points, just inside Hendricks County.

Bisected National Road

When I was last here, which was on my first-ever road trip three years ago, road-construction signs were posted here. Figuring the road was blocked, I decided to come again when construction was finished and I could drive through to the end of this alignment. Turns out I never had a chance. (Update: The segment in the photo above was removed entirely a few years after I made this visit.) The National Road was being permanently bisected by the new Ronald Reagan Parkway. Here’s the westbound scene today. I suppose it didn’t make sense to build an overpass for this little-used road, but seeing the route cut like this still hurts a little.

Bisected National Road

Never wait to see something along the old road; you may lose your chance! With that lesson freshly in mind, I drove around to the bypass to photograph a couple well-known fixtures along the road. The first is The Diner. The aluminum portion, made in 1954, used to stand alone; the limestone-faced building behind it was added later. Despite a temporary closure in 2007, it is said to still be operating, although it was closed this Saturday morning. (Update: It was moved to downtown Plainfield, restored, and reopened. See a photo here.)

The Diner

Next to The Diner is the former 40 Motel. This is its sign, the “MOTEL” letters across its middle long gone. The motel and the diner used to be owned by the same people, but no longer. The motel appears to be vacant.

Roadside businesses on US 40

I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe!

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