The National Road and US 40 has been moved around several times near Reelsville in Putnam County, Indiana. Big Walnut Creek flows through here. As various bridges have come and gone, sometimes the road was moved. I sorted out the whole history in this post.
I say this bridge is on the National Road. It is, in that this was an alignment of that road used from 1875 to 1923. But this is not a National Road bridge, as it was not built until 1929. By this time, the National Road had become US 40, and US 40 had been realigned to a new road a quarter mile to the south.
This bridge was designed by Daniel Luten, whose pioneering design for concrete-arch bridges is patented. That’s why this bridge was restored in place after a new bridge was built next to it (in about 2006). If you can find a place to park, you can walk out onto this old bridge.
It’s remarkable to me that this old bridge out in the country was saved. Also notice the pitch of the new bridge. Its construction eliminated a wicked hill.
This isn’t the usual view of this stunning bridge. Normally, it’s photographed from the Indiana side, in Vincennes. (See my photo from that side here.) Here, I shot it on the ground, on the other side of the Wabash River in Illinois.
It’s called the Lincoln Memorial Bridge because it was near this point that young Abraham Lincoln crossed into Illinois as they left their Indiana home behind. There’s a lovely memorial to this crossing on the Illinois side, not far from where I stood to photograph this bridge; see it here.
As you drive US 50 across Illinois, west of Carlyle you’ll cross four bridges that have unused twins right beside them. I told the whole story here, but in short they’re left over after a project to widen US 50 to four lanes was abandoned.
That’s my friend Michael there, balancing on the railing to make his photograph while I made mine of him.
National Road bridge over Maryland’s Casselman River Kodak EasyShare Z730 2009
The trip my sons and I made to Washington, DC, and then back along the National Road is the vacation we all remember most fondly. It was a great trip until we entered Ohio, when we had an automobile accident that totaled our car. We were unharmed, but it was a sad end to a great trip.
Maryland became more gorgeous the farther west we went into it. We were especially excited to reach Garrett County, as that is one of my sons’ names. We stopped by the roadside to photograph my son under a sign proclaiming our entrance into his county.
Then shortly we came upon this bridge, which was built in 1814 to carry the National Road across the Casselman River. It served until 1933, seven years after this road was named US 40, when a steel-truss bridge was built downriver and the road realigned to it. Later, I-68 was built a little farther downriver and US 40 was routed onto it. So three bridges stand in a row here. I wrote about them all here.
Just beyond the Indianapolis and Marion County border, but just east of Plainfield, is the Six Points area. A two-lane segment of an old US 40 alignment runs through here. It’s maybe 600 yards long.
Heading west just past the Marion/Hendricks county line, there’s a body shop on the south side of the road as the road gently curves. We took the next left and and immediately made the first right to get onto the old road. This picture shows the old segment on the left and the current road on the far right.
On the right you can barely see the sign for The Diner, an old Mountain View diner that had more space built onto the back. It was in its declining years. When I visited again in 2009, I found it closed when I photographed it.
It was later moved into the City of Plainfield itself, restored, and given its original name back: the Oasis Diner. Here’s my photo from 2014, not long after it reopened. It’s quite popular today.
But back to this segment of US 40 and the National Road. When we turned around, it was clear that the broken pavement behind us was old US 40 pavement. Notice how the body shop building is parallel with the old segment, and would have been right against US 40.
As this westbound photo shows, the road was closed for construction, so we couldn’t drive it. As best as we could tell, this road had houses on both sides. Dawn and I wondered aloud if they moved the road around these houses so they could widen it to four lanes without displacing the residents. Later I learned that the road was moved to eliminate the dangerous railroad crossing from this US highway.
This segment was bypassed in about 1940 when US 40 was widened to four lanes. The bypass eliminated a shallow-angle (and therefore dangerous) intersection with a rail line in here. You can see a trace of the line in the map above.
What we didn’t know on the day we made this trip was that the road was closed to build the Ronald Reagan Parkway. I made this trip again in 2009 and in driving this segment westbound was deeply disappointed to find this:
I get it, this old alignment got so few cars it didn’t make sense to make an intersection here, especially when current US 40 was 200 feet away to the north. But it is unfortunate that this historic road was made discontinuous. Here’s the eastbound view from the other side of the Parkway. Since I made this photo in 2009, this has been reconfigured so that you can turn left from southbound Ronald Reagan Parkway onto Old National Road, and right onto Ronald Reagan Parkway, from here.
In 2006 I failed to make photographs of the western end of this segment. I corrected my oversight in 2009.
Today, you can’t drive the eastern portion of this alignment anymore as it was removed. Curiously, a tiny stub remains right next to the Ronald Reagan Parkway.
As you approach the removed alignment from the east, the only evidence the road was ever there is the row of utility poles that follows the old right-of-way. That’s a common tell of an old roadway. Here’s a view from Google Maps Street View showing how this scene looked in June, 2019.
It always makes me sad when any part of a historic road is removed.
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.
This was my first digital camera. It’s from 2006, which is ancient of days in digital-camera terms. It seems so limited today. But under the right conditions, it’s still a brilliant performer. Read my updated review here.