Road Trips

Indiana State Road 42 west from Mooresville

On October 18, 2008, I explored Indiana State Road 42 from end to end. It begins in Mooresville, just southwest of Indianapolis, and ends in Terre Haute. This isn’t a historic, or even an important, road. But SR 42 made for a fascinating road trip anyway, because it passes through some classic Indiana small towns and features two classic steel truss bridges.

I’m going to make this long ago road trip the site’s focus this week.

Go west, but only indirectly

There’s little reason to drive State Road 42 if you’re on your way to Terre Haute from the Indianapolis area. Both US 40 and I-70 do the job much faster. I-70 will get you there in an hour, where State Road 42 takes more than two.

State Road 42 is a narrow, minor highway. It was stitched together from a series of farm roads, and since the route has only seen minor improvements over the years, it makes many 90-degree turns around farm boundaries. But two steel truss bridges still stand on the road, as does a magnificent open-spandrel concrete arch bridge over a man-made lake. State Road 42 also takes you through some rolling Indiana farmland and several very small towns that still have some vigor in them.

If you’re not in a hurry, as I certainly wasn’t on an autumn Saturday, State Road 42 is a satisfying scenic drive that represents rural Indiana well.

I took this trip on what I figured would be my only chance to see some fall color in 2008. I might have had some better views in southern Indiana, but everybody goes to southern Indiana when the leaves pop, making for crowded roads. I was in the mood for some quiet time by myself, and after driving and carefully documenting the Michigan Road all summer I was ready for a pleasure drive. I’ve had sleepy little State Road 42 on my to-drive list for years, so this seemed like the perfect day.

State Road 42 begins at State Road 67 on Mooresville’s east side. Mooresville is essentially a southeastern suburb of Indianapolis.

©2008, Google Maps

Here’s where SR 42 begins, on the east side of Mooresville, at State Road 67.

State Road 42 begins

Until 1994, SR 42 began at (what was in 2008) the intersection of SR 267 inside Mooresville. Here’s a westbound photo of that intersection. (In 2021, SR 267 was relinquished to Mooresville and Hendricks County from here north to I-70.)

Original start of SR 42

Mooresville is a typical small Indiana town except that, at least on this Saturday, it was busy. Check out all these cars. The traffic didn’t let up while I was in town.

Westbound, Mooresville

SR 42 in Mooresville is lined with lovely older homes.

Old house, Mooresville
Another old house, Mooresville

On the western edge of town, the road took on its rural character.

Western outskirts of Mooresville

The Hoss Farm, just outside of Mooresville, looked pretty desolate. (The barn is gone now.)

Hoss Farm

The road curved just beyond the farm. Broad curves like these are rare along SR 42, except for a section in Putnam County. SR 42 was stitched together from a series of farm roads that naturally followed farm boundaries. A feature of roads built like this is that you make a lot of 90-degree curves, and even some hard rights and lefts, around farms. If SR 42 had become a more major road, the interests of speed and safety would have led the state to buy portions of the farmers’ land and smooth and straighten the road. But with US 40 not that far to the north, providing a fine link between Indianapolis and Terre Haute from before the advent of the state highway system, SR 42 stayed a minor road that never saw those kinds of improvements.

Curve

The West Union Friends Meeting has gathered on what is now SR 42 since 1832. They’ve been burying their dead there that long, as well.

West Union Cemetery
West Union Friends Meeting
West Union Friends Meeting

Next: The small towns of Monrovia and Eminence.

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Photography

Historic road infrastructure on Old State Road 37 and the Dixie Highway 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.

Windows Live Local map, 2007

This is the segment of old road I spied from current State Road 37 that led me to make this road trip. It turned out to contain two historic pieces of road infrastructure.

The road is signed as Hacker Creek Road at its north end. Its abandoned north tip was visible from current State Road 37. This is the abandoned segment of road I saw while driving home from Bloomington a few weeks before I made this trip, and which sparked my interest in this road. The bridge over Hacker Creek was removed, orphaning this segment. This northbound photo is taken from south of the creek.

Abandoned SR 37

Stepping back a bit, still facing northbound, Hacker Creek Road ends before this abandoned alignment with a guardrail and a faded Stop sign. One house is on this stretch of road north of Liberty Church Road, and its driveway is at the end of the road at the right.

Old SR 37

Facing southbound from that spot, the narrow road is concrete as far as the eye can see, and it lacks the 2-foot extensions on either side that were common north of Martinsville. What this road also lacks is expansion joints. That’s what makes this road segment distinctive. My research and experience says that Indiana laid its first concrete highways in the early 1920s but didn’t start adding expansion joints until after about 1925. When this road was built, it was a continuous concrete ribbon. With Indiana’s freeze/thaw cycles, the concrete cracked into this pattern.

Old SR 37
Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies USDA Farm Service. Map data ©2020 Google.

Sadly, this stretch of concrete is no more. When I-69 was completed here, an exit was built at Liberty Church Road. This map segment shows what happened to that strip of continuous concrete — it was replaced by an offramp. And sadly, south of Liberty Church Road this road was paved over with asphalt long ago.

I wish they could have saved this strip of concrete, as very little continuous concrete highway remains in Indiana. I know of only one other segment, on US 40 in Putnam County, Indiana. I show a photo of it deep in this post.

There is consolation, however. A 1935 concrete-arch bridge on this alignment was bypassed, and the old bridge left in place. The bridge was closed in 2013 because it failed inspection.

Imagery ©2020 IndianaMap Framework Data, Maxar Technologies USDA Farm Service. Map data ©2020 Google.

But because the bridge was judged as Select on the state bridge inventory, it’s eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and as such can’t be destroyed without a lot of pesky paperwork and approvals. So a new bridge was built, the road realigned to it, and the old bridge and road left in place. In 2007, however, I drove right over it.

Bridge on Old SR 37

After crossing Liberty Church Road, the road is covered with asphalt (and seemed marginally wider) as it gently curves back toward current SR 37.

Old SR 37

Next: a beautiful, long old alignment that winds all the way to Bloomington.

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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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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

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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