Preservation

National Road news: Wheeling Suspension Bridge closed for at least a year

Suspension bridge

The Wheeling Suspension Bridge closed to vehicular traffic on September 20. It will be closed for at least a year, say officials with the West Virginia Department of Transportation.

Too many vehicles heavier than the posted 2-ton weight limit have been crossing the bridge, according to Secretary of Transportation Byrd White. “People just ignore” the posted weight-limit signs, he said.

Suspension bridge

The bridge was closed for several weeks over the summer after a bus crossed it and then got stuck under a barrier entering Wheeling. The bridge was inspected, and some damage was found to the structure.

The bridge was repaired and new barriers were installed to block large vehicles, but vehicles over the weight limit kept crossing the bridge.

Suspension bridge

The Department of Transportation hopes to rehabilitate the bridge during its closure. They will reevaluate whether to allow vehicular traffic again at that time.

The bridge remains open to walkers and bicyclists.

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Film Photography, Road Trips

Along the National Road in western Indiana, 2009

Another camera review I refreshed recently was of my Minolta X-700. I shot just two rolls with it before it succumbed to the common but dreaded Stuck Winder Problem. A certain capacitor fails, and the X-700 becomes a brick.

Minolta X-700
Brick.

That second roll (it was Fujicolor 200) was shot primarily on a road trip along Indiana’s National Road from Indianapolis to the Illinois state line. My goodness but do I miss taking to the old roads. I’ve made not a single road trip this year. Life just has presented higher priorities. I hope for next year.

It felt great, however, to look through these photos from my trip ten years ago and remember a great day alone on this old highway. You might know it as US 40. First, here’s an abandoned bridge just west of Plainfield. It carried US 40 from probably about 1925 until the road was rebuilt as a four-lane divided highway in about 1940. Two new bridges were built just to the south — I stood on one of them to make this photograph — and this one was left behind to molder.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Here’s another view. You can park on a clearing just east of this bridge and walk out onto it.

Abandoned US 40 bridge

Just before the four-lane highway reaches Putnamville, a short older alignment branches off. This 1923 bridge is on it, and you can still drive across it.

Old US 40

The bridge feels narrow, and the railing feels heavy.

Old US 40

Near Reelsville you’ll find an old alignment of the road that never got paved.

Old National Road

For a long time I thought this was the National Road’s original alignment. But I learned that the National Road was moved to this alignment in 1875 when a bridge on the original alignment, to the south, washed out and was not replaced. Read about the history of these alignments here.

Old National Road

Near here I stopped to photograph some roadside flowers.

Roadside flowers

When I made it to Terre Haute, I walked along the road for several blocks downtown. It’s known as Wabash Avenue here. This is the entrance to Hulman and Company, which for many years made Clabber Girl Baking Powder.

Hulman & Co.

This building may once have housed the Terre Haute Trust Company, but for as long as I can remember — since I moved to Terre Haute in 1985 — it has housed the Merchant’s National Bank and, after a merger, the Old National Bank.

Former Tribune-Star building

I drove from there all the way to the end of the Indiana portion of the road. Then I turned around and went back to Terre Haute to catch dinner at the Saratoga, a longtime restaurant right on the road.

The Saratoga

It was a great day, and my Minolta X-700 helped me capture it — before it failed.

If you’d like to see more from this trip, via my digital camera, check it out on my old site, here.

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Road Trips

Working on both the Michigan and National Roads

My new office is on Washington Street in Downtown Indianapolis — the only place where the Michigan Road and the National Road share an alignment.

My desk is on the 12th floor. Here’s the view from the nearest window, after a violent storm passed through. That’s the City-County Building at left, and the city’s new bus terminal at right. Between them, the National Road is headed east and the Michigan Road is headed south.

A portion of the roof is set up like a patio with outdoor furniture. Here’s the view towards Monument Circle at the heart of Indianapolis. The Monument itself rises above the Circle Tower building near lower left.

I’ve already taken a couple Downtown photo walks on my lunch hour. After I’ve fully settled into the new job I expect I’ll take many more.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Restored: Terre Haute’s 1930s Clabber Girl billboard

If you ever drive US 40 westbound into Terre Haute, you’ll find a great old billboard for Clabber Girl Baking Powder at the edge of town. Clabber Girl has been made in Terre Haute since 1899. The billboard dates to the 1930s. Here’s a photo I made of it way back in 2007.

Clabber Girl

It was in pretty good shape then, but time and the elements are not kind to anything left outside. Here are some more photographs I’ve made of it over the years, showing its slow deterioration. 2009:

Clabber Girl

2013, and notice the clock is different:

Five Minutes to Terre Haute

2014:

Clabber Girl
Clabber Girl

This billboard is on what was the property of Mary Fendrich Hulman, whose family owns the makers of Clabber Girl. Mary died a few years ago, and her sprawling horse farm was sold to neighboring Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, expanding its campus. Rose-Hulman got the billboard in the deal, and decided to have this Terre Haute landmark restored. The Terre Haute Tribune-Star tells the restoration story and shares a photograph of the refreshed billboard. Read it here.

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Centerville

119 US 40, Centerville
Kodak Baby Brownie
Kodak Ektar 100
2018

I sold my Kodak Baby Brownie recently, to someone who’d had one many years ago and wanted to relive old memories. You might recall this tiny camera had its turn in Operation Thin the Herd and I decided not to keep it. It languished on my For Sale page for months.

As I packed and shipped it I looked back at some of the images I made with it. I like the composition of this one, but the lab didn’t get the film flat before they scanned it. I find that most labs struggle to scan the odd sizes. I’ll bet they have to scan them by hand.

Then there are those light leaks. Could be the camera, could be the hand-cut and -rolled film I bought on eBay. I wanted to shoot Ektar in this tiny box, because Ektar has been a solid performer in every box I’ve put it into. My other options involved films I’d never shot before, one called Rera Pan and another called Rollei Crossbird — the last 127 films still manufactured.

Film Photography, Preservation, Road Trips

single frame: 119 US 40, Centerville

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Image
Road Trips

The one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana and the mystery of Star Blvd.

There’s but one old alignment of the National Road in eastern Indiana, and it stretches 4 miles from Dunrieth west through Raysville to the east edge of Knightstown. From there it’s about 33 miles to downtown Indianapolis.

OldNREastIN

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

Modern US 40 was built in about 1940, leaving this old route behind. Here’s where it begins on Dunrieth’s west edge. This is an eastbound photo. It’s cut off from US 40; to reach it, you have to turn south in Dunrieth proper and follow the town’s streets to this location.

Old NR/US 40

Turning around from the same spot, here’s the westbound road. Whenever I see an old alignment covered in asphalt I’m intensely curious to know what paving materials lurk beneath. Concrete? Brick?

Old NR/US 40

As the road enters Raysville it runs under this old Pennsylvania Railroad overpass.

Railroad overpass

On the other side of the overpass, facing eastbound, this little sliver of road breaks off from the old National Road. It’s signed Star Blvd.

Possible old US 40 alignment

As you can see in the map snippet below, it curves up and around much like modern US 40 does. I wondered for a long time whether this was a newer old alignment of the road. Did the state reroute the National Road more or less along its modern alignment between Dunreith and Raysville some number of years before building the modern four lane, divided road?

StarBlvd

Imagery and map data ©2018 Google.

I asked the wonderful Indiana Transportation History group on Facebook. I got my answer fast: it’s a previous routing of that PRR line. It was actually part of the old Indiana Central Railroad before PRR bought it and built the grade separation and new alignment. They did that in the 1900-1920 timeframe. Star Blvd. is the old PRR rail bed.

Star Ave

There it is, the old PRR bed, currently a narrow road for local traffic. The old National Road and US 40 had but two alignments here: the original and the 1940 US 40 expressway.

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