Road Trips

Old US 31 in Peru, Indiana

On September 15, 2007, one of my oldest friends and I went in search of the original alignments of US 31 in Indiana from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I wrote about this trip on my old Roads site back then, but am now bringing those articles over to this blog.

Peru was next, just a couple miles down the road from Mexico. Some pronounce it PEE-rue and old maps sometimes spell it Perue, but I understand most locals agree it’s spelled and pronounced like the South American country. Built on the Wabash River, with a railroad and US 24’s original route running east-west through it, Peru is wider than it is tall, as this map shows.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

Just outside this map to the north is US 24, so Peru has been bypassed by two US highways. Business US 31 enters from the north on Broadway St., then turns west onto Main St. (Business US 24), and then crosses the Wabash on the little yellow-highlighted road in the lower left corner of the map.

The first thing we encountered on old US 31 in Peru was the Mr. Weenie restaurant. The sign struck me funny, so I stopped for a photo.

Mr. Weenie

When we reached the edge of downtown at 6th St., we found old US 31 closed. We parked to find out why.

Peru, Indiana

As we neared the Miami County courthouse, we could see that a classic car show was being held in front of it. Wow!

Miami County Courthouse

I love old cars! Brian indulged me as I walked among them and photographed them. I shared the car photos in this post.

Car show

I had been through Peru once before and I remember seeing US 31 and US 24 shields guiding the way through town. I suppose I was too intoxicated by the vintage iron to look for them that day. Because of the car show we couldn’t drive Business US 31 to Business US 24 anyway, so we took a side street. At any rate, Business US 31 turns right onto Business US 24 and stays there for several blocks. The two split again on the west side of town, where Business US 31 heads south. Here’s a northbound photo from Business US 31 of the intersection.

Old US 31

The road led directly to a triple-span steel truss bridge crossing the Wabash River.

Old US 31

This map shows this portion of Old US 31 and this bridge.

Windows Live Maps, 2007

The sun shone brilliantly through the bridge’s beams and trusses.

Old US 31

This unusual Business US 31 shield awaited on the guardrail after we crossed the bridge.

Business 31 shield

Brian, whose curiosity about old alignments was growing, wondered where the previous bridge might have been, and went off to search for clues. Unfortunately, he found very little, but his sleuthing gave me time to take more photos of the bridge, this time northbound.

Old US 31 NB

When I first published this article on my original Roads site, the Miami County Engineer found it and sent me some scans of documents from when this bridge was built, which was in 1939. This excerpt shows the location of the previous bridge. If you scroll up to the previous map excerpt, the old road ran along the line of trees just west of the 1939 bridge. The old road north of the Wabash River is Kelly Street.

He also sent this excerpt from the documentation that shows a drawing of the previous bridge. It, too, had three spans, but they were Pratt trusses rather than the current bridge’s Parker trusses. It looks like it also had a wood floor!

The Miami County Engineer also sent me an excerpt from this 1935 map showing Old US 31’s original alignment south of the bridge. It followed what is now Airport Road as it curves to become Plothow Road. It’s not clear to me when the newer alignment was built.

Here’s where the later alignment ends at current US 31.

Old US 31

From here, US 31 follows its original corridor all the way to Kokomo. Somewhat reluctantly, we returned to the big slab. But we’d see a few snippets of an older US 31 roadway immediately to the east of the four lane highway.

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Old Cars, Photography

A long ago car show

On a mid-September Saturday in 2007, my longtime friend Brian and I documented all of the old alignments of US 31 we could find in northern Indiana. When we reached the town of Peru, we found the highway closed through the heart of town for a car show.

Miami County Courthouse

This is one of the reasons why I love to take road trips — you never know what you’ll encounter!

Brian knows I love old cars, so he patiently let me walk among these and photograph them. This little Nash is heavily customized.

Car show

I’m pretty sure this is a 1947 Chevrolet Fleetmaster.

Car show

This 1960s Chevy truck was heavily customized. I liked its front end, so I squatted for a close photo. I make a cameo appearance in the bumper.

Car show

This boy from South Bend always stops to look at a Studebaker.

Car show

A Chevy Nova SS. It’s likely this didn’t roll off the assembly line as an SS — most Novas were what we used to call “grocery getters,” with boring sixes under the hood.

Car show

My favorite car of the day was this 1966 Plymouth VIP. Ford luxed up the Galaxie to make the LTD, and Chevy the Impala to make the Caprice. Plymouth put fake wood trim and upgraded seats into its Fury, and called it the VIP.

Car show

This one looks to have been modified some. The fake wood is missing, and the door cards don’t look stock to me. But whatever; it’s lovely and I lingered over it.

Car show

As I prepared to take the shot below, a fellow tapped me on the shoulder and said, “I’ll have to charge you a quarter for each picture.” He owned the Plymouth. When I told him I had recently seen an old television ad for the VIP on one of the online video sites, he lit up for a moment. He told me that there was precious little information available about the VIP, which didn’t sell very well. He said he had had a difficult time finding trim parts for the car, and pointed out a few places where he had to use slightly scuffed chrome or parts that didn’t fit together just right because that’s what was available.

Car show

This blog was about six months old when I found these cars. I wrote about this Plymouth then; read about it here.

My camera’s battery died while shooting the Plymouth, which brought me out of my old-car delirium to notice that Brian was standing politely on the curb, ready to move along. Even though there were more cars to see, we headed back to my car to continue our trip. I fished my spare battery out of a cup holder, put it in the camera, and we were on our way.

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Preservation, Road Trips

Restored: 1939 steel truss bridge in Peru, Indiana

Indiana Landmarks photo

This three-span steel Parker through truss bridge was built in 1939 to carry US 31 across the Wabash River in Peru, Indiana. It recently underwent its first restoration in 30 years, making it ready to serve for decades to come. Indiana Landmarks has the full story here.

I photographed this bridge in 2007 when my old friend Brian and I explored US 31’s original alignments from the Michigan state line to Indianapolis. I documented that road trip here, but these photos show what the bridge looked like then. This is a northbound view.

Old US 31 Bridge, Peru, IN

Here’s the southbound view. Most truss highway bridges were painted green then; light blue is the new standard color.

Old US 31 Bridge, Peru, IN

US 31 was moved to a new alignment bypassing Peru sometime in the 1970s, so this bridge carries only local traffic today. That’s Brian walking along the bridge’s deck, by the way.

Old US 31 Bridge, Peru, IN

I don’t know about you, but my heart soars when I come upon a truss bridge still in use. Their appearance enhances the roadscape; these bridges become local landmarks. Modern concrete steel-stringer bridges offer no distinguishing design characteristics and blend into the scenery. Bully for the people of Peru who get to keep enjoying this bridge.

If you enjoy truss bridges too, watch video of me driving over the last one standing in Indianapolis here.

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Nash

Kustom Nash
Kodak EasyShare Z730
2007

Old Cars, Photography
Image