Grand Trunk

Grand Trunk Western
Minolta SR-T 101, 50mm f/1.7 MC Rokkor-PF
Ferrania P30 Alpha

I figured out how to read largely on my own starting at age 3. As we’d ride around in the car I’d read aloud the big signs. Mom said that the first one I read was the BUS sign at the Greyhound station.

I remember reading this one, too. The Grand Trunk Western railroad passes through my hometown of South Bend not far from the neighborhood where I grew up. Two bridges over city streets have the GTW name painted on them. I still love to see them.

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Film Photography

single frame: Grand Trunk Western

History, Photography, Preservation

A walking tour of historic New Augusta, Indiana

In the 1850s, commerce and prosperity arrived by rail across the United States. Railroads boomed in these years, with thousands upon thousands of track miles being built. Wherever rails were laid, towns inevitably popped up.

A rail line was built between Indianapolis and Lafayette in about 1850. It passed within a mile and a half of Augusta, a town founded in about 1832 on the Michigan Road northwest of Indianapolis. In 1852 the railroad placed a station on the rail line west of Augusta and named it for the nearby town. This snippet from an 1854 plat map shows both Augusta (far right) and Augusta Station (lower left).


Historic Indiana Maps, IUPUI University Library. See complete map here.

A town was platted at Augusta Station that same year. Locals called it both Augusta Station and Hosbrook. The post office eventually said no to both names, and so in 1878 the town was officially named New Augusta. This map, which dates to about the mid 1920s, shows that the town had grown in size to rival nearby Augusta.


Digital image © 2009 Indiana Historical Society. All Rights Reserved. See complete map here.

I’ve heard, but can’t confirm, that many in Augusta simply pulled up stakes and moved to the new town. It’s not a far-fetched story. Augusta had been built in about 1832 to capitalize on the brand new Michigan Road, an important north-south corridor connecting the Ohio River to Lake Michigan. But railroads were such a compelling way to move people and goods that when they arrived, road traffic fell away. (Often, so did funds to maintain roads, which led to some roads being sold to private companies that charged tolls for their use. The Michigan Road was one such road. I assume the “New Agusta [sic] Free Gravel Road” shown on the map was “free” in that it wasn’t a toll road.)

New Augusta never exactly boomed, growing to 200-300 residents at its peak. At its centennial in 1955, the town boasted three grocery stores, a feed store, some specialty stores, and one small manufacturer. The town was fully absorbed into Indianapolis when the city and the county merged in 1970. Through the 1980s and 1990s, this once rural township filled in rapidly with housing subdivisions and an enormous industrial park. You can see both in the Google Earth image below.


Imagery © 2015 Google. Map data © 2015 Google.

I drive by New Augusta every day as I go to work, along both major roads that border it. If you didn’t know the town was there, you might never know of it. The only clues are a short row of late-1800s homes that front 71st Street.

I might never have known of New Augusta were it not for an old friend who attended a church there a long time ago. I lived in Terre Haute then, but attended church with her when I was in town.

And then several years later I wound up living just three miles away. New Augusta became a convenient venue for my hobby of taking pictures with old film cameras. Let me show you New Augusta as I’ve seen it through various camera lenses over the years.

New Augusta Station

Yashica MG-1, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2010

Augusta Station fronts the railroad tracks a short walk north of 71st Street. This depot was built in the early 1890s to replace an earlier one that burned down. It has been owned by the Purdy family and its descendants all these years. Purdy Street runs behind the station.

New Augusta Train Station

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

I don’t know what became of the Indianapolis and Lafayette Railroad, but these tracks remain and do get a little use. I hear engine whistles once in a while when I’m at home. Even though these tracks intersect several roads I use all the time, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been stopped by trains on these tracks over the past 20 years.

Tracks Diverging

Pentax ES II, SMC Takumar 50mm f/1.8, Arista 400 Premium, 2015

New Augusta’s business district lies just two blocks away, where 72nd Street intersects Dobson Street. All of New Augusta’s north-south streets are named for original residents. The east-west streets used to be, too. I assume they got their Indianapolis-style numbers when the city and county merged.

The brick building is an Odd Fellows building. It’s held all manner of businesses over the years, but currently houses a small Web/software company and offices for an attorney and an accountant. Every time I visit New Augusta, the cheerful red building seems to contain a different business.

New Augusta, Indiana

Yashica MG-1, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2010

I’m pretty sure the church I used to attend with my friend was in this building, which I believe once contained the New Augusta State Bank.


Pentax ES II, 50mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Arista Premium 400, 2015

The peace and quiet along New Augusta’s streets belie the busy suburban and industrial area that surrounds it.

New Augusta street 3

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Many houses from the late 1800s survive and have been well cared for.

New Augusta street 2

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

This L-plan Queen Anne is one of the houses that fronts 71st Street.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

As you can see, all kinds of common Indiana architectural styles are represented in New Augusta.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

This is my favorite house in town. It stands on New Augusta Road across from the train station. I photograph it pretty much every time I visit, and I’ve never seen signs that anybody lives here. But it does appear that work is being done on the house. Perhaps it’s undergoing a long restoration.

House in New Augusta

Olympus Trip 500, Fujicolor Superia X-tra 400, 2012

The centerpiece of New Augusta is the Salem Evangelical Lutheran Church. It’s been part of this township since 1836, but moved to New Augusta in 1858.

Church sign

Argus A2B, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2011

This building was completed in 1880. Bells still ring on the hour, filling New Augusta with their gentle, sweet notes.

Salem Lutheran

Pentax ME, 28mm f/2.8 SMC Pentax-M, Fujifilm Fujicolor 200, 2015

Several additions have been made to the building over the years.

Church courtyard

Argus A2B, Fujifilm Neopan 100 Acros, 2011

New Augusta is on the short list of places around Indianapolis where I’d like to live. I enjoy its peaceful, historic character. I can imagine taking evening strolls along its streets and saying hello to the neighbors as I pass by. It’s close to where I work and it’s close to good shopping, yet it’s miles away from anywhere.

Many of nearby Augusta’s buildings remain. One is among the oldest houses in Indianapolis: the Boardman House. See it here.



Pentax ES II, 55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar, Arista Premium 400


On the Monon Trail

The Monon was a passenger and freight rail line that operated almost entirely within Indiana, with two main lines that intersected in a small northwestern Indiana town from which the railroad got its name. The Monon’s rail roots stretch back to 1847, and as best as I can tell service ended by about 1970. The tracks between Indianapolis and Monon were later entirely removed. Starting in 1999, about 15 miles of the old rail bed north from Indianapolis began to be converted into a rail trail. The Monon Trail is a very popular place to walk, run, or bike today.

I shot this on my recent South Broad Ripple excursion, looking northbound from where the trail intersects 54th Street. This is right next to Locally Grown Gardens, which I wrote about last week. I photographed this with my Nikon F2AS and my Zoom-Nikkor 35-70mm lens on expired Kodak Tri-X.

History, Photography

Captured: On the Monon Trail

Film Photography

Nikon F2 vs. Canon PowerShot S95

It always interests me to see how different cameras and lenses and films render the same scene at the same moment. 

You might remember that I recently visited an abandoned, never-finished railroad bridge in Clay County, Indiana. I took this photo of it with my Canon PowerShot S95.

Abandoned abutments to never-built railroad bridge

My Nikon F2 was along, too, so before I moved from that spot I took this shot.

Through the abutments

Wow, what a difference in warmth and detail! I also like how the sky in the F2 shot has the slightest tinge of purple that the S95 shot lacks.

I wish now that I had spent more time shooting those abutment walls with my F2, just to explore those great textures some more.


In a photograph, what is real?
I explored this question here.

Road Trips

The mystery of the unfinished, abandoned bridge

As we explored an old gravel alignment of Indiana State Road 46 in Clay County, we came upon these enormous bridge abutments. We stopped to look them over, and tried to figure out why they were there.

Abandoned abutments to never-built railroad bridge

We even spotted an elevated bridge over a nearby creek. It lined up perfectly with these abandoned abutments.

Abandoned abutments to never-built railroad bridge

My companion Dawn said, “These look like parts to a railroad overpass, but I don’t see where any tracks might have been.”

Abandoned abutments to never-built railroad bridge

Dawn was right – these abutments were meant to carry a railroad. But it turns out that tracks were never laid.

John Walsh was an Irish immigrant who built a fortune selling newspapers in Chicago. He expanded his empire to include three banks, a Chicago newspaper, and a railroad – the Evansville and Richmond, which Walsh renamed the Southern Indiana Railroad.

Walsh set about expanding his railroad, first building a line up to Terre Haute, and later starting a line from the small town of Blackhawk in Vigo County that he meant to extend to Indianapolis. Contracts were let in about 1903. The road was graded from Blackhawk to just north of Bowling Green in Clay County. These abutments (marked with the red arrow on the map below) and the nearby bridge were built, along with an abutment for a bridge over the Eel River nearby.


Imagery and map data © 2013 Google.

But Walsh overextended himself building his railroad, and work stopped at Christmas in 1905. By 1907, the United States was in recession, and Walsh watched two of his banks fail. The feds started sniffing around and found considerable evidence that he had drained funds from his banks to build his railroad. He was charged with 180 counts of misapplication of funds, and was later convicted of 54 of those counts. He spent five years in prison at Leavenworth.

Wooly worms on the concrete

Today, these abutments on a narrow gravel road are a curious testament to John Walsh. His failed accomplishment makes a wonderful home for wooly worms. Dozens of them were crawling all over the shady south abutment.


I also found remnants of a bridge
near Bedford. See photos here.