Old US 50 in Illinois

Abandoned US 50 in Illinois
Kodak EasyShare Z730 Zoom
2009

A long section of US 50 stands abandoned to the current US 50 alignment in central Illinois. The state planned at one time to build a four-lane US 50 here, but the plans were scuttled after the new lanes were built. So they just routed the whole road along the new lanes and left the old ones behind.

Photography, Road trips

Photo: Abandoned US 50 in Illinois

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History, Road trips

Goodbye wooden bridge

This bridge no longer exists.

Wooden bridge

Longtime readers might remember that I explored all of the old alignments of US 50 across Indiana in 2010. This wooden bridge, built in about 1920, was on an original alignment of that highway in Jennings County, just west of North Vernon, until it was demolished this month. These photos are from my 2010 trip; read about my encounter with this bridge here.

Wooden bridge

This bridge carried what is now Base Road over CSX railroad tracks. I gather that the old bridge was actually owned by the railroad, and when it needed repairs CSX was slow to get to them, leaving it closed for long periods and making nearby residents go far out of their way to reach their homes. Commissioners in Jennings County weren’t sad to see it go. A new concrete bridge was built about a quarter mile to the east.

This demolition is part of a larger project to build a US 50 bypass around North Vernon. This bridge was near the bypass’s western end.

This bridge was a good example of the kinds of bridges railroad companies built at that time – and one of just a handful left in Indiana.

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See photos of North Vernon, including
a now-endangered US 50 shield, here.

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Preservation, Road trips

Revisiting the covered bridge at Medora

Medora Covered BridgeI hadn’t hit the road since my family’s Route 66 trip in April, leading to considerable pent-up wanderlust. We finished a tough project at work recently, one that wrung me out, so I took a day off to wring out my stress on some twisty road somewhere. I was in the mood for visiting some places I’d been before, to visit some old friends.

One of those friends was the Medora covered bridge, which is on the original alignment of US 50 in Jackson County. Here’s what she looked like the last time I visited, in 2010, while she was undergoing a restoration.

Medora Covered Bridge

That’s why I wanted to see her again: she’d been finished for quite some time.

Medora Covered Bridge

I was happy to find that the restoration hadn’t removed the graffiti on the trusses. Leon’s declaration of love for Lorene lives to see another day.

Medora Covered Bridge

With three spans, at 431 feet, 10 inches, this is the longest covered bridge in the United States. It is great to see it returned to glorious condition.

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One of my favorite places on Earth is the
covered bridge at Bridgeton. See it here.

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Road trips

Revisiting Bedford

I’ve been driving Indiana’s old roads for so many years now that road trips regularly take me through places I’ve been before, where one old road meets another. Two years ago I explored US 50 across Indiana – and what an old-alignment-rich trip it was. When US 50 reaches Bedford, it runs briefly with the old Dixie Highway, the subject of my exploration this year. The two old roads merge for a short while before diverging again, and they leave behind quite a puzzling trail of inconclusive old-alignment evidence. I wrote about it in detail then (read about it here), but cutting to the chase, the red line on this map shows where I think these roads used to go.

Imagery ©2012 DigitalGlobe, GeoEye, IndianaMap Framework Data, USDA Farm Service Agency, Map data ©2012 Google.

That the old-road evidence along the red path is so faded suggests that the road was realigned here probably more than 100 years ago. The imagery available on Google Maps shows a faint two-track path through the field south of modern US 50. Two utility poles stand along it, which is a very good clue. But the best clue is two piers standing in the White River that used to hold up a bridge. You can see the piers from a boat ramp immediately south of modern US 50/State Road 37.

Piers

When I was here two years ago, I got an even closer shot of one of the piers.

Old bridge pier

Given how narrow these piers are, I’ll bet that the bridge they carried was narrow, too. Could it have been a wooden covered bridge? That’d be my guess. But I’ve researched it as far as Google will take me, and that well is dry.

I’ve found evidence of bridges gone by on
the National Road and the Michigan Road, too.

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Road trips

Secrets of Indiana’s US 50 – revealed!

Longtime readers know that I spent my spare Saturdays last summer exploring US 50 across Indiana. Reports from the road filled this blog for weeks. But I didn’t share everything with you.

I didn’t show you all the vintage signs attached to a building near Lawrenceburg.

Sign Collage

I didn’t tell you about the brief abandoned alignment I found west of Dillsboro.

Abandoned US 50

I didn’t mention the welcoming committee that met me in Aurora.

Aurora, Indiana

I overlooked that US 50 crosses both alignments of the historic Michigan Road.

US 50 at the Michigan Road

I could have showed way more about the towns I visited, such as this shot from Vincennes.

Vincennes Main Street

I sort of forgot to bring up the tank on the courthouse lawn in Brownstown.

Tankity tank tank

And I kept to myself the big rock formation on old US 50 south of Shoals.

Rock formation on Spout Springs Road

I can keep these and many other overlooked gems along Indiana’s US 50 secret no longer! I have written them all up, with my usual obsessive-compulsive thoroughness, on my roads pages at jimgrey.net.

Click here to read US 50 in Indiana

I’ve also covered US 40 and the National Road in western Indiana in detail. Check it out.

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Road trips

A quiet drive down Old Old US 50

US 50’s first path between Washington and Vincennes in southwestern Indiana is cleverly disguised today as a series of country roads. They’re so cleverly disguised that when you drive them today, you think, “This used to be a major US highway?”

Old Wheatland Road

Yep. And when it was the highway, it was a gravel road. Check out this excerpt from a 1927 Indiana State Highway Commission road map. (I got it from Indiana University Libraries, which has an online cache of official Indiana highway maps covering many years from 1917 to 1932.)

I had to make a couple guesses when I traced this path on a modern map, but the overall shape is right.

And so when I had completed Old US 50 west to Vincennes, I turned back and followed Old Old US 50 east to Washington. It began on Old Wheatland Road in Vincennes. Very quickly I found myself out in the country.

Old Wheatland Road

A mile or two of State Road 550 was built over Old Wheatland Road just west of Wheatland, past which Old Old US 50 continues on its way through the country, soon crossing the White River. I hoped to find a grand old bridge back here, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Washington Road Bridge

This three-span Pratt through truss bridge was built in 1909 and rehabilitated, including replacing its original wooden deck with a steel deck, in 2006. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Washington Road Bridge

It was very peaceful here. I spent a lot of time on this bridge and never encountered another car. Several houses stand (on stilts) next to this bridge and I felt a little jealous of the families who live in them, as they get to enjoy both that peace and this bridge every day. Really, this whole drive was peaceful and quiet. It was a warm, still day, so I had been driving with all my windows down. Country scents of crops and livestock wafted in and out of my car, and drivers of the few trucks I encountered all waved as we passed. I kept enjoying these things as I pushed on from here to Washington, where my summertime exploration of US 50 came to an end.

Last summer I explored US 40 across Indiana. Check out where that trip ended.

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