The Railroads

A History


I’m going to start this section with an excellent history of the Railroads that served Knightstown written by local citizen Maurice Lewman. Mr. Lewman wrote this especially for this site and I very much appreciate it. After his fine article, I’m going to add a few snippets I’ve been able to dig up here and there.

The Railroads
by Maurice Lewman


Knightstown has been blessed with good transportation over the years and even in this modern day, 2010, highways in and around the town are good. Although never an industrial town the potential has always been there. The railroads have always played a part in Knightstown’s history and that is what we are going to discuss.

The first railroad was the Knightstown-Shelbyville. It started operations in 1850 and by 1854 was in receivership and out of operation. Part or most of its problem was the lack of money to operate. It was also the first railroad in Indiana to go bankrupt.

In 1853 the Indiana Central, later the PRR came through Knightstown on its way from Indianapolis to Richmond, giving the towns along its route access to the markets east, west north, and south. It was originally at ground level and Star Blvd. in Raysville was part of the road bed. In 1909 the track was elevated over the street crossings in Knightstown and Raysville. Operation stopped in late 1980-81.

The Big 4, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis was a late starter, not coming to Knightstown until 1890-91.
The track from Anderson to Rushville a distance of 38 miles was started by the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan who arrived in Anderson in 1876. From Rushville to North Vernon was the Vernon, Greensburg and Rushville started in 1881.

The Big 4 who was getting their act together in the late 1880s-1890 was to play a part in this railroad also.
The 38 miles did not have any industry except at Carthage and that did not start until the railroad came. The paper mill was a user of the railroad until in the 1970s.
In the meantime where this railroad crossed another railroad, Peoria & Eastern, a town was started by the name of Shirley. At this time natural gas was discovered and this town became an industrial center of sorts. At the height it was shipping out 1000 cars a month.
Knightstown had the wire factory, canning factory, stock pens, poultry house and the railroad freight house for local freight. There was also a water tank to water the locomotives at K-town. There was a coal yard north of the poultry house.
The C, W&M started buying land in 1890 and the 38 miles was in operation by 1891. In 1892 the Big 4 had leased the CW&M and in 1913 the New York Central in turn had leased the Big 4.
Until 1930 there was 2 passenger trains each way through Knightstown and 5 freight trains each way. They had a local that had a coach or you rode in the caboose if the coach was not available. Every town from Anderson to Greensburg was a flag stop which means you could flag the train and it would stop. You bought a ticket to where you were going, from Shirley to K-town, etc,.
As was the case with most railroads in the 1970s business went down and soon the trains stopped running. The Big 4 lasted until about 1976 . Short lines made it last another 4 years and then freight trains stopped. today there is 5 mile of track left from Knightstown to Carthage.
A tourist line, the Carthage, Knightstown & Shirley , operates during the summer months. This is the only railroad that is still operating in Knightstown or in a radius of 15 miles.
Maurice Lewman
Thanks much Maurice,,!! Ed..


Here are a few additional notes I’ve been able to put together from things I’ve mostly found on the internet.

The Knightstown and Shelbyville Railroad

The Knightstown to Shelbyville (K&S) Railroad was one of the earliest Railroads in the midwest. The Madison to Indianapolis was actually the first Railroad in Indiana and the K&S was built to connect into the little system being built in relationship with that line. Another little adjunct line called “The Shelbyville Lateral” ran from Shelbyville to Rushville. I found a little info about the K&S RR in a book called “Ghost Railroads of Indiana” I’ll copy it here:
The incorporation of the Shelbyville Lateral Branch Railroad in 1843, fired the ambitions of the settlers along the banks of Big Blue River in such hamlets as Wolf’s Mill, Gellertsburg, Freeport. Hanover. and Marion. And at Morristown, where all its merchandise had to come by wagons moving over trails from Whitewater Canal ports or Cincinnati, the idea of railroad engendered a high degree of enthusiasm.



Early Railroad Map

Here’s a map showing the early Railroads in the Midwest.
There weren’t many in operation in 1850.


K&S Timetable

This is a timetable for the K&S from 1852.


Accordingly, on January 19, 1846 the Knightstown & Shelbyville Railroad was incorporated. An amendment to the incorporation act permitted the K&S to receive subscriptions of stock in money, land, labor, and materials. As the land was heavily wooded, no doubt a liberal amount of labor to clear the right-of-way was as valuable as cash. By 1849 a portion of the K & S was in use. Hanover was reached early in July, 1850. Then on October 26th, of the same year the road was opened for it’s entire 26 miles. Immediately a tidal wave of prosperity engulfed the previously isolated communities along the line.

As in the case of the Shelbyville Lateral, the Madison, Indianapolis Railroad profited more by the K&S than did the owners of the little line. The M&I furnished much of the rolling stock including a locomotive. But the road was heavily mortgaged to Michael G. Bright of Madison and finally, in default of payment, Bright stripped the road of its rail, and also of its few pieces of rolling stock. No formal action seems to have marked the end of operation of the K & S but probably by the end of 1854, and certainly by early 1855, trains ceased to run, making the Knightstown & Shelbyville the shortest lived railroad in Indiana history. In 1858, an effort was made to rebuild the K&S but it failed.


Early Steam Engine

The engines used on the K&S line were very likely similar to this.


Unfortunately, the story of the K&S was not a happy one for residents along the line. Henry B. Hill of Cartilage, the road’s first president, lost a large sum of money in trying to make the venture a success. Many people from Carthage and other points lost their lifetime savings in the enterprise.

I’ve been thinking about how very difficult it must have been to create a Railroad in the wilderness of eastern Indiana in the early/mid 1800s. The right of way had to be cleared completely with the labors of man and horse. Then the road bed had to be strengthened, leveled and smoothed by pick and shovel alone. There weren’t any back-hoes or dozers around in those days.
Just getting the materials to lay the rails to the site must have been a herculean task. The rails and cross ties were pretty heavy and there weren’t any roads to speak of back then. You have to admire the folks who undertook such projects in the face of the great challenges.


K&S Stock Certificate

A K&S Railroad Stock Certificate.
$1900.00 was a lot of money in those days.


I came across an interesting little article about the K&S Railroad some time ago but, alas, now that I’ve finally gotten around to publishing this little bit of transportation history, I can’t find it again. It was about some of the trials they had operating the little line. One story related how the rails were made of flat iron bars instead of the “T rails” we know today. They were much easier and cheaper to make in the basic foundries of the day. However, they had a major drawback in that they had a tendency to warp after a time and the weight of the trains on them. Seems on several occasions a rail would tear loose and one end would spring up and impale the car passing over it. This could cause one a problem if he or she happened to be riding in the car.


The Panhandle (Pennsylvania) Rail Road


Anyone my age or younger, and that’s most folks, wouldn’t recognize the name “Panhandle Railroad” but that is what the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) at Knightstown was called until about 1940. The name derived from the fact that the main trunk ran through the “Panhandle” of Virginia, (now West Virginia).

1858 Map

An 1858 Railroad Map of Indiana.
Both the K&S and the Panhandle (PRR) routes through K-town can be seen.


It was the second railroad to come to Knightstown and it began service at about the time the K&S ceased operations. The following is from a history of the PRR that I found on the net:

The Terre Haute and Richmond Rail Road was chartered in 1847 to build across Indiana via Indianapolis. On May 25, 1850, stockholders east of Indianapolis organized the Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad (East of Indianapolis). On January 20, 1851 that section, from Indianapolis east to the Ohio state line, was renamed the Indiana Central Railway. On January 31 an Ohio law authorized the Dayton and Western Railroad to unite with the Indiana Central and unite jointly. The line from Indianapolis east to Greenfield opened in September 1853, and on October 8 it was completed to the state line, where it connected with the Dayton and Western. Joint operation of both lines between Indianapolis and Dayton, Ohio began August 1, 1854. In 1859 the rail gauge was changed from standard gauge to the broader Ohio gauge (4 ft 10 in) to allow for direct connections with the Little Miami Railroad and Columbus and Xenia Railroad at Dayton.

So in the fall of 1853 Knightstown had another railroad. This one had access to both the state capitol and western frontier as well as all the major cities in the east. This one would also be around for at least a hundred years.


A significant event in the Panhandle’s history in Knightstown was the passing of the Lincoln Funeral Train. It came through Knightstown between 4 and 5 o:clock in the morning of Sunday April 30th, 1865. I can imagine that most of the town’s citizens and many from surrounding communities stood in their finery all through the night in the cold heavy rain waiting for the train and their chance to pay their last respects to their beloved fallen President. I found a little blurb about the progress of the train through eastern Indiana on the net. I’ll copy it here:

Sunday, April 30
In Indiana the train went through Richmond (while the church bells rang tumultuously), Centreville, Germantown, Cambridge, Knightstown, Charlotteville, and others. It arrived in Indianapolis at 7:00 A.M. The coffin was carried to the Indiana State House in a hearse topped by a silver-gilt eagle. Although rain had been almost an everyday occurrence on the journey, it was so heavy in Indianapolis that the giant procession was canceled and the entire day devoted to viewing. Because of the rain, Governor Oliver P. Morton failed to give his oration. Streetcars in Indianapolis bore slogans of mourning: Car #10 said, “Sorrow for the Dead; Justice for the Living; Punishment for Traitors.” Car #13 said, “Fear Not, Abraham; I Am Thy Shield; Thy Reward Shall Be Exceedingly Great.” Car #20 said, “Thou Art Gone and Friend and Foe Alike Appreciate Thee Now.” Late in the evening the Lincoln Special departed Indianapolis destined for Chicago, a journey of 210 miles.


Lincoln Funeral Train

This is the Locomotive which pulled the Funeral Train.



Here’s another account of the train’s progress through Knightstown and vicinity which I found on a web site called “The Making of America”:

The depots at Lewisville, Coffin’s Station, Ogden’s and Raysville, were all appropriately dressed. At Lewisville each person on the train was given a circular, containing the sentiments of the people, as follows: “We mingle our tears with yours. Lincoln-the Savior of his Country-the Emancipator of a Race, and the Friend of all Mankind-Triumps over Death, and mounts Victoriously upward with his old familiar tread.”
Knightstown had erected funeral arches at each end of the depot, and festooned the building with the badges of sorrow. A choir chanted a solemn and beautiful hymn as the train moved leisurely between the files of mourning citizens.
Charlotteville had not forgotten that the honored dead was the friend of the oppressed, and chief among the procession at the depot was a large body of colored people. Through the stations of Greenfield and Cumberland the funeral train passed the same scenes as at other stations.
The reporter for the Indiana State Journal wrote: ” Indiana is plunged into the depth of grief. Not by the magnificent demonstrations of her cities and towns is this shown, but all along the line the farm-houses were decorated, and their inmates had gathered in clusters, and by a light of bonfires caught a glimpse of the train that was bearing from their sight the remains of a man who had molded their opinions to the fashion of his own giant mind, and who in the first glimmerings of the twilight of Peace, had been snatched from the scene of his labors and his triumph to the reward of those who sink to rest, by all their country’s wishes blest.



During the first 60 years or so of the Panhandle’s operation here, the tracks through K-town were on a level grade. I’m not sure exactly when the tracks were elevated through town but I’m trying to find out. Seems to me that it took a heck of a lot of labor to elevate the tracks. Consider how much dirt they had to haul in to build up the road bed for the elevated tracks. The Railroads not only provided efficient transportation for goods and people but they also provided bunches of really good paying jobs. That’s all gone now… Too bad…!!!


PRR Station

This is the Panhandle RR Station and tracks before they elevated the tracks.
This was probably taken around 1910.


PRR Station

This is the same station after they elevated the tracks.
Looks like they moved the station about 75 feet south and removed part of it; or maybe it’s a completely different building, I don’t know…..!!


The Panhandle (Pennsylvania) Railroad continued to operate passenger service at Knightstown until the mid 40s. I’m not sure exactly when they ceased to pick up people here. They continued freight service to Knightstown until sometime in the 1960s when they abandoned the tracks altogether.


PRR Postcard

A postcard featuring a Pennsy Passenger Train at Knightstown.
This is probably from the late 20s or early 30s.



The “Big 4″
The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway


Big 4 system

A Map Showing the Big 4 System in 1895.


I can’t seem to find the date when the road bed was dug and strenghtened and the ties and rails were lain from Anderson to Knightstown and beyond, even to the nearest decade… I have been able to find a Railroad map of Indiana which shows the Big 4 through town in 1895. That’s the best info I’ve been able to find so far. The “Big 4″ system was cobbled together from a zillion little Railroad lines throughout the eastern half of the US. It was later sold again to the New York Central and our tracks became part of the Michigan Division of that mammoth system.
Big 4 system

Here’s a bigger view of the map with the eastern part of Indiana.



Big 4 station

The “Big 4″ Station at Knightstown in 1908.


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