Indiana railroads have a rich history dating back to the 1830s and historically has not only been home to the important city of Indianapolis but also a key through route to other important connections like St. Louis (the third busiest gateway behind Chicago and Kansas City) and Chicago. Because the state was right next door to Illinois and near Chicago all of the major eastern trunk lines operated through it such as the B&O, PRR, New York Central, Erie, etc. Today, Indiana is home to four of the seven Class I railroads and has numerous shortlines, museums and tourist railroads operating within its borders. Of note, for your interest there are a number of pages (from this website) listed here covering railroad subjects related to the state of Indiana such as museums, historic interurbans, stations/depots, etc.
Indiana railroads date back to 1838 when the Madison, Indianapolis & Lafayette Railroad opened its original 15-mile main line from North Madison, Indiana. The railroad later became part of the Jeffersonville, Madison & Indianapolis Railroad in 1866. The JM&I, itself, would become part of the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis, a Pennsylvania Railroad subsidiary. In any event, much like Illinois, Indiana had virtually no railroads prior to 1840 but this quickly changed by 1880 when the state boasted over 4,000 miles of trackage. As with Illinois, Indiana was one of the few states that had both east-west main lines accessing Chicago and Indianapolis as well as north-south key routes (Louisville & Nashville Railroad and Illinois Central).
In the coming years Indiana railroads would include several historic lines and all major eastern trunk lines. All of these systems are listed below and to learn more about them simply click on the appropriate link:
Today, most of Indiana's rails are operated by four Class I railroads; CSX, Norfolk Southern, Canadian National Railway, and Canadian Pacific Railway. The rest is operated by shortlines and regionals some of which include the Indiana Rail Road; Indiana & Ohio; Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad; Elkhart & Western Railroad; Evansville Western Railway; Indiana Northeastern Railroad; Indiana Southern Railroad; Lake Michigan and Indiana Railroad; Louisville & Indiana Railroad; Louisville New Albany & Corydon Railroad, and the Respondek Railroad. To learn more about all currently operating Indiana railroads please click here. This page will take you to employment information for those looking for work in Indiana. However, it also lists contact information for all of these companies.
For a more in-depth look at Indiana's rail mileage throughout the years please refer to the chart below. As the chart depicts, the state was once home to nearly 7,500 miles of trackage. However, today that number has been cut down to just over 4,100 miles. With a decline of 45% since the 1920s this is about average considering most other state's have suffered similar loses.
The Hoosier State's passenger trains are operated by Amtrak and include its tri-weekly Cardinal between Chicago and Washington, D.C. However, during the "Golden Years" several famous Eastern passenger trains passed through the state with important stops at Indianapolis. Some of these trains include the Baltimore & Ohio's Capitol Limited and National Limited, PRR's Broadway Limited, C&O's George Washington, and New York Central's 20th Century Limited. To learn more about these streamliners, and others, please click here. Aside from Amtrak's Cardinal, the historic interurban, the South Shore Line still serves Hammond and South Bend (which also connects with Chicago). Even today, you can catch South Shore trains operating on street trackage, like in Michigan City!
Indiana railroads also include a number of railroad museums and tourist lines such as the Indiana Railway Museum, Indiana Transportation Museum, Carthage, Knightstown & Shirley Railroad, Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society (home to operating Nickel Plate Road
Berkshire #765), Hesston Steam Museum, Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum,
Jefferson County Historical Society Museum and Railroad Depot, Linden
Railroad Museum, National New York Central Railroad
Museum, Wabash Valley Railroaders Museum, Whitewater Valley Railroad.
In all, Indiana offers a wide variety of railroading from street running and interurbans to main line freight trains and Amtrak's Cardinal. Even if you are a vacationer looking for something interesting to do the state offers a wide variety of railroad museums to choose from and visit. In the end, you certainly should not be disappointed if you are heading to Indiana looking to catch railroads in action!
For more reading on railroad history you might want to consider picking up one of the following books. First is Trains across the Continent, Second Edition: North American Railroad History by author Rudolph Daniels. The book gives a general history of the industry and has received excellent reviews. The second book is entitled The Complete Book of North American Railroading put together by several noted railroad authors such as Mike Schafer, Jim Boyd, and Steve Glischinski (the others are Kevin EuDaly, Steve Jessup, and Andrew McBride). Filled with more than 350 pages of excellent photography and information the book generally covers the industry from its earliest beginnings, through the "Golden Age," and finally to today. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing one, or both, of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.