The CSX Hoosier Sub doesn’t extend much further than this station identification sign and pair of mileposts. The milepost at the far left is the original Monon milepost.
First of Three Articles
Drive around Bedford, Ind., a city of 13,000 in Southern Indiana and you’ll see a lot of railroad tracks. One of them even runs right down J Street on the west side of the town square that holds the Lawrence County Courthouse.
But you won’t hear any locomotive horns. Take a closer look at those tracks and you’ll see plenty of rust.
The last train to Bedford ran on May 9, 2010, but it was a special hosted by the Indiana Rail Road to make a last run over track it was about to abandon and rip up. It had been several months since the INRD or CSX had run a train to Bedford to haul freight.
Bedford is home to two dead railroads walking, the remains of the Monon and Milwaukee Road lines that passed through town.
There has been talk about a local government entity purchasing the ex-Monon between Bedford and Mitchell to preserve a rail link to CSX at the latter city. The Bedford industrial loop track served by both the Monon and Milwaukee remains in place.
But little, if any, tangible progress has been made toward that end. Weeds and trees grow through the ties as Bedford appears destined to join a growing list of cities where the railroad has left town.
In mid-May, I visited Bedford on a sunny Saturday morning to see what was left of its railroads. Actually, there is quite a bit to see.
At one time, Bedford was a thriving railroad community with tracks extending in every direction to serve the many limestone quarries located here.
Aside from the Monon and Milwaukee Road, Bedford had a branch of the Baltimore & Ohio that came off the Cincinnati-St. Louis line at Rivervale.
The limestone in the Oolitic limestone belt between Bedford and Bloomington is used for building construction. Many great structures, including the Empire State Building and Pentagon, were built with limestone quarried in this region. Many of the buildings on the campus of nearby Indiana University were built with this limestone.
But the limestone business isn’t want it used to be and the stone is now shipped by truck. As the limestone quarries closed, the tracks that served them were abandoned.
The decline of the former Monon route through Bedford, which linked Chicago and Louisville, can be traced to its July 31, 1971, merger with the Louisville & Nashville.
Yes, the L&N wanted the Monon’s access to Chicago but it especially coveted the Monon’s ownership share of the Chicago & Western Indiana and the Belt Railway of Chicago. Those would enable L&N to reap lower user fees in Chicago.
The L&N already had a route to Chicago having acquired the Chicago & Eastern Illinois line north of Evansville, Ind. That route was straighter and had fewer grades than the Monon and the L&N gradually moved the through Chicago-Louisville traffic away from the ex-Monon and onto the ex-C&EI route.
By the middle 1980s when I moved to Bloomington, Ind., to attend graduate school at IU, the former Monon was down to a pair of manifest freights that operated between Chicago and Louisville, some locals and, for a time, a pair of Chicago-Jacksonville, Fla., intermodal train. On occasion, the Milwaukee Road’s Louisville trains would detour through Bloomington and CSX would run the occasional extra.
The intermodal trains were moved to the ex-C&EI route via Terre Haute, Ind., and most of the locals ended aside from a switch job that worked industries in Bloomington, primarily a General Electric plant on the west side of town that made refrigerators.
That left R590 and R591 as the last through freights on the south end of the ex-Monon. CSX didn’t want to use the ex-Monon as a through route and those trains made their last runs on the south end through Bedford on May 31, 1992.
CSX abandoned 23 miles of the ex-Monon between Bedford and the south side of Bloomington on March 19, 1993, and rail removal began later that year.
After R590 and R91 stopped operating on the south end, CSX operations shrunk to periodic local service. Only the now Soo Line trains to and from Louisville regularly traveled the south end of the ex-Monon, which CSX in 1994 would rename the Hoosier Subdivision. The track was in poor condition with much of the line covered by 10 mph slow orders.
But in the latter half of 1993 traffic began rising on CSX and Howell Yard in Evansville on the ex-C&EI route began suffering congestion. To alleviate that, CSX began rerouting Louisville-East St. Louis, Ill., traffic on the ex-Monon to Mitchell and thence west on the ex-B&O St. Louis line. CSX rebuilt the line between Mitchell and New Albany.
CSX still ran a local to Bedford on occasion, but most of the action occurred from Mitchell southward. In time, CSX shifted its New Albany-Mitchell trains to another routing and the Hoosier Sub began to languish.
CSX still serves at least one customer in New Albany, but in early 2009 CSX won Surface Transportation Board approval to cease offering service on most of the Hoosier Sub. Whatever freight business that the ex-Monon route had was either gone or the shippers had ceased to ship by rail.
Today, the rails of the Hoosier Sub end abruptly just north of the switch to the connection to the former Milwaukee Road in Bedford.
The limestone Monon passenger station has been recycled for another use – literally. The station is the home of a recycling operation and on the Saturday morning that I was there a steady stream of area residents pulled up to drop off items they were discarding.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the building may still resemble a railroad station, but barely. Wooden siding has been placed over the some of the limestone façade and the facility has a “trashed” appearance. Perhaps that is to be expected at a recycling facility.
Vestiges of the platform remain in place, including a faded yellow line, although a scheduled passenger train hasn’t stopped in Bedford since Sept. 30, 1967, when the northbound Thoroughbred made its last trek from Louisville to Chicago’s Dearborn Station.
Amtrak’s Floridian used the former Monon between Chicago and Louisville between March 1975 and October 1979, but Amtrak never established a station stop in Bedford.
The rails are still in place on J Street, one of three places where the Monon had street running between Chicago and Louisville. The others were in Lafayette and New Albany.
The Hoosier Sub is still in place all the way to New Albany and the iconic semaphore signals used on the line still stand. But much of the Hoosier Sub is rusting rails. It is a wonder that CSX hasn’t pulled up the rails yet.
Next: The Former Milwaukee Road in Bedford.
The south end of the former Monon passenger station. The tracks used to be to the left of the building. The photograph was taken from the driveway leading to the structure.
The north end of the ex-Monon station.
The former Monon station in a view on the platform looking toward downtown Bedford.
The Hoosier Sub still runs down J Street in Bedford. A farmers market was in progress when this image was made.
The Hoosier Sub ends here. The track to the left is the former connecting track to the Milwaukee Road.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders