Then and Now on the B&O St. Louis Line

mitchell2-2

Michell-May 17, 2014-2

Here is a little then and now at Mitchell, Ind. This small town in southern Indiana was the crossing of the Baltimore & Ohio’s line between Cincinnati and St. Louis with the Monon’s line between Chicago and Louisville, Ky. The B&O controlled the interlocking from its passenger depot east of the crossing. The Monon had its own passenger station.

The top photograph was made in July 1992. By now, both the Monon and B&O routes were controlled by CSX, which still had an operator in the depot to operate the interlocking.

Both photographs are looking eastward from the grade crossing just west of the diamond. The local is on the siding heading eastward. It might be getting ready to work the small yard to the east of the station. Note the color position light signal mounted on a cantilever.

If you look past the depot, you’ll see another CPL for eastward movements. At the time, there was a sign by that signal indicating that it was the start of the Medora block. Those CPLs were once ubiquitous on B&O mainlines.

Although not obvious, major changes are coming to the ex-Monon. The last through trains between Chicago and Louisville over this route, R590 and R591, made their last trips through here in late May of 1992, although they continued to operate on the north end.

In less than a year, CSX will abandon the ex-Monon between Bloomington and Bedford, thus severing the line as a through route. Local service was still being maintained to Bedford when the 1992 photograph was made. CSX also had the option of operating trains north out of Louisville across the Mitchell diamonds and then backing onto the ex-B&O to go west to St. Louis. They would indeed do this for a while.

The bottom photo was made last May. The ex-Monon tracks are still in place, yet haven’t been used since 2009 when CSX ceased providing local service on what is called the Hoosier Subdivision except right around New Albany, Ind. That same year the Indiana Rail Road stopped operating trains over the ex-Monon to Louisville. Therefore, the ex-Monon tracks in Mitchell collect rust as they await disposition.

All of the B&O CPL signals are gone, replaced by what appear to be older signal heads placed on modern masts. The CPLs that once stood east of the depot have been removed.

Yet, there is much that has not changed about this scene. The ex-B&O is still double track through town and the old B&O depot is still in place. The siding on the ex-B&O looks rather rusty, suggesting it sees little use. The connection between the ex-Monon and ex-B&O is still in place.

I’m not sure what the traffic count is on the ex-B&O but bits and pieces I’ve seen on railfan chat lists leads me to believe that few trains use this route at this location. I wonder if any Cincinnati-St. Louis trains pass through here. I believe that much of that traffic takes the former Conrail route via Indianapolis to the north.

Whatever the case, the future of both of these rail lines seems murky as best.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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