Indiana's First Railroad: The Madison & Indianapolis Railroad

The Madison and Indianapolis Railroad was the first chartered railroad in the state of Indiana, incorporated by the State in 1836 and operational in 1841 between Madison and Queensville. The next year, it was put into private hands, and by 1847, the full extent of the line was complete, connecting its namesake cities.

Most of the line remains in existence, despite transferring hands many times. In 1866, it was reorganized as the Jeffersonville, Madison and Indianapolis Railroad, before later becoming part of the Pittsburgh Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, and then being passed down as companies would merge into to the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central, Conrail, CSX, and finally the short-line Madison Railroad.

Somewhat ironically, given how much of the State of Indiana is quite flat, the most interesting part of the line was known as the Madison Incline, and it is now out-of-service. (Right of way)

It covered a distance of 7,012 feet rising 412 feet in elevation to achieve a grade of 5.89 percent, making it the steepest incline of any standard gauge, line-haul railroad track in the country. (Sorry, fans of the Saluda Grade) The Incline was last used in 1992. The incline is now part of the Madison Heritage Trail.

The Madison Incline. Image: Jefferson County Historical Society Research Library

Despite being out of service, a YouTube video of the line from the perspective of a hi-rail vehicle in 2015, shown below: 

Although the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad is no longer in operation, its impact on the region's transportation history is still remembered and studied. The Madison Incline remains an interesting and important part of Indiana's transportation history, and it serves as a reminder of the ingenuity and determination of the railway builders of the 19th century.

Thanks as always for reading!


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