Monon Railroad

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Monon Railroad
A postcard depiction of the Thoroughbred, with an EMD F3 in the lead.
HeadquartersChicago, Illinois
Reporting markCIL, MON
LocaleIllinois, Indiana, and Kentucky
Dates of operation1847 (1847)–1971 (1971)
SuccessorLouisville and Nashville
Track gauge4 ft 8+12 in (1,435 mm)

The Monon Railroad (reporting mark MON), also known as the Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville Railway (reporting mark CIL) from 1897 to 1971, was an American railroad that operated almost entirely within the state of Indiana. The Monon was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971, and much of the former Monon right of way is owned today by CSX Transportation.[1] In 1970, it operated 540 miles (870 km) of road on 792 miles (1,275 km) of track; that year it reported 1320 million ton-miles of revenue freight and zero passenger-miles. (It also showed zero miles of double track, the longest such Class I railroad in the country.)


Railroad artifacts on display at the Monon Connection Museum

Colleges served[edit]

Restored Reading Railroad caboose painted as a Monon, in Monon, Indiana

The Monon served seven colleges and universities along its line:

The university traffic was important enough to the Monon that the railroad used the schools' colors on its rolling stock. The red and white of Wabash College (and similar to the colors of Indiana University) was used on the railroad's passenger equipment, and the black and gold used by both DePauw University and Purdue University adorned the railroad's diesel freight locomotives and later replaced the red and white on passenger equipment as well.


  • Monon Railroad[5]
    • Chicago and South Atlantic Railroad 1879
    • Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville Railroad 1956
      • Chicago and Wabash Valley Railroad 1914
      • Indianapolis and Louisville Railroad 1916
      • Louisville, New Albany and Chicago Railroad 1898
        • Bedford and Bloomfield Railroad 1886
        • Chicago and Indianapolis Air Line Railway 1883
        • Indianapolis, Delphi and Chicago Railroad 1881
        • New Albany and Salem Railroad 1873
          • Crawfordsville and Wabash Railroad 1852
        • Orleans, Paoli and Jasper Railway 1886

Monon route[edit]

Route map, 1903
The Monon's Hoosier departing Chicago.
A CSX freight train with run-through BNSF power waits for yard clearance in Monon, Indiana.

The railroad got the name Monon from the convergence of its main routes in Monon, Indiana. From Monon, the mainlines reached out to Chicago, Louisville, Indianapolis, and Michigan City, Indiana.[1] In Chicago the Monon's passenger trains served Dearborn Station. Branches connected the Louisville mainline to Victoria and French Lick in Indiana.

The Monon's main line ran down the middle of streets in several cities, notably Lafayette, New Albany, and Bedford. It also installed an unusual "home grown" warning signal at many grade crossings; these used a green signal light (similar to and adapted from a standard highway traffic signal) that stayed lit at all times, except when a train was approaching. A sign below or to the side of the signal read, "STOP When Signal Is Out" or "DANGER when light is out cross at your own risk".[6] This design was fail-safe, in that when the signal bulb was burned out, approaching vehicle drivers would assume a train was coming — until they eventually realized there was no train and just a burned-out signal.

The Monon had seven sections. Beginning in the north, Section One was from the Indiana line to Lafayette, passing through the Monon switch in Monon. As a primary passenger route, it connected to Section Four running between Lafayette and Bloomington. This route reached the Ohio River over Section Five from Bloomington to New Albany. From this southern route, Sections Six and Seven were spurs to the west. Section Six served the coal fields between Midland and Clay City, connecting to the main line at Wallace Junction, just south of Cloverdale. Section Seven provided passenger service to the resort hotels in West Baden and French Lick, through a connection at Orleans.

The other primary line, mainly a freight line, included Section Two from Michigan City on Lake Michigan to Monon and then Section three from Monon to Indianapolis. Although each route had its primary traffic type, freight and passengers were carried over all parts of the line.

Section #1[edit]

Chicago to Lafayette:[7] The Chicago to Lafayette route is used by Amtrak for the Cardinal and was used by the Hoosier State before that train was discontinued.[8]

Monon Crossing in Battle Ground, Indiana

Section #2[edit]

Abandoned Monon Trestle over Wildcat Creek

Monon to Indianapolis.[7] Section #2 was a freight route between Monon and Indianapolis. The section of the line between Monon and Monticello is still in service. The rest has been completely abandoned and the rails removed. Much of the right-of-way has been returned to neighboring landowners. Where farm fields surround it, evidence of the route has nearly been obliterated as the land has been returned to farming. From 10th Street in Indianapolis, through Carmel and up to State Road 47 in Sheridan, the Monon Trail is now a bike and walking route following the right-of-way.[10]

Section #3[edit]

Michigan City to Monon:[7] This line runs parallel to U.S. 421 as far as Brookston. The Indiana Rail to Trails group is developing a bike route from Michigan City to La Crosse, using the Monon right-of-way, where it still exists. A section south of Michigan City by I-94 has been consumed by a landfill and the bridge over the I-94 and I-80/I-90 have been removed.

Section #4[edit]

Lafayette to Bloomington:[7] From Lafayette southward, the Monon follows along U.S. 231 to Crawfordsville. At Crawfordsville, the right-of-way moves eastward of the highway several miles, but continues south to Cloverdale, returning closer to U.S. 231 at Greencastle. Amtrak uses this route south to Crawfordsville and then the old New York Central/Conrail tracks into Indianapolis.

White River crossing of the Monon near Gosport and Stinesville.

Section #5[edit]

Washington County Courthouse, Salem, Indiana

Bloomington to New Albany[7]

Culbertson Mansion State Historic Site in New Albany, Indiana

Section #6[edit]

Wallace Jct. to Midland (coal fields):[7] With the exception of a short stretch from Midland Junction to Vicksburg, this section has been completely abandoned and the tracks have been removed.

Section #7[edit]

Monon Station in French Lick, Indiana

This section has been completely abandoned. Tracks remain only in French Lick and are used as an excursion route. French Lick to Cuzco. A portion of the original track in French Lick and West Baden (between the West Baden Hotel and the Indiana Railway Museum) has been altered and expanded for a trolley service serving various locations of the French Lick Resort and the museum.

Mid-20th century passenger trains[edit]

The line today[edit]

A restored Monon boxcar CIL 1620 at the Linden Railroad Museum in Linden, Indiana. The former Monon mainline is in the background.

The remains of the line are operated by CSX Transportation. Large segments have been abandoned in recent years: most of the line from Monon southeast to Indianapolis, the line north from Monon to Michigan City, and the line segment between Cloverdale and Bedford (this segment was abandoned due largely to a washout). A portion of the French Lick branch is now home to a railroad museum.

Between Bedford and Mitchell, CSX owned the line but did not operate any of its own trains. Until 2009, the only service came from trains of the Indiana Rail Road, which in 2006 purchased the former Latta Subdivision of the Canadian Pacific Railway that connected with the former Monon at Bedford. INRD operated over the old Monon from Bedford to Louisville through trackage rights negotiated by the Latta Sub's original owner, The Milwaukee Road, when the L&N took over the Monon. Those trackage rights went from the Milwaukee Road to its buyer, The Soo Line Railroad; a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 2009, INRD ended service and removed trackage from the former Monon junction in Bedford to the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division west of Bedford. Consequently, CSX placed the ex-Monon line from Bedford south to Mitchell out of service.

CSX operated trains between Louisville and St. Louis, Missouri, over the Louisville-Mitchell segment; these trains had to make an unusual reverse movement to go from the Monon to the former Baltimore and Ohio Railroad line to St. Louis, owing to an unfavorable track arrangement at the crossing of the lines in Mitchell. As of 2009, CSX has stopped making regular movements over the line, with trains being shifted to the nearby Louisville and Indiana Railroad via a trackage rights agreement.

Monon line crossing Hoagland Ditch in White County

Amtrak's Cardinal train traverses the former Monon thrice weekly from Crawfordsville to the Indiana state line near Chicago. Station stops along the former Monon include Lafayette, Rensselaer, and Dyer.

The line through Lafayette was relocated in 2000 to an alignment along the Wabash River, parallel to the similarly relocated Norfolk Southern Railway line. Previously, the Monon Line ran down the middle of Fifth Street, with a hotel serving as its passenger station well into the Amtrak era.

The Monon Line has been abandoned in Hammond and Munster north of the junction with the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, but the corridor is planned to be rebuilt as the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District West Lake Corridor. Initially running as far south as Munster/Dyer Main Street, long-term plans would see services extend as far as Lowell and Valparaiso, Indiana.[15]


The Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick operates trains south from French Lick to Cuzco, Indiana, out of the former Monon (Union) depot in French Lick, Indiana.[16]

The Monon Connection, which opened in 2005. is on U.S. 421 north of Monon.[17]

Located in a disused Monon railroad station, the Linden Railroad Museum is owned and operated by the Linden-Madison Township Historical Society. In 1852, the Michigan City, Salem and New Albany Railroad cut through Montgomery County. The old stage road between Crawfordsville and Linden was given to the railroad as an inducement to get it to build through Linden. 1852 also saw the building of the first Linden depot, on a site behind the present day post office. The building was moved to the current location in 1881 when the Toledo, St. Louis and Western Railroad was built through Linden, crossing the Monon at this location.[18]

The John Hay Center in Salem has the Depot Railroad Station Museum, honoring the Monon.[19] It has also been the home of the Monon Railroad Historical/Technical Society since summer 2012.[20][21]

The Kentucky Railway Museum in New Haven, Kentucky, displays Monon's Diesel Engine No. 32, an Electro-Motive Division (EMD) BL2 model, in its original black and gold paint scheme.

The French Lick West Baden Museum in French Lick acquired a major Monon Railroad Artifact collection in 2021 that is on display from November 2022 through mid-2023.[22]

See also[edit]

  • The Boilermaker Special, the official mascot of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. A brass bell and steam whistle were donated to Purdue University by the Monon Railroad in 1940 for installation on the original Boilermaker Special I. The brass bell is still in use on the current Boilermaker Special VII.


  1. ^ a b Historic Marker in Monon, erected by the Monon Historical Society, 1982
  2. ^ "One of the first". Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc. 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2015.
  3. ^ "Chicago Tribune - Historical Newspapers". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Site Highlight: B-Line Trail in Bloomington" (PDF). Indiana Brownfields Program.
  5. ^ Hallberg, Milton C. "Railroads in North America: Their Evolution and Family Structure". Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  6. ^ "PH MT&C -MONON Grade Crossing Signal". Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Monon, the Hoosier Line and connections; undated, predates, 1970s
  8. ^ Amtrak Route Guide, 2008
  9. ^ Rund, Christopher (2006), The Indiana Rail Road Company: America's New Regional Railroad, Indiana University Press, pp. 218–219, ISBN 9780253346926
  10. ^ Google Earth
  11. ^ "Monon High Bridge". Indiana Landmarks. Archived from the original on March 15, 2017. Retrieved March 15, 2017.
  12. ^ " Historic Bridges of the United States".
  13. ^ Indianapolis Map, AAA, 2006
  14. ^ a b Google Maps, Victoria, Indiana
  15. ^ "West Lake Corridor New Start Studies". Archived from the original on June 7, 2009. Retrieved March 26, 2010.
  16. ^ "Welcome to the French Lick Railway". French Lick Scenic Railway. Archived from the original on July 12, 2014.
  17. ^ "Monon Connection". Archived from the original on April 8, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Linden Depot Museum". Linden Depot Museum. Retrieved April 25, 2023.
  19. ^ "MONON Railroad Historical-Technical Society". Retrieved September 24, 2022.
  20. ^ "The Depot Railroad Museum -- Home Page". The Depot Railroad Museum. Archived from the original on December 25, 2018. Retrieved April 5, 2018.
  21. ^ "MONON Railroad Historical-Technical Society". Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  22. ^ ""Up and Down the Monon" Town Gallery". FL/WB Museum. September 16, 2022. Retrieved September 24, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dolzall, Gary W., and Dolzall, Stephen F. Monon: The Hoosier Line, Interurban Press (1987).
  • Hilton, George. Monon Route, Howell-North Books (1978).
  • Longest, David, "The Monon Railroad in Southern Indiana", 2008, Arcadia Publishing

External links[edit]