|Reporting mark||CIL, MON|
|Locale||Illinois, Indiana, and Kentucky|
|Dates of operation||1847–1971|
|Successor||Louisville and Nashville|
The Monon Railroad (reporting mark MON), also known as the Chicago, Indianapolis, and Louisville Railway (reporting mark CIL) from 1897 to 1956, 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. 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.)
The Monon served six 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.
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. 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" . This design was fail-safe, in that when the signal bulb was burned out, an approaching vehicle driver would assume a train was coming -- until he 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.
Monon to Indianapolis. 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.
Michigan City to Monon: 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.
Lafayette to Bloomington: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.
Bloomington to New Albany
Wallace Jct. to Midland (coal fields): With the exception of a short stretch from Midland Junction to Vicksburg, this section has been completely abandoned and the tracks have been removed.
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.
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, with part of the line wired for trolley service.
Between Bedford and Mitchell, CSX owns the line but does not operate any of its own trains. Until 2010, the only service came from trains of the Indiana Rail Road, which in 2006 purchased the former Latta Subdivision of the Canadian Pacific Railway, which 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 May 2010, 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 does operate trains between Louisville and St. Louis, Missouri over the Louisville-Mitchell segment; these trains have 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 2010, 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.
The Monon's original semaphore signals are still in operation between Salem and Mitchell. These are some of the last semaphore signals remaining in mainline operation in the United States. From Crawfordsville to near Lafayette, some semaphore signals were removed in 2009, however several are still in service, including two sets in Crawfordville, with their replacement signals adjacent for the day CSX makes the conversion (as of November 10, 2010).
Amtrak's combined Cardinal and Hoosier State trains traverse the former Monon from Crawfordsville to the Indiana state line near Chicago, with one train in each direction daily. 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.
All of the Monon's street running segments remain, except for the relocated Lafayette trackage. The last of the Monon's green-light grade crossing signals was apparently removed from service at a crossing a few miles north of New Albany in 2004, though this cannot be confirmed as the last such installation -- many of those signals were installed on lightly traveled roads, out of notice of all but the most dedicated railfans.
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.
Carmel, just north of Indianapolis, hosts the Monon Depot Museum.
16. Rhymed Americana by William O. Thomson, 1967. Poem "The Monon Route."