Big 4 Stone Arch Railroad Bridge, Crawfordsville, Indiana

Big 4 Stone Arch Railroad Bridge, Crawfordsville, Indiana

Extremely Rare Indiana Stone Arch Railroad Bridge Steel Bridge Built Underneath Foot Bridge On Side

This beautiful stone arch railroad bridge was built in 1901 but the line dates back to just after the Civil War in 1866 when the Danville, Urbana, Bloomington and Pekin Railroad Company in Illinois built a railroad to the Eastern Boundary of Illinois. This rail line merged with a line in Indiana to form the Indianapolis, Bloomington and Western Railway Company which opened to traffic October 1, 1869. In that year this railroad trestle was built over Dry Branch Creek on the west side of Crawfordsville, Indiana

The Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western Railway Company eventually became the Peoria and Eastern Railway in 1890. In February 1890 the rail line entered into an agreement with the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis railway, also known as “The Big Four” surrendering operation and control of the railroad to the Big Four.

In 1901 construction of this stone arch bridge began to replace the previously built wooden trestle and was completed in 1902.

According to the Indiana State Historic Architectural and Archaeological Research Database: The railroads did not construct a large number of stone-arch bridges in the state. Throughout the last quarter of the 19th century, railroad engineers preferred metal spans for most crossings, since metal was usually cheaper and quicker to erect than cut-stone structures. As the railroads accumulated capital through revenues and moved to double-tracking at the century’s end, their engineers looked more favorably upon arches and built a few stone ones. In the new century, however, concrete quickly supplanted masonry as the material of choice, especially on the railroads. Since few cut-stone arches were built on Indiana’s rail system, only a handful survive.

This single-span structure carried two tracks between stone walls. The arch ring is semicircular, and its large, quarried blocks are well dressed and mortared. The bridge has stepped wingwalls which join the spandrel walls at an angle.

The Crawfordsville Sunday Star from September 2, 1901 states that: The arch was completed at 5:30 pm on Friday August 30 with the last stone set. A metal box was inserted into the stone that included the names of the contractor, superintendent, engineer and inspector. Also included was a note that said:
No life was lost and no injuries sustained by anyone in the dangerous work. Not a train was delayed and yet work has been one of the great gravity. Bridge superintendent Markley, largely responsible for the work, should feel proud of the successfully completion of the great contract”

As shown in these pictures, a small foot bridge was built across the creek as well. Shortly after the arch bridge was completed a steel pony truss bridge was constructed under the arch as opposed to having to ford the stream on what was eventually known as “Big 4 Arch Road. The 78 foot long bridge has since been removed, probably around 1989.

It’s unusual to find a cut stone railroad bridge over a roadway here in Indiana and was even rarer to have a pony truss bridge under that arch. Does anyone out there know of another site in the state where a pony truss was built under a stone arch railroad bridge?

GPS Location: 40°02’04.4″N 86°54’58.2″W