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Carnegie exhibit features Montgomery County railroad history

Artifacts from local railroad history are displayed in an exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County. The exhibit runs through next spring.
Artifacts from local railroad history are displayed in an exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County. The exhibit runs through next spring.
Nick Hedrick/Journal Review
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With muddy roads and the unpredictable water levels of Sugar Creek making trading goods difficult in the early days of Montgomery County, Major Isaac C. Elston made a case for the railroad.

Elston, who made part of his fortune by investing in the revolutionary mode of transportation, argued that laying tracks would improve transportation and boost the economy.

The history of local railroads is featured in the latest exhibit at the Carnegie Museum of Montgomery County, 222 S. Washington St., Crawfordsville. The collection features a scale model of the Linden Depot, the last passenger ticket sold on the interurban out of Crawfordsville and historical maps of the rail lines that crossed through the county.e

The exhibit was researched by Owen Bennett, the museum’s summer intern who was tasked with making a presentation at the Linden Depot Museum’s Midwest Railroad Fair in August.

“And he ended up finding enough to put a whole exhibit together,” said Kathy Brown, the museum’s operations director.

Nearly two decades after Elston called for the county to have rail access, construction was finished in 1852 on the Crawfordsville & Wabash Railroad, connecting Crawfordsville to the Wabash River in Lafayette. The line eventually extended to Michigan City.

Following the Civil War, according to Bennett’s research, Crawfordsville had become an important crossroads for economic activity. Three railroad companies would come to dominate in the city: the Big Four, Monon and Vandalia.

The county was a whistle stop for presidents and their supporters, including Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman and Frederick Douglass, who was campaigning for Rutherford B. Hayes in the late-1800s.

The turn of the 20th century marked the arrival of the interurban, an electric railroad that shuttled passengers between cities. By the time the last interurban left Crawfordsville in 1930, the growing popularity of cars and buses had helped render the interurban obsolete.

Amtrak’s history in Montgomery County is also covered in the exhibit.

“Railroads of Montgomery County” will remain on display through spring. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment. Admission is free.

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