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Pioneer Days of the Madison & Indianapolis Railroad Company

John R. Cravens

John Brough was president of the Madison and Indianapolis railroad at a salary of $3,000 and I was vice-president at a salary of $1,500 per annum. Brough was an educated man and a splendid speaker, but not a railroad manager. When we leased the Muncie road in 1852, we arranged for an excursion to Muncie. A few days before the day set, Brough wanted to back out as he was afraid we would lose money and not get the cars back in time to load hogs for Madison the next days. The hog trade was our main traffic and as we had so few coaches, we were often forced to use the hog cars for passengers by making seats in them of clean lumber. I persuaded him to run the train and greatly to our surprise, we could not carry the people, turning away hundreds. We cleared over $1,000.

Our road was run in connection with a line of steamboats, the "David White," "Alvin Adams" and "Jacob Strader." We had our own wharf boat and sometimes received three and four hundred people per day from the boats. This would necessitate extra trains, which were often delayed awaiting the arrival of hog trains from the north in order to get cars to load the passengers in. I would have to act in the capacity of conductor in emergencies and had some strange experiences.

I was bringing a hog train from Indianapolis one day when the engineer wanted to get off at his home out on the road and he asked me to act as engineer, to which I readily assented and got along all right until I attempted to back the engine into the roundhouse at North Madison and went clear through the brick wall.

Our new engine and cars were shipped from the east as far as they could be by rail and we would send ox teams to meet them and haul them to our track. We afterward received them by lake and rail to Cincinnati, thence by boat to Madison. Brough was very independent and made the directors of his road believe they had the greatest monopoly of the age. We had leased the Belfountaine & Muncie roads and newly projected lines were anxious for us to take hold of their schemes and push them to completion. When the Ohio and Mississippi railroad was building they wanted to come via Madison and at a meeting of the directors of the two roads, Brough in his positive way declined to have anything to do with them, saying: "The Madison & Indianapolis cannot father all the paupers in the country." He made the same remark in 1853 when Chauncey Rose, of the Terre Haute road wanted to lease his line to the Madison & Indianapolis and Mr. Rose replied in a forcible manner: "By God, gentlemen, you don't have to and we will see who will be the paupers within two years," and he did. Brough ruined the Madison & Indianapolis trying to build a road to avoid the steep incline plane at Madison, called "Brough's Folly."

In 1853, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher was preaching in Madison and being anxious to visit our shops on the hill, I took him up in my carriage and suggested to him that we go down the incline in the "buggy," (a four-wheeled handcar with a seat on each end and lever brakes). We were going pretty fast and I asked him if I should check up. He replied in the negative, saying it was the first opportunity of his life to ride fast and I let her go until the reverend gentleman with a wave of his hand said "too fast." He spoke of it afterwards as the fastest travel of his life.

Years ago it was said that the reason such an incline was built at Madison was that State Commissioner John Woodburn owned the ground through which the first cut was built and conceived the idea that the railroad running through his place would enhance its value, and arranged to have his prospective son-in-law, Edward Beckwith, appointed engineer in charge, otherwise the grade might have been longer, but of less magnitude. Beckwith afterward turned out bad and had to flee the country.


Source: Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. XII March, 1916

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