crew work to clear
historic railroad incline, cat steps
PLUS unit assists Greene
(August 2008) There is a saying that goes,
If you want something done, do it yourself. Madison resident
Bob Greene is the embodiment of that saying. Greene, the instrumental
figure in clearing debris to open the riverfront section of the Madison
Heritage Trail, has taken on the monumental task of clearing two more
historic landmarks in Madison.
by Konnie McCollum
Greene takes a short break
from work clearing the historic cat
steps that were used by Madison State
Hospital workers to traverse the hilltop.
Greene, with the help of other volunteers, including a
specialized unit of women offenders from the Madison Correctional Facility,
has worked for months on clearing debris along the historic railroad
incline and unique cat steps leading up the steep hill to the Madison
State Hospital grounds.
Greene has envisioned officials eventually opening up the landmarks
for unique historic walking trails that would offer tourists and residents
more opportunity to experience Madisons historic legacy. I
call the railroad incline and the cat steps the greatest architectural
landmarks in Madison, said Greene. What a tremendous contribution
these make to our already-rich historic tradition. It will be wonderful
when residents and tourists can walk these sites and experience the
magnitude of effort that went into the making of these landmarks.
Greene is calling his project the Legacy Projects celebrating
the Madison Bicentennial. He would like to have much of the work
done in time for the 2009 Bicentennial the city is celebrating.
Some officials in Madison are starting to take notice. We are
very appreciative of the work that Bob Greene and the Madison Corrections
workers have done on the incline, said Cathy Hale, president of
Madison Railroad. Weve been looking for some time at options
to best use the incline. Bob Greenes enthusiasm has pushed us
ahead of schedule.
by Konnie McCollum
and the Madison
Correctional Facilitys PLUS unit
work daily to remove debris and
clear a path along the steep,
historic Madison Railroad incline.
When Greene and the other volunteers finish clearing what
they can along the incline, Hale said railroad authorities hope to move
in with equipment and remove the boulders on the track. They will also
have the area sprayed to keep it clear. There is a lot of public
sentiment about the incline, she said. We are definitely
working to develop a plan to best use it.
The Madison Railroad incline was built by 1,000 Irish immigrants over
a four-year period in 1836-1841 as part of Indianas 1836 Internal
Improvement Act. The incline measures 7,012 feet long and elevates 413
feet to achieve a 5.89 percent grade. More than 500,000 tons of rock
and earth were moved in construction. It is still considered to be the
steepest standard gauge main track ascended by wheel-adhesion locomotives
in the U.S.
There is still a mystery surrounding the little-known concrete cat steps
that lead up the hill to the Madison State Hospital grounds. Scant information
is available about them. Workers built the steps to use them to traverse
the steep hillside on their daily trek to and from the State Hospital.
They were also used to transport goods from the hillside down to the
river to be loaded on to boats.
Offenders from Madison Correctional Facilitys PLUS Unit have become
involved in the special service project. Each morning they head out
with their officer and community volunteer Bob Greene to help clean
up the Madison Railroad Incline so that it can be utilized as a hiking
trail one day.
courtesy of the JCHS Research Library
historical photo shows the
original wooden cat steps. Later, the
steps were redone in concrete.
PLUS stands for Purposeful Living Units Serve and is a
faith and character based housing unit. The unit, which currently includes
50 offenders, is sending an average of 15 or so offenders each morning
to work on the incline. Community service is an integral part of this
program which is designed to provide an opportunity for offenders to
explore and choose alternatives to criminal thinking and behavior through
an emphasis on spiritual, moral and character development, life-skills
training, and intentional preparation for living as law-abiding citizens
who contribute to the well-being of their community.
Our offenders are really enjoying working on this project,
stated Superintendent Jan Davis. It is important to them to know
that they are giving back to the community. They are taking great pride
in the work that they are doing!
I am very proud of the work that the women incarcerated at Madison
are doing in the community, said IDOC Commissioner J. David Donahue.
Its an integral part of our reentry programming for offenders
to get out into the community to provide services.
Workers from the Henryville Correctional Facility have also provided
valuable manpower to the legacy project.
So far, Greene has relied solely on donations and volunteers to continue
to clear debris from the area. It is incredibly hard work, but
what a legacy project this will be for our community, he said.
Greene said more donations are needed to complete the work, and hopes
community members will come out and support the efforts.
In mid-July, the project got a tremendous boost when energy company
Vectron Corp agreed to donate an all-terrain John Deere Gator to Greene
for continued work. Vectron employee Kelly Brooks played a role in helping
secure that gift, which will actually be given to the Madison Correctional
Facility at the request of Greene. We have been walking all the
equipment up the incline every day. The all-terrain vehicle will certainly
All of the work by Greene got started in the summer of 2007. Greene,
who had just moved to Madison, needed a place downtown to walk his beloved
flat-coated retriever, Brandy, in a nice, natural setting. What he found
as he walked along the Ohio River at the western end of Vaughn Drive
was literally tons of trash and debris. Greene, however, was not daunted;
he saw the potential for a beautiful, scenic walking trail along the
historic, 150-year-old Madison Railroad tracks.
For information on volunteering or donating
contact Bob Greene at (317) 696-0860 or email him at email@example.com.
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