takes step forward
in five-year plan
with luncheon, train rides
(December 2012) In 1841, the Madison Railroad
became famous for including a 5.9 percent grade. The railroad was one
of the earliest in Indiana, running from Madison to Lafayette. In 1890,
the railroad became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad Co. After Pennsylvania
Co. went bankrupt in 1976, Madison faced a loss of railroad service
vital to the area. The Madison Port Authority took over the 26-mile
portion running from Madison to North Vernon and has kept the rail service
Madison Railroad staff
includes (from left) Cathy
Hale (executive director),
Terry Fletcher, Ira Sprong, Robert
Griffin, Chris Brawner and Casey Goode.
This year, the Madison Railroad made news again as it
completed major renovations to upgrade service to customers. On Oct.
24, the railroad celebrated its latest achievements with a ceremony
including Madison Mayor Damon Welch, along with guests from the communities
that made the improvements possible the Madison Redevelopment
Commission, the city of North Vernon, the city of Vernon, Jefferson
County, the Lawrenceburg Regional Economic Development Foundation, and
the Indiana Department of Transportation Rail Section.
Cathy Hale, CEO of Madison Railroad, notes the celebration was a milestone
event. We celebrated the replacement of two bridges each
70 feet high and 200 feet long, a huge accomplishment.
The replacement came as part of a five-year plan to upgrade the railroads
infrastructure, which was necessary for the railroad to continue to
serve its customers. The railroad was built to carry cars holding up
to 263,000 pounds. But over the years, standard weights for railroad
car have increased to 286,000 pounds. Though existing rail customers
continued using the 263,000 pound cars in order to run on the Madison
tracks, finding the lighter cars had become a challenge for local businesses.
So the railroad developed a five-year plan to upgrade all the track
to support the heavier loads, rehabilitate or replace the bridges and
upgrade locomotives to accommodate the heavier cars.
In four years, the railroad has achieved the vast majority of the plan
replacing the majority of the track, replacing or rehabilitating the
five bridges and upgrading locomotives. Only 4.7 miles of track remain
track running from just outside Jefferson Proving Grounds
to the Madison hilltop, the oldest track on the railroad. Once
we upgrade that last 4.7 miles to 70-pound rails, we will be able to
run the heavier cars the entire route, says Hale.
Under the direction of the Madison Port Authority, the railroad moved
from being largely supported by government subsidies to self-sustaining
funding and has operated in the black for the last 15 years. The upgrades
will allow the railroad to increase services to customers throughout
southern Indiana and continue to be profitable.
by Patti Watson
Hale guides the Madison Railroad
operations as its executive director.
Jerry Thaden, Chairman of the Board of the Madison Port
Authority, notes that the railroad offers critical opportunities for
economic development in the area. Due to our distance from the
interstate, the difficulty for trucks navigating two-lane highways such
as Hwy. 7, and the aging bridge industry had a hard time locating
here and moving inventory. The railroad has provided that economic opportunity.
Madison has been fortunate to keep this short line railroad. Many
of the larger companies were selling them off. But by keeping the railroad,
we have been able to serve the companies such as IKEC and others. We
feel very pleased that weve been able to keep that going,
The railroad is now seeking grants to fund the replacement of the remaining
track. The demand for rail service is growing. We need to be in
a position to provide that service, says Hale. The railroad has
about three-quarters of a million dollars for seed money toward the
approximately $3 million total; the rest must come through fundraising.
Weve come so far. Weve completed every part of our
five-year plan with the exception of the 4.7-mile stretch. We cant
wait to get that done so we are up and running, says Hale.
The project enjoys wide support. More than 85 percent of the invited
guests attended the October ceremony to celebrate the completion of
the bridges a percentage far surpassing anyones expectations.
Guests enjoyed a ride on the newly completed track as well as inspection
of two bridges, the recently rehabilitated Middlefork Bridge as well
as the Big Creek Bridge, which was entirely replaced. During the celebration,
many who contributed to the success of the project were honored.
As celebrants traveled by train to the bridges, Madison resident Drew
Geerts sang the theme song for the day, and for the project, Steel
Wheels Keep on Turning. Hale says the song perfectly captures
the railroads efforts.
We want people to know dreams really can come true. We dreamed
this project, and it is so close to being finished.
Back to December 2012