|A Year of Indiana History - 2016|
The steep incline leading down to Madison, Indiana presented a challenge to the men that built the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad. The Madison Hill Incline and Cut on the rail line was among the steepest in the nation. The incline contributed to a deadly railroad accident on March 28, 1844.
Incline and Cut
Construction on the Incline and Cut began on September 16, 1836. The project had its beginnings in the Internal Improvement Act of 1836, which authorized a massive internal works program. Completion o the cut took five years of hard labor by predominantly Irish laborers. The workers moved an estimated 500,000 ton of rock and earth. This included from forty to 125 feet of limestone bedrock. The first train ride up the incline was on November 3, 1841.
The steepness of the incline was too much for any railroad locomotive at the time, so trains had to be pulled up the incline by teams of horses.
The passenger train included passenger cars and a loaded wood car, the wood used as fuel for the steam-powered locomotive. As was usual, the rail workers detached the wood car, and then lowered the passenger car with the horses. After the passenger car was down, they disembarked from the train at the station and loaded more passengers. During the disembarking and reloading of passengers, the locomotive and wood car were brought to the head of the incline to await the return of the passenger car. The wood car broke away as the passenger car descended. The wood car struck the passenger car at a high rate of speed, splintering the car and scattering the passengers. Four were killed and several hurt badly in the accident.
Portions of this article are excerpted from the author’s book:
Exploring Indiana’s Historic Sites, Markers & Museums
A Year of Indiana History - 2016
© Paul Wonning