Mount Carmel, IL to Evansville, IN

The Evansville, Mount Carmel and Northern Railroad

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Note: Some information was drawn from Limiteds, Locals, and Expresses in Indiana 1838 to 1971, by Craig Sanders, Indiana University Press.

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This wooden trestle can be found near Skelton, IN. Photo by Howard E. Espravnik, March 2009.

The line was opened under Big Four subsidiary Evansville, Mt. Carmel & Northern Railroad in July 1911. Passenger service rose and fell between 1911 and 1942 when it was discontinued. For a while though, one could catch a sleeper car to Chicago on this route.

While most of the line has been out of service for decades, some people question if it was ever officially abandoned. Another source said Conrail abandoned the line from North of Evansville to Skelton, near the Wabash River, close to Mt. Carmel. Norfolk Southern retains ownership of the line after receiving it in the Conrail split. At one time, L&N received trackage rights to use it as a bypass around most of Evansville.

Today, with miles of rusty rails in between, both ends of the line still see some service. At Mt. Carmel, rolling stock is stored on the line. At the Evansville end the tracks are used as a CSX mainline into Howell Yard seeing dozens of trains per day.

Thanks to Howard E. Espravnik for contributing information about this route.

These photos are great! I was just over their around I-64 Saturday. Do you have any other photos of that southern/conrail line? Also do you know exactly when the line was shut down and if their are any photos of train towards the end like the last train that ran on it?

Kerry Robertson
Belle River, IL
3/24/2009

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Thanks for some interesting pictures of a railroad which seems to have been very well built. I believe the 35-mile long line survived in use until the early 1970s, being formally abandoned (from the junction built for the L&N Evansville Bypass in 1972 to Skelton, 22 miles) in 1982, but forgot to record the source of this information.

Malcolm Dymott
London, England
5/7/2009

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does any one know what thay are going to do with the railroad's that are just sitting thare they look cool and all but ya i would think a farmer would want to use the ground or something

chris h
plymouth, IN
6/14/2009

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For years we've traveled that way back and forth from our home in Anahuac,Texas to Loogootee, Indiana, home of my wife. I kept noticeing that grain spur under weeds and the bridge with no approach. For years I've wondered where that line ran and noe, recently You have given me the answer I seek. If this bed is railbanked then why don't they keep the road bed clean?

Raybourne Ricks "Hank" Gupton
Anahuac (Anna-wack), TX
8/12/2009

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The line was rail banked as part of the final Conrail plan. Most of the line has not been operated since 1974. It is not abandoned - only discontinued service though some sections of track in Vanderburgh County have been illegally removed by adjoining landowners. In addition some overhead road bridges have been removed and filled in (St. Joe Ave and SR 65 north of Cynthiana). The southern 6 miles is part of the CSX bypass and mainline into Evansville. The rest is still owned in fee by NS but not active.

John DiDomizio
Evansville, IN
1/5/2010

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I was in Penn Central train service as a conductor when service on this line discontinued. My last run from Mt. Carmel to Evansville was in 1973. Now I am an engineer on CSX out of Evansville and run to Avon near Indy. I drive Indiana 65 most of the time to work and drive over the roadbed at Cynthiana and many times take Boonville - New Harmony road where the line used to go over the road. Most of the rail appears to still be on the ground. Now I run trains over the south part of the line almost every day from Ohio St to North Harwood at Evansville. Where that part was 10 mph in '73, it is now 40 mph to Bypass Junction, where it meets up with the original CE&I Main.

David Reeves
Mt. Carmel, IL
1/17/2012

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It looks as thought there is a wye on the north end of the line that connects to the old NYC line that ran north and south along Ill. Highway 1 on the south side of Mt. Carmel. The old NYC line goes south to the closed Keensburg coal mine and north to a small yard that connects to the Norfolk Southern line (old Southern RR.) Going southeast from the wye it crosses the Wabash river and connects with the Gibson power generation plant(formerly know as the PSI plant). That line loops aroung the plant and connects with the same NS line that runs through Mt Carmel. There is still part of the main past that switch to the plant used for storage of cars. It is listed on MapQuest as Norfolk Southern lines, which would make sense as they have the only access to the rails, unless the Gibson power plant does their own rail movement within the plant. The plant used to be served by the mine in Keensburg until labor disputes and lawsuits over expansion contributed to the mines closing. There's a mine just to the west on the east-west NS line, but it's owned by Alcoa and I believe it all goes there. They may possibly send some to the power plant, which I believe used to get 100 cars a day. This part of the line is hard to see unless you take some back roads. I'm in Wabash Co. frequently, and never knew those tracks were there until looking at satellite photos.

John Saniel-Banrey
Ostrander, OH
7/29/2012

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Just a quick addendum to my previous comment. Went driving down the back roads south of Mt. Carmel (7/31/12) and there is a bridge on Wabash St. that crosses over the northern end of the line before the wye. The tracks are somewhat shiny, suggesting that they are frequently used, most likely for coal trains going into the Gibson power plant.

John Saniel-Banrey
Ostrander, OH
7/31/2012

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does any one know whether there is an option to reclaim the old railroad for farm ground?

Glen R.
Evansville, IL
12/20/2012

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This line connected with the Big Four Cairo Division. The spur to Keensburg Mine is all that is left between Paris and Cairo. Overhead bridges have been removed, especially Norris City, which had very low clearance * ft 9 inches, and caused a truck bypass to be in effect. Crossville also has bridges removed as line was on a high fill. That necessitated takk TV antennas before cable TV. In St Farncisville, the old bridge of gthe Vincinnes branch is now an one-lane highway bridge. It is city owned and levies a toll of 50 cents each way. There are You Tube v ideos of the crossing of the St Francisville Wabash Cannonball bridge. That bridge is the true Wabash Bridge, as it makes a "Wa bash-bas-bash-bash-bash..." sound when crossed, account the wooden floorboards over the railroad ties>. There is a wooden camelback brridge over the abandoned right of way in St Francisville also.

Perhaps some of the line may be made into atrail but highway overpasses are missing. At least Tunnel Hill State Trailhas been made from Harrisburg to Karnak section of the line.There is one 500-foot lonmg tunnel at Tunel Hill.

George Carlisle
Urbana, IL
2/16/2013

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The concrete bridge over the Coffee Creek on the Cairo line just north of Keensburg is starting to wash out. There's about 15' of track just hanging in the air, the north approach of the bridge has broken and sunk about 2'. The spring flooding will probably do even more damage. This is part of the track needed to get to the mine at Keensburg. They are still using the line just a couple of miles further north for storing trains, today there is a line of loaded coal hoppers (gons) and a line of coal hoppers with NS power on the end. Probably coal headed for Gibson power plant or Alcoa Aluminum in Evansville.

John Saniel-Banrey
Ostrander, OH
2/16/2014

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Just curious, was this the line used for car storage up until a few years ago (perhaps)? I remember seeing a very weed-grown track just a few miles into Indiana, as I was heading east. Now a lot of the rails are gone, but the road still seems to be in use as either a trail or dirt road.

I don't travel back east very much, maybe once a year, and am surprised at the changes happening with the railroad scene. Any comments would be appreciated.

Rev. Jonathan Spurlock
Holts Summit, MO
8/29/2015

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The NS Serves and Operates the Wye on the old Cario Branch to the Power Plant and runs 2 Coal trains in and out daily. Correct as well the NS did not receive the Evansville to Mount Carmel line in the Conrail Split. The Southern Bought the Line in 1976 according to my Southern Timetable. A couple southern signs are still visible on the line.

Zach Walters
Mount Carmel, IL
3/3/2016

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