The Jeffersonville Railroad began as the
Ohio and Indianapolis Railroad with its charter by the Indiana
Legislature on February 3, 1832. The railroad was re-chartered in 1837
and again in 1846, but no action was taken. The 1846 charter
authorized initial capital of $1,000,000 divided into shares of $100
each, $100,000 of which had to be subscribed before the company could
be organized. The time limit on the company’s organization was set at
thirteen months. However, the idea for the railroad was delayed a few
years and revived in 1848 when the promoters again got together to
raise the required initial capital of $100,000 and organize the
company. William G. Armstrong of Jeffersonville served as its first
president until his death in 1858.
In October 1848, a contract was let for construction of the first 22
miles. On February 3, 1849, the Jeffersonville Railroad secured a more
liberal charter which extended the time limit for its organization to
five years and gave the company authority to build its line not only
to Columbus, but to any other point in the state that might be
desired. This was an important concession, since Indianapolis was the
On July 1, 1851, when its track had not yet reached Scottsburg (25
miles from Jeffersonville), the Jeffersonville Railroad in a strategic
maneuver to divert feeder lines’ traffic from the M&I purchased the
Shelbyville Lateral Railroad, which linked Edinburg and Shelbyville,
and leased the Shelbyville and Knightstown Railroad. The action by the
Jeffersonville Railroad subsequently was countered by the M&I with
construction of a competitive railroad from Columbus to Shelbyville.
The Shelbyville Lateral Railroad and the Shelbyville and Knightstown
Railroad eventually proved to be unprofitable for the Jeffersonville
Railroad and were abandoned in 1855 and 1854, respectively.
By August of 1852 the 50 miles between Jeffersonville and Rockford
(two miles north of Seymour) was completed and put in operation. In
October 1852 the Jeffersonville Railroad reached Columbus.
Then the battle began.
In 1852 John Brough was president of the M&I, which had enjoyed a
monopoly for traffic between the Ohio River and Indianapolis. But
William Armstrong was equal to his rival. When the Jeffersonville
Railroad approached Columbus, Armstrong sought to secure an
arrangement with Brough to operate the Jeffersonville Railroad’s
trains over the tracks of the M&I to Indianapolis. Anticipating this,
Armstrong arranged the timetables for his trains to conform to M&I
timetables. However, Brough then changed the M&I timetables. When the
Jeffersonville Railroad’s train approached Columbus, the M&I train for
Indianapolis was just departing. Not to be outdone, Armstrong simply
headed for Indianapolis by building his own track from Columbus ten
miles north to Edinburg, alongside and only a few yards away from the
An interesting part of the feud between the Jeffersonville Railroad
and the M&I were the races on the paired lines between Columbus and
Edinburg. An example occurred the morning of January 26, 1853, when a
Jeffersonville Railroad train and an M&I train started at the same
speed. As soon as the M&I train had gained a slight lead and the
passengers had given the signal for a race, the Jeffersonville
Railroad train pulled by the locomotive Clark pulled into the
lead and won.
Brough left the presidency of the M&I in February 1853 to become
president of the Indianapolis and Bellefontaine Railroad. He was
succeeded by E. W. Ellis, who negotiated with President Armstrong an
agreement that permitted the Jeffersonville Railroad to use the M&I’s
tracks from Edinburg to Indianapolis. The trackage rights became
effective November 9, 1853. The M&I track between Columbus and
Edinburg was abandoned in 1864, and thereafter the trains of both the
M&I and the Jeffersonville Railroad used the Jeffersonville Railroad
The Jeffersonville Railroad lacked a bridge over the Ohio River at
Louisville. Consequently, it had to ferry its cars on barges at
considerable cost and delay for traffic moving to and from the South.
In 1856 construction of a bridge was authorized by Congress, and in
the same year the Louisville Bridge Company was chartered by the
Kentucky Legislature. No steps were taken under that charter, so in
February 1862, the charter was revived and confirmed. The Louisville
Bridge Company was organized February 17, 1867, with the JM&I and the
Louisville and Nashville Railroad as principal stockholders. Work
began in the summer of 1867, and the bridge opened for traffic
February 24, 1870.
At the time the Jeffersonville Railroad was standard gauge, but the
L&N gauge was 5 feet. A steam hoist system was in use in Louisville to
change the gauge of cars by lifting them off their original trucks and
replacing them with the trucks of the next railroad’s gauge. This
expensive operation continued until 1886, when the L&N changed the
gauge of 2,000 miles of its track to standard gauge in a single day.
By the end of the Civil War in 1865, the Madison railroad’s track,
fixed plant, locomotives, and cars were in poor condition and badly in
need of rehabilitation or replacement. Meanwhile, the Jeffersonville
Railroad had been quietly buying the Madison railroad’s common stock.
At the meeting of the board of directors of the Indianapolis and
Madison Railroad in early 1866, the Jeffersonville Railroad Company
elected a majority of the board. Shortly thereafter, effective May 1,
1866, the Indianapolis and Madison Railroad was merged with the
Jeffersonville Railroad to form the Jeffersonville, Madison, and
Indianapolis Railroad Company.
source: Phil Anderson