Once upon a time – such is the story of history— Boone County was crisscrossed by steel rails to provide support for the steel wheels that rolled over them.
They were there to supplant the trails through the woods and the muddy dirt roads which provided a sense of direction for the wayfarer. Some of us have grown up only knowing roads and streets paved with concrete or asphalt.
If you dig a little deeper you will probably find brick as the paving source and under that, crushed stone. Dig deeper and you find compacted dirt…made firmer with every passing foot or hoof that pressed it down to be churned into mud during every spring and summer rain.
What caught my attention was not the concrete, asphalt and certainly not the mud. It was the squiggly lines I found on some county (read country) roads and not on others.
Some have speculated that they were the joints where two sections of paving come together and others………. The ones that caught my attention were not explained by pavement joints. They were consistently about 5 feet apart, never converged or diverged and occurred where there was no reason for them to be.
Then I found out that Boone County and Central Indiana were pivotal in the web of Interurban lines that fanned out across the countryside. Some followed defined paths –roads– and others cut across the countryside. Those that ran across the countryside are almost invisible today. However, we would not know of their existence if not for the memory of some residents. Farmers have reclaimed the earth and turned it into another productive use. They are able to till the soil in uninterrupted spaces suitable to the use of large tractors and combines.
Then we look at 100 year old maps of the area and find evidence that the interurban ran down one road and across another field. By intercepting the presumed routes of travel I found some remnants of an old raised roadbed crossing a long abandoned culvert. By traveling the roads I found the squiggly lines and when I looked at the old maps I invariability found that the roads were the route of the old interurban lines abandoned more than 80 years ago.
As the electric railroad car was able to carry more passengers or goods faster, farther, and cheaper than a horse and wagon, or more than a person could carry; the advent of the gasoline engine made it possible to move those goods and passengers more easily, conveniently and ultimately faster.
What I can only presume, since I was not there, is that the rails following the roads were covered, over time, by layer upon layer of crushed rock and asphalt.
The squiggly lines must be an act of physics.–Solids that get cold compress and when they get hot, they expand. This compression and expansion over time splits the material above it and causes a crack which is then filled with liquid asphalt and that shows up as a squiggly line. That there are parallel lines strongly suggests two buried steel lines—interurban tracks.
Joe would like to hear from you. Address your comments, questions or suggestions about Boone County history to him at Joe8432@gmail.com