Construction of the New Albany and Salem Railroad gives testimony to Salem's stature within Indiana at the time and an expectation of its status in the future. The railroad was organized in Salem in 1846, and was completed five years later. It was the first attempt to link the Ohio River with the Great Lakes by rail.
Well into the twentieth century it was known as the Monon Line. Several other competing lines were completed by 1900, including the Baltimore and Ohio which created direct routes to the Eastern trading centers. The economic benefit of the railroad line in Salem was most obvious during and after the Civil War.
By 1851 the New Albany and Salem railroad had been completed to the edge of town, although its linkage to Indianapolis would take several more years. Settlers came primarily from Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. The town grew rapidly from 1820-40, then stabilized at 1,500 citizens for forty years. The completed New Albany and Salem Railroad, intended to link New Albany to Michigan City, did not result in the predicted growth of the town. In 1910, the population of Salem was 2400.
Be sure to visit The Depot Railroad Museum on the grounds of the John Hay Center for more train and Monon Line related information. Image used courtesy of the Monon Railroad Historical Technical Society, Inc.
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