Eel River

Find an old ROW or want to know what the name of that one tower along the EL was? Post any historical questions or comments here. Open to any era from around the Ft Wayne area. Interurbans welcome!

Moderators: Moderator, Administrator

Wayne Gest
Veteran
Posts: 494
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 8:50 pm

Eel River

Post by Wayne Gest » Wed Aug 26, 2020 7:17 pm

On this day, August 26, 1879, Jay Gould leased the Eel River for the Wabash, to be effective September 1.

That means the Eel River was a mainline railroad for about 21 or 22 years before becoming a minor branch, especially east of Columbia City.

User avatar
Bob Durnell
Veteran
Posts: 516
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:01 pm
Location: Fort Wayne IN

Re: Eel River

Post by Bob Durnell » Fri Aug 28, 2020 7:42 pm

One of the all time great miscalculations in Indiana railroad history was by the forces that sought to cancel Gould's lease of the Eel River. They may have won the battle, but boy did they lose the war.
If my opinions offend you, you should see the ones I keep to myself........

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Sat Aug 29, 2020 12:11 pm

It's interesting to contemplate how the Wabash's eventual presence in Ft Wayne might have changed, had Gould continued to operate the Peru to Auburn routing.
Declining importance of Toledo as a destination, what traffic that did remain handled through Montpelier. New Haven to Butler line never gets built. Could very well be that the Huntington District get's the axe.

No GM Plant?

User avatar
Bob Durnell
Veteran
Posts: 516
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:01 pm
Location: Fort Wayne IN

Re: Eel River

Post by Bob Durnell » Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:35 pm

You bring up some good questions. I could certainly conceive the GM plant being where Steel Dynamics Columbia City is, or somewhere near it. I have mentioned it before, but I am still intrigued by the possibility that if the Wabash had been able to keep the Eel River, South Whitley might have developed into a major terminal for the N&W and later NS. I think the Wabash would have wanted to keep some type of presence in Fort Wayne, but once N&W took over, certainly the Wabash trackage in Allen County would have had a LOT less importance for them. I think you could write an alternate history just about any way you want to and have it be plausible.
If my opinions offend you, you should see the ones I keep to myself........

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Sun Aug 30, 2020 12:18 am

Bob Durnell wrote:
Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:35 pm
I think the Wabash would have wanted to keep some type of presence in Fort Wayne, but once N&W took over, certainly the Wabash trackage in Allen County would have had a LOT less importance for them. I
The thing that immediately occurred to me, assuming Wabash is using the Eel river route when Ft Wayne puts the demand for elevations on the railroads....the Wabby might have been in a position to say "fraid not"


And then, assuming the Huntington district is out of the picture. Does that have an impact upon the abandonment of the Cloverleaf, after N&W takes over?

User avatar
Bob Durnell
Veteran
Posts: 516
Joined: Thu Jan 05, 2006 9:01 pm
Location: Fort Wayne IN

Re: Eel River

Post by Bob Durnell » Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:58 am

You know, I have never really gave much thought to the Wabash's role in the elevation project. The history seems to have been written only from a Fort Wayne and a PRR perspective. I have no clue how much the Wabash contributed financially, but if cost was an issue, and considering that this would have been a secondary line, perhaps they would have entered into an agreement to use the PRR tracks between Mike and Fairfield. Were Taylor, Broadway and Thompson Avenue part of the elevation project itself, or were those separate projects? I could see all of those being left at grade level if the tracks were lightly used.

I don't think it would have effected the Cloverleaf in any appreciable way. While the Huntington District as we know it wouldn't exist, most of that traffic from the east could easily have been routed NKP between New Haven and South Whitley, and then continue down the Wabash. I find the whole topic thoroughly fascinating, and I'm not sure there are ANY wrong answers.
If my opinions offend you, you should see the ones I keep to myself........

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Sun Aug 30, 2020 11:35 am

Bob Durnell wrote:
Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:58 am
You know, I have never really gave much thought to the Wabash's role in the elevation project. The history seems to have been written only from a Fort Wayne and a PRR perspective. I have no clue how much the Wabash contributed financially, but if cost was an issue, and considering that this would have been a secondary line, perhaps they would have entered into an agreement to use the PRR tracks between Mike and Fairfield. Were Taylor, Broadway and Thompson Avenue part of the elevation project itself, or were those separate projects?
As I recall it, the railroads were required to bring in all the fill, build the actual raised earth track way, and place the tracks, while the city built the bridges over city streets and covered all related street work.

I recall that the Wabash was included, and the bridges over Fairfield, Taylor and Broadway were included as part of the work, but I also recall that one source that I read made no mention of Thompson ave (nor of college ave, for that matter)

But recall the bridge over the St Mary's river that we discussed in another thread, was built in 1912, the same time the elevation work was built down town, so it's doubtful that the segment at Thompson was left at original grade level.

Perhaps Thompson, like Clinton Street, was dead ended by the work for some time, and those bridges were placed later to open the viaduct?

Not really sure. I do know that considerable cement work was done along Thompson and Scott Avenues to shore up the homes as Thompson itself was a trenched down under the RR

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the way things turned out. A significant part of my boyhood involves knocking along those tracks.
It's just that this thread forced me to recognize how things could have played out much differently.....almost on a whim.

Probably also worthwhile to recognize that I'm operating through the convenience of hindsight. Back in the relevant time periods the relationship between PRR and Wabby was indifferent at best, and at times adversarial.

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Sun Aug 30, 2020 4:30 pm

The Wabash was in receivership from 1909 to 1916, after George Gould's melt down. So, i'd estimate that they would have relished an opportunity to dodge the cost of the FW elevations.

User avatar
rrnut282
Veteran
Posts: 1993
Joined: Mon Jan 09, 2006 9:43 am
Location: M.P. CF161.8 NS's New Castle District

Re: Eel River

Post by rrnut282 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 9:30 am

PRR bought the Wabash, but long after the elevation work.
rrnut282
(Mike)

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:15 am

I wonder if PRR was moving bridge traffic from the Eel to the Wabby in the same way that N&W would later move bridge traffic from the Cloverleaf to the Wabby?

User avatar
Hotbox
Veteran
Posts: 818
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 12:23 am

Re: Eel River

Post by Hotbox » Wed Sep 09, 2020 9:30 am

It's thought provoking to contemplate how different living in Auburn would be back in the day with this main line passing through it, along with the B&O, and the FW&J.
Did any of those roads have a significant workforce in Auburn? (yards, shops, terminals, etc?)

Steve Bryan
Veteran
Posts: 152
Joined: Sat Mar 04, 2006 2:42 pm
Location: Fort Wayne

Re: Eel River

Post by Steve Bryan » Wed Sep 09, 2020 4:35 pm

My guess is not. The Eel River had a roundhouse and yard in Butler and the FW&J had facilities in Fort Wayne. Of course B&O had everything in Garrett.

D.L.
Veteran
Posts: 853
Joined: Mon Jul 31, 2006 3:29 pm

Re: Eel River

Post by D.L. » Wed Sep 09, 2020 5:03 pm

:D Yea, Steve-that sounds correct. Everything was auto related back then (ACD).

User avatar
Notch 8
Veteran
Posts: 1536
Joined: Sat Feb 25, 2006 1:48 pm

Re: Eel River

Post by Notch 8 » Fri Sep 11, 2020 5:29 am

Was there much interchange traffic at Auburn ? Too bad the Eel River didn't survive. I never saw a train on the Eel in Auburn but do remember the crossing in Auburn near the Brown House. I wish I could see a photo of that crossing when it was still in place.

Wayne Gest
Veteran
Posts: 494
Joined: Sat Jan 07, 2006 8:50 pm

Re: Eel River

Post by Wayne Gest » Sun Sep 13, 2020 10:39 pm

In the summer of 1972, I saw a Penn Central locomotive in Auburn, sitting there, no crew on it. I had no camera, it had to be near the Brown House but I wasn't familiar with the area at the time and I didn't ever go back to Auburn until sometime in the mid-80's.

Post Reply