In 1897 the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway relocated tracks between Lowell and Cedar Lake that were originally built narrow guage. At one point there were three depots in the Cedar Lake area. Armour to the north and Pailsey to the south end of the lake. The area was named after someone connected with the railroad. A post office was established there in 1890, but changed to Cedar Lake in 1899.
Paisley Trestle, date unknown.
Background on the Paisley Trestle. Turn back the clock to 1897.
Robert McDoel and the Trustees of the Chicago, Indianapolis and Louisville Railway, commissioned Samuel M. Felton to report on the condition of the railroad. Felton found the railroad generally in good condition. He made several recommendations and management undertook many of his revisions.
The line between Monon and Hammond was built partly narrow gauge and part standard gauge by a successor, who had basically ran out of money. As a consequence the line was inferior to what could have been built through such flat country. The Felton revision proved relatively simple. Many were slight easing of the existing curves. One of his revisions proved to be very extensive and quite major. In order to straighten the line north of Lowell made building through a bog between Creston and Cedar Lake. The intentions were to build a solid fill, however the bog proved bottomless and all the fill material kept sinking.
Left: Freight train slowly crosses the Paisley Trestle. Right: Looking north from the Paisley Trestle.-Steve Hill Collection-
As a result, the CI & L chose to cross the bog with a floating wooden structure, 963 feet long, which was called the Paisley Trestle. Originally the trestle was considered a clever engineering accomplishment. Eventually it became a major potential problem. In the event of any derailment, any car or locomotive that went off the trestle and into the bog would have been impossible to recover.
At Cedar Lake the line ran immediately along the west shore of the lake. Management originally considered Cedar Lake the equal of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the famous retreat of millionaires. They had hoped that Cedar Lake would develop in a similar fashion. Instead it developed as a drab resort, patronized by working class people from Chicago. It has also be said that the Chicago Mob had very "extensive" ties to Cedar Lake. Passenger business was quickly lost to automobile traffic.
In February of 2002, my Mother unfortunately had the bad luck to need hospitalization. From February to the end of April she was in Munster Community. May 1, 2002, she was moved to St. Margaret's Hospital in Hammond. Once day while visiting Mom, our conversation turned to my Grandfather and a trip he and I had made to Hammond back in 1965. The talk of the old Monon stimulated the "wandering jones" in me and over the next three weekends I started wandering the former northern division, from Shelby to Hammond, and Michigan City branch main line taking pictures of what was left. For whatever reason, a bug was put under my cap to make an attempt to locate if anything remained of the Paisley Trestle.
My first inclination was to do things the easy way. Turning high tech, I searched the MapQuest data base and located aerial photos of the area. The old right of way is still visible coming down from the north. There is also a dirt road coming up from the south (Creston) that locals informed me was indeed the former right of way. Nothing conclusive was gathered from the aerial shots. It looked like I would have to "go in for a look see". I remember the big "No Trespassing" signs posted at the site on 147th Avenue where the former line came through on an earlier drive by. I had thought about hiking back in some years prior while working on the Lowell derailment page, but decided against it. Signs like that have a tendency to leave an impact on law abiding citizens, like me. The photos showed the former right of way, but since nothing conclusive, of the trestle, was shown, something told me this investigation would require me to do something illegal, namely, trespassing.
Saturday, May 25, 2002 was the day. With the long Memorial Day weekend, I would have ample time to make an attempt to locate what was left, if anything. Armed with my digital camera I set out for Cedar Lake.
Parking as far off the street as possible, I readied myself for the task at hand. The No Trespassing signs were still posted, but I was determined to go through with my plan. The former roadbed is easy to follow. It has overgrown with weeds and there is an occasional downed tree, however, I was able to easily walk 636 paces south of 147th Avenue. Back in the 1990ís, during a exercise craze period, my stride walking was measured at 30 inches. Doing the math, that would translate to roughly 19080 inches, or 1590 feet., or a little more than a third of a mile back in. Once you get away from 147th Avenue and the homes south of the road, the trail does resemble a former right of way. About midway down the right of way (Point A on close up aerial photo two) , the swamp or bog began and was visible on either side of the roadbed. The level of the water was about a foot below the top of the roadbed. The width of the roadbed was about eight to ten feet, although I never took any accurate measurements. The journey south was halted by a cluster of underbrush and trees that I could not get over or around. Without wading into the swamp, or hacking through the trees and brush, I had reached the end of the line, so to speak. If you look at aerial photo two, point "C" does appear to be a heavy growth of trees and brush. Although I could not see past the tress, I presumed the roadbed ended a short distance south of where I was standing. The aerial photos pretty confirmed my conclusion. Without a chainsaw or machete to cut through the brush it would be impossible to go any further. For a brief moment I entertained thoughts of trying to wade around it, but the thoughts of never being heard from again quickly brought me back to reality. The sounds of the swamp were very relaxing and I must admit the scenery was pretty, however, my task was complete, at least from this direction. I am happy to report that my vehicle was still where I had parked it and the Cedar Lake Police were not waiting for me with handcuffs ready. I did get several dogs barking like crazy which Iím sure their owners appreciated.
November 18, 2002 another journey was made down the former right of way. With the approach of winter, most of the underbrush had died and I was able to, with minor problems, work my way through the underbrush which had impeded my progress back in the spring. Although a gradual slope, it is apparent that this location was the north end of the trestle. The ground is very soft and spongy south of this spot. One could not see the south side of the right of way. While there< i found some metal objects buried in the ground, however, nothing that was discernible as railroad orinated. There were also some glass rings, which could have been from conductors on the telegraph lines. It was hard to tell.
Left: The end of the line. This is where the former right of way ends south of 147th. You are looking back towards Cedar Lake. Just imagine trying to get through the underbrush during spring and summer. Right: Looking south towards Creston from the approximate location of the north end of the Paisley Trestle.
On the way back north to 147th, I stumbled on a concrete base, which during my initial visit would have been impossible to see because of the underbrush. Several thorn bushes made getting a better picture somewhat hard. The base was on the east side of the right of way, about 100 yards north of the end of the line. The matching base, which should have been across from this one, appears to have been removed some time ago.
Pausing to regroup, the next attempt would be an attack, so to speak, from the south. Could the trestle be out flanked? Could I come up from Creston? Like many plans, in theory, it sounded good. So, I drove south to Creston. Upon arrival I was faced with a dilemma, which dirt road to follow? On 155th Avenue in Creston, just east of the mainline, I found two separate dirt roads. Rather than "flip a coin" assistance was sought out from some locals. A gentleman sitting in his vehicle at a local church guided me in the right direction. He advised that the road with the gate and "No Trespassing" signs was the correct one. He also cautioned me that the property was owned by a gun club and they did not like trespassers.
Looking north towards Cedar Lake from 155th Street.
Throwing caution to the wind, the first gate was circumvented and up the road I went. As I walked, I became skeptical about whether this road could at one time been part of the right of way. It was just a dirt road. The sides littered with old car parts and junk. Soon another gate came into view. Gate Two was made from an old rusted automobile frame. Once I got around the second gate, I would estimate that about a quarter of a mile up the road, I became certain that I was on the right track, no pun intended. The path narrowed and it was easy to make out the familiar sloping, indicative of ballast, along the sides of the trail. Very similar to the right of way on the part south of 147th Avenue. The path is easy to traverse, however, it would not be advisable during hunting season. Spent shot gun shells litter the area. The gun club that leases the property must be pretty active. All along the trail there are signs warning that trespassers would be prosecuted. I ignored the warnings and proceeded on my quest.
Left: Looking north along old right of way. This point is where it easy to indentify the former roadbed. Right: At the fill clearing, looking back towards Creston.
I am not sure exactly how far it is, but I finally arrived at a large clearing. Judging by itís shape and the material it was constructed of, I presumed it to be man made fill. Someone had filled in the marsh with what looked like asphalt shingles to create a picnic or shooting area, judging by the size of the area and numerous trash barrels. The filled area was surrounded on two and a half sides by the swamp. To the southwest there was mainly thick brush and trees. Any trace of the right of way disappears at the beginning of this clearing. One can presume that where the fill begins, on the south end of the clearing, may have been where the trestle started. Lacking a measuring device, I could not get any measure of the distance between the start of the fill and a group of trees to the north of my position where I believe my trek from the north had been halted. What a time not to have a Radio Shack golf distance measuring thingy, or something else more sophisticated. If I were a betting man, I would bet that the distance between point "A" and point "B" were pretty close to the documented length of the trestle, roughly 1000 feet.
I quickly came to the conclusion that in the fifty three years since the Cedar Lake cutoff opened, time and mother nature had taken their toll on the old trestle. Trees that were saplings back in 1948 were now big trees that obscured the view. There was one other possibility. Mahlon "Cookie" Eberhard, a members of the Monon Historical Society, had mentioned that at one time the trestle, and old line, were visible from the cutoff relocated line. During the hike back to 155th Street, where my vehicle was parked, the morning calm was abruptly disturbed by gunfire. Thinking to myself, "well now youíve done it jerk" I sort of hurried my pace walking south. Happy not to meet any trigger happy hunters or gun club members, I presumed that someone, or many people, were taking some morning target practice. The gunshots could have triggered flashbacks to my days as a Paramedic working the streets of Gary and Lake County, Indiana. However, that is a another story for another day.
To be sure that nothing existed of the old trestle, I hiked north along the mainline. Every so often I would stop and break out the binoculars to scan to the east. Besides a red fox, nothing much of interest was visible. I walked from Creston to Cedar Lake. Fifty three years had obscured much of the swamp area. Iím not sure what mile marker it is at, but the mainline curves to the right just before straightening back out again on the south side of Cedar Lake (Point ""ď on aerial photo One). Here I was able to look out through a break in the trees and get a pretty good look at the swamp. I could see the old roadbed coming down from the north but trees blocked the view of the clearing I had found on my journey up from the south. Between the two points which I could see there was nothing but marsh and swamp. No trestle bents, nothing. It was then I accepted the fact that the Paisley Trestle, the "floating trestl" of my Grandfatherís tales had disappeared. Swallowed up by the swamp, perhaps, but never the less, gone forever. Dejected on not finding anything of the old structure I started back to my vehicle. Not the ending that I liked, but there was not much else left to do.
Left and Right: These shots were taken from the CSX mainline, or the Cedar Lake cutoff mainline, looking east into the swamp.
Stories about lost steam engines and maintenance-of-way equipment fascinated me. After watching the exploits of Robert Ballard, who found the Titanic, Bismarck, Yorktown and other shipwrecks, it sure would be nice to have the financial resources to probe the depths of the swap where the trestle once stood. Those readers who enjoy the Clive Cussler Dirk Pitt adventures novels may recall that in "Night Probe" sonar and a magnetometer was used to try and locate the remains of an old passenger train that crashed through a bridge and into the river below. One would presume that if maintenance-of-way equipment or a steam engine did derail and end up in the swamp at Paisley, there would be some sort of reading on a magnetometer. Since I lack the financial resources of Mr. Ballard or Mr. Cussler, I suppose that I must be content to just believe the stories. Besides, it make the whole mystique of the Paisley Trestle just that much more interesting. Although I did not try and interview her, there is a local resident who, according to her story, witnessed a small steam engine sink into the swamp, never to be recovered. One of these weekends, I may just have to look this lady up and hear her story.
So ends this adventure.
At the January Monon Historical Technical Society's Board Meeting a good friend, Max Foltz, showed me a copy of the March 1951 Trains magazine. Included was an article entitled Today's Monon, written by Linn Wescott. There were also two pictures. These images are posted below. They are of the Paisley Trestle circa 1947 and 1951, after the line was relocated. As you can see in the 1951 picture, most of the trestle was removed. According to the photos, much of my leg work was in retrospect totally in vain. Oh well, it was fun chasing down the old trestle, even if it was removed before I was born.
The Paisley Trestle, looking toward the south. This picture was taken in 1947, just prior to the opening of the Cedar Lake cutoff. This cutoff was the bypass around the trestle. Both pictures Linn Wescott photographs. Trains Magazine.
What remains of the trestle in 1951, after the line relocation. This image was taken from the same location as the one above. The new line is on the higher ground in the distance. Trains Magazine
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