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State historical marker returned to original site

By JEFF BROWN - jbrown@shelbynews.com

A historical marker symbolizing the first railroad in Indiana is back in place in Shelbyville.

On Thursday, a small crowd gathered to see the culmination of several months of work to restore the sign that was removed in 2009 for road construction work and stored at the Grover Museum in Shelbyville. Two employees from Cord Brothers Construction carried the sign over to the support pole, which had already been put in place, and secured it for all to see.

“When I first started at the museum, (the sign) was inside one of the display cases in one of the exhibits,” said Alex Krach, director of the Grover Museum. “As far as I knew, it was always part of the museum ... it was not until John Walker told me it was a state-recognized sign that sat along where the two-mile track was at (that I knew what it was).”

Starting at what is now the corner of Hendricks and Broadway streets, the oak-rail track opened July 4, 1834, and traveled two miles east to a farm, which served as a recreational area.

“It started here in this vicinity and went two miles or so out where Michigan Road is to Lewis Creek,” explained Krach. “There is a farm that was a designated picnic area. So people went out there as a day activity.”

A total of 25 passenger cars were pulled by horses, not a locomotive engine.

Judge William J. Peasley helped install the track as a demonstration of what the railroad could offer in Indiana. The goal was to bring an actual railroad line through Shelbyville. While popular, not enough investors could be gathered and the two-mile track shut down after a few months of operation.

The sign was officially recognized and erected by the Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission in 1966. It was removed in 2009 for an Indiana Major Moves construction project that widened State Road 44. The sign was moved to the Grover Museum with the intention that it be replaced once the road work was completed. 

It never happened.

“For the longest time, there was some question on the validity of the claim of it being the first railroad, so the state didn’t recognize it as an official sign anymore,” said Krach. “They did a number of signs during the Indiana sesquicentennial (celebration). But John (Walker) researched and validated the claim.”

Walker helped form a commission to refurbish and restore the sign in the fall of 2017. Perry Pepka and Custom Coatings of Shelbyville removed the old paint from the sign, added a new dark blue powder coat finish and fixed the mechanical issues with the sign hub. Cord Brothers Construction donated the labor needed to install the new support post. And Walker donated the gold and silver paints and the sign post pole to complete the project.

“Several local individuals and companies contributed materials and services to restore the sign which was in dire need of refinishing and a new coat of paint,” said Walker in a Grover Museum/Shelby County Historical Society press release. “Many thanks are given to those who donated their time and expertise to get this marker restored and placed back into our community.”