The Rise and Fall of River and Rail transportation in Madison, Indiana.

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Brough's Folly

John Brough locomotiveWhen the state relinquished control of the railroad to a private corporation, a provision in the contract required the new company to build an alternate route between Madison and North Madison, eliminating the use of the troublesome incline.

John BroughJohn Brough, the capable president of the M & I Railroad devised a plan to comply with the provision. He proposed a lower grade line, a little over four and one half miles long be constructed east out of Madison, along the edge of the hills. The line would veer off into the Clifty Creek Valley, within what is now Clifty Falls State Park, and would traverse the rough area using trestles and tunnels when needed to emerge on the upland. From that point the road would continue to the next existing line a little north of Madison.

In an annual report in 1852 Brough stated:

“The route for the new southern terminus, to avoid the inclined plane at Madison, has been located during the year, and, at present, about 700 hands are employed in its construction. It leaves the present line at the foot of the plane, crosses Crooked Creek, and passes west, along the side of the hill, to Clifty Creek, thence up Clifty to the Chain Mill fork, and up that to an intersection with the main line, near the four mile post from Madison. The grade will be heavier than I desired, being about 100 feet to the mile, on straight line, and 9 feet on curves. The work is very heavy, and, being in so small a space, will require more time to perform it. There will be two short tunnels, in rock, that can be more rapidly constructed, and at less expense, than through cuts. The length of the new line is 4 ¾ miles, making an addition of ¾ mile to the length of the road. With an assisting engine it can readily be worked by ordinary motive power. The prospects of the road during the present year are bright and cheering. This year will launch us into the midst of the competition that has been for a few years, gathering around us. The road will, in a short time, be well prepared to meet it.” This optimism was short lived as a year later Brough reported: “This work….like most other where uncertain materials are to be encountered, will considerably exceed its cost the estimates made upon it….It is estimated that about $115,000 will be necessary yet to finish the work.”

Brough's Folly trestleIn 1853 Brough believed it would take only three more months to finish the job, but work was stopped when money to fund the project ran out. The plan was probably a good one and would probably have solved the problem of the incline but because of his involvement in the project and its ultimate failure, it became known as “Brough’s Folly”.

Today, you can still find vestiges of Brough’s folly at Clifty Falls State Park including stone trestles (at right) and a railroad tunnels. Naturalists at the state park regularly offer tours of the remains.

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