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

From Commerce to Recreation

Show BoatBy the last years of the 19th century, the steamboat age was beginning to fade. Mass transportation of people and goods had largely shifted to the railroads, which for the past half century had been spreading over the East and the especially the West. There navigable rivers were scarce and the surges in population growth demanded a secure and reliable delivery of necessities. As the trade market began to move away from the steamer, the entertainment industry enthusiastically stepped in to fill the void with the excursion boat. These were large vessels, decked out with sumptuous living quarters or fitted with music stages and gambling saloons began cruising America’s rivers, offering relaxation and excitement to any who would pay to ride. Surviving well into the 20th century, the excursion boat industry was only finally eclipsed by the arrival of the automobile and the rise of personal transportation. A few of these venerable entertainers, such as the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen, still exist and can be seen on the waves of the Ohio from time to time.