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

ii. Rail over canals

When the State of Indiana got into the business of canal and railroad building, Madison was poised as no other town along the Ohio to take advantage of such an opportunity.

While commercial sentiment favored canals in the early 1830s, Madison, through strong lobbying and financial pressure, obtained the first railroad contract in the state. While a good and well established port on the river had contributed to a prosperous city, transportation to the interior meant there would be no limit to what could be achieved.

Railroad fuels another boom

When the railroad finally became a reality, its benefits were probably even more momentous than its backers had ever dreamed. The railroad daily poured goods into Madison where it was processed and either shipped back into the interior or put on steamboats destined for ports along the Ohio and Mississippi River and their tributaries.

At approximately the same time California was experiencing its historic gold rush, Madison could be said to be experiencing the same heady climate. Breweries, flourmills, carriage and coach manufacturers appeared. Now, in addition to building boats, railroad cars were being constructed and fine hotels and elegant homes lined the streets.

The city expanded to the east and west and pushed against the hills to the north as a great influx of new immigrants arrived. Germans came to work in the pork houses, meat markets, breweries and farms. The Irish worked on the railroads and construction jobs and any place else where they could obtain work. The population exploded and Madison was now the largest city in the state.

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