The Evansville Suburban & Newburgh Railroad
The ES&N was incorporated on Dec. 15, 1887 with authorized capital of $50,000. Prime movers in the project were Capt. Lee Howell a division freight agent for the L&N railroad, and William J. Wood, local council for the same line. Intentions were to provide access to coal mine in the vicinity of Newburgh, and to provide a short commuter service for Newburgh, then a town of 1,500.
Pigeon township, Vanderburgh county voted a $60,000 subsidy for the 10.98 mile line between Evansville and Newburgh with the provision that the ES&N would build a railroad yard and shops, employing at one time no less than 200 men, and that the yard and shops would be put into operation in less than 2 years after the subsidy was voted. This proviso was the principle reason the L&NRR located it's shops in south-west Evansville at a point appropriately named Howell. Of the $60,000, $30,000 was transferred to the L&N for this purpose. In return the L&N took care of repair work for the ES&N for a number of years. Service was introduced to Newburgh on Aug 1, 1889, and by November 1, the line was extended east to a coal mine just beyond the towns limits.
A passenger service of 5 trips a day and freight service were scheduled and 3
Baldwin dummy locomotives were supplied for the passenger and freight runs. To
accommodate the passengers, 12 double truck passenger trailers, 8 open and 4
closed, were secured. Trucks were built by Mesker Steel Company, bodies by the
Hercules Buggy Company. Original freight rolling stock included 20 wooden coal
cars, a flat car, and a caboose.
Fun and gaiety were cheap in those far away days. At least they were along the 11 mile Evansville Suburban & Newburgh Railway. There were pleasures to suit the tastes of the most fastidious as well as the most conservative. At a point just east of the asylum (Woodmere), Captain John Gilbert had set up an amusement park at which "no ardent spirits will be sold". The place was described by the promotion minded Captain as an ideal place for picnics by such organizations as Sunday school groups, who, how ever, "would have to maintain proper decorum". Evidently, in those days even some church groups were apt to get out of hand occasionally. In contrast was Barnett's Grove a few miles down the line. This beautiful spot had been purchased by F.W. Cook of brewery fame, and had been developed into a rendezvous for those pleasure bound. Cook was a prominent stock holder in the ES&N and doubtless located the venture to bring further business to the railway At the end of the line in Newburgh was the most famed spot of all, namely Kuebler's Garden, located a few blocks north of the ES&N depot.
For years the line was prosperous and steady business was putting a strain on the railroads capacity, steam service soon became insufficient. To overcome these strains it was decided to electrify the railroad, and on May 4, 1905 electric interurbans replaced the steam dummy trains. The entire line was rebuilt and heavier rail was laid, new oak ties were provided and thresholds and crossings were reconstructed
For some time officials of the ES&N had been eyeing the rapidly expanding coal mining developments in the vicinity of Boonville. In spite of territory already served by the Southern Railway, a go-ahead was given the project. It was decided to make a junction with the existing Newburgh line at a point in stockwell woods (now Wesselman Park Preserve), and route the track through Stephenson and Chandler to Boonville. Work was started in 1905 and completed July 3rd 1906. A maximum grade of .1% was maintained on the Boonville segment, a creditable engineering feat in any mans language.
A liberal schedule was set up with one hour departures from both ends of the line between the hours of 6am and 8pm, plus an additional late night owl car. The first car leaving Boonville in the morning carried about 100 miners to their workings near chandler. On the Newburgh line cars were operated on a frequency of one hour and 20 minutes. Three of the five passenger cars were required to maintain these schedules. The single express car #200 was used on the Boonville line and made two round trips daily. For a while after electrification, steam power assigned to freight service was confined to the dummy locomotives. It was not until 1910 that the ES&N purchased it's first non-dummy engine #5.
During the 1920's highway conditions had progressed to a point where bus service was becoming practical. As highways to Boonville and Newburgh were built, the interurban service went into decline. The end of service was precipitated by a fire that burned up the sub-station on the Boonville line. Although temporary help was secured by the loan of a flat car mounted rotary converter supplied by the Evansville & Ohio Valley Railway, it was decided to abandon electric operation. Service to Boonville ended on Aug 4, 1930 and to Newburgh on Dec 15 of the same year. Cars were scrapped and electrical lines were removed.
In the same year, the last of the coal mines on the Newburgh line
ceased operation. Permission was granted July 18, 1941, effective 30 days later.
Similarly, the once flourishing coal business on the Boonville route diminished,
and on January 19, 1947, the mine from which the railroad has been deriving 98%
of it's revenues from was discontinued. In spite of numerous protests from local
residents, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted the ES&N's request to
abandon the Boonville line on May 4, 1948, effective 40 days later. Track and
materials were sold to the Hyman Michels Company, and the line was scrapped.
What remains of the railroad today ? The Boonville trail and Newburgh trail (which still contains remnants of railroad ties), can still be seen in the Wesselman Park Nature Preserve.
There are also remains of the Newburgh line on the grounds of the State Hospital, east of the complex. Unnatural landscapes and ballast rock are subtle reminders of the railroads history.
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