1928 Lincoln Highway between Warsaw and Columbia City, Indiana
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Perhaps my favorite thing to do when traveling the various routes of the Lincoln Highway is to search for the oldest remnants of the historic road in that particular area. Some folks like to call it roadway archaeology, and that sounds all right to me. That said, the area between Warsaw and Columbia City, Indiana is an excellent area to accomplish that worthy endeavor. Bypassed many years ago by the four-lane version of U.S. Route 30, it is easy for even the most casual roadway archaeologist to trace two generations of the two-lane version of that numbered route which faithfully followed the Lincoln Highway across the state.

Why are there two generations of the two-lane routes? The simple answer is that automobile speeds were constantly increasing from the slow pace that existed in 1928, and highway engineers had to improve the roadway to improve its safety. Vertical curves were redesigned to soften ascents and descents, and horizontal curves were redesigned so that faster vehicles would stick to the curve without losing control. These principles had long been in place on steam railroads, and continue to the present. Vertical curve improvements would generally involve cut and fill changes on the same alignment, thus obliterating the grade of the original roadway. However, horizontal curve improvements would generally involve a significant lateral change of the alignment (plus new grades), and it is those locations which render the best of the old road remnants for discovery.

In Figure 5 herewith (borrowed from my work in A History and Road Guide of the Lincoln Highway in Ohio), observe that the replacement of a 7-degree curve with a 2-degree curve not only involves a lateral displacement of about 36 feet, but also pushes the endpoints of the curve far beyond their previous locations. This type of modest improvement would obliterate the old roadbed, but if the scale of this figure were increased by five to ten times, then we would have geometry similar to the several curves that were discovered below. In those cases, the lateral displacement is often in excess of 200 feet.

The following study of old road remnants in this selected part of Indiana was prepared as a result of my return trip from the annual conference of the Lincoln Highway Association, which was held in South Bend on June 16-20, 2009. This was the first time I had ever manned a digital camera while driving this wonderful section of highway, so I no longer have to worry about developing pictures the old-fashioned way (the expense of numerous pictures of weedy crumbling concrete was often hard to justify). Hopefully, the images which follow will tell the story as efficiently as the text.

The map locations recited in the text are to be cross-referenced to sheet 2 of 4 of an Indiana strip map that I originally prepared in 1996, a copy of which is included herewith. That map accompanied a text that was prepared in an east-to-west format. My return trip was west-to-east, so that explains why I begin with Location 5 and not Location1 (hopefully, a small inconvenience). The subject area is highlighted in orange.

 Click to enlarge map

Vicinity of Intersection of Old Trail Road and County Road 1000E 

Brief: After following the east-west lines of the rectangular survey system for several miles due east of Warsaw, the present Lincolnway route suddenly turns southeast just west of the Whitley County line. To the north of the present curve is an old roadway marked as “Old Trail Road,” which is also an original portion of the 1928 route of the Lincoln Highway. Near its T-intersection with County Road 1000E, the old section of bypassed highway features a superelevated curve of partially exposed concrete, with a well-defined edge usually visible in areas not otherwise covered with blacktop. The concrete roadway is twenty feet wide at this location, and it seems to maintain this width where measurable throughout the study area.

First Curve West of Intersection with State Route 5

Brief: After bearing southeasterly for over a mile, the Lincolnway route begins another curve to resume its easterly course with the section lines laid out by the original government surveyors. These views show the opposite ends of the original curve, both of which include the original concrete, plus a small culvert that is plainly visible from the present roadway. The northwest end of the old roadway now serves as a residential driveway. Both this and the previous curve involve realignments over one-half mile in length.

Between County Road 350W and County Road 250W

Brief: Here, a significantly larger drainage structure survives under the canopy of some shade trees (zoom in to left half of image). Located on the south side of the present roadway, this bridge now serves as a picnic area for the property owner. West of this location, it is now difficult to determine where the old roadway would have met the present alignment. Too much of the original alignment has been obliterated, and one would probably need to review the construction drawings to make a confident conclusion on that matter.


Vicinity of Intersection with County Road 250W

Brief: At a location just west of County Road 250W, the present Lincolnway route crossed over the original route. As a result, old road remnants survive on opposite sides of the newer roadway. On the southwest side of the road, the homeowner seems to have built his residence onto the concrete pavement. It would be very interesting to peek inside the back door to see if the old roadway comprises a floor or a crawl space. On the northeast side of the road, a small concrete headwall gives a great clue to the location of the original alignment that can be traced as a curve through the grass.

Vicinity of Intersection with Schuman Road

Brief: The final old remnant between Warsaw and Columbia City is behind a home that is located in the wedge between Lincolnway and Schuman Road. It is interesting to observe the curve of the old concrete roadway as it disappears into the filled lawn area behind the house. Beyond this point, I don’t believe that there are any more remnants of 1928 roadway until reaching the edge of Columbia City. After crossing U.S. Route 30, the street marked as Park Street is the original Lincoln Highway route into the city. This can be verified by auto guides of the day, and the inventory of concrete posts as set by Lincoln Highway Association. The street marked as Lincolnway was likely constructed at about the same time as the curve improvements that have been studied above, creating a better and safer path into and through the west part of the town.

Michael Gene Buettner
June 18, 2009