Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Bremen Depot

Part 1 of a 3 part series celebrating the Bremen Depot restoration & rededication to be held on May 1st. Congratulations Historic Bremen!

Baltimore & Ohio Railroad History
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad is the oldest mainline railroad in the United States. It traces its history to a committee of business men assembled at a Baltimore, Maryland residence in 1827. The men assembled weighed the options of canals, turnpikes, and railroads as the best means to open the city to markets in the developing western states by way of the Ohio River. It was established that a railroad was far more cost-effective than the construction of a canal, and that Baltimore had a considerable advantage since it was closer to the Ohio River than either Philadelphia or New York City. The committee requested a charter for a stock company to be known as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from the Maryland legislature in the same year. The legislature granted the charter with a capital stock of $3 million dollars. A survey for the route was undertaken in 1827 and in great fanfare a cornerstone was laid by Charles Carroll, the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, to initiate the construction of the railroad on July 4, 1828.

After the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad reached the Ohio River, it began to set its sights further west which ultimately would include three routes through Indiana. The first two routes were constructed through southern and central Indiana in 1857 and 1852, respectively. The Civil War interrupted additional construction on the railroad, but demonstrated the importance of having a functioning system of rails as a national supply route. John W. Garrett, president of the B&O Railroad, immediately set plans into place following the end of the war to reach more markets with the railroad. Garrett eyed Chicago as an important destination for markets on the east to reach and commenced the construction of the B&O Railroad through northern Indiana from Pittsburg west to Chicago, becoming known as the Baltimore, Pittsburg, Chicago Railroad, in 1871. By the fall of 1872 a 260 mile grade had been established from a point on the Lake Erie Division ninety miles north of Newark west to Chicago. During 1873 most of the track had been laid between Chicago Junction on the Lake Erie Division and Deshler, Ohio, 63 miles to the west. The remaining 200 miles of track was laid between Deshler and Baltimore Junction, Illinois in 1874. The final track was laid on November 15, 1874 and the line was officially open for traffic on November 23. B&O passenger trains used the Illinois Central line coming into Chicago while freight trains used the Eastern Trunk line. The first year of operation showed revenue at nearly $1 million dollars and a deficit of $126,000. However the following year net earnings reach $167,000.

The northern route of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad passed through Bremen on the north side of the town approximately three blocks from the original plat of Bremen between the town and its burial ground. The main street of Bremen (today SR 106) was an east/west street named Plymouth Street that was crossed at the center of the downtown by “Center Street”. Center Street connected the downtown with the railroad, industrial grounds, and the burial ground on the north side of town via a bridge constructed over a fork in the Yellow River. The railroad was located just north of the river, paralleling it for a short distance before it crossed the river west of Center Street, paralleling it again but on its south side. The depot grounds were established by the railroad on each side of Center Street, north of the track. The railroad originally constructed a simple wood framed depot on the west side of Center Street and north of the track; it acted as a passenger station, freight office and Western Union office. Two streets west of the original plat were named in honor of the railroad’s origin: Baltimore and Maryland Streets.

The 1908 plat map of the town shows the importance of the railroad to the development of the community. New plats were created north of the railroad along Center Street. Huff’s Addition with “Railroad Street” was created north of the depot on the west side of Center Street and “Manufactures Addition” was created on the east side of Center Street, north of the radiator company. The depot grounds on the east side of Center Street had considerably more development including an elevated wood water tank and tool house. A rail spur also connected a grain elevator, stock pens, and pickle shed on the east grounds as shown in the 1908 plat of the town. The same plat shows a spur connecting the Holland Radiator Company north of the elevator with a coke and sand shed and warehouse located between the two. A second elevator was located on the west side of Center Street, north of the depot. Another short spur connected a brewing company to the track in the northwest corner of the town.

The 1922 plat of the town shows little change in the buildings on the depot grounds, but considerably more development of the radiator company, then called “American Radiator Company”. The plant appears significantly larger in footprint than in 1908 and had two other spurs entering the building. The company was also named in the creation of a re-plat of a portion of Manufactures Addition north of the company and had constructed its own hotel north of the depot named the “Arco Hotel”. The 1922 plat also shows an engineered realignment of the fork of the Yellow River, now called Armey Ditch (also written Army), which provided more land between the south side of the railroad and the ditch on each side of Center Street. The railroad took advantage of this in 1929 when it replaced the original depot on the north side of the track with a new depot between the ditch and the south side of the railroad on the same side of Center Street.

A wave of new infrastructure improvements by the B&O Railroad resulted in several new depots constructed along its lines between 1910 and 1917; these included new depots designed in period styles located in Nappanee, Syracuse, and a large depot in Gary. However Bremen, a town similar in size to Syracuse and Nappanee, was not included in these improvements and maintained its original wood, rather non-descript depot.

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