The Chicago, Indianapolis & Louisville Railway was known simply as the Monon. Monon derives from Pottawatomie Indian words that sounded to the first settlers like metamonong or monong and seemingly meant "tote," or "swift running."
In 1882, the railroad started printing "The Monon Route" on company maps, later naming itself "Monon - The Hoosier Line" on timetables, letterheads, and rolling stock. The railroad took the name Monon since it's mainline from Chicago, Dearborn Station, to Louisville converged with it's branches to Michigan City and Indianapolis at Monon, Indiana. Smaller branches connected points on the Louisville mainline to Victoria, Indiana and French Lick, Indiana.
The Monon, from 1897, operating almost entirely within the state of Indiana, was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad in 1971. Much of the former Monon right of way is operated today by CSX Transportation.
The Monon directly served six colleges and universities along its line:
- Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana
- Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana
- DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana
- Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana
- Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana
- St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana
The university traffic was important enough to the Monon, that the railroad used the schools' colors on its rolling stock as the railroad's official paint schemes.
The Monon line was unusual in that its main line ran down the middle of streets in several cities, most notably Lafayette, New Albany and Bedford.
The cover of a Monon timetable
The Monon serviced the French Lick Springs Resort with a Pullman sleeper that would be dropped off at the resort so the patrons could finish their nights sleep.
In 1946, John W. Barringer III became president of the Monon, changed its operations, built new passenger cars, purchased new diesel F-3's for passenger and mainline freight service, and made the Monon a modern, efficient, and competitive railroad. The Monon Railroad was ons of the first class 1 railroad to become fully dieselized.
On July 31, 1971, the Monon was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.
In 1999, portions of the line around Indianapolis were converted to a bicycle and pedestrian trail known as the Monon Trail. Later, the tracks around Munster Indiana and Hammond Indiana were all ripped out and the line was converted into another section called the Monon trail.