The National Road, the major east-west thoroughfare, reached Terre Haute in 1835. The arrival of the Wabash and Erie Canal in 1849 preceded too closely the advent of the more dependable railroad for the waterway to have a significant economic impact. Still the canal was the principal means of travel to the north for a decade. Even as the canal construction neared Terre Haute, plans went forward to bring rails from Richmond, Indiana, along the course of the National Road. The Terre Haute and Richmond Railroad, incorporated on January 26, 1847 and completed in 1852, was the initial line of a rail network that added considerably to the city's reputation as a transportation crossroads. Bridges across the Wabash and its tributaries linked the various transport resources, fostered travel, facilitated business, and extended the city's range of influence.
In 1865, the name of the line was changed to the Terre Haute and Indianapolis Railroad, before eventually becoming part of the Vandalia Railroad.