Brough's Folly

Brough’s Folly Vestiges (Trails 1,3,4,5)

John Brough purchased the Madison-Indianapolis Railroad in 1852 and laid out a route from down in Madison to the top of the valley through what became Clifty Falls State Park. Just 15 days before laying track, the project was halted due to lack of funds needed to continue the massive project. Further information on the railway is found in an Indiana DNR brochure available at the Nature Center.

Vestiges of what became known as “Brough’s Folly” are found in the park along Trails, 1, 3, 4, and 5. The vestiges include scattered remnants of railway bed, bridge abutments, a filled-in lower tunnel, and the abandoned upper tunnel now home to bats.

This part of the website provides a description of those vestiges. What follows are brief descriptions and photos of these vestiges by sections of trails, labeled A through H. There is a very nice diorama of the park and the railway path at the Nature Center with a copy of an earlier brochure describing the path. The information used here comes from that brochure and other sources. 

Section A –Trail 1. Begin with Trail 1 at the Nature Center (A1). Along the way to the old Observation Tower, you pass over what was to be to the lower tunnel of the railway (A2). Make the hairpin turn and head down the hill from the tower. You will notice a flat area to the right of the trail (A3). This is probably the railway path. Turn to look back up this path into the hillside and notice the now-filled opening of the lower tunnel (A4). Continue down Trail 1 and pass this footbridge (A5). The rail bed was in this vicinity. A hilllslide during the 1974 tornado may have damaged some of the route. Note the old footings or steps on the downhill side (A6), perhaps an older footbridge.

Section B – Trail 3. The hiker reaches the crows foot junction in the trail between Section A and Section B and follows the central Trail 3 (B1). Trail 3 is probably above the railway bed (B2). Looking down-canyon at a footbridge, there is a retaining wall visible partway along Trail 3 (B3). Continue down the very rugged Trail 3 into Trail 4 and Hoffman Canyon.

Section C - Trail 4. As you go downhill, you will leave Trail 3 (which heads up to Poplar Grove) and take Trail 4 into the descent to the bottom of Hoffman Branch Canyon and then climb up the other side. At the creek bed, look up stream just a bit. To the right is the vestige of a bridge abutment (C1, C2, C3). The route of the railway was going to span Hoffman Branch in the area – above your head. Start the climb up Trail 4 and, in the winter, you may look way up to the left (the opposite side of the creek) and see the abutments on the other side (C4, C5). As you continue to ascend Trail 4, look for Trail 5 to the left and go there into Section D.

Section D - Trail 5.  You enter Trail 5 climbing uphill and see, in the near distance, the informational panel “Brough’s Trace” and the large railroad bridge abutment (D1). The panel describes the area (D2). You climb along the edge of the abutment to the top (D3, looking down). At the very top, look back south-southeast down the valley into Hoffman Branch and you can see a series of abutments (D4). This is where the railway from along Trails 1 and 3 was headed. From here, continue the path along Section E, passing the base of the steps that lead to the Lily Memorial Overlook”.

E1.  The side channel waterfall and steps leading up to a picnic table on the Canyon Road.

Section E - Trail 5. This is a section of Trail 5 between the steps up to the Lilly Overlook and the south entrance to the tunnel. The trail here runs parallel to the probable path of the railway (downslope in this area) before it would rise to meet the upper tunnel. The end of this section is marked by a little waterfall and steps leading up to a picnic table on the Canyon Road (E1). The south end is just ahead.

Section F – Trail 5. As you approach the south entrance, you will see the informational panel and the opening (F1-2). This is the south entrance to the upper tunnel, 600 feet under the surface, and now home to bats and cave salamanders. You need a light to go through the tunnel (only in season – May-October). After you come out on the north side (F3), note the signage and cautions (F4-6). If you bypass the south entrance and continue on Trail 5, avoid the steps down to Trail 2 or up to Oak Grove and you will come to this same point. As you leave the north entrance and continue on Trail 5 to Tunnel Falls, note the flat area that was probably the proposed railway bed (F7).

Section G – Trail 5. The hiker continues past Tunnel Falls (G1) and follows the railway path against the hillside up Dean’s Branch canyon. A quick diversion, as the hiker proceeds up trail 5 here, they will notice foundation blocks in the creek - remnants of a "high trestle" roadway (G2). As you walk along the trail here, imagine that this was the location of the railway bed (G3). Conditions permitting, go down the ladder into Dean’s Branch creek bed (G4). Just up the creek bed, there is a stone retaining wall below the probable railway path (G5).

Section H – Trail 5/Canyon Road. The last stop is the old CC bridge over Dean’s Branch (H1). The railway cut  (H2) through the bank of the creek just downstream of the current bridge, crossed Dean’s Branch and, at some point (H3), made its way further upstream to the top of Madison’s “hilltop”. The H2 images are in grey scale to  enhance visibility.