Saturday, June 17, 2017

End Of The Line.

I live not too far away from a railroad track - like only 100 feet or so. Just to the east of me was a switch that fed into the grain elevator. The track into the elevator was originally part of the Chicago & Wabash Valley Railroad. It was a little short line started in 1898 by Ben Gifford and was sold to the Monon after his death in 1913. I've written a little book about the history of the railroad, by the way, but I need to make a few edits and get permission to publish it from the Indiana State Archives since it contains some items from their collection.

What you see in the photo is the last of the line. It only got used in the spring to bring in anhydrous and then later in the fall to ship out crops. The line it ties into services another grain elevator along the way and then dead ends at the power plant about 10 miles east of me. However, with all the government regulations and the new found abundance of natural gas, the days of coal fired generating stations are numbered, so it won't be too much longer and that line too will be history.

They brought in a couple of sections of track and I thought they were going to fix things up a bit. I should have known better. They used the sections to replace the switch instead. They just whacked the rails off with a cutting torch and then jerked the old rails over a bit for some extra clearance. No dignity to that death but business is business. The other tracks are currently part of the NS. Originally they were the Three I - Indiana, Illinois and Iowa - and later became New York Central. This section went in around 1881.

Obviously the C&WV wasn't set up for high speed service with only two bolts on the splice plate. This rail is some of the old stuff made by Illinois Steel Co, South Works in 1909. It also has the number 7506 rolled into it. I'm not sure what that stands for but the rail might be 75#. It's not very tall.

This is by where the old depot was located. Probably the base of a signal light. If they pull the remaining rails up, this will be the only thing left to indicate there was ever a railroad there. My buddy and I followed the old line from north to south back in the 70's. We spent a cold January day traipsing around to see whatever remnants we could find. It was still pretty easy to locate the railbed at that time. It would be a lot tougher if you tried it today.

My old farmhouse was built by Frank Lewis, who I believe was in charge of surveying for the line and who later became the superintendent. After it was bought by the Monon after Gifford's death, Lewis came with the deal and eventually rose to the position of superintendent of the Monon railroad as well. So the old shack has a little bit of historical significance. I'm not sure without checking my notes, but I think the original part of the house was built in 1903. There were quite a few houses built along the rail line to the same pattern, all known as Gifford houses. 

So the old railroad is no more. Likewise the the other one that runs by the house will probably be closing down in the future. They chopped the tracks off on the other side of the power plant years ago. When the power plant closes down that'll be it for that one as well. As a rail fan, it'll be a sad day. The upside, however, is that it'll probably make it easier to sell my place. Not everyone is like me and wants to live next to railroad tracks. 

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