Compiled by David L. Dwiggins
Most all of this research was done spending countless hours at the Anderson Public Library, Anderson, Indiana.
Natural gas supplies vanished at the turn of the century and most of the industry that had come to Orestes during the great boom disappeared soon after. Gravel deposits were plentiful in the lowlands south of town. The Stillwell Gravel Company started operating in the location in the early 1900's and handsome profits were garnered furnishing gravel for railroad ballast and highways and roadways in central Indiana. Stillwell sold out to Indiana Gravel Company. Indiana Gravel later sold out to Ryan Brothers to be called Ryan's Gravel INC.
The Union Traction Company operated an electric railway for many years at the gravel company but hardships forced selling interests to the Indiana Railroad July 7, 1930. Indiana Railroad also halted operations January 20, 1941. This created a real dilemma for Indiana Gravel Company. They used the electric freight motor interurban for transporting gravel to the L.E.&W. for shipment.
During the early 1930's the gravel company knew the interurban business was on shaky ground and decided to head this off by operating two small steam engines about 1932. One of the locomotives was used on the grounds to move gravel and sand from one location to another. This train was fired and operated by one person.
Harold Ebert was farmer that had grown up in the Dundee vicinity and had acquired boiler skills working with his family threshing local farms in north Madison County. He became employed by the Indiana Gravel Company as a locomotive engineer and fireman. The following is his recollection of his work there.
"I worked on the larger locomotive and shared engineer and fireman duties with a man from Tipton. He was the main engineer and I was his assistant much of the time." Harold explained struggling to recall his name. "Many times I would work the night shift in order to get water in the boiler and coal in the tender for the work the next day. We wanted to be ready to go when everyone started work. The gravel and sand was loaded from piles that were sorted at the gravel pits. Our job was to transport the materials to the L.E.&W.R.R. for shipment." Mr. Ebert recalls.
"We would fire the boiler up and get a good head of steam before we started the trip to Orestes. We would cross a wooden trestle over Pipe Creek and make a slight turn to our right before starting up a fairly steep grade. The grade wasn't really that steep, it was just a tough job for the underpowered locomotive. We would only pull one hopper car at a time and would usually have to stop at the top of the grade to get the steam built back up to finish the trip. By the time we got to the top of the grade we generally were low on water and steam. The Indiana coal wasn't very good and there would be lots of clinkers. The clinkers would occupy space that was needed for air and the fire would burn green and there would be lots of smoke exiting the stack. Once a fire was right there would be very little smoke from the stack even with a heavy load." He explained with a smile of the memories.
Ebert described further, "The grade ended near road 1100N just east of road 400W. You can still see the route that the train traveled as you look to the south but the roadbed is long gone that angled to the north to the target shed of the L.E.&W. We traveled to the target shed in a forward manner and would run in reverse on the return trip to the gravel company. The train lasted only until about 1934 or 1935 when gravel trucks transported the materials Jackie McMahan was employed by the L.E.&W. and oversaw operations of the siding switch and the signals to oncoming trains on the mainline. There were also tools and other miscellaneous items in the shed that was about ten feet by ten feet. During the day we would make the one hour round trip to the mainline leaving about four to five cars to be shipped out. The larger steamers from the L.E.&W. would stop daily to pick up the cars and leave empty ones."
The locomotives ceased operations and once again the electric trolley was working again moving gravel. As the Indiana Railroad became extinct, an electric trolley continued operation until the mid 1950's and was the last electric service in the area.
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