The Depots in my Life
Elkhart and Anderson
The Elkhart Depot was a familiar sight all my life. We rarely had to wait a long time at Elkhart and one time not at all as the train waited for us. We arrived at daybreak and as we drove down the street toward the depot mom noticed in the distance a train sitting on the tracks. Mother asked dad if that was our train. He said if there was a train sitting there it was ours. Dad couldn't park in his usual spot near the depot as the train blocked the street so he told me to get out and try to hold up the train.
I got out with overnight bag in tow and ran like mad around the back of the train and yelled frantically to the conductor, "Wait, wait my parents are coming." He told me go ahead and get on and they would wait. I got on and waited at the top of the steps just in case they didn't make it. How dad found a place to park so quickly I will never know but within five minutes mom came running around the back of the train and then poor dad who was lugging two suitcases. We were heading to Chicago for a cousin's wedding so if we missed it his sister would have never forgiven him. After we got on the train and were seated my mother gave dad what I used to call "the evil eye" so Dad allowed plenty of time on our trips to Elkhart after that.
Interestingly our longest wait ever was at Elkhart. That same train that usually left at daybreak got delayed in the East because of a wreck and never arrived until around 2:00 in the afternoon. Dad had to walk up town and get us something to eat as we hadn't had breakfast or lunch as there were no vending machines in the Elkhart depot. The Elkhart depot waiting area was more spacious than Anderson's and always very clean with a marble floor which impressed me and it was bustling with activity as there were always lots of people getting on and off there.
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When my oldest brother headed to St. Louis for seminary the St. Louis era of riding the rails began with new trains like the Southwestern Limited and the Knickerbocker and getting to know the Anderson depot. I can still remember every detail of that station as I spent so many hours waiting there. The waiting area was mainly to the left as you entered the depot and much smaller than Elkhart and the benches sat at an angle and were made so you could sit on either side of them. It was always so dingy like it hadn't had a good cleaning in 10 years. I can tell you with authority this depot was the not the pride and joy of the Big Four unless it secretly had a lucrative gambling operation going on in the freight area I knew nothing about.
The station agent sat behind a small window with bars and occasionally came out and wrote on the board when the train was going to be late but with no explanations like it was some deep dark secret. I once went up and asked him how long yet and he was not very nice so I didn't bother doing that again. I hated that depot because it was such a dismal place to wait and located in such a bad part of town you couldn't walk anywhere close by to get a Coke. To add insult to injury you always had to walk a block to get on the train. You always got on right at the station at Elkhart and Wabash but not Anderson. It usually was way to the west but once or twice to my surprise it was to the east. You could always tell where you were getting on by where the baggage carts were sitting. It was even worse when we returned and got off the train. It would be over a block away from the depot and many times it was pitch dark and the station was barely in sight and a terrible walk if you had a heavy suitcase.
Every time the engineer passed the station and kept on going for several yards and I had a heavy suitcase to lug and it was extremely hot or bitter cold outside I wanted to scream "Stop you idiot!" I am sure he was following orders but obviously not from someone who had any common sense because it was really hard on elderly people like my grandma to walk those distances with a suitcase. Muncie was the same way but fortunately I only got on there three times. In the 50's mail became heavier and heavier so it wasn't unusual to board the train and sit several minutes while they unloaded and loaded mail. If you add an extra three minutes to each stop because of mail you would always have to wait for the train that many minutes more than the time that was scheduled.
Elkhart Depot - Photographer unknown (Postcard??)
NYC Station in the early 1940s - Postcard Photo - Marvin Crim Collection
NYC Station as it is today, 2004 - Photos by Roger Hensley