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  Railroads of Madison County
Don L. Leistikow
Memory of the Riley

The Riley doesn't stop here (but it did)

(This started as a question about a particular factory building in Lebanon Indiana and this memory came rolling out... -rph)

Back in the 1950's, I was the Traffic Manager for Geuder, Paeschke & Frey Company in Milwaukee. While there, we purchased the old Hicks School Bus Body plant on a main drag just north of US 52 on the south side of the Lebanon Indiana.

We moved our entire Galvanized Ware operation down there, which consisted of the production of Garbage Cans, Ash Cans, Sprinkler Cans, Coal Hods and Scoops, Water Pails, etc., all Hot Dipped Galvanized. Now that I am recalling these things, we also moved our Met-L-Top Ironing Table production down there as well. The galvanized ware was all labeled "Cream City". All in all, some 40% of our Milwaukee production went to Indiana.

The plant was a large facility with many deep typical factory windows and seemed to be laid out in a right angle configuration. The NYC Big Four served the plant and I recall that the first time that I visited down there, I booked a seat on the James Whitcomb Riley. The NYC had an office in Milwaukee and I let them handle the reservation and ticketing. As the 'Riley' departed from Chicago's IC Station, I was told to introduce myself to the conductor at the assigned track check in. I did so and enjoyed a nice ride to Kankakee behind a pair of E type diesels.

On arrival, the diesels were uncoupled and a big J class 4-6-4 Hudson took charge of this name train. What a sight that was. And quite a ride, too. Anyway, as we left Lafayette, the conductor came through the car and told me that Lebanon was next and I should meet him at the rear door of the car. THIS TRAIN DOES NOT STOP IN LEBANON. But, they did, just for me..... What a thrill that was.

As the train hi-balled south, I stood on the platform and saw that every porch in view had people standing out there to see who got off. Wow.... Needless to say, when I returned to Milwaukee some three days later, they stopped the Chicago Limited at Lebanon for me to get on...... Those were some great days.

Riley Northbound in Indy Roger, I do not remember the exact year but, it had to be in the neighborhood of 1956, 1957 or 1958 at the latest. (as the last NYC steam ran in May of 1957, so it likely was 1955 or 56 - rph)

I must tell you of my experience in returning to Milwaukee. I had spent some three days down there, getting the railroad freight staff acquainted with our preprinted bill of lading forms. In doing so, we could be assured that they would be billing the correct rates as many of our shipments were prepaid. This was no small task, either.

On the day I was to return, I arrived at the passenger station some 15 minutes before train time. The freight house was some three blocks from the passenger station and I discovered that the agent and a dispatcher had proceeded me. Neither of these two were youngsters but, the dispatcher was definitely somewhere in his seventh decade of aging.

Lebanon Depot Well, he cranked the magneto on his phone and pulled the speaker, which was wall mounted on a window post with an expanding support, toward him. To my surprise, he then held the ear piece to his chest and began to talk into the speaker. I quickly caught on, that he had hearing problems and was able to hear by holding the receiver to an amplifier wired to his headphone. "She'll be comin' around the curve in a minute, now" he said. And sure enough, another of the beautiful J class 4-6-4 Hudson's was slowing down 'for me'.

Wonder of all wonders, it stopped with a coach door very close to me. The conductor swung down, I boarded and the conductor gave the engineer a highball. Again, the neighbors poured out onto their porches to see why the Chicago Express had stopped in Lebanon. Never to be forgotten......

Don L. Leistikow


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