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Notes from the Inspector

Well here I am by the side of the tracks waiting for that hot eastbound morning van train again. I've gotten all my paperwork caught up, so I guess I've got a little time to think about the model railroad I'd like to build someday.

I like first and second generation diesels, a brace of F units, of geeps back to back; love those GP-30's and F and FP 45's, but then there is beauty in eight coupled drivers powered by steam, turning at speed down a ribbon of rail. Passenger trains, both thru and local, they're a must. Freights with long runs with set outs and pickups, locals and yard jobs with lots of switching and interchange work.

Do I freelance or go with a prototype? I grew up with the New York Central in my back yard, and somehow I'd like my favorite short line worked in, the Central Indiana Railway with their lonely little SW-1, Number 1. If I could I'd also like to work in the Nickel Plate, Monon, and maybe the Wabash, all great roads.

What type of layout design do I go with? Modular, shelf around the walls with islands, or maybe a linear, shelf-type design like Tony Koester's Nickel Plate Road Third District subdivision, or Bill Darnaby's Freelance Cleveland, Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and St. Louis Railroad. Of course there was the ultimate of basement railroads, that of the late great John Allen and his Gorre and Daphetid Railroad. WOW, what great wizardry of railroading in a mountain type scenery, floor to ceiling wonderful! Well, back to the task at hand. Can I find a prototype line to give me what I'm looking for in a layout, or should I go freelance, projecting the line on a map.

I like to think of myself as some sort of an Indiana rail lines historian. Let me think, what can I come up with? Michigan City, In., had the Central's main from Michigan with branch lines of the Monon from Monon, and the northern end of the Nickel Plate's IMC branch line from Indianapolis, plus the South Shore electric line, and a Pullman Standard plant with lots of new box cars. Then there is the south end of the IMC Branch in Indianapolis where all three roads, Central, Monon, and Nickel Plate had tracks out of Union Station to the east towards Massachusetts Avenue Tower. There the Central split off to the east and the Monon and Nickel Plate paralleled each other out of their own yards and made connection with Indianapolis Union Railway. Might make a great terminal layout, but too urban for me.

Where else besides up around Chicago would the three roads be together? Wait a minute, between Chicago and Indianapolis is Lafayette, In., with all three roads plus the Wabash Railroad. Bingo, the Central's Cincinnati, Oh. to Kankakee, Il. main line. The whole 294 mile long main would be a bit too much to model, but the western half, say from just outside of Indianapolis towards Kankakee and the yards on the end of the line. Let's pull out the old road maps and explore the western half of the division, and see what I can come up with.

From Indianapolis to Altamont, In., the Central was a single track, traffic controlled system controlled by the dispatcher in Clarks Hill. The first town north out of Indianapolis of any size is Lebanon, In., where at grade, the New York Central crossed my little short line from Anderson, In., the Central Indiana Railway. Also at Lebanon the New York Central passed under the Pennsylvania Railroads I & F branch. Since there was no physical connection between the NYC and the PRR, until after the Penn Central merger in 1968, the Central Indiana handled any interchange between the two. At Colfax, In., the Central crossed at grade the PRR's branch that ran between Terre Haute and Frankfort, In, which had an interchange track. On up the line was a long passing siding at Clarks Hill, In., where the Central crossed at grade the Nickel Plate Road's third district subdivision which ran between Frankfort, In., and Charlestown, Il., and continued on to East St. Louis. At Clarks Hill the Central had an interchange track with the Nickel Plate. Hey, Mr. Koester when will those interchange cars be spotted for pickup?

Nearing Altamont the Central became double track again and then left its own rails for that of the Nickel Plate's Frankfort, In., to Peoria, Il., main from Altamont to Templeton which was double track automatic block signaled with three towers: Altamont, Lafayette Jct., and Templeton. Signals on this part of the Nickel Plate were upper-quadrant semaphore type.

At Lafayette Jct. the Central and Nickel Plate crossed at grade the Wabash Railway main line from Detroit to Kansas City, and the Monon's main line from Louisville to Chicago with all four roads having their own interchange tracks. In Lafayette the Central maintained a small yard to work out of with its own yard job. After crossing the Wabash River, the Central and Nickel Plate had to climb up out of the river valley, and in steam days this was a pusher grade with the Central's Lafayette yard job assisting in the assault on the grade.

Between Lafayette and Templeton the Central had no industry work to perform, as this was all handled by the Nickel Plate. At Templeton the Central had an interchange track with the Nickel Plate for traffic to go west on the Nickel Plate. After regaining home rails at Templeton, the Central double track continued on to Swanington Tower where the Central became a single track automatic block signal territory on to Kankakee Jct. with the only open block tower at Sheff, In. That was where the Central's Kankakee line crossed at grade the Central's branch line from Chicago to Danville and Cairo, Il. There was always interchange work to be done between the two lines, and at least one thru freight from Cincinnati left the Kankakee line to go into Chicago. On the Danville line just north of the Kankakee line on the east side, was a 6 or 7 track yard with a very long siding.

Just up the road from Sheff was Sheldon, Il., where the Central crossed at grade and interchanged with the Toledo, Peoria and Western. This diamond, along with the diamond crossing at St. Anne, Il. with the Chicago and Eastern Illinois were automatic controlled interlockings, meaning that the first train on the approach signal circuit was the train thru the interlocking. Between Sheldon and St. Anne was Donovan, Il., where the Milwaukee Road's former Chicago, Terre Haute, and Southeastern branch to Westport, In., crossed over the top of the Kankakee main with no physical connection track between the two lines.

Before arriving in Kankakee between Anoma Park and Court Street, the Central had a yard where train crews and engines changed before trains were forwarded on to Chicago on the Illinois Central Railroad, which was done at Kankakee Junction on the I.C. near downtown. Interchange with the I.C. and the Central's branch line from South Bend, In., to Ladd, Il., took place here and at the Central's Western Division Kankakee West yards.

Well, what do you know, I think I may have come up with a prototype line I would like to model that could give me most of all I was looking for in a layout. That wasn't so hard, with some time, thought, maps, an old timetable, and a video or two about the New York Central in Indiana. Just think, I could start the railroad just southeast of Lebanon and model on towards Sheff, In., or more likely Sheldon, Il., so I could have two yards on the layout.

Indianapolis and Kankakee would be modeled as staging yards or loops, and the Central Indiana Railway could be modeled like a branch with its crossing of the Central in Lebanon, still protected with a target-tilt board and the connection with the PRR's I & F branch which passed over both rail lines. The Nickel Plate would come into the layout at Altamont and continue to Templeton with its Frankfort and Peoria trains. The Monon and the Wabash would only have taken appearances at Lafayette Jct., but there could be Monon detours between Lafayette and Indianapolis, and depending on how much a person wanted to model, one could always have the TP & W, C & E I, plus I.C. Railroads.

If your railroading taste leans toward a more modern time, well, had the politics of rail lines been a bit different, who knows what this rail line could have done. Right after the Penn Central merger of 1968, a physical connection was built between the Central and the PRR at Lebanon, In., so that southeastward former Central trains could now climb the hill and turn southward to go towards the Central's, now Penn Central's Big Four rail yards at Avon, In., on the Indianapolis west side. Just think, road freight powered by six axles leaving Indiana Harbor Belt's Gibson Yard traveling south down the Danville line to Sheff and turning southeastward to Indianapolis.

On the eastern half of the Kankakee line between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, there was a helper or pusher grade from Valley Jct., Oh., to Sunman, In., westbound towards Indianapolis, but with today's A.C. units this grade would just be an inconvenience.

Today this line might have become a hotbed of activity with vans, double stacks, auto racks, autoparts, and much more traveling between Chicago and the southeastern United States. Hey, who knows maybe even Powder River coal trains, maybe even roadrailers, who's to say? Hey, isn't this a little like freelancing?

What's that, Dispatcher? Yes, the eastbound CSXT 765 is by me with his marker now. That's a Roger. Ready to copy a form D.

Oh well, back to the job of riding the rails.

The Inspector
Ron Buser


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