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  Railroads of Madison County
Railroad History in Brief

Railroad History in Brief
Roger Hensley

I have nearly always been interested in trains. Unfortunately, the traction lines were gone by the time that I could remember. Union Traction followed by Indiana Railroad interurban lines with their power plants and maintenance facilities and frequent passenger runs were headquartered here and in Indianapolis.

J-3 5435 on # 472 taking water at Muncie, IN in April of 1953.
Jeremy Taylor Photo, NYCSHS Collection
Anderson Indiana was the intersection of the very busy Big Four (NYC) Cleveland-St. Louis double track main with the Big Four Elkhart-Louisville line crossing it. The Central Indiana Railway ran from Anderson West to Brazil (near the Illinois line). At one time it had run to Muncie in the East. The Pennsylvania RR ran from Chicago to Cincinnati. The Pennsylvania handled much of the local switching which was still significant in 1951. The tracks by Delco Remy were controlled from Delco Tower at the junction of 18th street, Ohio Avenue and Columbus Avenue. They handled Delco Remy, and Philadelphia Quartz among others.

The Big Four South Anderson Yard was busy as well. The big Mohawks would soon run out their last days here running on the North-South line from Elkhart to Louisville and on the double track East-West main. There was a lot of local switching using smaller locos running from North Anderson to Container Corporation and the various plants on the West side. This was the city job. It went on duty 7:30 am and started at the wire factory and progressed all of the way to the box factory, stopping at all industries on the way. This included setting off to the CI in the passing track west of the depot where the Michigan Division turned to go north. It was an easy job for the fireman because it was just shifting cars. It had about 35-40 cars out of the South Anderson yard.

PRR 7787 in yard near downtown Anderson in 1952
Kirk Hise Collection.

The Pennsylvania was just moving from steam to diesel. From my home on Vineyard Street, you could still hear the mournful cry of the steamer as it passed through town in the early hours of the morning. At that time, you could stand outside and watch the southbound at two in the morning and northbound at four in the morning carrying travelers from Chicago to Cincinnati and the reverse as they passed the DOW Tower. When the trains passed through Anderson, the passenger cars were dimly lit allowing those who were awake to see but dimly enough not to disturb those who were sleeping.

The Roundhouse and turntable were still in use in South Anderson with the coaling tower standing tall and proud. The roundhouse had 16 stalls in 1951. By 1965, it had been reduced to 8 stalls and then later would be torn down except for a maintenance area that was burned by vandals about 2008 or 2009.

The Pennsylvania's coaling tower was north of Anderson about a mile or so, but there was a water tower at 5th and Main with their freight station and the White Frost ice plant. The ice plant had been used to ice refrigerator cars back when they were used. It sat across from the freight station. Up the track to the south of that was the old Norton Brewery/Purina Feed mill, the jail and the passenger station. South of that was Everybody's Oil and St. Mary church. Traffic was frequent on the Big Four and the Pennsylvania. You could expect a train at any time.

Crossing Gates were just being electrified from the operator having to crank them down and the winter downtown night would be shrouded in mist from the steam from the RPOs (Railway Post Office) and waiting passenger cars early in the AM at the Big Four station. Walking to school at St. Mary's from the south was always a neat experience passing through the swirling mist of the train cars.

My active interest in trains date from my living a couple blocks from the Big Four crossing on Madison Avenue when I was less than 10 years old. That was supplemented in the brief ride that I got on a Pennsylvania switcher at 5th and Main when I was about 12 or 13 and then there was the long walk I took north out of Anderson past the DOW Tower to the Pennsylvania coaling station about a mile north of Cross and Indiana Avenue. The DOW was at the intersection of Cross Street and Indiana Avenue. The DOW Tower had already been shut down by the time I went for my walk. Delco Tower now controlled the switches out here and the coaling station was nearly out to Florida Station. There was nothing out there except the coaling station and several Maintenance of Way cars parked along the siding. MOW cars were used by track work gangs to live in. They would follow the work and supply food and lodging for the workers.

In 1995, I began my web site with a couple of railroad Web pages and then began to accumulate photos and information. Since then, the web pages have grown to in excess of 318 pages and over 5500 photos. I pick up photos of the Big Four, the Pennsylvania, Penn Central, Norfolk & Western, Conrail and the Central Indiana railroads. I am also working on photos of CSX and NS. In other words, if it ran through Madison County I am interested in it.

My traction photos have come from a number of sources. There is much information about traction and early railroading, all of which have come from my research.

Roger Hensley
Madison County Historical Society, Inc.
15 W 11th Street
PO Box 696
Anderson IN 46015-0696

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