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Roger Hensley

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  Railroads of Madison County
Roger Hensley

Station Memories - PRR
Roger Hensley

Click on Photo for a larger view

I joined the U.S. Navy in March of 1959 and was sent to RTC Great Lakes (Recruit Training Center) for my initial training. At that time, the passenger trains of the individual railroads were still running and you could board the New York Central for Indianapolis or St. Louis or Cleveland. You could even take it to New York if you wished, all from the Big Four station on Main Street. However, I took the Pennsylvania at the Pennsylvania Station at 9th and Fletcher to Chicago. At the Chicago Union Station, I asked where I could catch the North Shore to Great lakes. It was only three blocks East came the reply. I figured I could walk three blocks even in the winter without the expense of a taxi. That was the longest three blocks I ever walked. I had not figured on the length of the Chicago block. I got to the North shore station and then took the North Shore (Interurban) to Great Lakes.

The Pennsylvania Railroad ran from Cincinnati to Chicago and that is exactly what I needed when it was time to come home on Leave. In fact, when I left RTC Great Lakes and moved across the road to NTC (Naval Training Center) for my electronics schooling, I rode the Pennsylvania at least once a month from Chicago to Anderson and back.

The Pennsylvania station at that time was on a hill at 9th and Fletcher. Down by the 'tunnel' (underpass) was at least one bar and directly across the street from the station was what had been good hotels in better days. My mother and father would meet me at the station at 4 or 5 in the morning when I came in on Friday night and take me back to the station on a Sunday afternoon to catch the train back to Chicago. I remember catching the 11 PM train out of Chicago Union Station. I remember the one engine that I really liked, it was an Alco PA and it would sit simpering with a low gurgle as I would pass it.

As part of the train continued on to Florida after reaching Cincinnati, it was a long train. I would walk through the steam swirling in the lights of the platform looking for my coach in the hustle and bustle of travelers and porters and Red Caps. Trains were heated with steam from the engine back then. The passenger train carried both sleepers and coaches and when I found my coach, a Conductor would check my ticket to be sure that I was where I was supposed to be.

I would then find a seat and settle in for the trip. I always had trouble sleeping until after we were moving and leaving Chicago. Other travelers never seemed to have trouble sleeping. They could drop off almost immediately, but I liked seeing the city at night as the lights flashed by. We would pass the grade crossings and homes and factories. I would look out the window and watch the city scenes go by. I used to see a motel along the line that looked very prosperous. I would stay there in later years, but that's another story.

As we began to move through the darkness, a Conductor would come through and punch our ticket and after a while, dim the lights for those who were sleeping. And then there was the almost gentle rocking of the car on the tracks as we moved through the night and I would occasionally rouse from sleep as we went through one town or another. When we came nearer to Anderson, the Conductor would come through the car announcing the stops. “Elwood. Next stop, Elwoood,” and then “Frankton. Next stop Frannkkkton,” and then I was home pulling past Cross Street and across Broadway and slowing for the passenger station.

Through the night, the lights of the PRR station seemed to welcome me as I peered out the window looking for my family. The Anderson sign on the end of the station would come into view and my family was there looking for me with a big wave and smile as they spotted me through the large glass windows of my coach. A conductor was always at the door helping us to dismount to insure that all of the ladies and gentlemen left the car safely.

Outgoing mail and baggage had all been on carts waiting at the proper location to be loaded and unloaded, and the men in charge got to work immediately. There was no time to waste and as our family greeted each other and headed for the car, there would be a brief flurry of baggage and mail handling. By the time we drove from the lot, the Conductor would be calling his 'All Aboard' and soon the throb of the diesel motors would increase and the train would pull swiftly out of the station Southbound carrying still sleeping travelers heading for points south and vacations in Florida.

The few remaining people on the platform moved away and the station would again fall into the quiet of the night. In the darkness of night, it was difficult to see the faded condition of the Pennsylvania station and equipment. Then, all seemed well with the world and the railroads as dawn was breaking when we drove home.

Today, it's all gone. even the hill that the station stood on is gone. WorkOne Central Indiana is there now along with it's parking lot. Only the memory still exists.

Roger Hensley

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