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  Railroads of Madison County
Roger Hensley
Time Traveler

While in the U.S.Navy, I was stationed for a year at Great Lakes NTC. I rode back and forth from Anderson to Chicago on the PRR and from Chicago to Great Lakes on the North Shore...

The Time Traveler...
By Roger P. Henasley

The hour is late and the station is nearly deserted as I board the waiting car which departs shortly after my boarding. There are ample available seats and I drop into a window seat on the left in the last car. We run parallel to a freight line shortly after leaving the city and I'm always thrilled at watching the trains pass at night.

Our beautiful old beast squeals as her cars takes the 'too sharp' turns on the 'L' structure as she makes her way North toward her own lines. It is there that the Motorman can let her have her head and she'll race the wind and the clock. We meet two 'L' trains as we make our way to the 'Mile' and then we are there! The Conductor has opened the rear door and is waiting. The cold night March air blasts and swirls around the car as the Motorman shuts off and the Conductor leans out and with a swift motion pulls on the retainer cable letting the trolley pole free from it's clip and then, with a practiced hand raises the pole until it's shoe rides on the overhead wire. With a swift motion he thows the knife switch that lets the motors draw current from poles rather than the third rail shoes and then, *ding-ding*, the signal is passed up the train, the motorman winds out and we have once again made the transition from 3rd rail to overhead at better than 50 miles per hour. It is a beautiful thing to watch and then the door is closed and our car once again begins to warm up as we roll Northward.

I settle back in the seat and gaze out my window watching the side streets and the grade crossing lights. In the background I am aware of the increasing hum of the traction motors as they continue to wind up driving our train ever faster through the night and I gradually become more aware of the sights and sounds of the grade crossings. There is the 'Ding, ding, ding, ding' sound of the warning bell as we cross the streets and look into the eyes of the drivers in the waiting automobiles as they wait for us to pass. But it is late night and there aren't many of them and our train isn't long and is moving quickly. It is. It really is moving quickly and I still hear the motors winding out as the Motorman is letting her run. I look around the mostly empty car and then back out the window as the crossings are now flashing past at an almost dizzying rate and the bells have become a 'Dinginginginging' as the cars plunge faster into the darkness ahead and still the motors wind upward as the Motorman runs on a clear track. He will make his schedule this night with ease.

In my mind we still flash by the darkened commuter stations as we roll onward to my destination at North Chicago and Great Lakes NTC. And then the ride is over. It was 1960 and the North Shore was to die shortly afterward. I would take this run again if I could. As it is, I can only try to remember what it WAS like and curse my failing memory. Who knew then that I would ever want to remember something that was so commonplace. Who knew...

Copyright 1996 - rph
Published:
Central Indiana Divsion, MWR, NMRA 'Rusty Spike'
Vol. 26 No. 4, Sept-Oct 1996


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