King Coal And Big Plans

When William Coleman became President it was perhaps natural that he would look to coal as the savior of the Monon. The first step by the Monon towards fulfilling the Coleman plan was a coal un-loading facility on the Ohio River and a Great Lakes dock at Michigan City came in the spring of 1961 when the Monon applied for a $3.5 million federal-guaranteed loan. The amount was soon increased to $5 million, with $4 million earmarked for construction of the docks. In August 1961, the loan was guaranteed by the ICC and in October the Monon applied to the ICC for permission to build new trackage necessary at Louisville. The barge facility was to be on the south side of the river, linked to the Monon via the KI&T and Michigan City.

Proposed Louisville Coal Unloading Facility

Coleman's intent was that the Monon would haul Appalachian coal, transported from West Virginia down the Ohio River, north from Louisville to waiting Great Lakes steamers at Michigan City and to power plants in the Chicago area. Opposition from eastern coal hauling railroads fearful of lost traffic and revenues soon appeared at the ICC's doors. The Monon would have to fight.

Proposed Great Lakes Coal Dock At Michigan City

When Coleman strengthened his control over the Hoosier Line in January 1962, planning for the coal facilities on the Ohio and Lake Michigan proceeded, but any meaniful progress was stalled while the subject went under consideration by the ICC. On October 15, 1963, an ICC hearing examiner issued his report from the April hearings on the Monon's proposed coal facilities. The report recommended approval of the Monon's plan. Even before the report was formally issued the Monon, in September 1963, placed its order for the locomotives that would lug coal between the Ohio River and Lake Michigan, the six-motored Alco C-628s.

These locomotives were nothing more than lines on blueprints at Alco when the Monon placed their order. The C-628 had been announced by Alco in January 1963 and the Monon's order was the second taken for this model

The Coleman dream for the coal facility came to an end on January 28, 1965. On that day the ICC ruled on the Monon proposal and in a 6 to 5 decision, turned down the proposal. The ICC decision indicated that "public and convenience and necessity" had not been shown and indicated that competitive service over all rail routes was readily available.

The decision was a controversial one. In fact, one ICC Commissioner, Virginia Mae Brown, the first female member of the ICC, issued a stinging rebuttal to the 6 members who voted down the Monon plan. Also among the votes for the Monon was that of ICC Chairman Charles A. Webb. The following March, the Monon would issue a request for reconsideration of the ICC's decision, but the Monon's plan for the coal facility was dead.

Excerpts from Monon, the Hoosier Line, by Steve and Gary Dolzall

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