Just a couple of little hobos

My one and only trip on The Hoosier Line

In my duties and responsibilities as a Director, Webmaster and Stores Representative, I have traveled throughout the state. From photo and exploring the former Monon to attending Board Meetings in locations like Salem and New Albany, I have logged a whole lot of miles on the old vehicle. During these travels and at train shows and swap meets, one of the questions that I am asked frequently is: So what is your connection to the Monon? Besides my family operating a tavern near the tracks through Lowell from 1931 until 1967, none. We lived a block west of the depot and I was known as a "depot rat" because I hung around the place and bothered Mr. Cripe, the Agent.

This memory is about the only trip I made on the Monon. It happened at the beginning of summer in 1963 or 1964. The exact year escapes me, but I do know it was before a major expansion project at Indiana Beach on Lake Shaffer. Several families from Lowell vacationed there in a cabin owned by a local Doctor. My family usually shared the cabin with the Bruce Family. Mr and Mrs Bruce had children close to my age, and our parents were good friends. During the first two weeks of June we would vacation down on the lake. It was during the trip down that year that fortune smiled on two little boys from Lowell.

Back in those days, there was no interstate highways. I-65 was nothing more than a proposed highway. The trip, to mr brother and I, was always dull and boring. The state and county roads that Dad always drove were just plain dull. My brother John and I were excited as we approached the community known as Plesant Ridge. The Monon was switching at the elevator on the southeast side of the highway. We begged our parents to pull over and let us watch for a few moments. Dad pulled the station wagon off to the side of the road and we watched as the BL2 moved a cut of cars from the elevator. Moments later, we noticed Dad talking to one of the trainmen. As it turned out, he was a friend of his. Junior Cooper was a patron of Dad's place on occasion. He came over to say hello to my Mom and then asked John and I if we would like to have a ride on his train.

We jumped at the chance. Junior must have cleared it with the other people on the crew and he walked us down to the rider car next to the engine. It was huge, or so it seemed to us boys. Dad lifted us both up inside the car and we looked around. These cars were not very well appointed, but hey, it was our first train ride. How much more excited can one get? Dad and Junior joined us in the rider and pretty soon we were moving. Mom drove on ahead and agreed to meet us in Monticello, south of the depot at the elevator. I remember Junior telling Dad it was the next stop on the days switching. I am not sure what speed we rolled down the tracks at, but to John and I we were flying. The rumble of the wheels and the roar of that BL2 locomotive were fantastic.

Pretty soon we were passing through the yard at Monon, Indiana. Slowly we passed the depot and continued our journey towards Monticello. Crossing the diamond at Monon was rough and noisy as I recall. A gentleman waved at us as we passed the depot. Of course my brother and I waved back. The miles clicked off as we rumbled south. All too soon we were crossing another diamond. This one was north of the Monticello depot on the TP&W, or Pennsylvania. I remember passing the depot and waving to some people along the street. Yep, I considered myself pretty hot stuff at the moment. It was neat running down the middle of the street in Monticello. Very different from the countryside we had passed through already. Reality set in when the locomotive started slowing down and we saw the car parked near the road. Once we came to a complete stop, we climbed down from the rider car and looked over the BL2. Then we thanked Junior for the ride. Dad invited Junior to stop by the cabin and have a cold one sometime during the next week. I am not sure if he did or not. That ended my one and only train ride on the Monon. We enjoyed our week of vacation at the cabin, but nothing could top that experience. To this day, forty years plus, my brother and I still talk about that trip. We still feel like just a couple of little hobos.

-Thomas Kepshire-


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