Three Rides On The MONON
-Submitted by Tim Swan-
I never got to ride on any of the Varsity runs. Though I grew up right across the street from the mainline in Munster, my first ride on the MONON wasn't until around 1951 on a Boy Scout/Cub Scout special excursion from Chicago to the Lafayette Shops and return. We Scouts from Da Region boarded at Hammond, Sibley Street. I clearly remember going through the yards and getting to see my own house from the train, but recall hardly anything of our tour of Shops in Lafayette, except that we were all given those white painters-style "engineer" caps there, which I still have today.
I didn't get to ride on the MONON again until I was 23, in 1964, just before answering the call of Uncle Sam. Rode purely for pleasure all the way from Dearborn to Lafayette and return, all on the same day. I had a box camera with me and spent most of the trip in the rear vestibule taking pictures. Many of the photos I took on that day are included on my CD (Tim Swan Collection), available from the MRRHTS Company Store.
The next, and unfortunately last, occasion I had to ride the MONON was just a few months later, in June 1964 after completing Army basic training at Fort Knox, but without a camera. Too bad, as it was all the way from Louisville to Hammond (Lyman Street). Despite its early morning departure from Louisville Union Station, that train was absolutely packed full with soldiers. We had all been shipped down together nine weeks earlier (via a PRR special) from our Chicago induction, and now most of us were going home on leave individually, but again winding up on the same train together. The ride was long and slow and sleepy, but quite scenic and enjoyable. I especially remember the slow street-running in Bedford and the train winding through rock cuts and woods after that. I think I slept much of the way from Bloomington though, and missed Lafayette entirely.
A vendor with a cart (like on airlines today) was serving coffee and donuts as we left Louisville. I think he got off at Bloomington. Later, a sandwich vendor came aboard at Rensselaer, I think it was, getting off later, maybe at Lowell. Both of them had a hard time getting through the two coaches with their carts because of all the troops sitting and lying around on the floors. Fortunately though, I had a window seat most of the way to Hammond. Wish now I'd just stood in the back vestibule with a camera.
Oh, how I wish I could relive those rides--and this time with a digital camera!
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