Friendly Monon, Indiana.
Let me tell you a Monon story about the nicest people I've ever met. Way back in the mid fifties, my buddy and I were cruising down the highway on our way to a Midwest Region NMRA meet, when his car broke down in Monon, Indiana. We got towed into town, but with a couple of rods through the crankcase, we were stranded. What else to do, but stick around and ride the Thoroughbred back to Chicago. We wandered over to the Monon yard, and saw a two stall engine house (IIRC it was two), and we peeked in the window. Inside was the most unusual engine we had ever seen, and it looked nearly new, all shiny black and gold. Later we found out it was a BL-2. As we were looking at the locomotive, the hostler walked over and asked if we would like to go inside to see "my engine" better. We looked all over it, and then he invited us to climb up into the cab. Obviously he was very proud of "his" engine. Besides all the mechanics, he also showed us what all the controls were for. He asked if we would like to go for a ride.since the engine was sitting there dead on a Sunday morning, he had to start it up, and after a little warm up, we moved out of the engine house. The engine house lead was rather long so we rode up and back a couple of times. Then the amazing thing, he asked if we would like to operate the locomotive. WOW !! After some more instructions and a little practice, we rolled out of the house again and slowly down the track. Obviously, our friend the hostler just about sat in our lap. What a thrill !! We had a great time going back to Chicago on the Thoroughbred, which was so crowded that we had to sit in the dining/club car. Had to keep eating or drinking to retain our seat. The Monon was a great railroad.
That was back about September or October 1954, I think. Obviously when my friend's '41 Chevy threw a rod (oil line broke, and oil pumped out), the engine sounded like it was going to explode. We ended up on the side of the road, and walked up to a farm house. Actually, the farmer came running to us yelling for us to get out of that field. Seems as though he had a few head of hogs at the other end, and they can be dangerous. How were two Chicago city slicker guys to know that? The framer's wife made a couple of sandwich's for us (delicious) and he towed us into Monon with a chain and his tractor. Because of the chain, we had to be the brakes, or crash into the back of the tractor, so we were going pretty slow. We went to the Chevrolet agency, which at that time was open, but no mechanic's. One of the nice guys called the head mechanic and asked him to come in a take a look at the mess we had. When he arrived, no kidding, he was wearing torn overalls, and an old broken dirty straw hat. He stuck his head under the hood and looked around, making "tisk, tisk" sounds. Then still under the hood he said, "Start 'er up !!" "Start it up," we exclaimed, "the damn thing is obviously busted." "Yeah" he replied, "but try starting it anyway." Well, what do you know, but that old engine still had some spunk left in it, because it started. "BAM, BAM, CRASH, BOOM, " and the mechanic flew out from under the hood, smashed his head in doing so, yelling, "Turn it off! Turn it off!" So we had to leave the car there, and they put a used GMC truck engine in it (cheapest cost), we went back the next weekend to pick it up, and once again visited the engine house. The BL-2 was out somewhere. But, this total experience still sticks in my mind as a chance meeting with some of the friendliest people on this Earth. Hence, I model the Monon, in addition to the Milwaukee Road. Before going to Northwestern University, I worked two Summers, and whenever they needed me as a tower operator all around the Milwaukee Road Chicago Terminal Division. I worked A-3, A-4, A-5, Cragin Junction, and Franklin Park. but that's another long story."
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