To Chicago On The Monon

The call came to our Bloomington home early one evening in the summer of 1957. It was my grandfather, Rufus E. Taylor, General Storekeeper for the Monon Railroad, telephoned from his home in Lafayette. Granddad was going to Chicago on railroad business the next day and wanted to know if I could accompany him. My cousin Bob, who was my age (14) would be going with us. We would go up on No. 6, stay overnight, do some sightseeing and take in a Sox game.

My parents had a hurried conference while Granddad waited on the other end of the line. Dad was not thrilled with the trip because it meant that he would have to substitute for me on my morning paper route, but at last the decision was made that I could go. I started breathing again.

Now, most kids would be thrilled about the trip because they would be seeing Chicago for the first time or because they were going to see the Yankees verses the White Sox, but not me. You see, I was born a railfan (although I don’t think I was aware of that term yet) so, my first thought was “I’m going all the way to Chicago on the Monon.” My second thought was “Chicago’s a railroad center and I’ll see more trains than I’ve ever seen before”, I couldn’t wait.

Late the next morning, I boarded No. 6 at the Bloomington station and headed north. I had traveled this portion of the Monon before, but everything north of Lafayette would be new territory to me.

 

 

 

 

When we reached Lafayette, Granddad and Bob got on board. There was an engine change in the yard north of the station and we were on our way again. Bob and I quickly staked out two facing seats as our traveling headquarters. They were at the end of the coach near a lounge area that contained vending machines. We settled down to watch the flat landscape and talk about what lay ahead while Granddad shared Monon gossip with the train crew.

At Hammond I got my first look at a “foreign” diesel in the form of an Erie switcher. From there on into Dearborn I was afraid to take my eyes from the window for a split second for fear that I would miss something.

 

At Dearborn there was something that made the whole trip worthwhile even though it has just begun. Sitting one track over from ours with its nose against the bumper post was a long, silver Santa Fe streamliner with its F units in red warbonnet paint yammering away. After all the years of seeing numerous photos of Santa Fe streamliners in magazines and admiring the “O” gauge version in Lionel’s catalogs, I could not believe that I was seeing the real thing. Granddad and Bob almost had to drag me out of the station.

Granddad gave us a choice of staying at the YMCA or Hotel Atlantic. Bob and I concluded we couldn’t return home the way we had traveled all the way to Chicago to stay at the “Y”, so we chose the Atlantic. It was clean, no nonsense businessman’s hotel. The EL ran not too far from our window providing sounds throughout the night sort of like those in the Blues Brothers movie. It was great.

The next morning we went with Granddad to the Monon offices and waited while he attended a short meeting. From there we went to the Prudential Building where we rode the elevator to the observation deck for a view of the city. We made a stop at the Museum Of Science and Industry, mainly to see the German submarine captured during World War II, then we took the train to Comiskey Park.

I don’t remember too much about the ball game except that the Yankees beat the Sox. We saw Mickey Mantle get a hit and an elderly gentleman down in front of us got bonked by a foul ball and had to be carried out. I do, however, remember seeing trains passing over the left field wall.

After the game and some dinner we made our way back to Dearborn and caught No. 15 for the ride home. Grandma was waiting with the car at Monon to drive us back to Lafayette.

After No. 15 pulled away from the Monon station and headed down the Air Line to Indianapolis, a long freight that had been waiting on the main south of the station rounded the curve and accelerated northward towards Hammond. We waved to the crew in the lead F-3 and I asked my Grandparents to wait so I could see the entire train pass. It was a fitting ending to our whirlwind trip.

When school started that fall one of our first English assignments was the inevitable “What I did last summer” theme. I wrote a three-pager on my Chicago trip. I got an “A”.

-By John M. Taylor, as originally published in The Hoosier Line, Volume 17, Number 2-

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