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A Rainy Day Picture

As Paul Harvey said, here is the rest of the story about the photograph appearing in the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society’s calendar on the April 2003 page.

I did not write down the date, location or other prominent data about the picture. Also, the picture was taken in the rain. But there are some things about the picture that I still remember.

It was at Rensselaer. Based on the F7 grills on 81B, it was after the crash at Monon and it was taken before I started formal recording of pictures in July 1953.

It was spring of the year 1953 and my high school was participating in one of the school band and orchestra and vocal contest that were held at various locations around the northwest part of the state each year. That morning I piled on the bus along with the rest of the musicians from Fowler Schools. I had my trusty Brownie Reflex in hand as we headed for Rensselaer. After arriving, I checked out the contest schedule and found that there would be time to go down to the depot and look for any action that afternoon.

At the depot I nosed around inside the waiting room and hoped to be invited behind the counter as had happened at the Big Four Depot in Fowler. The agent there was uninterested and I stayed in the waiting room of the brick depot. There were repeaters of the ABS signals at the telegraph desk which would drop when a train approached. This alerted the staff to take appropriate action. I observed this about 1:50 when Number 6 arrived and I went out on the platform. The calendar picture was snapped just as the locomotive was passing the south end of the platform. In the background are two of the grain elevators. This same picture also appears in the 1995 Tour Book.

I was watching the activities of a routine stop and went back to the depot to continue observing. About 2:30 the southward signal dropped and final activities for arrival of Number 5 commenced. It was still misting rain when it pulled in behind Engine 85A.

I don’t remember what we sand in the contest, or if it was before or after my trip to the depot. We likely received a “superior” rating.

One other thing that I remember about the trip was a stop at the drug store soda fountain downtown. If you recall, Rensselaer was well known for the sulphur taste of its drinking water. I had enough at the drinking fountains at school and decided to get a coke. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the local water was used at the soda fountain. I still remember the taste of that “sulphur coke.”

As I look back at these pictures I remember that trip and others including Delphi (no pictures). One important thing is that in spite of all of the “rules” about photography, 50 years later I do have pictures to help remember the Monon. Moral of the story, damn the rules, take pictures anyway. You’ll be glad you did, but please record the pertinent data.


By Robert Wheeler, as written in The Hoosier Line, Volume 22, Number 1


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