|RAILFANNING MONON DELPHI LAFAYETTE LOGANSPORT INDIANA|
THERE IS A TIME ZONE HERE. Indiana is normally on eastern time, but not the northwestern corner. We are an hour driving time southeast of Chicago, at the crossroads of two historic transportation corridors. The largest town is Lafayette, home of Purdue University and a very nicely situated Amtrak station. A pedestrian bridge was built connecting Lafayette proper witth West Lafayette, where the University is located. In the early 90's, a project was also completed to eliminate street running. Crossings were closed and eliminated, and now the CSX and NS pretty much follow the Wabash River bank through downtown.
Originally, French trappers followed the old Indian trails and used the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, which form the east-west corridor. During the canal-building phase of American history, the Wabash and Erie canal ran through Logansport and Delphi, pretty much along the alignment of where the Wabash Railroad eventually came to be. It opened between Toledo and Lafayette in 1843. Delphi has a canal park, which is very nice, and while it is out of sight of the railroad, it is something else to visit while you are in the area. So far Delphi has not discovered that it has a railroad history, and there are no railroad parks or vantage points in the town. But, you can watch trains right in front of the McDonald's Restaurant, which is at milepost 239 on the present Norfolk Southern main line through town. You can hear two or three detectors on the NS, although they do not indicate train direction or speed.
The State of Indiana is in the process of rebuilding state highway 25, the route between Lafayette, Delphi, and Logansport. Currently it is a 2 lane highway, and it follows the Wabash/NS much of the way between Delphi and Logansport. The route is now called the "Hoosier Heartland Corridor." There is a good self-guiding tour at frograil.com for this area. Portions of the route from Interstate 65 at Lafayette eastward to Delphi are now under construction, and eventually there will be a 4-lane highway all the way from Lafayette to Logansport. The new alignment will be right up against the railroad through Buck Creek to near Delphi. So, Highway 25 is the primary way to get into and out of this area. Currently there are already lots of open vantage points east of Delphi where NS freights can be observed and even "paced." Eventually this will become possible between Delphi and Lafayette as well.
At Battle Ground, just north of Lafayette, a decisive battle took place here on November 7, 1811 between various Native American tribes who followed the teachings and beliefes of an elder chief known as "The Prophet." "Prophetstown" is a park now, where you can come to understand the relationships between the European settlers and the Native Americans as they came into conflict over land ownership rights. The old Monon Railroad formed an "X" pattern, with two major routes crossing at Monon, Indiana in White County. They had a main locomotive shops complex at Lafayette and a smaller one at Monon. The portion of the western route currently used by Amtrak passes right through Battle Ground, and you can see the memorial to the fight right from the train windows on the west side. The Amtrak Cardinal runs three days a week from Lafayette to Monon, and the Hoosier State runs on those days that the Cardinal is not running. Battle Ground is a must-see while you are in the area. Europeans picked a time when the elder chief was out of town to set up their encampment as a trap for the more careless lesser chiefs. The Native American warriors were more or less wiped out, and this is noted by many historians as the turning point for Indians in what later became the midwestern portion of the United States. Previously, Native American chiefs still held out hope of various tribes uniting to become an unhyielding force against the new setters. After this date, their hope of maintaining their Indian Nations east of the Mississippi River was gone forever.
Eventually the remaining Indians were forcefully removed from Indiana so that settlers could obtain title to their lands. The Pottawatomie Trail of Death passed here, roughly following the Wabash River. Natives were force marched from various Indiana settlements to the supposedly reserved Indian Territories of Arkansas and Oklahoma.
The railroad between Detroit and St. Louis eventually came to this area, replaced the canal, and for a long time it was one of the few major rail transportation corridors that was not usurped by the interstate highway system. Now the State of Indiana is upgrading this "Hoosier Heartland Corridor" to near-interstate standards between Lafayette and Ft. Wayne. The dividing point between dispatching centers on the present-day NS is at East Peru. Decatur, Illinois is where the western dispatching center is located, and on the other side of Peru it is dispatched from Ft. Wayne.
Our north-south corridor is the old Monon, which was more or less ruined by I-65. Now, finally, with the coming renaissance of passenger rail, I-65 will be obsoleted by a 225 mph fast rail corridor that will be built here. The NS is the busier railroad, and at its peak around 1997, 80 trains a day passed here, with an average of 50-60 daily. Today because of the poor economy, the number is way down. Train numbers are generally two alpha/one numeric, like 19N, but some trains such as the triple crown roadrailers get three digit numbers. On the CSX we get get 5 or 6 freights a day plus the Amtraks. Local 769 often follows Amtrak in the mornings and comes to Monon and/or Rensselaer. The portion from Lafayette to Munster is now the CSX Monon Subdivision, part of the Chicago Division. South of Lafayette, the Monon Sub is part of the Great Lakes Division. CSX radio towers on the old Monon are located at St. John, Parr, Monon, Lafayette Yard and Lafayette Dispatcher, as well as Bainbridge and Hunters. Detectors are located south of Lafayette at MP 130.6, at Battle Ground MP 113.3, south of Monon at MP 92.8, and east of Rennselaer at MP 75.5. Unfortunately, you cannot usually hear them very far with a hand-held scanner.
Besides the McDonald's at Delphi, we recommend the Whistle Stop, which is a combo railroad museum and sit-down restaurant located north of Monon on US highway 421. Also at Delphi is a rib joint, located a couple of miles north of the McDonald's on state routes 18/39. This BBQ place is only open around noon, and just as long as there is food to sell. Once the ribs and chicken are gone, the owner closes up, usually before 2 PM. In an old building across from the courthouse in Delphi is a good spot to eat, and they bake pies in the morning daily. You can get a whole pie to take out if you want, but again, when they are sold out, there is no more that day. Downtown Lafayette has been written up as a good train watching spot in "Trains Magazine," but Amtrak times are almost always in the dark, early morning for northbound, late night for southbound. Lafayette Junction is also where the KBS joins up the CSX, and where the NS line to Dayton and Frankfort merges. You will see lots of auto-rack traffic, because of the Subaru factory at Lafayette (they also assemble Toyotas here we are told).
Besides state route 25, state route 43 also is a good route to follow to get to Monon from I-65 at Lafayette. US Route 421 jogs from Delphi through Monticello before going west to Monon, so if you want a direct route from Lafayette to Monon, take SR43. It parallels the railroad through Brookston, Chalmers, Reynolds, and up to Monon, but to get to Battle Ground you will have to use your GPS a bit. North of Monon, US 421 follows the old main line, which has now been severed at Medaryville. There are still stone quarries in the Francisville/Medaryville area that get service from the railroad, but if you are headed to the Whistle Stop or on up to Michigan City, you will not see any trains, nor even much evidence of the old Monon. Eventually this is to become the high-speed 225 mph route from Cincinnati and Indianapolis to Chicago, but you would not belief it by looking at the area now. Nor would you believe that at one time it was thought that this would be the primary railroad corridor from the Great Lakes to the Eastern Seaboard. Instead of Michigan City becoming the primary Great Lakes metropolis, it turned out to be Chicago!
What is left of the Indianapolis Branch of the Monon has mostly been marginalized or "rationalized" during the past 40 years. In the mid-90's, the portion from Monticello through Yeoman and crossing the Wabash at Delphi was removed. You can still see the switch in Delphi off the Monon, where there is service to a quarry located on the old Monon. But there is not much remaining evidence of the Monon there otherwise. From Monon to Monticello there are still tracks, which receive a couple of carloads of farm chemicals per year. Otherwise the line is abandoned. North of Monon, there are locals who will use this line, but they do not talk on the radio except at Monon to get permission to go back onto the main line. West of Monon at Pleasant Ridge there are industries, and the locals will sometimes talk from here and Rensselaer.
Monon is an old railroad town that has seen its better days. In the future though, it will be just a few minutes train ride from Chicago and Indianapolis on the new high speed route, and only about 15 minutes from Purdue University. There is still a CSX office here, in a "depot" that was built after a 1953 passenger train derailment that wiped out the old depot. Across the street is a railroad park, featuring a Monon caboose. South of town is a truck trailer assembly plant, which formerly was home to Monon Trailer. It is still in operation under the Wabash banner, but not to the degree it was in the past. Amtrak does not stop here presently, but stops at Rensselaer, a few miles to the northwest. The time zone changes between Monon and Rensselaer at the Jasper County line. You cannot parallel the railroad by highway here, but you have the choice of state route 18 or state route 114.
Rensselaer has an outdoor bus bench for an Amtrak stop, as does Crawfordsville, which is south of Lafayette, and Conorsville, which is east of Indianapolis. Other Amtrak stops in the state of Indiana for the Cardinal/Hoosier are Indianapolis, Lafayette, and Dyer. The Dyer stop, the last time we checked, was just a concrete slab in the middle of nowhere. Not even a bus bench there. Indianapolis' station is a shadow of its former self, with much of the facility shut down. At one time the old building also contained a shopping mall with a model train store. While the City of Indianapolis has spent billions on a new airport terminal and sports palaces, it has neglected its water and sewer lines, its streets, and its train station. It is almost a good thing that the two trains that pass through town do so in the middle of the night, so that tourists don't get to "see" this excuse for a rail station. The only Indiana Amtrak station that passes muster as a modern tourist-friendly facility is at Lafayette. It was built new, as part of the track relocation program. While in Lafayette, be sure to walk over to the old Monon station on 5th Street, last used in 1959. There is still a short section of track in the street in front of it. From 1959 until the last Thoroughbred train rain in September 1967, the "depot" was at Salem Street. The "new" Lafayette Amtrak station is unmanned, but there is a ticketing kiosk there and the facility is open from 6 AM until after the southbound train leaves at around 10 PM. It is actually the old "Big Four" depot that was painstakingly moved and rebuilt at this site. The only Amtrak station in Indiana that has a ticket agent, besides Indianapolis, is at South Bend, on the Lakeshore/Capitol route. Logansport has had volumes written on its railroad history, but sadly, the main stations are no more. The grand Pennsylvania station was on 4th, and the Wabash station on 9th. Both were recently demolished. Sadly, during the last years that Amtrak stopped here, it was at a railroad maintenance shack known as Van, a mile or so east of downtown. Neither Logansport nor the PennCentral were very impressive to tourists and railroad travelers during the 1970's. All service stopped on the Wabash in 1971, and the Riley/George, renamed the Cardinal in 1977, moved away by 1980. For more information on current passenger trains in Indiana, click our links below.
The old east-west Pennsy line still exists from Logansport through Monticello and Reynolds. Now it is a short line Rail America property, still known as the TP&W. West of Reynolds, you start to see the latest "big deal" in the area, the windfarm operated by BP. Hundreds of windmills sit there, west of the old Monon, spinning their blades and supposedly sending electricity to Texas. Local power companies do not have access to this power, something that just doesn't make a whole lot of sense to us. Taxpayer money was of course used to heavily subsidize this "high tech" new industry. If you go far enough west on US 24 you will see the Heavy Lift Facility. Other than being a terminal for some of the windmills that arrived by train during they heyday of the windfarm construction, the facility seems mostly dormant.
While there are trains on the TP&W at least once or twice a week, they do not seem to talk on the radio. One TPW engine is captive to this area, along with a former Southern Pacific engine. Generally the two engines pull 7-14 tanker cars from west to east, presumably interchanging with NS at Logansport. We have heard of CSX also interchanging cars at Reynolds with the TP&W, but it does not seem to happen very often.
We hope you enjoy your visit to our site, and to the Monon-Logansport-Rensselaer-Delphi areas. For more information on the railroad radio stream, the Amtrak Cardinal and Hoosier State, and to look at an area map, please click on our links below.
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|CARDINAL / HOOSIER STATE INFO - PASSENGER TRAIN HISTORY IN INDIANA|
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