ERSTWHILE PUBLICATIONS BLOG
This is a noninteractive blog as we think our customers would rather have us writing and publishing books rather than spending the amount of time required to maintain and monitor an interactive blog. However, if you need to contact us or have something you think should be posted on the blog, please call, write or send a message via the contact forms on this site. We can make arrangements to share photographs here too.
March 30, 2021-Voice mail is back online. If you wish to call, please call the number listed on the Home Page. But you can also leave an email message via the "Contact Us" page.
June 10, 2020-New Book on Nickel Plate 765 by Richard Melvin
Author Richard Melvin was the engineer and operations manager for NKP 765, 34 years, starting in the early 1980s. The new book is a wide format, 192 page book, fresh off the press with 22 chapters. Erstwhile Publications is not selling this book, but as a service to Richard and in appreciation for the great work the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has done over the years in bringing the 765 back to life, we are providing a little publicity and a link here to get your copy. Hardcover is $59.95 and softcover $49.95.
August 14, 2019 More Info on Sept. 22, 1893 Kingsbury Wreck
Melissa Nicolaysen Collection
A photograph of one of the hand bell groups Albert Morton, Melissa's future great-grandfather, was involved with. Albert is on the far right. The names of the other boys are not known.
We recently received a series of emails from Melissa Nicolaysen of Corinth, New York. Melissa asked if there is anything in the Wabash book on the September 22, 1893 (Kingsbury, Indiana) train wreck. Yes, of course, it being the worst wreck on the Fourth District, the wreck is documented, including a half page photograph courtesy of the La Porte County Historical Society (on pages 124-125). She also asked if her great-grandfather, Albert Morton, a victim in that wreck, touring with a handbell troupe, is mentioned. No. Victor worked from three different (local) sources, and other than the railroaders’ names, there were too many inconsistencies in the names and the descriptions of the victims. And the national papers tended to sensationalize the wreck so much that Victor didn’t consider them good sources. Therefore, railroaders' names were the only ones included in the story.
Melissa has completed her own research on her great-grandfather and she reports that the reported singing troupe of young boy orphans, on board the train, some injured and killed, was not from Austria, (per one source Victor used), but rather England. The group was a hand bell troupe with the Barnardos Homes, specifically known as the “Musical Boys”. The Musical Boys toured Canada and the U.S. to bring awareness of the Barnardos Homes (and raise money for them). But she says the reference to “orphans” is a little ambiguous as the children at the boys and girls homes (ranged in age from 7 to 17) were often hired out as indentured servants. (She also mentions that at that time, only one parent had to die for the child to be considered an orphan.) As a child, Albert’s father became seriously ill and passed away. With the illness and the death, the family lost everything. And Albert then lived with his mother who worked for a wealthy family. That was until the “Mrs.” one day didn’t want the boy around and told Albert’s Mother that either Albert had to find another home or his mother would have to find another job. Albert’s mother thought the best solution might be to send him off to the Barnardos Homes. Two years after he was admitted, he traveled with the Musical Boys.
Reference the wreck itself, Melisa’s research reveals that there were nine Musical Boys: William J. Hoskins, William Evans, Edward Rush, James Lane, Herbert Lane, Charles Batham, Sidney Fleming, Albert Morton and Henry French. As far as she can tell, two of the nine musical boys were killed and three injured. Henry French, died at the scene, William J. Hoskins, 14, suffered from a crushed leg. His body, legs and face were seriously scalded and the skin burned off one side of his face. He died two days later. William “Willie” Evans, 14, had both legs broken and he was also severely scalded. Edward Rush, 13, suffered from surface contusions. Albert Morton, (Melissa’s future great-grandfather), 14, (but listed as 12), had his right arm injured. James Lane, Herbert Lane and Charles Batham were not injured. Also, James Wookey, supervisor of the boys, was seriously injured.
Henry French and William Hoskins had a double funeral. Willie Evans with James Lane remained with a family in Canton, Ohio. Melissa says the Globe (Toronto) reported that the surviving boys received $850, though she thinks the money went back to the Barnardos. Five of the boys traveled back to England together with their musical director Henry Aaron aboard the Vancouver, landing on October 29, 1893. The whole group was recorded as laborers. After the train wreck, Albert returned to England and the Barnardos homes. He was sent out to work in England. Two years later, he asked to return to Canada and was sent with another group of boys.
Melissa relates that not enough is known of these children’s plight or servant days. Some children were lucky enough to be adopted into their hosting families. But others died alone in the fields doing an adult’s work. Albert eventually established himself in New York. One sister followed him to Canada and into New York. Thanks much for sharing your research with us Melissa, for an event that happened over one hundred twenty-five years ago. Perhaps others with some kind of connection to this tragic event, the boys or the Barnardos Homes Story will find this on the Internet.
June 9, 2019 Steubenville Smashboards
For those of you who have read the Wabash book, you may recall Railroaders Clarence Montgomery and Jim Tilton referring to bright red smashboards at Steubenville, Indiana (with event recorders and red pens) after the interlocking was automated in Nov. 1929.
One of Victor's friends just sent these two photos from a 1930 Railway Signaling issue. Steubenville and Raison Center, Michigan were the earliest Wabash interlockings automated. Clarence remarked that, at least on the Wabash side, that a smashboard was indeed smashed at least once, leaving evidence that the signals had been overrun. The tower in the background is not long for the world.
The Wabash photo jibes with what Clarence said in that the home signals on the Wabash side were semaphores. It is not known how long the smashboards were used. Smashboards were more common with drawbridge interlockings.
March 29, 2019 More Memories
Victor recently was contacted by Ed Jaroscak from Colorado. He has a copy of the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book and it brought back memories. Ed grew up in Gary, Indiana in the 1950s, and as a kid he sometimes rode the Wabash engines. (See his two photos here, however, taken of Wabash 2820 in an East Chicago scrapyard in 1953. Mainline steam had ended on the 4th District in June 1950, with the Local dieselized in August, and the last steam on work extras about a year later.) Ed also remembered “Goldie”, the black hostler, at Gary. (Clarence in the book thought that perhaps his last name might have been "Goldenetz"). Ed recalled the hostler had a son that would do much of his work while Goldie hung out in the freight house!
May 25, 2016 Breaking News!
Erstwhile Publications is proud to announce that our very own Victor Baird was one of only several authors nominated by an awards committee in 2015 for the prestigious George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award for his Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. The award is administered by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, officiated mostly by academics and railroad professionals. John Gruber won the 2015 award with his work, Railroaders: Jack Delano's Homefront Photography.
March 19, 2016
Jackson, Michigan Area Railroad Book Available at Amazon. Douglas Leffler recently published: Railroad Town, Jackson, Michigan, A Historic Pictorial of Railroads in Jackson County, Michigan. It's a 112 page softcover book with B&W nonglossy photographs with a limited text but informative photo captions. The modern steam and transition eras are covered well, but Doug also covers earlier and later periods including Penn Central, Conrail and Amtrak.
October 20, 2015
More information about Hamilton photograph on pages 104-105 in the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. Victor had the pleasure of meeting fellow author Margaret A. Hobson at the Fort Wayne-Allen County Public Library last year and Margaret has since provided some information on the photograph. The gentleman in the white Stetson hat is her grandfather, Harley Griffith, and the young man next to him is his son, Walter. Harley was a drayman. She reports that her grandfather also wore a Bowler hat.
Margaret is the author of three Civil War books on the 44th Regiment from Northern Indiana. The first book and the first part of book two are biographical in nature, the rest contain letters, diaries and memories from the men. To find out more about the books or to purchase hard copy or ebook versions go to
July 5, 2015
Donald Johnson and the Murden Family. It's a small world and Fourth District Railroaders continue to pop out of the woodwork. Sherrie Johnson found out about the Wabash book through Rickie Kohne (below) and purchased a copy for her dad Donald. Donald's seniority date is listed in the book as 1955 but he left the railroad and came back. Sherrie says her dad really likes the book including reading the many names of individuals he worked with. (He is looking forward to meeting Victor.) Also, Sherrie stopped by later and picked up two more books for Neal Murden. Neal's grandfather, Garfield Murden is in the book, reference the 1912 wreck at Eddy, Indiana in which Neal's Great Uncle Clarence Murden was killed. Sadly, Garfield was deadheading on the same passenger train that his brother Clarence was killed on and helped recover his body.
June 6, 2015
Jake H. Gearhart. Rickie Kohne and her husband Joe visited Victor today. Rickie is the daughter of Jake Gearhart (deceased 1998). In the photo below, Brakeman Jake Gearhart is pictured at the far left, Engineer Lynn Foulk in the middle and Fireman L.D. Willis at far right. The photo was taken at Crocker, Indiana in the 1950s and was provided by Michael Thompson. From a tip from a friend, Rickie purchased a copy of "Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District" at Phil's Hobby Shop in Fort Wayne and was excited to find out that her father, Jake, was pictured on the title page of the book! Rickie has fond memories riding trains with her dad and sister, including the mixed train combine about 1962. She recalls many of the names in the book. Rickie, we're glad you like the book, and have a photo and book to pass down in the family.
Chris Harding recently ordered a copy of the "Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District" book and shared his memories of working at Montpelier and on the Gary District:
"I worked for the N&W for about a year in 1972-3 based in Montpelier. I was the Assistant Track Supervisor and generally covered the Montpelier-Detroit route, but occasionally headed toward Peru through Ft. Wayne, and once or twice toward Chicago! I recall one time when we had an inspection special go from Montpelier to Detroit. We had to take the switch lamps off the yard switches in Montpelier and put them out on the siding and crossover switches on the Detroit line. We had the yardmaster place hi-cube boxcars on the first and second yard tracks so no one on the inspection special could see into the yard. It seemed to work because we never heard anything about it. The next day the special came west from Detroit heading for Chicago. The track west of Montpelier wasn't in the best condition and there was a pull-apart five or ten miles west of Montpelier and the special was supposed to go over it. They had me go out and inspect it because the track supervisor for that district couldn't be found! I okayed going over it at 5 mph so the special wasn't delayed much. Another time we had a materials management specialist come up from Roanoke to show us "Wabash" people how to handle things. We kept hearing about the inferiority of us "Wabash" people until I told the man I'd started with the N&W, not the Wabash, and asked him what road he'd started with. With huge pride, he informed us that HE had started with the VIRGINIAN and that he wasn't an N&W man! I remember thinking at the time, "OK, I see what YOUR colors are!" In 1973, the N&W abolished my position and wanted me to go to Decatur for considerably less money than I'd been earning, so I left the N&W and took a position with PC in Philadelphia, PA. I've been here ever since! My favorite road is the NYC, so I'm looking forward to your Ft. Wayne and Jackson book. Please let me know when it's available."
January 27, 2015
Though Victor is busy working on the Fort Wayne & Jackson book, he seems to have about five projects going on at the same time. Pictured here is a scratch-built model based on the Wabash RR, Jacksonville, Illinois Interlockng tower. Victor did not have any plans to work with but used photos and "counted the bricks." He informs us that he plans on repainting the roof and will add a smokejack and downspout. Victor's undecided on adding ornamental brick trim yet, but we'll see. This is located at "Fort Wayne Union Junction" on his model railroad.
Update with New Details and Repainted Roof
January 6, 2015
Change Coming Quickly for West End of old Wabash Fourth District
A portion of the old Pennsylvania Railroad, Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago, (owned by CSX) is being removed for an expansion of the Gary, Indiana Airport. What little traffic this line sees there will be routed onto the old Wabash Fourth District before routing back onto the PFW&C. East of the location, the former Wabash line will be removed and access to Indiana Sugars at Gary (the only customer) will be through a connection to the CSX Porter Branch but with NS Crews. Additional work is being completed at Tolleston, Indiana for a better connection with Canadian National (former Elgin, Joliet & Eastern segment) Kirk Yard.
For photos of the work, click on:
To View the entire plan click on:
December 8, 2014 Rest in Peace Ron Whetro
Someone who was instrumental in making the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District Book a success, passed away November 29, 2014. Ron's dad was Rudy Whetro, a Montpelier Divsion B&B Supervisor. Ron shared many of his photos for the book and helped Victor track down other leads and railroaders.
Ron is pictured below, standing with the green, checkerboard shirt. The occasion for the photograph was Victor's book signing at the Montpelier, Ohio Library, May 24, 2014. The man in the T-shirt is unidentified but seated next to Victor is retired railroader Larry Lett (with hat). Thank you Ron and we miss you. Put in a good word for us when you get up there where you belong!
Memorable Childhood Event at Sheffield Avenue, Hammond, Indiana
by Richard W. Economou
(Mr. Economou recently ordered the Wabash book and wanted to share this memorable Wabash event from his childhood.)
Sometime in 1946-1948, my brother and I were headed from our home in North Hammond, in my father’s 1940 Ford, to the Hammond Shopping Center District, which was in central Hammond. (My brother was driving.) The Wabash Railroad came through Hammond on the Baltimore & Ohio, Chicago Terminal Railroad which is still in service as part of CSX. The Wabash joined the B&OCT, west of Gary, at Clarke, Junction, Indiana and departed the B&OCT at State Line Junction, taking the Chicago & Western Indiana Railroad into Chicago.
As we neared the B&OCT Crossing on Sheffield Avenue, the gates started down and my brother proceeded to stop, being either the first or second car in line next to the tracks. We had a wonderful view of the line, up and down the tracks. Some three or four blocks east down the line was a very long, Wabash freight train, moving very slowly forward, no faster than a man could stroll along. Looking West I could see train traffic at the very busy State Line Junction, moving across the B&OCT. Looking back east it was evident that the Wabash engineer was a man who must have anticipated proceeding or had a very heavily loaded train, as he continued slowly forward at the walking pace, not wanting to lose his momentum.
The gateman at the Hohman Avenue Crossing, one block east, kept up a steady bell ring every 10 to 15 seconds to keep people alerted as to what was occurring on the line. The train was now some two to three blocks away and came to a very noisy, hissing stop and the engineer let out a blast from his whistle--I suppose to alert the Stateline Towerman of his appearance and that he was of some importance and mighty impatient!
I found the whole event very exciting, especially since we had a front row seat. The whistle blast must have had its desired effect, for the next thing I saw and heard was huff and puff from the engine and an enormous plume of smoke erupt from the smoke stack. This was coupled with a loud crash as slack ran out between the cars. The next few seconds were filled with a series of rapid stack reports and the whirl of the great engine’s drive wheels. After settling the engine down, the engineer tried again with another huge plume of smoke erupting from the stack, much taller than the first plume, the train hissing and chuffing past us in a cloud of steam and smoke.
What excitement this was for a young boy! The train was very, very long and took some time getting past us, going around the corner past Stateline Tower toward Chicago. As the red caboose went past, my brother exclaimed, “That was a Wabash Railroad Train and they usually go through here quite fast”! With that, the gates went up and my very memorable event ended.
This Wabash train on the B&OCT is not running in the same direction as the train in Richard's memory but is almost in the same location and likely the same kind of locomotive. State Line Interlocking is around the curve towards the end of the train. (Bill Raia Photograph)
A map of the location. Sheffield would be between Hohman and Wabash. (Courtesy of Thomas White)
October 23, 2014
Update on Kingsbury Wreck. Amy Johnston contacted us to clarify an item reference the September 22, 1893 Wreck at Kingsbury, Indiana, on pages 124-125, in Victor's book, Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District. The newspapers listed the deceased baggageman as just "Lyons" with no first name. Amy's first cousin, four times removed, Rhoda Simpson, married this gentleman, June 5, 1885 in Detroit. His name was Ernest G. Lyon. Ernest was born in 1860 in Groton, New York. Rhoda and Ernest had two children and sadly they lost their one month old son two months before Ernest lost his life in the train wreck. Amy has a copy of Ernest's death certificate and it does confirm his occupation as baggageman and DOD as September 22, 1893. Thanks much Amy, for the correction and additional information. Perhaps Amy has a scanned photograph of Ernest she can share with us? It is likely that Ernest and Rhoda lived in Detroit as most of the passenger train personnel lived there that worked the 3rd and 4th Districts. This is something that carried on to the end of passenger service on the 4th District in 1933 and on mainline passenger trains that ran on the 1st and 3rd Districts btw Detroit, Michigan and Peru, Indiana.
October 21, 2014 , Life in a Box Car
Roma Holmes, (some of her other photos were posted below), gave this photo to Victor. However, she does not know who the railroader was who took the photo. (See the backside, also shown here.) Victor believes the photo was taken at Franklin, Ohio. Note what appears to be an Interurban wire in the top of the photo. (There was an interurban RR here until the late 1930s.) It appears that this railroader's wife left him. Roma lived in a box car too, (at Dillon, Indiana), as her father, A.P. Harrington, worked at the Dillon Tower and there was no housing nearby. Victor hopes to see some of you at his next book signing today at the Edon, Ohio Public Library.
September 10, 2014
Syracuse Book Signing, August 28, 2014
Phil Mishler, his wife Esther and daughter Brenda Donat attended the Syracuse, Indiana Library Book Signing and Presentation August 28. The signing had a good turnout and more than a few books were sold. We're told that Phil had a great time too. Phil is featured on page 210 of Victor's Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. He worked as an agent-operator at a number of locations on the Wabash Fourth District. Below is Phil standing right of Victor. Thank you Becky Brower of the Syracuse Library for making it a successful event, though hopefully you now know that the Wabash did not run to New Orleans. <G>
More Fourth District Railroaders (Below)
Victor is not sure where this image came from, but it probably should have been in his book in the Community Appendix. It is dated 1956, and the gentlemen are identified as: Howard McCamis, Loren Willis and Oro Ansley. The location is unknown, but it could be in the Chicago area. All of these men worked on the Fourth District. As always, if there are any corrections or additional information, please contact us with the message contact form on the Contact Us Page.
August 30, 2014
Another Remnant of the Fourth District to Change
In Steuben County, Indiana a large concrete deck bridge, 150 feet long and almost 40 feet high, built almost 100 years ago by the Wabash, (1916), is undergoing a transformation as it needs replaced. Indiana Northeastern Railroad, which operates this segment of the old Wabash line, has had its contractors working on this bridge in phases the last few years and by next year it will be filled in and three large culverts will replace the five spans of the deck bridge and four bridge piers. The bridge spans a ditch (perhaps incorrectly labled as Fish Creek in its 1930 profile but it does connect with Fish Creek). Victor says that old Wabash Bridge 1393 is probably the third bridge here since 1892 with the two previous bridges wooden trestles. The first was not built to last but the second was likely replaced about 1901. The Wabash pioneered in concrete bridge construction in the early 1900's and there were others on the Fourth District too. But this is probably the largest. Please see the attached drawing from the ICC files also on page 253 of the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. Also included here are photos courtesy of Mike Snow from Steuben County.
August 7, 2014
Someone prodded us for more photographs of Victor's modeling, so below is a model of Wabash Combine No. 596, that ran on the Gary Local mixed train featured in his Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. The model was photographed with retired Conductor Clarence Montgomery (also featured in the book) in front of Jody Montgomery's layout, Easter 2010. Clarence was 94 years old when the photo was taken. Victor built the car as a surprise gift for Clarence. Clarence's son, Jody, now proudly owns and operates this model as his father has passed on.
With all his writing and research, somehow Victor finds the time to do his modeling, including scratch-building. This HO rendition of No. 596 started as an off the shelf Pennsylvania Bachmann, one door combine but after that it might has well have been a scratch-building project. It was cut up with new baggage and end doors added, new trucks, a new roof and details, rivets made from decals, wire grab irons and railings, the addition of two smoke jacks, stirrups, windows plugged or modified, underframe details added, new draft gear, brake wheel and brake lever, couplers, marker lights and an open vestibule. (The last item is almost unheard of with models of passenger cars). Appropriate to the real car, it was painted in Pullman Green, weathered and lettered with Gold Leaf decals. (Photos and other information on the real combine are in the book.) Victor is nearing completion of a sister car, No. 594, and hopes to have it ready in time for the Wabash Railroad Historical Society Annual Meeting in September 2014. (See the Upcoming Events Schedule. However, Victor is not certain yet if he will attend.) He has been photographing and documenting the construction of the model for the Wabash Railroad Historical Society's Wabash Modeler magazine. The article will also include information and photographs of the real cars and a roster.
Victor will be at SUMMERAIL, this Saturday, August 9, 2014, selling amd autographing his Wabash book at the Train Show in the restored Cincinnati Union Terminial. The Summerrail event tickets have been sold out but the train show is open to public for free. (Parking is $6-$10.) See the Upcoming Events Schedule on this site for more details and a link.
July 25, 2014
St. Joseph County Library Book Signing and Presentation, July 24, 2014. The attendance was below the norm but never-the-less Victor enjoyed the comments and questions after the presentation. Of particular note was Roma Holmes. Roma's father and step-father were both agent-operators on the Fourth District, A.P. Harrington and Sam Fisher, respectively. She recalled Sam had taught her dad the job and the family living in a box car at Dillon. Roma gave Victor a number of Wabash photographs, apparently taken in the 30s and 40s, mostly on the Fourth District. We have attached a few here for your enjoyment. Victor believes the last photo was taken at New Paris, Indiana like the one preceding it. The train would be westbound, likely taken from the tower after the depot was moved closer to the tower. For a comparison in an earlier time, see the photograph in Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District on page 57.
May 31, 2014
Meet Jennie Wiley, Agent-Operator on the Wabash Fourth District. Jennie, often misspelled "Jenny", (like we did in the book), was born in Donaldson, Indiana March 21, 1870. As Victor reported in the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book from information gleaned from an October 1, 1946 Elkhart Truth article, Jennie worked as agent-operator at Foraker, Indiana. (Railroaders Clarence Montgomery and Jim Tilton also recalled her working there. A photograph of the station and plans are in the book.) According to the late Charlotte Hess, who knew Jennie and was a Foraker Historian, Jennie was a very pious woman and never married. And before coming back to the area in 1918, Jennie worked as an agent-operator in the wilds of New Mexico for the Santa Fe. And, also according to Charlotte, account of that, she knew how to use a gun! Someone else Victor spoke with recently from the area said that Jennie was a good local citizen in that she was always actively involved in promoting social events in this very small community.
It appears that Jennie was originally from the Bryan, Ohio area. The 1927 seniority roster notes her starting date of September 15, 1918, and this jibes with what was written in the Elkhart Truth article. But interestingly, she may have worked for the Wabash before that and left to seek other railroad employment before returning in 1918. For example, 1907 and 1908 Railroad Telegrapher magazine issues reveal a "Jenny" and "Jennie" Wiley working for the Wabash at Cone, Michigan. In any event, when she came back from New Mexico in 1918, her first assignment was at V.O. Tower in Montpelier. Jenny must have retired soon after the 1946 article, as she passed away June, 2, 1950 from a heart attack in the Shiffler Cemetery in Bryan, Ohio. (After a farmer reported a car running with no occupant, her body was found lying in the grass near the headstones. The death record reveals that she had been living in the Chicago area.) Victor would still like to find any living relatives to at least share the book with but also find out more about this amazing lady. She is included in the book with other women operators on the Fourth District like Katie May, Mrs. L. Brolin, Gertie Keeler, Mrs. Nolie Hall, Mrs. N.M. Bevier and Mamie Hayward. Perhaps there were others on the Fourth District. Jennie: Thank you for your years of service and Rest in Peace.
The photograph that was included with the October 1, 1946, article in the Elkhart Truth. It is not a flattering photo but if it was taken in 1946, she would have been 76 years old and still on the job! Yes, some agents including nearby agents like Wakarusa, Agent Sam Fisher and John Smith at Wyatt would not quit the railroad until they were forced to leave. This was their life! Items of interest in the photo are the telegraph key, a ticket validator and a photograph that appears to be of a relative in the Armed Forces. Retired Railroader Jim Tilton recalls a bible on her desk. Foraker was finally closed in 1960. (Elkhart Truth Photo)
July 15, 2014
Another Photograph of the September 22, 1893 Kingsbury, Indiana Wreck documented in Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District. This photo is looking from the opposite direction of the photo on page 125 in the book.)
For those who have not read the book:
In the early, foggy morning hours that Friday, Eastbound Freight No. 92 had taken the siding for two sections of Westbound Passenger No. 55. Second No. 55 was a special train of travelers from Toronto, Canada headed for the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. Anyway, First No. 55 went by and though later, observers would note that it had the proper markers to indicate a second section was following, a brakeman on No. 92, Herbert Thompson, opened the switch to let No. 92 out onto the main. There was no time to close the switch and Second No. 55 lurched into the siding and slammed into No. 92 head-on. Many of the cars on the regular trains between Buffalo and Chicago, and Detroit and Chicago had closed vestibules but apparently Second No. 55 was a mix of cars, including open platform and Canadian cars. The first and last cars of the passenger train telescoped. Other cars were destroyed or landed on top of others. A fire also ensued.
Accounts vary on the final count of dead and wounded. Some say 13 fatal, others 14. But one thing for certain is that a number of children were killed; reportedly many from a singing group of Austrian orphans. Train crew members were also killed including Passenger Crewmen Conductor Coultas from Detroit Engineer John Green of Ashley, Indiana, and also Baggageman Ernest Lyon*. Freight Train Fireman Barber was badly scalded. The engineer on the freight train was Pete Byler. [*See the Blog dated October 23, 2014 for more info on Ernest Lyon.]
Reportedly, Thompson, who threw the swtich, left the scene, never to be seen again. But here is where it gets strange:
Victor accidentally found an account of Herbert Thompson in an early 1905, Peru, Indiana paper, Thompson having been killed in a train wreck on the Grand Trunk of Canada, working out of St. Thomas. The reporter said it was the same Herbert Thompson from the 1893 Kingsbury Wreck. Thompson was from the Bryan, Ohio area. Victor never found more details of the wreck that killed Herbert Thompson in Canada. Perhaps someone on the Canadian side would have better access to find more detail of his misfortune on the Grand Trunk.
Victor scratchbuilt this HO scale model of the Wolcottville, Indiana tower for Retired Conductor Clarence Montgomery pictured here. For those who have not seen the book, Clarence provided some input for Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District in his own words. Clarence was 96 years old when this picture was taken! Victor says the smile on his face was worth all the work in building the structure. Some years ago when the real tower was retired, but before it was de-molished, Victor took photographs of all sides of the tower. Someone gave him a brick that came off the tower and he used that to scale it all out. The model brick is a textured contact paper made from a photo-graph. Very thin sheets of real glass were glued in the modified windows. The door was scratchbuilt as was the chimney. The roof is remov-able in the event interior lighting and, or details will ever be added. Clarence has since passed on and the model is in the possession of his son.
June 24, 2014
St. Joseph County Railroads Circa 1930
The May 24, Book Signing at the Montpelier, Ohio was moderately successful with 21 books sold. Victor's friend, Larry Lett, had a great time as he and a number of other retired railroaders pulled up some chairs and sat around and reminisced a majority of the time. But where was Roman Reichle's son, John Reichle, who has been looking to purchase a copy of the book? A thanks goes out to to all that were there and Gloria Osburn from the Montpelier Library who graciously hosted us. Though almost half the books are sold, we have plenty more to sell. Erstwhile Publications paid for color ads in the Bryan Times, the Montpelier Leader and the Village Reporter but we understood that an article would also be placed with a photo of Victor in each of the newspapers. However, the paper with the largest circulation, the Bryan Times, did not follow through and the Village Reporter mistakenly only posted the article and photo online. The Village Reporter did apologize, however, and sent out a reporter to do a follow up for the next week's edition. Yes, we are in the business of selling books, but would like as many people as possible to know about our events and get the books into the hands of people that will enjoy them the most.
"Dolly or "Old Doll" Here's one old postcard view (See Below) that didn't make the grade in Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District, but it certainly has historical significance. This two car accommodation train depicted here at Edon, Ohio ran between North Liberty, Indiana and Montpelier, Ohio, perhaps starting in 1907. A local newspaper article in real time reports the train making its last run June 6, 1914, but later timetables still document an accommodation train between these points. Dolly ran as the North Liberty Accommodation, No. 55, westbound and the Montpelier Accommodation, No. 54, eastbound. No one living knows why this train was nicknamed "Dolly" (or "Old Doll" as detailed on this postcard), but it could have been named after an older locomotive used on this run. It's also likely that a number of railroaders deadheaded on this train between North Liberty, Ashley and Montpelier.
In addition to Dolly, North Liberty originated two local freights in each direction to Montpelier and Chicago with the two between North Liberty and Montpelier being mixeds. North Liberty sported a yard, depot, two stall engine house and a large trestle style coaling dock in the early days. There was also an interlocking tower where the New York Central's Kankakee Branch crossed. (Photos and track diagrams are in the book.) April 2, 1933, all the Fourth District passenger trains and the four locals were replaced with one every-other-day mixed train btw Gary and Montpelier. Dolly had been abolished sometime before that.
April 23, 2014
Does Anyone Remember the Pickle Processing Plant and Pick-up Station at Foraker, Indiana? Attached are newspaper clippings and a photo scanned with permission from Charlotte Hess' collection when Charlotte was still living. These items did not make it in the Wabash Fourth District book but Charlotte asked that any of her material be credited as part of the "Herman Hess Collection". According to Clarence Montgomery, who was a conductor on the Fourth District, pickles were transported from Foraker (pronounced "Four-Acre") in special pickle cars with vertical tanks on what looked like a flat car and shipped both east and west. The attached 1953 Elkhart Truth clipping relates that at that time the pickles were shipped by the railroad to the Libby Plant in St. Louis. And the name of the business at Foraker in 1953 is listed as the Heifitz Pickling Company. The 1937 Clipping lists it as the Libby, McNeil and Libby Pickling Station.
There are four names in the first image but five individuals. Perhaps someone can help us out on that? The names listed are: John Kehr, Frank Schrock, George Kehr and Henry S. Weaver. Mr. Weaver is likely the smartly dressed gentleman on the far right, listed as a Libby Manager and Representative. The second item is the clipping from the Elkhart Truth published in 1953 and apparently the last is a clipping form a 1937 issue. Charlotte commented to Victor that some felt that putting their children to work here in the summer kept them out of trouble! Victor will have a book signing at the Wakarusa Public Library Friday April 25 from 9 to 5, during the Maple Syrup Festival and perhaps someone there can fill us in.
April 3, 2014
The April 1, Book Signing at the La Porte County Library had a smaller than normal crowd but Victor found it enjoyable as he had more than the usual questions and comments. One very young man by the name of "Drew", who probably wasn't more than eight years old, appeared to be a die hard railfan and had a number of questions and comments. He went home with his own autographed copy of the book. Retired Wabash Operator Elmer Mannen was also there as was Darwin Simonaitus from the Lake Shore Historical Society in Elkhart. We had a fair representation of folks from the area, but it didn't appear that anyone from the La Porte County Historical Soceity was there, though Victor certainly invited them. A big thanks goes out to Mary Hedge from the library who hosted the book signing.
La Porte County, Indiana Railroad Map Victor often gives a short Power Point presentation on the book before the actual book signing. Usually included in the beginning of that presentation is a little background on railroads in that county with a map. Victor does his own research and makes the maps by hand. Sometimes he includes the construction and abandonment dates (if applicable). Though it's certainly in his capacity, he doesn't list all the name changes over the years as that would probably put the audience to sleep. Rather, he lists the names of the railroads when they were in their prime. See the attached La Porte County Railroad Map. There are three interurbans shown here: the Northern Indiana, the Chicago, South Shore & South Bend and the Goshen, South Bend and Chicago. We have since attached the map for Elkhart County above, that was shown at the Wakarusa Book Signing.
Copyright Erstwhile Publications
The Big Wabash "Twenty-Eight-Hundreds"
March 23, 2014
The big steam power regularly assigned to the Fourth District for Red Ball freight until diesels took over in June 1950 was the M-1 Class delivered by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in January 1930. Known as "Twenty-Eight-Hundreds" by Wabash men, they worked between Decatur, Illinois and Montpelier, Ohio, before operating on the Third District between Detroit and Montpelier and the Fourth between Montpelier and Chicago, starting in October 1930. It's not surprising that Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District contains more than a few photographs and accounts of these mighty locomotives in operation.
The 4-8-2 wheel arrangement locomotives weighed over 350 tons loaded with coal and water with a capacity of 23 tons of coal and 15,000 gallons of water in their tenders. 70-inch drivers developed 69,400 lbs. in tractive effort. A diagram for these engines with more statistics along with many other Wabash locomotives is included in the Rolling Stock Appendix in the Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District book. Summarized entries from Conductor Clarence Montgomery's time books reveal that about every one of these 25 locos, numbered 2800-2824, ran on the Fourth District. Once in a while, their bigger 4-8-4, O-1, "Twenty-Nine-Hundred" brethren did run on the Fourth too, but that was the exception rather than the rule.
The March 20, Book Signing at Wakarusa, Indiana was a great success. 55 attended and 24 books were sold. A thank you goes out to the Wakarusa Library and Priscilla Huff who made arrangements and handled the publicity for the book signing. Members of the Wakarusa Historical Society were present also. Also a free copy of the book is being forwarded by one of the attendees to Charlotte Hess' daughter. Victor met with Charlotte some years ago before she passed away and she shared some photographs and information on Jenny Wiley for the book. Victor was having a hard time making contact with her family and now a book is going where it was promised. Oh, the joys of being an author. The next book signing will be at the downtown La Porte County Library on April Fool's Day (April 1). Please see the Upcoming Events Page for more information on this book signing and other events.
FEB 28, 2014
The Story Behind the Photo
by Victor A. Baird
For my Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District Book, the photo in the opening two pages of Chapter Two (pages 42-43) was one hard photo to get! (See the photo below.)
Some years ago a friend queued me in on letters written by retired Wabash Railroad Engineer John Edward Hunt about his railroad career on the Fourth District, starting in 1897, to friend and Conductor Tommy “the Sailor” Miles. The letters were published in an Ohio paper in the 40's and 50's as a series. John retired from the Wabash in 1937 and moved to the Los Angeles California area, eventually passing away at the Wabash Employee Hospital at Peru, Indiana in 1963. He is buried in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he was born in 1870.
I secured permission from the newspaper to print the stories but naturally needed a photograph of John, for at that time his story was going to be an article for the Wabash Railroad Historical Society’s Banner magazine. Anyway, I spent a few months on and off at the Fort Wayne Genealogy Library studying his genealogy and receiving obits in the mail to find living relatives that might have a photograph. (He has shirt-tail relation in Fort Wayne, but they were not interested or couldn’t help.) I finally found a granddaughter in Arroyo Grande, California with a phone. Pay Dirt! Or at least I thought.
But here is where I almost gave up. I called several times only to get an answering machine with no call back. (For her privacy, I won’t give her last name here.) Anyway, I wrote a letter to Kathleen explaining why I needed a photo of John, preferably working on the railroad. I also included a copy of the family tree that I had researched--still no reply. I basically gave up.
But one day out of the blue I called and a male answered. He called her to the phone. She said she had a photo of her grandfather, but it was poor in quality and that this was a very private matter. I told Kathleen that I understood and explained again why I needed a photo of John. I also said I would pay for a copy of the photo as did not want her to send the original. I would also give her credit in my work and a copy (still no cooperation). Disgusted, I decided to forget about it.
Some months later, again, out of the blue, I received the original photo in the mail with a nice handwritten card and an apology. On the back side of the photo were the names of the individuals including John. I scanned it and sent it back right away with a return receipt and signature required to make sure she got it back. I think it makes a wonderful introduction to Chapter Two and it was more than I had hoped for.
Fast forward to when the book came out in December 2013. I called again but as usual I just got an answering machine. (The voice message answers with a male voice and something like, “Hello this is Kathy” and a name I can’t make out.) I went ahead and sent a book with my autograph and written thanks in the book for allowing me to use the photograph. I never got any reply to my call or for the book. I hope that she received the book and it means something to her or a family member. But then again, perhaps she is in ill health or has passed on.
In any event, I hope my readers are appreciative for the frustration I went through to get this image that includes faces that match up with “Skinny" Hunt and his friends. John really wanted to share the details about his railroad career in his own words as far back as the 40's and 50's and many have told me they enjoy reading about it along with the many period photos I’ve included in the chapter. Of course, this is one of three chapters devoted to and recorded in the words of real railroaders on the Wabash Fourth District.
Left to right: Charley Goodale, Frank Millard, Tommy "The Sailor" Miles, John Edward "Skinny" Hunt and Bill Post, probably in the 1930's on the Calumet Local. Charley died of a heart attack on board his train on his last Fourth District run some years later. Tommy Miles' interesting railroad family history is included in Chapter Five. These and many other Fourth District railroaders are included in the book's text, photos and also the rosters in the appendices.
A fact of life in writing nonfiction books is there will be errors no matter what. In addition to the usual typo gremlins, two names were misspelled. Thomas White, who is a retired professional railroader and currently a railroad consultant, was inadvertently credited as "John" White in the acknowledgements section, his photo credit on page 77 and the photograph credits on page 314. (We did, however, get it right on the Chicagoland map on pages 78-79.) Sorry, Tom. Also, Randy's last name in the acknowledgements section is spelled McKean, not McKeen. Sorry, Randy. And while we're at it, photo captions need to be addressed: reportedly, on page 76, the railroad in the foreground is the Pennsy's PFW&C and the one in the background is the Wabash Fourth District. Also, the train on page 67 is westbound as is the one on the bottom of page 75. For lack of better information, sometimes photo captions are taken as provided with the photograph.
JAN 29, 2014
The next book signing will be Saturday and Sunday, February 8-9, at the "Railroad Celebration" in the restored Baker Street Train Station at Fort Wayne, Indiana. See the Upcoming Events Page on this website for a more detailed itinerary of this event hosted by the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council. This year's theme will be the Wabash Railroad and our books will be purchased from the TRRRHC at this event only. Drop by and chat with Victor.
Though attendance was down at the February 8-9, Railroad Celebration at Fort Wayne, Indiana, because of the weather, sales for the Wabash book were very good (22 sold). Thanks again to the Three Rivers Railroad Heritage Council for hosting us. Thank you to all that attended or bought books.
We are pleased to announce that you can now order books through the Erstwhile Publications website from the Ordering Page!
Our First Review for Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District was in the February 2014 issue of Railfan & Railroad magazine and it was a very good one. Thanks Frank Garon at RF&RR! Classis Trains has one scheduled in the next issue that will probably be out in April. RF&RR has hit the magazine racks but apparently many subscribers including Erstwhile Publications have not received their copy yet (bulk mail is faster). But regardless, we've already received orders (including 3 from a former N&W Official at Roanoke, VA) as a result of the two thumbs up review. Be sure to pick up a copy of RF&RR, as there are some great articles, photographs and detailed news in that issue.
The Next Book Signing is March 20, at Wakarusa, Indiana. Wakarusa is covered well in the book and the cover artwork depicts that location. Also, soon we'll post the details of our July event at South Bend, Indiana and one at Angola, Indiana in August. Please peruse the Upcoming Events Page on this site for details of numerous events between March and July. We'll be adding more through the year as they get worked out or until we run out of books. Our goal is to send Victor over most of the Fourth District's territory across Northern Indiana and Ohio in 2014 or until the Wabash book runs out.
Montpelier, Ohio Book Signing We hope to get more than a few railroaders and their families together at the May 24, Book Signing at Montpelier. We have a son of a Fourth District railroader who is driving from as far away as Illinois. Others from Ohio and Indiana area have planned to attend. We scheduled it in May to accommodate any retired railroaders or family members who are snowbirds from the South.
The Fort Wayne & Jackson Book is coming along but there will be a few more maps to make, interviews and road trips for research. Many have expressed an interest in this New York Central book and we're certain it will be another success.
The book signing at Topeka, Indiana January 21st was wonderful. Despite the inclement weather, 50 people showed up and enjoyed a Power Point presentation with a warm welcome to Victor. We also had some quests from Goshen, Elkhart and Hudson. The author's girlfriend, Marsha, helped and 40 books were sold. Thanks to all that attended or purchased books! And also a thanks goes out to the Topeka Library and the Topeka Area Historical Society that hosted us. The TAHS also provided some great refreshments including warm cider punch. In about a month since the books have arrived, 1/4 of our inventory of Railroading on the Fourth District has been depleted!
Please visit the Upcoming Events page on this website for other upcoming book signings and events.
JAN 17, 2014
The First Book Signing on the Tour for Victor
January 21, 2014, Tuesday, LaGrange County, Topeka Branch Public Library, 6:30-8:30 p.m., 133 North Main St., Topeka, Indiana, in conjunction with the Topeka Area Historical Society. The event includes a 30-45 minute Power Point presentation first with book signing and sales afterwards. Let's hope the weather will cooperate.
On page 11 of Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District, in the caption for the World's Fair photograph, the first sentence is goofed up. Yes, one is looking west across the basin but not towards Lake Michigan. Obviously, one cannot look west towards Lake Michigan with Chicago and the fair on the west shore. Victor was lying in bed one night looking at a copy of the final proof, when he read this. And it made him sit straight up in bed. It was too late to make any changes. There were two World's Fair photographs considered, and the other one was looking east towards Lake Michigan. It happens.
JAN 10, 2014
First of all, a thanks to all that have purchased our first book. Since the books arrived on Dec. 23, we've shipped out over 200! At this rate, we may be out of them before the end of the year.
Happy customers keep commenting on Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District. For many, the book brings back memories. For others, they are delighted to see family members, friends and fellow employees represented in the text or employee rosters. Railroad enthusiasts and Wabash fans tell us they also enjoy the detailed content, many photographs and maps. And though it's a railroad book, local historians have told us they find it an interesting read too.
Charlie Donk Jim Tilton, featured in Chapter Four, called today and said it's the best railroad book he's read in a long time. Thanks Jim! When Jim saw Charlie Donk's name in Chapter Two, he just had to tell about his experience at the Daniels Hotel at Montpelier. (The Daniels was one of two railroad hotels in Montpelier, the other being the Smith House.) As related to on page 138 of the book, Charlie had the unfortunate fate of losing a leg in a railroad accident at Clarke Junction. Obviously, this ended his days as a Fourth District Engineer. But when Jim boarded at the Daniels one night in 1946, one-legged Charlie was the hotel clerk. Jim relates that the hotel was a bit decrepit and the locks on the doors didn't work well. So the next morning when young Jim was ready to check out of his room, he couldn't unlock the door! He yelled down to Charlie, who hobbled up the stairs to get Jim out. This was Jim's first and last stay at the Daniels.
A photograph of the Daniels Hotel in a time much earlier than Jim Tilton remembered. It's a newspaper clipping from an old postcard view in the Bryan Times shared by retired Engineer Jon Lantz and his wife Dee. According to the information with the image, the Daniels Hotel was built by Burget H. and Emma Daniels on the northwest corner of Empire and Depot Streets and opened September 10, 1907. The building was finally raized July 16, 2007 after experiencing structural problems. It is interesting to note its opening was only a few months after the Ashley, Indiana Terminal was closed and consolidated at Montpelier. Apparently, the proprietors banked on Montpelier being a much bigger terminal.