Salem will be home to Monon Railroad Historical Society National Convention PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 06 September 2017 08:10

For more than 150 years the bells and whistles of passing Monon Railroad trains have echoed through the hills and hollers of Southern Indiana. The railroad that was considered “the Lifeline of Indiana,” served communities from Louisville to Chicago and Indianapolis to Michigan City. As many as 40 freight and passenger trains passed through Salem every day.

Much of the Monon is gone now, but it will be remembered this month when members of the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society converge on Salem for their annual convention Friday and Saturday, Sept. 29 and 30, and Sunday, Oct. 1. Convention headquarters will be the John Hay Center’s Depot railroad museum, 206 South College Ave., Salem.

The railroad’s original purpose was to provide Salem businessmen with a means of transporting goods to and from Salem and the Ohio River.

In 1847 Salem and New Albany leaders met at Borden and from that meeting the railroad was born. They called it the New Albany & Salem Rail Road.

Even as the last spikes were being driven completing the line to Salem, organizers decided to build the line all the way to Lake Michigan. By 1854 that goal was achieved.

On the occasion of the railroad’s 100th anniversary in 1947, the Monon placed advertisements in local newspapers praising Salem as the “Birthplace of the road.”

In 1971 the Monon was merged into the Louisville & Nashville Railroad which today is part of the massive CSX system. Large portions of the former Monon line have been torn up. Much of the line that still exists in southern Indiana has not been used for five years.

Although the name Monon disappeared from the roster of railroads when the line was merged with the L&N 45 years ago, memories of the Monon remain thanks to the efforts of the 500-plus members of the Monon Society. Also, The Depot railroad museum commemorates the role Salem had in getting the railroad started. The Depot opened in 2000.

Five years ago an addition to The Depot made it possible for the Monon historical society to move its headquarters and archives to Salem.

Today, thousands of documents from the Monon Railroad are housed in the Society’s quarters that are leased from the Washington County Historical Society.

Activities during the convention include a banquet in the Monon Room Friday evening, followed with a slide presentation by Clay Stuckey of Bloomington; a bus trip to Bedford Saturday morning to learn about the Monon’s roll in shipping limestone; and an opportunity to become familiar with the Society’s archives.

Following a Saturday evening dinner, Pete Pedigo of Bloomington will give a presentation on Monon and Limestone.

The Depot’s HO model of Monon trains operating through Salem, Pekin and Campbellsburg 60 years ago will be open at various times during the weekend.

Sunday the annual meeting will take place in the headquarters and a Train Show and Swap meet will open at 10 a.m. and continue until 3 p.m.

The swap meet is open to the public. Admission is $3 per person with a special $5 family rate. Convention chairman is Ron Simunic of Bloomington (812-322-7306).