End of an era from my past

I've always been fascinated with trains. Some of my earliest train memories are sitting on my grandparent's porch in Williams watching the trains go through the field about a half mile from their house. The trains had predictable schedules back then and sometimes we'd wait for them at the trestle and sit under the trestle as they passed over. Pretty exciting stuff when you're a kid. Back then it was the Milwaukee Railroad, then eventually Canadian Pacific and others. We'd use the railroad tracks as a shortcut between the Williams covered bridge and Williams.

With the high train traffic back in the 60's and 70's came the occasional wreck. I can remember Dad taking us to Cale to see a train wreck. It was night time and they had the area lit up with lights. Another time the train wrecked in Williams. I remember going down there with my Aunt Sharon and seeing a boxcar loaded with television sets.

When my sister was born my brother and I spent a week or so with Aunt Sharon. At the time they lived near Cale and the railroad ran past their house. I would get excited everytime I heard the horn and the rumble of the approaching train. One day we were returning to her house from town. We had a bag of hamburgers from Burger Chef and we were all crammed into her green Volkswagen Rabbit. As we entered Williams we saw the tailend of the train. By the time we turned onto Mt Olive Road west of Williams we had nearly caught it. We popped over a hill and the sound of the horn scared me. The tracks were close to the road, but hidden by trees. I didn't realize the train was that close. Our cousin Scott kept telling his mom to beat the train. When the train passed their house we were waiting on it and eating hamburgers and waving.

When I got my license I enjoyed chasing the trains on my motorcycle from Bedford to Indian Springs. I could hear the train horn in town, so I'd jump on my bike and the chase was on. You tried to beat the engines otherwise the train would be way ahead by the time it cleared the crossing. I'd try to meet the train under the trestle on Twin Ponds Road, then again at the Goose Lane crossing, then at Williams, then near Cale and Indian Springs. After that it would go through NSWC Crane and the chase was over. The train horn always seemed to be nipping at your heels.

Over the years decreased manufacturing had its affect locally which impacted rail service. The section of the Milwaukee line from Bedford to Seymour was abandoned in the late 70's. In the late 80's the old Monon section from Bedford to Bloomington was removed. The only rail service left in Bedford was the line from Terre Haute to Louisville that ran via Crane, Williams, Bedford, Mitchell, and points south. In its heyday Bedford was a hub of railroad activity. There was a spur that ran to Rivervale and connected to the east/west CSX line. There were various spurs to local quarries. There was a line from Bedford to Bloomfield. I still see parts of the road bed when I travel to work. As I travel I hate seeing abandoned tracks or roadbeds where proud trains used to roll.

In 2005 the Indiana Railroad bought the trackage from Terre Haute to Bedford. It would give them more business opportunities and a shorter route to Louisville. This was welcome news as usage on the Bedford line was sporatic by now. I looked forward to more trains. Unfortunately the economy did not oblige.

Sad news arrived in late 2009. The Indiana Railroad petitioned to abandon the line from Crane to Bedford. On May 18, 2010 the newspaper delivered more bad news...the crews had started removing the trackage in Bedford. The trains I have had an attachment to since my childhood would now only exist in my memories.

For months I had thought about taking a motorcycle ride and taking pictures of the trackage before it disappeared one day. Well, that day had finally come. I came home, grabbed the camera, and hopped in the Jeep.

The Coxton crossing heading north.

Looking towards Bedford.

Looking towards Williams.

The trestle on Twin Ponds Road.

The crossing at Goose Lane.

Looking east from the Goose Lane Crossing.

In the late 80's a very large pressure container was sent to NSWC Crane via the railway. It was huge and rode on one of those catepillar cars. Monty and I walked down this track looking for the train the day it was supposed to come through. Eventually we found it in town on a siding.

West bound.

I didn't know it at the time, but about a week before the tracks were set to start being taken up a final train was sent down the line carry railroad personnel. You can see the impressions made by the wheels.

Following the Stumphole Bridge Road.

Near the slough and the backwaters of the White River near Williams.

The trestle over the Stumphole Bridge Road.

The railroad bed is built upon a huge wall of scrap limestone that was piled upon the slough. I can't imagine how labor intensive that must have been back in the 1800's.

The bridge over SR450.

The bridge over SR450 is on the other side of this cutout. This cutout was widened to allow the large pressure container to pass through.

This is the last straight section before entering Williams. When the river floods badly the water will reach the top of the tracks.

Another view of the above picture. You can see how high the water has to be to reach the tracks.

Approaching Williams. Soon this railroad sign will be gone.

My friend Amy. She happened to be mowing as I was passing through.

The approach to the Williams crossing.

This spur used to be a siding that continued into the curve of the above picture. After the last wreck the easternmost switch was removed. The pavement still gives a clue to what used to be there.

A view from the road to the dam. There used to be a spur that serviced the feed mill. It too is long gone.

The spur that is. The feedmill still remains.

The tracks continue west passed the now closed Williams campgrounds. So much has changed.

No trip through Williams is complete without a stop at the Williams Dam.

The dam, like the railroad, is just a shadow of its former self. Here was where the water gates were raised and lowered. There was a hand cranked machine that rode on rails. If you pulled the main lever one way and cranked the wheel it would travel on the rails to the different gates. If you moved the lever the other way and cranked the wheel a gear would move the water gates up and down. We used to play on it when we were young. Now it is gone and the dam is mostly fenced off.

About a mile up SR450 I stop at a familiar place. My grandparent's old house. I haven't been here since 1985...25 years ago when my grandma died. Grandpa sold it soon after. It's now for sale again and looking very shaggy. It's a lot different than when my grandparents lived here. Those decks weren't there. They've added the siding and metal roof. I remember it with brown asphalt siding and a tin roof. If memory serves me correctly it looks like the house has been added onto this end.

The house had an upstairs that was accessd by a very steep set of winding stairs. There was a small bedroom and another room that was mostly for storage. To get to the storage room you had to use a narrow walkway that had no hand rails. It always scared me when I was little. I can remember bullet reloading presses up there and beer cans.

The porch swing where I sat and watched so many trains was at the far end of the porch. It too only exists in my mind...along with the smell of my Grandma cooking fried pepperloaf. The change in concrete marks where the new addition is.

This tree was a popular place for us grandkids to play. We'd put my grandpa's old clay pigeon thrower in the tree and have a play machine gun nest. It would go where the three limbs have been cut. I guess they cut the limbs to make room for the house addition.

The leftmost limb used to have a swing on it. You could swing over the fence and above the neighbor's cows. You can see the rope scars on the limb.

The walkway and steps down to the road are barely visible. In the distance is a turkey building. Behind the building is a treeline hiding the railroad tracks. When my grandparents lived here the trees were almost non-existent and the trains were in full view. Here is a panoramic view from the house.

An old, two-story garage used to be here. My grandpa tore it down as it was old and rickety even back then. We played in it a lot. I'd love to know when it was built and the story behind it. I can imagine working on a car back in the 20's or 30's and watching a steam locomotive rumble by. Looking around here makes me feel old. I remember so much of things that are long gone.

I slipped and fell there and landed on a piece of glass when I was nine. I still have a scar on my butt to show for it. It was very embarassing laying on the bathroom floor with my pants down while my aunt looked at my cut. Monty and my cousin Scott just laughed and laughed.

Just west of Williams, with the covered bridge in the background.

The trestle on the Huron-Williams Road...the road to the covered bridge. A lot of coins were smashed here by passing trains.

There used to be a dirt road along the treeline which led to a field is the distance beyond what can be seen in this picture. My grandpa would take us back there in the 70's and we'd shoot groundhogs with his 22-250. My brother was a good shot with that rifle. You felt like a sniper when you hit a groundhog from a quarter mile away.

The tracks shadowing SR450.

SR450 passed over the tracks. Here are views from the bridge.

While taking pictures I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was Amy's sister-in-law, Kathy. She was getting the mail.

A couple views from the High Gap Road crossing.

Here is the crossing where my aunt and uncle used to live. Their old driveway is just behind the trees.

Just imagine the locomotive headlights appearing out of the canopied darkness...along with the rumble and three bursts of the train horn.

The tracks cross a bridge in the curve. When we stayed here we swam in the creek under the bridge.

Update - all the land on the other side of the road is now cleared.

The crossing in Cale looking east.

The crossing in Cale looking west.

Here is the area between Cale and Indian Springs where the train derailed once.

One time my brother and I were riding our motorcycles through here when we were in high school. I stopped at the above intersection and dropped my bike in the gravel.

The crossing in Indian Springs looking east.

The crossing in Indian Springs looking west.

This is as far as you can go. The drive is private and soon the tracks enter NSWC Crane.

It's sad to think one day that pictures will be all that is left of this railroad line.

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