The excursion train is about ready for boarding.
Last Friday I had the opportunity to ride a VIP train to the famed Tulip Trestle on the Indiana Rail Road. The bridge is 2,295 feet in length and 157 feet above the ground at its highest point, making it one of the largest such railroad structures in the United States.
INRD operated the train for Indiana University Press, which used the occasion to honor its authors, friends and the contributions of recent retirees from the Press.
The guest of honor was the founding series editor for the Railroads Past and Present series, George M. Smerk.
I was invited because IU Press has published two of my books and I’ve reviewed manuscripts and proposals for the Press.
Smerk is a retired professor at Indiana University who has been a tireless advocate of rail transportation. He continues to be a co-editor of the railroad book series and to write a column for Railfan and Railroad on mass transit topics.
H. Roger Grant, a history professor at Clemson University as well as a long-time Akron Railroad Club member, recently was named as co-editor of the railroad book series.
Grant, a former professor at the University of Akron, has published numerous railroad history books.
We boarded the four-car train in Bloomington at a crossing on the IU campus. All of the cars were of Santa Fe heritage and still look much the same as they did in their Santa Fe days.
Included in the consist was Santa Fe business car No. 56, which is now owned by Thomas G. Hoback and his wife. Hoback, the president and CEO of the INRD, was one of the railroad’s founders in 1986.
Also in the consist was ex-Santa Fe lounge car 1389 and coach 2820. Both had their original interiors although No. 2820 now has former Amtrak coach seats.
The train traveled 20 miles west to Tulip Trestle, located in Greene County near Solsberry. It was built in 1905-1906 by the Indianapolis Southern with funding from the Illinois Central Railroad. The IC took over the Indianapolis Southern in 1911.
The route, which linked Indianapolis and Effingham, Ill., was known as the “hi and dry” because of its many bridges and fills.
Hoback, a former coal marketing executive at the IC, was part of an investor group that purchased 110 miles of the line in 1986 from the Illinois Central Gulf.
The primary purpose of the line was to haul coal to a power plant in Indianapolis, but the route had and continues to have some merchandise freight.
The IU Press excursion ambled along at a leisurely pace as passengers feasted on cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.
I positioned myself on the observation platform of AT&SF No. 56. The train had a locomotive at each end, which kept me from getting the view and images I had hoped to get from the rear of No. 56 as the train crossed Tulip Trestle. Nonetheless, the view still was spectacular and the hospitality was first rate.
Soon we were crossing the Tulip Trestle, a structure that I had seen once from the ground and it located in a remote location. It spans a broad valley that includes Richland Creek.
There has been at least one public excursion over the trestle during INRD ownership. That trip was pulled by Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 587. Some have ridden across the trestle on the annual Santa Claus trains operated by INRD.
After crossing the trestle, the train halted, the head-end crew changed ends and it was back across again. On the second crossing of the trestle, I stood at an open Dutch door.
All too soon we were back in Bloomington. It had been an impressive trip that I was fortunate to have been invited to ride.
Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders
George Smerk (center to the right of the man with the white striped shirt) enjoys the excursion to Tulip Trestle aboard Santa Fe lounge car 1389.
Rolling along through the Southern Indiana countryside, which can be rugged in these parts.
Approaching Tulip Trestle from the east end. At the time of its construction, it was the third largest bridge of its type in the world.
The panoramic view. Tulip trestle cost $246,504 to build in the early 20th century. The laborers were paid 30 cents an hour. A number of them were killed during construction, but no definitive number has been identified.
Yes, it’s a long ways down, 157 feet at one point. The view was taken from the observation platform of Santa Fe No. 56.
You can see through the ties in this image of the ditch lights of GP38 No. 3803 and Santa Fe No. 56.
Crossing Richland Creek. Look carefully and you’ll see a reflection of the footing and tower on the side of Santa Fe 56, which gives the illusion of seeing a complete support tower.
The west end of the trestle is in sight. The bridge does not have a walkway at track level, but that hasn’t stopped some from walking out onto it.
Looking out onto the trestle from the west side from the observation platform of Santa Fe No. 56. Some sources say the bridge is 2,307 feet in length.
A ground-level view at the west end on the fireman’s side out toward the trestle.
Late afternoon lighting casts shadows on the north side of the trestle. The structure has 38 upright steel structures, most of which are in pairs.
Aside from the installation of two 45-sections in 1916, Tulip Trestle is “as built” in 1906.
High-level eats on the trestle.
A passenger views the valley from the lounge car as the excursion train crosses back over Tulip Trestle en route back to Bloomington.