F3 to Monon
Of many Chicago–Indianapolis trips in the 1950s, one stands out
Back in the 1950s, when I was working for Kalmbach Publishing Co. but before I moved my family to be with me in Milwaukee, the Monon Route played an important role in getting me to and from Indianapolis to visit them. Every other weekend, I would catch the Milwaukee Road’s Morning Hiawatha to Chicago, transfer to Dearborn Station (or “Polk Street,” as some called it), and ride the Monon’s Hoosier down to Boulevard Station, Indianapolis. But these were not my most memorable Monon miles.
During the late ’40s, I was trying to be a salesman in Chicago, selling glass jars and bottles. I didn’t fit the job in any way, but that’s another story. I was in the company office downtown when the phone rang. I answered, thinking it might be an order coming in. It wasn’t. Instead a familiar voice hailed me with, “Reid, ya wanna ride an F3 diesel to Monon and back?”
It was another short-notice, can’t-turn-it-down invitation from Howard Fogg, visiting Chicago from his home in New Jersey. This time it was an 88-mile jaunt down to the crossroads, and namesake, of the Monon. “You bet!” I told him.
“Well, get on down to Polk Street Station—I’ll see you there. I have passes for a cab ride. There’s just enough time after we get to Monon to get a slice of homemade apple pie at a restaurant next to the station. Then we’ll get the Thoroughbred back to Chicago.” Those cab passes may have been courtesy of John W. Barriger, then president of the Monon and a longtime patron of Fogg’s.
Well, the rides were great. It was the first and only time I rode an F3 on the main line. The view from the cab took some getting used to. Overpasses and truss bridges seemed way too small for a full-sized locomotive, and the tracks looked like narrow gauge. The crews provided a running commentary on the regular features of the run. At one place, a friendly lady would watch for the train, and the mail clerk would toss a newspaper in her direction. Further along, a bunch of kids were playing chicken on the tracks, so the engineer let ’em have it with the horn.
The day was a beauty. I had to pad my sales report with some fiction, but I moved on to better things soon, anyway.
First published in Winter 2006 Classic Trains magazine.
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