Down at the Depot with Children's Author
Karen Kulinski

THE 503


Our EJ&E road caboose.

THE INTERLOCKING TOWER



This 90-year old structure controlled train traffic through Griffith until it was phased out of operation in 1999. Through the efforts of Griffith citizens, schoolchildren, businesses, organizations -- plus donations from the EJ&E Railway, the Union Pacific and the Canadian National Railroads, and a grant from the National Railroad Historical Society -- more than $60,000 was raised to save the tower and move it to the Griffith Historical Park.

Griffith Historical Park & Museum, Griffith, Indiana


I'm at the museum, standing in front of our 100-year-old Grand Trunk depot, which is the centerpiece of the Griffith Historical Park & Museum.

In the background are, from left to right, our EJ&E transfer caboose, our Pullman troopsleeper which carried military personnel during World War II, and part of our road caboose. The full caboose is pictured at the left.

What you can't see in the photo is the tall brick railroad tower that we saved from demolition and moved to our Historical Park in 2000. The tower is pictured at the left,too.

When I first moved to Griffith, it wasn't because of trains. Or depots. Certainly not about museums. But a couple of years later -- when a group of townsfolk were trying to save an old depot in town and publicized the fact in a local paper -- I realized that I had moved into a town that came to be because of trains.

I had, in fact, settled into the quintessential "railroad town." Here, at one time, five different rail lines crossed in the middle of Broad Street, earning Griffith the nickname "The Town that Came to the Tracks. And it was precisely because of those railroads that Griffith was founded where it was by Chicago real estate developers Jay and Elmer Dwiggins.

Some 180 trains came through each day when all five rail lines -- the Michigan Central; the Erie (later became the Erie Lackawanna;) the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway; the Grand Trunk (later became Grand Trunk Canadian National and now is just the Canadian National;) and the Chesapeake & Ohio -- were in operation.

It's quieter now, with only the Canadian National still in operation through Griffith. But with CN trains running through, and since the Union Pacific leases trackage rights through town, Griffith still experiences a heavy load of rail traffic.

The Griffith Historical Society was formed to take care of the Depot Museum in 1983, I joined and we are celebrating our 30th anniversary in 2013. Over the years, we purchased almost two acres of land adjacent to the Depot and went on to save three railcars and the brick tower that controlled rail traffic through Griffith.

Both the Depot and Tower are now on the National Register of Historic Places and the Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures.

My museum work and the research I did for it enriched my writing life, also, and led to several books inspired by railroading incidents, some of which are listed on "A Book or Three" page.

Our transfer caboose

Our World War II Pullman troop sleeper