Something Good From Something Bad

-Submitted by Donald Cripe-

On that night, or morning, of May 22, 1952, I was working with the Monon Railroad in the yard facilities known as "Belt Junction", in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Brakemen and Conductors slept in a converted passenger car down there in the yard.

About 4:00 AM, the morning of the accident, a train crew coming in from Monon, Indiana woke everyone up who were sleeping in the passenger cars in the yard. They informed us of the wreck in Lowell. I recall their words were something like, "Well, they had one hell of a train wreck at Lowell this morning which tore down the depot." Naturally, we were all pretty much shocked and stunned. Six months earlier, a passenger train left the rails at Monon, Indiana and demolished that depot also. As a result of that wreck, the railroad had cut a good number of jobs. I suppose it was an attempt to absorb the expense of the accident and derailment. Believe me, for the next few weeks, moral was pretty low among the Monon employees I knew. Many figured they would lose their jobs, by either lay offs or just plain fired.


 My best recollection of the Monon accident at Lowell was how it changed my life. Right after that accident, many Monon workers were fearing their jobs might be cut to absorb the cost of another wreck. In 1953 the Monon build a new depot at Lowell. A modern brick structure replaced the old wooden depot that was destroyed in the accident. Because the new depot would be an vast improvement, with hot and cold running water, mens and ladies restrooms, oil fired forced air heating, I decided to bid on the station agent opening. At the time, Lowell had a rather bad reputation because of their water. Many said it was sulfur water, which was not very good tasting and had a bad odor. The sulfur and the amount of work at Lowell caused many employees with more seniority to refused to bid on the opening. In March, 1954, I received word that I would be the new agent in Lowell. I was 23 at the time. I worked for the Monon until 1972. While station agent I became interested in real estate and contracting which helped me establish myself in the Lowell business community. I have many fond memories of the Monon and all the good friends I worked with. This may sound weird, but in my life the 1952 accident is probably one of the best things that could have happened for me. One could say it was a turning point in my life. I'm glad nobody was injured. Had the accident occurred during the daytime, things would have been different.

-Donald Cripe, Lowell, Indiana-


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