Linden Memory, or When Stepping Of A Moving Caboose, Which Foot Goes First

The recent mention of a Monon conductor by the name of King who worked the south end out of Lafayette reminds me of a little adventure I had as a teen-ager on a hot summer day back in the mid-1960s.

I was hanging around the Linden, Indiana depot with swing shift operator Roy Kelly, as I often while my folks visited friends and relatives there in my dad’s hometown.

It had to be 1966 or before since southbound freight train #73 had Alco C-628s on the head end.

It was obvious that things were going to get interesting. The Nickel Plate, which crossed the Monon at Linden and shared the depot with the Monon, was also working the interchange at that time and #73 was going to be held on the main for the scheduled meet between the Monon’s passenger trains #5 and #6.

Being the budding freight (Monon) enthusiast that I was at that early age, I decided to walk the length of #73 in search of Monon subject matter for my newly-acquired 35mm camera. At that time there were surprisingly few Monon cars in Monon trains. But the conductor, who introduced himself as Mr. King, invited me aboard for a look around.

It seems that my new friend and my dad had been acquainted for some years, although Conductor King didn’t seem particularly pleased about it. I’ve always wondered if there had been some bad blood as the result of a romance gone bad, a high stakes (folding money) poker game that did not turn out as anticipated, or was it the fact that my dad made his living in a competing mode of transportation, trucking.

Anyway, I got a tour of the caboose and got to sit in the cupola. Conductor Kind told me that the 81532 was among the best cabooses on the Monon or any other railroad for that matter.

As I proceeded to ask entirely too many questions, he was saved by a whistle blast from #5 as she whizzed towards us on the passing track with a Grand Trunk coach on the rear. From the rear platform of the caboose I squeezed off a fuzzy, dark-side photo, you know, the kind that YOU treasure, but have to explain to others what the subject is.

No sooner had #5 passed then #6 went by, moving with cautious dispatch over the third track. The weeds on Track 3 were knee high, complete with thistles as only a budding freight car photographer would know. In fact, the train looked more like a boat treading a sea of weeds than the crack passenger train it really was.

With all the activity coming to an end it was time for #73 to depart. I was pretty sure I would have to “hit the ballast” for a long, hard walk back to the station, until I explained that I knew how to “step off” a moving train.

And I am sure I thought I did. A buddy from high school had told me how! And I wasn’t about to sell myself short with an adventure like this at hand.

The platform at the Linden station seems to have been made of a particularly hard and of course form of asphalt, as I was soon to learn.

As we approached the area where I was to disembark, Conductor King radioed the head end to slow up a little, but gave no reason. Although I was aware the conductor is in charge of the train, it seems that this request for a reduction in speed didn’t carry much weight with the boys up front.

We approached the platform at a pretty good clip. I assured Conductor King I knew my stuff and no one had to worry about slowing down for me.

I had a 50 percent chance of remembering correctly and getting it right. But I soon learned I picked the wrong 50 percent. I should have gone with the other foot.

When I hit the platform, it was all elbows and XXXholes for several long seconds before I slid to a stop on the aforementioned hard, rough surface.

I jumped up and waved a bloody hand at Conductor King signaling that I was okay, or so I thought!

Dad’s old buddy and card playing friend, “Kelly” as Dad used to call him, saw it all and rushed out of the station to see if I was really okay. He was genuinely concerned. You see, he was supposed to return me to my folks in pretty much the same condition in which I had arrived.

Did you know the station at Linden had a First Aid kit and Kelly knew where it was and how to use it?

But bandages wouldn’t fix the dent in my new camera and the beating my ego took, all on the aforementioned hard, rough platform at Linden.

Monon caboose 81532 has been preserved at the Indiana Railway Museum at French Lick and one can still back down those steps and wonder which foot should hit the ground first.

The station at Linden has also been preserved by the Linden Madison Township Historical Society.

By Mont Switzer, as written in The Hoosier Line, Volume 21, Number 2


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