Author Topic: Indianapolis French Lick Trains  (Read 2632 times)

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Steve Dolzall

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Indianapolis French Lick Trains
« on: February 24, 2012, 10:37:30 am »
This summary of operations was prepared by an avaid PRR historian Ernie Clausing but has ample Monon content

A number of weeks ago we had a discussion on Pennsywest concerning the joint Indianapolis-French Lick service provided by the PRR and the Monon. Much of that discussion was based on speculation because very little was really known about the service. Since that time a number of us from the PRR side have been working together with a number from the Monon side to unravel the mysteries of that service. We have uncovered much information, so for those who are interested this is a progress report with the facts as we have developed them so far. Since this discussion contains a good amount of historical information, some of you might want to print a copy for keeping.


The 1921 Official Guide shows twice daily service between Indianapolis and French Lick. Two PRR Indianapolis-Vincennes trains to Gosport Junction swapped through cars with two Monon Lafayette-French Lick trains. In the northward direction two Monon trains handed off the through cars to two PRR trains. According to the Official Guide the through cars consisted of a coach and a parlor observation car.


The swap was accomplished as follows. The Monon and the PRR ran parallel for a short distance just south of the crossing at Gosport Junction. A short siding was constructed between the Monon and the PRR with switches on both ends of the siding to both railroads. It had the same configuration that a center siding in double tracked territory would have. A PRR train came from Indianapolis with the two through cars on the rear of the train. Upon arrival at Gosport Junction it would set off (back the cars) onto the short siding. Meanwhile, the Monon train would arrive and pick the cars on the rear of its train and take them to French Lick. Northward service would be the reverse.


Gosport Junction times for the Monon are given in the Official Guide, but PRR times are not. Lacking a 1921 PRR Employees Timetable (ETT), we have estimated the PRR 1921 schedule times at Gosport Junction based on the Official Guide times at Whitaker or Paragon. They are:


PRR Train #407 Lv. Indianapolis 7:15 AM; Ar. Gosport Junction 9:12 AM

Monon Train #11 Lv. Gosport Junction 9:30 AM; Ar. French Lick 1:15 PM

Trains carry Parlor Car and Coach


PRR Train #437 Lv. Indianapolis 4:30 PM; Ar. Gosport Junction 6:03 PM

Monon Train #9 Lv. Gosport Junction 6:19 PM; Ar. French Lick 9:35 PM

Trains carry Parlor-Dining Car and Coach


Monon Train #10 Lv. French Lick 6:15 AM; Ar. Gosport Junction 8:55 AM

PRR Train #406 Lv. Gosport Junction 9:08 AM; Ar. Indianapolis 10:45 AM

Trains carry Parlor-Dining Car and Coach


Monon Train#12 Lv. French Lick 1:35 PM; Ar. Gosport Junction 4:50 PM

PRR Train #426 Lv. Gosport Junction 4:55 PM; Ar. Indianapolis 6:20 PM

Trains carry Parlor Car and Coach


In 1925, at least by 1927, the twice daily service was cut back to once a day. However, the car swap was eliminated and the service was provided by through trains #330 and #331. We were fortunate enough to be able to buy a 1927 Monon ETT on eBay, but we do not have a PRR 1927 ETT; we do have documents that show the Indianapolis departure and arrival times for Trains #331 and #330. The schedules were:


PRR Train #331 Lv. Indianapolis 12:30 PM; Ar. Gosport Junction 1:40 PM

Monon Train #331 Lv. Gosport Junction 1:40 PM; Ar. French Lick 4:00 PM:


Monon Train #330 Lv. French Lick 1:35 PM; Ar. Gosport Junction 4:00 PM

PRR Train #330 Lv. Gosport Junction 4:00 PM; Ar. Indianapolis 5:15 PM


Trains #330 and #331 met at Bedford on the Monon.


The above times suggest a seamless transfer of trains at Gosport Junction, since no time is allocated at the junction for the transfer from one railroad to the other. But it isn’t really that simple. Instructions in Monon ETT No. 50 effective 4-3-1927 say that Trains #330 and #331 are to register at Gosport Junction. It also says that Train #6 would throw off a register slip at Gosport Junction at the “Penna. R’y” telegraph office. That implies that someone was on duty to retrieve the register slip and to enter it onto the register. Train #331, upon arrival, would check the register to ascertain that Train #6 had arrived. Therefore, both trains #330 and #331 would have stopped at Gosport Junction so a non-stop seamless move did not happen.


We believe, but we do not know, that when the through trains were established, the center siding was removed and the transfer between the two railroads was made on the south wye track. This would eliminate an extra stop for the crossing, as the crossing would not have been crossed, and the trains could stop right at the doorway of a building believed to be the telegraph office. As a former operational planner that would have been my choice.


Much of the speculation and mystery about these trains revolved around how they were handled in zero time through Gosport Junction. Gosport Junction was not a Train Order Office for the Monon and PRR Silex unattended block station was adjacent to the crossing. Most of the speculation was concerning how Monon Train #331 got its clearance card and train orders at Gosport Junction. In the final analysis, the speculation was all unnecessary because it really doesn’t make that much difference. With someone on duty at Gosport Junction, the clearance card and orders, if any, could be handed to Train #331 at Gosport Junction, even though the ETT does not identify the junction as a Train Order Office. Lacking a man on duty, the conductor could call the dispatcher and get the clearance card and orders, if any, just as well. The only difference is that a man on duty could save about 3-4 minutes train time. If handling those two trains, plus registering Monon #6, were his only duties, he clearly was unneeded. 


Entering the PRR for Train #330 was a bit more complicated. Unattended block station Silex was controlled by Romona block station or Spencer block station when Romona was closed or by Switz City when both Romona and Spencer were closed. Since Romona closed before Train #330 arrived at Gosport Junction, someone had to call Spencer (Switz City on Sunday) to obtain permission to enter the Vincennes Branch and obtain the Manual Block condition between Silex and Paragon, the next open block station, five miles north of Gosport Junction. In addition he would have to obtain a PRR Form CT 1246, which states that all superior trains have arrived. It is the PRR’s way of satisfying Rule 83 and does away with the train register. That someone may have to copy any train orders that would affect Train #330 between Silex and Paragon but such orders should have been rare. Orders that affected Train #330 north of Paragon would be delivered there. Again, a man on duty could have received the block information and assisted with the switches. However, his presence was not essential because the conductor of train #330 could have done it as well.


There was a good bit of discussion how the joint service was operated. One thought was that the trains were Monon trains that operated over the PRR on trackage rights. The fact that the PRR ETT showed there was a PRR Bulletin Board at French Lick that dispensed PRR General Orders and Timetables was evidence that through crews were used. Four days of PRR daily conductor’s reports found by our Monon associates confirmed that PRR crews did operate into French Lick. Therefore, the service was jointly operated and was not totally a Monon operation. However, we concede that the Monon may have called the shots, since French Lick was a Monon-served resort.


The conductors’ reports (PRR Form CT 1054) for Trains #330 and #331 on March 5, 6, 7, and 8, 1927 give interesting information. Train #331 laid over at French Lick and returned to Indianapolis the next day as Train #330. The equipment on all four days was the same:


Locomotive 8735 (PRR class E23s Atlantic (4-4-2), formerly Vandalia class VE3s, scrapped in 11/29)
CI&L 314 (Combination baggage passenger car)
Coach 7204 (Probably a PRR car)
Pullman Parlor Car Buena Vista

The trains had Engineer Newton on March 5 and 6 and Engineer Frederick on March 7 and 8. Frederick was a PRR engineer because Frederick’s son, also a PRR engineer, supplied the conductor’s report. He was proud of the notation made by the conductor that his father Engineer Frederick made an exceedingly good run.


On March 6 Train #330 handled 78 passengers, 13 in the parlor car; on March 8 it handled 48 passengers, 5 in the parlor car. It is not clear if the passengers in the parlor cars were included in the totals.


We assume that the other side of Trains #330 and #331 (the alternate days) had Monon crews. Some sort of crew equalization agreement had to be in effect, although we do not know what it was.


Sometime before 9/29/1929, when PRR Indianapolis Division ETT was issued, the schedule of Trains #330 and #331 were changed so that they could turn at French Lick and thereby save an equipment set. The schedules in PRR ETT#10 and Monon ETT #58 were:


PRR Train #331 Lv. Indianapolis 8:30 AM; Ar. Gosport Junction 9:40 AM

Monon Train #331 Lv. Gosport Junction 9:40 AM; Ar. French Lick 12:00 Noon


Monon Train #330 Lv. French Lick 1:15 PM; Ar. Gosport Junction 3:35 PM

PRR Train #330 Lv. Gosport Junction 3:35 PM; Ar. Indianapolis 4:45 PM


Monon ETT 58 has no reference to a PRR telegraph office at Gosport Junction, so we are inclined to believe it was closed; but Monon Trains #330 and #331 were still required to register. We do not know where the register was located; it may have been located in what was once the telegraph office. PRR trains were not required to register, but they would have to get permission to occupy the main track and get the prescribed forms and the manual block condition, as detailed earlier.


Trains #330 and #331 were eliminated July 6, 1931.


I hope all this was interesting to some or all of you..


Ernie Clausing




Tom Kepshire

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Re: Indianapolis French Lick Trains
« Reply #1 on: February 24, 2012, 11:22:32 am »
Great information Steve...
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Rick Dreistadt

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Re: Indianapolis French Lick Trains
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2012, 08:57:49 pm »
Thanks for this info, Steve.