Facebook Page

A Visit to Porter and Hesston, Indiana ~ May 11th, 2013

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Before the afternoon's visit and ride at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, there were two places of note to visit in the morning. I met Chris in the lobby and after breakfast, we did not drive far for our first stop of the morning.

New York Central station built in 1915. We made our way to Chesterston.

Across the Norfolk Southern main line were two passenger cars of South Shore heritage which had housed a failed restaurant. We then drove to Porter

Upon arriving at Porter, Norfolk Southern 9196 east was our first train on this National Train Day.

That was followed by Norfolk Southern 8348 West.

Next was Norfolk Southern 8503 West leading a double stack.

The beginning of the Amtrak Michigan line here at Porter.

Amtrak Train 29, the Capitol Limited, made its way through the town, which was the southern terminus of the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad.

Norfolk Southern 2761 East passed us next.

Amtrak Train 350, the Wolverine, en route to Pontiac, Michigan, with P42DC 28 on the rear.

Norfolk Southern 1059 West leading a train of tank cars was the penultimate freight of our visit here.

Another tank car train, this one led by Norfolk Southern ES44AC 8089, came through Porter. Chris and I had enjoyed our visit to Porter but now it was time to visit the Hesston Steam Museum in Hesston.

Hesston History

The desire of a few local steam buffs to share in history of the use and innovation of steam power necessitated the purchase of suitable land for an annual reunion. Twenty-two acres (our present main campus) were purchased and hundreds of thorn apple trees cleared. A dam was built in Mud Creek to form Duck Lake as a source of water for the engines. The group, then called LaPorte County Threshermen, held their first show and reunion in 1957. Traction engines were the main feature and provided most of the power. A sawmill was added in 1959, the electric plant in 1961 and the Browning crane in 1962. At the suggestion of Bruce Achor, a couple of members purchased a steam locomotive in 1964 from Elliott Donnelley of Lake Forest, Illinois, who took an interest in the accomplishments at Hesston. With his generous financial assistance, during 1965-1968, the remainder of our 155 acre site was purchased and a unique dual gauge (24"/36") railroad was constructed. The La Porte County Historical Steam Society, Inc. was chartered as a not-for-profit organization on December 16th 1968 and the original La Porte County Threshermen club was absorbed and dissolved. In 1969, the IRS granted recognition as a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation.

The entrance sign. While the museumk was closed today (it did not open until Memorial Day weekend), Chris had arranged for a tour so we were able to see the equipment and track that the museum has, but I have yet to ride this unique railway.

Steam tractors on display under cover.

South Shore caboose 345.

A Whitcomb switcher under restoration.

View of the grounds.

The steam sawmill built in 1900 by the Hill-Curtis Machinery Company of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

A steam crane.

The dual gauage track by the duck pond.

100 Years of Power display.

The Chasey Station.

Amaryllis Station, the main station for the train rides. Hesston Steam Museum is rare in that it offers three gauges - narrow-gauge (running on a two-and-a-half miles around the museum property), 14" gauge (the equipment used on this line were mainly built for amusement parks from the 1920's to the 1950's) and 7.5 inch gauge, (which travel through the heavily-wooded hills and under a bridge in a one mile winding route).

Baggage cart and scales at the station.

One of the Niagara engines from Kiddieland in Chicago.

A stock car in the barn.

Kiddieland and other passenger cars.

A caboose.

Another passenger car.

Stet and Querry Central 5.

Another of the Kiddieland engines.

Close-up of Chicago and North Western system logo on the former Kiddieland steam engine. We then walked over to another shed.

Elliott Donnelly 4-4-0 3.

History of Kiddieland and Stet and Query Central locomotives.

Stet and Query Central 4-6-4 1.

Looking down the three guages of tracks and the stations at Hesston.

An Amtrak locomotive in the smallest gauge train shed.

The car body of an Eric Railroad E or F unit that was being worked on.

Hesson Central 2 under restoration.

United States Mail Railway Post Office car 135 "Fast Southern Mail".

R. Dolberg 0-4-0T 4 at Hesston.

The builder's plate on A. Meyer 0-4-0T 125. We walked over to the last shed.

New Mexico Lumber three-truck Shay 7 built in 1929.

The cab of Shay 7.

Deutsche Reichsbahn 0-8-0 99 3361 built in 1939.

It had been an excellent visit to Hesston and I look forward to being able to ride the three lines in the future so I an get the full experience of what they have to offer.