Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Thomas Hoback is the President of the Indiana Rail Road (INRD), a regional railroad with its principal mainline between Indianapolis, Bloomington IN and Terre Haute, with a branch to Newton Il, plus track rights to Chicago and Louisville for a total of over 500 miles. He has made several innovative changes in traditional railroad operation on the INRD, including one man crews on trains, remote switching of customers yards by a crew of one using portable remote control of locomotives, and remote control of switches.

Mr. Hoback feels that my great-grandfather, William Barstow Strong, did progressive things while general manager and President of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad between 1877 and 1889 which should be recognized in a book. He has hired a professional researcher, Jennie Born, to locate original materials about Wm B, such as letters to and from him, letters mentioning him and other data about him. I have been helping in a small way to locate materials.

Cousin Marilyn Strong Uselding, who lives in nearby Bloomington IN, and I were invited to ride the INRD President’s Special train on June 15, and we happily accepted. Jo could not go on the trip as she was in St. Clair MO house sitting for her daughter.



Some of the people involved in  the President’s Special gathered at the INRD Senate Street terminal in Indianapolis at 9:30. Above are Chris, the driver of the van which took us to the other end of the railroad, Eric  Powell, Manager of Economic Development of the INRD, John DePaemelaere, our engineer, me and Marilyn. We are standing outside a replica of a Santa Fe depot built two years ago from plans provided by the BNSF.


Marilyn and Sue Hoback inspect furniture in the President’s office of the depot. Note the picture of Wm B. at the far left and the route map of the Santa Fe next to it. In the lower left is a red globe lantern.



Marilyn, Sue and Jennie Born are taking a closer look at the unusual desk. It has wide shallow drawers containing maps on both the top and bottom of the drawer.

From Indianapolis we travelled by van to the INRD Terra Haute Van Yard and Dispatch Center where we saw the dispatcher controlling train movements on the single track line and in yard switching. Trains controlled by the dispatcher average 20 a day, including  unit trains hauling coal from mines to power generating stations. There is a dispatcher on duty 24/7 and he has 10 computer screens with information, 5 with the more significant data. The dispatcher also functions as the second man in the cab when the train is operated by a one man crew. He remotely can stop the train should  the engineer become incapacitated.



Here is the President's Special train. The train is made up of a diesel-electric GP38 locomotive, a power car containing generators to supply electricity to the next two cars, a Santa Fe lounge car (no. 1389), and the President’s private car, formerly a Santa Fe business car, refurbished and repainted last in 2004 - 2005. With permission of the BNSF the car contains the Santa Fe name and the car number, 56. The car was built by Pullman in 1923 and has always carried the Santa Fe name.


Here is a better view of the lounge car just before we boarded the train at INRD’s Jasonville Hiawatha yard. We rode 107 miles on the mainline of the INRD through Bloomington to the Indianapolis yard.



Here is the dining table in the business car. It seats 8 and the dishes used are in the Mimbreno china pattern used by the Santa Fe for many years. The upholstery on the chairs was a pattern also used widely by the Santa Fe.


The galley in the business car was fully equipped. A chef prepared our gourmet dinner on board while we were on our trip.


Cousin Marilyn in the lounge car. The bar is at the far end, and there are sleeping quarters forward of that for a car attendant.




This is the view from the observation platform on the business car as we just crossed the Tulip Trestle on the IRR.   It is the longest and highest trestle in Indiana.


When the time came for guests to take a ride in the cab. Mr. Hoback joined us at the controls to log check ride hours to keep his engineer’s license current.


I enjoyed this view from the brakeman's seat during my turn to ride in the locomotive.


And this was my view in the mirror of the cars in the consist.


We paused here to change riders in the locomotive.


We just entered the only tunnel on the INRD at Unionville. This is the view from the observation platform at the rear of the business car.



Here we just exited the tunnel.





This is the Shuffle Creek Trestle  crossing the Lemon Reservoir.





Guests Eric Heiser (Arizona attorney and editor of the publications of the Santa Fe Historical Society), Jennie Born and Bob Babcock, VP of Business Development, Transportation and Mechanics of the INRD. Donald Lamb was another guest who spent much of his time on board in the locomotive. He is a professor of astrophysics at the University of Chicago and a leading writer of articles on the history of the Santa Fe


Me, Susan and Tom Hoback after dinner in the business car.

More information about the amazing things Mr. Hoback and coworkers have accomplished with Indiana Rail Road in 26 years is on line at

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