place for train lovers
Hay Museum offers unique,
addition is a museum
devoted to the Monon line
SALEM, Ind. (December 2004) People living
around Jefferson County, Ind., dont need to travel far to find
an area rich in history and heritage. With so much available right in
their backyards, anything off the beaten path tends to be easily overlooked.
One of these sites, just a short drive from anywhere in this area, is
the John Hay Center, a museum located at 307 E. Market St. in Salem,
Ind., and operated by the Washington County Historical Society.
provided by Cecil Smith
Cantwell (left) of Borden, Ind., who started his career on the
Monon in the 1940s, admires an HO train piece held by John G.
Campbell of Louisville.
The center is home to the Stevens Memorial Museum that
includes an extensive genealogical library that attracts visitors from
across the United States who come to do genealogy, according to society
president Willie Harlen. Also part of the museum is the Pioneer Village,
where the John Hay House sits.
The newest addition at the John Hay Center is The Depot, a railway museum
commemorating the role Washington County played in the fabrication of
the Monon Railway.
Displays in the museum highlight antiques and vintage items such as
quilts and clothing, sports memorabilia, military items and re-creations
of rooms, complete with artifacts, representing what an Indiana home
would have looked like a century ago.
Part of the museum is the story of John Milton Hay, who served as personal
secretary to President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State under
Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt. The house is the only building
in the Pioneer Village standing at its original location. The historical
society purchased the house in 1966 and it earned listing in 1971 on
the National Register of Historic Places.
The buildings in the village that were not brought intact to the site
were reconstructed there between 1979 and 1986. The reconstructed pioneer
community portrays a settlement on the southern Indiana frontier during
The Depot, the most recent addition to the John Hay Center, houses a
compilation of railroad memorabilia as well as toy and model trains.
The Depot commemorates the role Salem played in the 1847 organization
of the New Albany & Salem Railroad, which later became the Monon.
Businessmen in the Salem area began formulating plans in the 1840s for
the construction of a railroad that would link them to the river town
of New Albany, Ind. Construction began on the New Albany & Salem
Railroad in 1847. When that portion of the railroad was completed, officials
figured they might as well just go the whole state, said Cecil J. Smith,
the Station Master at The Depot.
Construction continued and the first train to make a trip over the full
state of Indiana, from Michigan City to New Albany, left on July 3,
1854. The 30-mile railroad proposed by the Salem businessmen would now
make history as it traveled from Lake Michigan to the Ohio River.
provided by Cecil Smith
miniature train display shows the Monon
line (above) stopped at Pekin.
The Depot building is a replica of the actual Salem depot
and was build by students from the Prosser School of Technology over
the course of two years, said Smith. They did a marvelous job,
we are proud of them and they are proud what they did. They come back
often with their families, he said.
Inside the building are displays from both the Monon and other railways
that have been collected by Cecil and Martha Smith over a period of
30 years. Displays include dishes, glasses and silverware used to serve
guests aboard the Monon and other southern Indiana railroads, as well
as furnishings, signs, advertising items, timetables and other equipment
Perhaps the most impressive display at The Depot is the large model
railroad depicting the Monon as it travels through Washington County.
Models of actual buildings and detailed landscaping recreate a vision
of Salem, Pekin and Campbellsburg as they looked between 1957 and 1964.
The model train travels on miniature rails laid according to actual
Monon track plans.
provided by Cecil Smith
freight train is parked at Campbellsburg, Ind.
The creators of this extravagant display are volunteers,
as are all of the employees at The Depot, who have been working on it
for over two years and say it will take at least five more before the
project is complete.
Gerry Riesterer, who used to live and work in Salem, creates many of
the handmade buildings on display. He is now retired in Wisconsin but
still creates buildings and mails them to The Depot.
John G. Campbell and John K. Campbell take photos and measurements,
which they send to Riesterer in Wisconsin. Riesterer then sends back
the completed buildings that sit among handmade landscaping and trees,
created by Andy Long of Crawford County, Ind. Long uses actual weeds
to create the trees that look incredibly real. He builds them in his
home and periodically comes into The Depot with 30 or 40 trees to plant.
To buy the trees would be tremendously expensive, so Longs work
is greatly appreciated, Smith said.
Before leaving The Depot, visitors can climb aboard the real Monon caboose
parked at the side of the building and watch as real CSX trains pass
nearby. Visitors can visit one or all of the areas at the John Hay Center
for an hour or a whole day of entertainment and education.
For more information, call the John Hay
Center at (812) 883-6495.
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