Transport Workers Union Of America
Local 2053

Elkhart is Railroad History

Elkhart is the home of twu local 2053, I went ahead and gathered some old photos,stories and history of the yard, go ahead and check them out the yard has changed signifigantly, and for all our retirees go ahead an remember some of the "good ole days"  1851 - The Michigan Southern & Northern Indiana R. R. Co. built their line though the southern part of the village. In May 1852, the first passenger train running from Toledo to Chicago passed through Elkhart. The population of Elkhart increased dramatically as the trains brought residents and railroad workers to the city.

First Train Into Elkhart Village. As told by the Elkhart Truth:

About four o’clock on a Friday afternoon early in the month of October, 1851, a wood burning engine, hauling a train of flat cars and a caboose rolled over the wooden bridge over the Elkhart river and puffed along to the foot of Main street, which was then in the forest south of the village proper. For weeks this event had been the topic or conversation among the inhabitants of the little hamlet and the night previous to the advent of the “Iron Horse” had been an anxious one. Many people waited all night long in order to be on hand to welcome the incoming train. Captain Chamberlain says that he was one of a party of boys, who, escaping from the confines of the school room, presided over by C. G. Conn, had gone in swimming while awaiting the coming of the train. It had been heralded abroad that the road would run a free excursion to White Pigeon on the following Sunday and people came for miles around to participate in the wonderful event. With an old time passenger coach, a box car and a number of flat cars arranged with planks for seats and crowded with passengers, the train started. One accident occurred to mar the occasion. Calvin Dome, one of the boys of the village, was seated on top of the box car and by a sudden stopping of the train, he was thrown under the wheels. The injured boy was taken on to White Pigeon and brought back to Elkhart with the excusionists. Dr. Chamberlain of Elkhart and Dr. Elliott of White Pigeon attended the injured boy, but he could not survive the shock of his injuries and died the following day. Silas Baldwin was the first local railroad agent in the village. (The Elkhart Truth)

The division engine works and repair shops of the company were established in 1870. The principal department is 124x600 feet, and with the wings gives an area approximating to 100,000 feet. The T. rail and carpenter shops, two round-houses, freight houses and offices, passenger depot, etc. form a railroad town, and give employment to a force numbering between 700 and 800 men. The exhibit of receipts and shipments for June, July, August and September, 1880, will convey an idea of the immense commerce of the city, and also show clearly the part played by the railroad in building up the industries of the city.

(Chapman, History of Elkhart County, 1881)


Above, the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern locomotive repair shop at Elkhart, Indiana. Below, the twin water towers and standpipes, with the roundhouse in the back of the photograph. Dates unknown. From a 1950's book produced by the Elkhart Public School system. [David Miller Collection]

Feburary 11, 1976. Penn Central bringing a cut of empty hopper cars across the St. Joseph River, east of Ball Band. Bridge photo.

The way it once was. A New York Central passenger speeds towards South Bend, Indiana. This picture was taken west of Lydick, Indiana. Date of the photo unknown. The bridge in the background is the called the "Pumpkin Vine", otherwise known as St. Joseph, South Bend and Southern. It followed the alignment west of the Studebaker corridor crossing the NYC Kankakee Line the GTW and NJI&I on the west side of South Bend. You can still see the remnant of the line along the US 20 Bypass West of Mayflower Rd. An electric line follows the old right of way for a while. Harry Zillmer photo. Right: Westbound NYC passenger taking on water "on the fly" at Lydick, Indiana. Date of the photo is unknown. Bob Schell photo.