Nappanee, Indiana came into
existence because of the B&O Railroad
This small shed housed either a crossing guard or switch operator along the B&O Railroad near Nappanee, Indiana. Two photographs below show similar buildings alongside the double tracks. The photo with the building closest to this one with a hip roof is 1875 or later, the one with the building that is the same size but with a gable roof is 1890's or later. The building has been moved several times and used as a children's playhouse among other things.
Amish Acres saved it from destruction and restored it to its original condition and colors. Notice the moss growing on the window sill. Visible on top is steel chimney to which was attached a heating stove. Crossing guards, the last one in Nappanee was Pepper Martin in the 1950's, would emerge from their station and hold a railroad crossing stop sign in the middle of the street, stopping traffic while the trains roared through belching smoke and soot. A built in bench with a hinged lid provided storage for the building. The crossing guard/switch operator shed is visible in the background of this photo taken soon after the train came through in 1874.
A similar crossing guard shed sits at the south west corner of Main Street near the Nappanee Milling Company. This photo was taken between 1885 and 1895. Notice the shed has a gable roof rather than the hip roof of the earlier building and the restored building at Amish Acres.
By Albert Kuhns
In January of 1929 we were married and rented a house close by the railroad tracks. I kept on working on the section the remainder of that year, and the following winter. Our section was two miles east of the middle of town, and one mile west. There were three miles of double track and many switches in town, as there were three furniture factories, and one porcelain factory, two grain elevators, and the flour mill. There was also a sauerkraut factory, a sawmill and two lumber and coal companies. There were livestock yards, as most of the livestock was shipped by the railroad.
In spring of the year many cross ties had to be replaced with new ones. Our crew consisted of a foreman seventy years old, and six workmen, and during the winter there were never less then four workmen.
One day in about April it rained a steady rain. We took shelter in the car house, as we had a hand car for getting over the track. The car house was about three fourth miles from our house. It was a common practice for the men to play cards at such a time. I told the other men I would get our tools in shape but not theirs. (This was my mistake.) This caused jealousy later.
On Monday morning we went to replacing new ties as usual, west of town, we worked in pairs of two, as it took two men to handle this satisfactorily. My partner and I started the day with tools in good shape, while Sam and his partner were dissatisfied with their dull tools. Sam walked over to where we were working, and traded one of their tools for one of ours, which I had not noticed at first. But when we went to using it, I noticed this. It was a pair of tongs much like ice tongs, only larger. When they are dull, they sometimes let go of a tie and can give you a throw out of balance. A little later I traded back, when they were not looking, and very shortly there was a fight between Sam and my partner. While the fists were flying, I had to do something and do it quick, as I was the guilty one. I quickly called out "Sam!" I took the tool. I'm the guilty one. If you want to give anyone a licken, give it to me. The fight stopped and I wasn't even touched. This was a lesson for me. After this I repaired all of the tools regardless.
The following winter it seemed one snow storm followed another, and around the first day of winter there came a blizzard.
That afternoon we sat by the fire until quitting time. The foreman informed us that we must remain on duty as the local does the switching during the night. The factories must be kept running, the town needs, coal, and there is a carload of hogs loaded at the stockyard. All the switches (20 or more) were buried in the snow. We made our headquarters with the main St. watchman tower. There were plenty of room, and a red-hot stove. The watchman raised and lowered the gates with long hand levers inside the tower. We carried in coal for him and sometimes gave him a hand on the levers. He was a man about the same age as our foreman, seventy years. Fortunately there was a restaurant about a block away.
Around about 10:00PM a fast freight pulled in to pick up the hogs. We had a half mile down to the stockyards, starting off in good time. We had to get the engine through about three switches, with each a snow shovel and a broom. We soon had the carload of hogs off our mind. But the worst was yet to come, with the local due at close to midnight. The local did arrive at about that time. They must reach all points of business picking up and spotting cars by morning. They managed to back off the main track and we got orders for two of us to board the engine and the other two to board the caboose. We uncover the switches as they go through. Just as we had boarded the engine, a brakeman came up to the engine and spoke to the engineer. Two cars are derailed at Madison St. and buckled over toward the main tracks.
Not enough clearance for the midnight passenger train, and it was due in twenty minutes. The engineer answered in alarm, send out the flag man! The conductor answered, he is on his way. But it was slow going for him too. The two done some serious planning and decided to move ahead a little wee bit, maybe the two cars will move away from the main line. The steam engine breathed a short breath, and that done it, the cars cleared. So they called the flag man back by the sound of the whistle. I know by experience what relief that flag man had, when he heard the whistle blowing. He would have had to go at least a thousand feet and clamp torpedoes on the rail and then come back a couple hundred feet to flag the train. The torpedoes are enough to stop the train in case the lantern cannot be seen. It seemed like a short ten minutes when the midnight passenger train roared through, and could hardly be seen for the cloud of flying snow.
The local worked with much difficulty that night, as the snow packed down on the planks at the street crossings causing the wheels to leave the rails. By morning there were seventeen derailed cars. They carry with them what is called a frog. It is laid in front of the wheels and rest on the ties, when they pull the car toward the frog, the wheels travel upon it and slide off sideways back onto the rail. By morning there were still three or four cars that had to be lifted with heavy jacks. The day was colder but the storm cleared away. We had many switches to shovel out and were still not relieved from duty when night came. But the second night everything went better. Two days and two nights from home and soft warm bed. I remember at one time, and the only time in this period I stretched out on a long seat at the station waiting room, I dosed off for a short 15 or 20 minutes. I failed to mention that our foreman had started out to help us get the car loaded of hogs and couldn't make it. One of the men helped him get back to his den, the watchman's tower. We were greeted with a broad smile when we got back and the hogs were headed for Pittsburgh.