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Home > Blog > Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012 > Beech Grove, Indiana, September 16

Beech Grove, Indiana, September 16

Posted by admin at Sep 22, 2011 12:25 PM |
After four months of traveling from city-to-city, the Exhibit Train was welcomed with open arms during a special employees-only event in Beech Grove, Ind.
Exhibit Train comes to Beech Grove
Beech Grove in the 1970s
F40 Locomotive being repaired at Beech Grove

The Exhibit Train Arrives comes
to the Beech Grove maintenance facility

Beech Grove from the 1970s, converting
Amtrak's fleet to electric cars.

F40 Locomotive being repaired at Beech Grove
in the 1980s

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!
Temporary tattoos were popular!
Another tattoo customer

Welcome to the Exhibit Train!

Temporary tattoos were popular!
Steven Ostrowski applies one for a
small visitor in the train's cafe/store car.

Another tattoo customer.

Beech Grove, Ind. is home to Amtrak’s primary maintenance facility. Within the numerous shop buildings, skilled employees work to ensure that the locomotives and cars in our fleet are maintained to the highest performance and safety standards. Typical tasks include the regular inspection of engines; refurbishment of passenger car interiors; replacement of wheel sets; and the painting of car exteriors in the latest livery, also known as a “phase” (the Exhibit Train is painted in the historic Phase III, introduced in 1979).

Safety is always important on the railroad, especially when dealing with large and complex machines such as those found in the shops. Like all Amtrak facilities, Beech Grove participates in Safe-to-Safer, a program aimed at creating a safer work environment. Collaboration and the evaluation of feedback encourage co-workers to identify best safety practices and then consider ways to spread them across the company. Driven by the commitment of its employees, Amtrak aims to be the worldwide leader in safety in the transportation industry.

For the Exhibit Train, this stop was a sort of homecoming, as the locomotives and ex-Santa Fe Railroad baggage cars were modified at Beech Grove last winter to serve as our traveling museum. It was fun to see employees going through the train with their friends and families, pointing out specific projects—such as the installation of a window or an air conditioning unit—that they had completed to get the Exhibit Train ready for its nation-wide tour. In the seating area of the old Bistro Car, now the retail store, kids and adults alike enjoyed the impromptu “tattoo parlor.” Their arms, foreheads, cheeks, and hands were emblazoned with washable tattoos, the most popular one being Amtrak’s first logo, the “inverted arrow” in bold shades of red, white, and blue. Outside, grills were set up for a delicious barbeque lunch.

The shops at Beech Grove have served four railroads since they were constructed more than a century ago by the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway—commonly referred to as the “Big Four”—which ran a network stretching across the heart of the Midwest into Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio. Erected between 1904 and 1908, the facility was the company’s major repair shop for steam locomotives and passenger and freight cars, and also contained an extensive freight rail yard. Period railroad magazines covered the construction with interest, marveling at the design of the two-story machine and erecting shop whose gigantic windows allowed natural light to flood the interior. Surrounding this important building were the smaller coach, paint, boiler, and wheel shops.

Although acquired by the New York Central Railway (NYC) in 1906, the Big Four operated as an independent entity until 1922. The shops remained in the hands of the NYC until it merged with the rival Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central, whose tenure was short lived as it declared bankruptcy in 1970. Amtrak began using the Beech Grove shops a few years later, and gained complete control over the complex in 1986. The community’s ties to the NYC live on in its streets, many of which carry the names of major cities—Albany, Cleveland, Detroit—that were served by the railroad and are now part of Amtrak’s national network.

Beech Grove’s rich history and place in American railroading continues down to the present day. Talking with Amtrak folks, you realize that some of the younger workers are the sons of current and former employees—love of the railroad seems to run in the blood. Senior team members act as mentors and pass on their accumulated skill sets to the next generation. Many have great stories to share about how railroad technology has changed over the decades, and some remember Amtrak’s early days. For them, the Exhibit Train really is a walk down memory lane, and they take pride in knowing that the displays demonstrate to the public how far the company has come in 40 years.

As the workers of Beech Grove definitely know, the railroad never stops. With good wishes from our fellow Amtrakers, we packed up again and set our sights on Galesburg, Ill., a community known far-and-wide for its summer Railroad Days festival.