Johnson County Catches a Train

The Indiana Bicentennial Train

Writer / Amy Lamb
Photos provided by Indiana Historical Society

As Indiana citizens prepare to celebrate the state’s bicentennial in 2016, it doesn’t really make sense for them to hop on a plane—but they can catch a train.

The Indiana Historical Society will bring the Indiana Bicentennial Train to Johnson County, where it will be open to the public in downtown Bargersville. This stop will be the last one offered in the southern half of the state until the fall of 2016.

Originally known as the Indiana History Train, the Indiana Bicentennial Train has welcomed more than 71,000 visitors in its six years of travel. This included a well-attended stop in Bargersville back in 2008, when 3,561 took advantage of the visit.

“We are very fortunate to have been selected as one of the stops for the train this year,” said Kevin McGinnis, Bargersville town manager. “We are all very excited for this opportunity for Bargersville and all of Johnson County’s residents to learn more about our history and the heritage of the county, as well as the state in which we live.”

Relying heavily on IHS’s extensive visual and archival collections, the onboard traveling exhibit The Next Indiana occupies three 65-foot renovated Amtrak freight cars. Temporary “depots” are set up at each location, where visitors can participate in hands-on and educational activities, catch a 1916 interpreter presentation, connect with the mission and offerings of the Indiana Historical Society, and purchase items from a pop-up History Market.

“The Indiana Bicentennial Train will allow Johnson County residents to be immersed in Indiana history in a unique, low-cost and close-to-home way,” said Linda S. Kilbert, manager of the Johnson County Public Library’s White River Branch. “Those who visit from outside the county will have the added benefit of witnessing a county with its own rich heritage and special amenities.”

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At the Bargersville stop, visitors will get to connect with several local organizations who will offer additional displays and interactive opportunities in the afternoon on Thursday and Friday, as well as all day Saturday.

The Johnson County Public Library will offer an exhibit about the history of libraries in Indiana. The Johnson County Museum will bring re-enactors, from early settlers of the area to a Civil War soldier, and offer guests the chance to handle historic reproduction items.

The museum will also offer an educational demonstration about how locomotives work, which coincides with its upcoming transportation exhibit.

Public history students from Franklin College will present research findings from the college’s Roger Douglas Branigin Papers (Indiana’s governor, 1965-1969, and a Franklin native), as well as have a hand in facilitating the learning experiences of younger students.

“My students will have opportunities to learn from experts in fields of public history and to participate in meaningful service learning,” said Dr. Meredith Clark-Wiltz, assistant professor and Department of History Chair at Franklin College. “Undergraduate history majors will receive training, invaluable hands-on experience and feedback after the programming thanks to the dedication of the IHS team.”

Even though visitors only get a stationary look at the Indiana Bicentennial Train, its statewide tour requires the cooperative effort of several additional railroads, led by The Indiana Rail Road Company and supported by Norfolk Southern Corporation. Unlike city streets and state and federal highways, private companies that move the nation’s freight own most of the 140,000-mile American rail network.

“Getting the train on the tracks takes an extraordinary effort on the part of our staff and partners, but the train and its associated activities are continuing to generate a lot of enthusiasm for the bicentennial,” said John A. Herbst, IHS President and CEO. “It is designed to have communities look to the past, and then contemplate Indiana’s future and what qualities will make us more successful.”

The Bicentennial Train and its accompanying activities are all free and open to the public, operating 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. Every visitor will receive a complimentary pass to visit IHS’s Indiana Experience at the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana History Center.

The Bargersville stop’s Conductor Sponsor is Hoosier Energy Rural Electric Cooperative. The 2014 run of the Indiana Bicentennial Train is sponsored by Indiana Rail Road Company, Norfolk Southern Corporation and Kroger, in partnership with the Indiana Bicentennial Commission and Indiana Humanities.

October 9-11
Indiana Bicentennial Train
Downtown Bargersville (near corner of Baldwin St. & Harriman Ave.)
Thursday and Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Free (exhibition, performances & activities)
For more information or to volunteer:
Indiana Historical Society

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