A trainload of Indiana history rolls into Valparaiso
BY AMY LAVALLEY Post-Tribune correspondent October 10, 2013 2:38PM
Students disembark from the Indiana Bicentennial Train in downtown Valparaiso Thursday, October 10, 2013. The train is toruing the state sharing the state's history. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
If you go
The Indiana Bicentennial Train is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. It’s at West Lincolnway and Campbell Street, near the Franklin House, 58 S. Campbell St., Valparaiso. Admission is free.
Updated: November 12, 2013 6:27AM
VALPARAISO — Joe Faraone spent his day off Thursday checking out the Indiana Bicentennial Train, which stopped in Porter County for a few days in its trip around the state.
Between the crowds of student tour groups, the three former Amtrak high-speed rail cars were relatively quiet as Faraone, of South Haven, drew in a wide array of facts about the state’s past.
“I’m always interested in the ‘used to be’s,’ — what used to be, and all that,” he said.
The train, making a three-day stop in Valparaiso before it moves on to Delphi in Carroll County, offers a look at what’s been and the chance to imagine what’s next as the exhibit, a project of the Indiana Historical Society, works to spark interest in the state’s past and its future.
“What we’re trying to do is stimulate interest in the upcoming bicentennial in the state of Indiana” in 2016, said John Herbst, chief executive officer and president of the Indiana Historical Society.
The traveling exhibit, dubbed “The Next Indiana,” stopped in Kokomo and New Haven, near Fort Wayne, before Valparaiso. Herbst said he’s spent a day or so at each of the bright red train’s stops.
In addition to folks like Faraone who were just wandering by, about 700 school children were scheduled to tour the train Thursday, and another 700 Friday, and that’s part of the goal of the exhibit.
“We particularly want kids to think about it. They will be the voters and decision-makers who will affect the next 200 years,” he said.
Students milled about Thursday morning, going through the train cars, which feature more than 400 pictures from across the state, as well as quotes from luminaries and forward-thinkers from author Kurt Vonnegut to beauty-products entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker. There also were hands-on activities and a historic re-enactor in nearby tents.
Angela Nelson, a fourth-grade teacher at Bailly Elementary School in Chesterton, said her students learned about the train last spring, while in third-grade, in advance of this year’s curriculum focus on state history.
“It’s nice for them to really see it come to life,” she said.
Her students were impressed as well.
Lauren Olson, 9, of Chesterton, likes trains, so she naturally enjoyed the field trip. Pal Riley Flanagan, 9, also of Chesterton, couldn’t begin to list what she liked best.
“I actually like everything. I can’t pick one favorite,” she said before coming up with one concern for the state’s future. “People are driving cars and air polluting, so we’re trying to make Indiana a better place.”
The Indiana History Train’s last stop in Valparaiso six years ago drew more than 4,400 visitors, setting a one-stop record, according to historical society officials, and hopes are high for this year’s visit as well.
Kevin Pazour, executive director of the Porter County Museum, volunteered with the school groups going through the train, and said the museum is hosting a special program on the county’s rail history while the train is in town.
“It can obviously roll in on rails and attract attention from our entire community,” he said. “For me to be able to come and help as a volunteer is incredibly rewarding. It’s really just fantastic. We’re really lucky we were considered to be one of the stops.”