Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

April 17, 2014

Thanks, Max

Pat Smith
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg —

Max Dickson has given the historical society a gift that many will enjoy for years. 

It’s a wood burning of the Big Four Railway Depot that was demolished in August 1987. As depots go, ours wasn’t the oldest and it wasn’t the most beautiful. Still, it was a sad day when the walls came tumbling down.

Max and Peggy Dickson moved from Greensburg to Batesville several years ago. Both have Decatur County backgrounds and appreciate our history. Max said Howard Dent did the exquisite wood burning of the building with bricks in place, the three “Greensburg” signs in place over the entrances, the flower garden, the newly planted trees, walkway, railroad tracks and a train heading west. Dent put men working in the yard and one watering the flower garden. He lived on North Street in Greensburg and was obviously an observant and meticulous artist.

Dent and Max’s dad Roland Dickson worked on the railroad together. He gave it to Roland and Katie Dickson (father Milt Swegman was also railroad worker) and when Katie died Max felt that it should be somewhere so that people could see it. The Historical Society Museum seemed the ideal place.

Phillip Jackson Jr. wrote a couple of columns about it before and after it was torn down. For some years before it was reduced to rubble it was too late to save it. Many depots have been saved and made into businesses. I read not long ago that nearly 9,000 depots that had been saved and are still useful. Why didn’t that happen here? No one now seems to have an idea as to why the building couldn’t have been put to good use. There’s no need to go over it now. Nothing will bring it or the great railroad days back.

Many depots were turned into a restaurant and bar, others into little shopping malls with locally made items in them plus a couple of small restaurants. Several were turned into antique shops. One advertises that the mood of the railroad days has returned. That depot is a restaurant and bar, “you will go back in time to a more genteel era that includes fine cuisine and your favorite beverages.” Train memorabilia and local historical items are throughout the building.

At one time, even before our depot was built, there was “a locomotive roundhouse that was a major repair terminal in line between Cincinnati and Indianapolis. But the roundhouse lost its usefulness when diesel engines replaced the slower starting steam engines.” That’s a quote from Jerry Kitchen’s excellent history of railroads he wrote for the 1984 Decatur County History.

Jerry also wrote that from the 1890s to the 1930s there were 20 passenger trains converging upon Greensburg from five different directions. That brought more than 500 railroad jobs to our county. Many people love to hear a train whistle. I still do.

There was no train within hearing distance where I grew up but when I stayed overnight at my much older sister there were trains going by fairly regularly. At about five years of age I can still remember thinking that one day I would be on one of those trains. I knew that I would go to all kinds of wonderful places when I grew up. Alas, by that time autos had taken over and there was no reason to go by train.

Contrast the demise of our railroad depot with the building from which the Interurban entered and left. It’s still standing and in use. The Interurban was a popular and convenient mode of transportation here from 1907 to 1932. You could hop the Interurban and go to Indianapolis at about any time of the day. Some say that a car left every hour from the station that was just one block east of the Courthouse Square on East Main Street.

In addition to the Interurban station, another place that has been saved is the Museum on North Franklin Street that’s just a block north from the square. I understand that the Shannon-Lathrop home is 185 years old this year. And that is where you can see the wood burning picture of the railroad depot. It will hang in the gallery along with another wood burning picture also by Dent that shows a train running on the tracks. The title is “Going Home.” I think you’ll probably stand looking at these pictures and imagine how it was once during the era of traveling by train.

Residents will appreciate the gift that Max gave to the historical society for another century and longer. Thanks, Max.