Rail Calendar Tracks America's Railroad Heritage

By Eric Olson

December 3, 2010 Updated Dec 3, 2010 at 4:01 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Indiana (Indiana's NewsCenter)--“The American railroad worker of the steam era is much like the American cowboy,” says railroad historian Skip Sassmanshausen. “They either hated their job with a passion or they loved their job with a passion.”

They say the railroad built America and every year around this time we all get a fresh look at those men and machines that did the building. We're talking about the unveiling of the annual collectors calendar put out by the three rivers railroad heritage council, an effort that begins here every year, in Skip Sassmannshausen's living room.

“You have Huntington on the Erie you have Peru on the Wabash and C & O,” Skip says, “you have Elkhart on the New York Central you have Garrett on the B & O you have Fort Wayne on the Nickel Plate and Pennsylvania.”

Each year skip dips into his collection of 15-thousand railroad photos for candidates to fill the new calendar. There’s also no shortage of railroad families around who volunteer their photos for the honor.

“But we also get people who have photos of dad working on the railroad or grandpa working on the track gang,” Skip says, “so we get personalized help in putting them together.”

2011 marks a milestone, the 15th anniversary of the first collectors calendar…15 years of great photos reaching back to the 1800's..giving us a window on what life was like on the railroad…and a special peek at some events that made local history.

“In this issue we have the Liberty Bell on the streets of Fort Wayne,” Skip points out, “that will never happen again that it happened once is very unique and thousands of people came to see it.”

And thousands more will see it again in the 2011 calendar, along with a dozen or so other powerful images that will wisk us back in time. to when a great nation was being built by big, fast powerful machines…and the hardworking men who tamed them for a living. This is Eric Olson reporting.




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