Our Little ‘Work Car’ Has Come Home

A year ago last summer, the proud Chesapeake & Ohio Inspection Car, shown below in its honored place next to our Depot Museum, lay in pieces. Taken apart several years before by a long-time member, it had been cannibalized and left to rust away.

We feared the car would remain that way, none of us having the expertise to put it back together. Nor did the Society have the money to pay to have it done, or even know if it could be done. Enter Perry and Kevin Frye.

Father and son Inspection Car enthusiasts, with a passion for restoring them, the men volunteered to bring our little car back to life. And, they would charge us only for parts they couldn’t donate to us, or arrange for others to do the donating.

Mid-summer 2021, the battered, bare-bones skeleton of our little car, was taken away by Perry Frye, along with a heap of random parts that were still left.

The photo shows the shape our car was in when Perry, right, came to pick it up from the town garage where it had been stored for us.

The Fryes couldn’t give us a date when the car would be ready. All they could do was promise that they would bring back the car looking as good as in the first photo above, if not better. They did keep us posted as they worked with photos and updates as to what had been done.

Imagine our surprise, when in mid-January, Perry informed us our car was finished. He brought it to us on January 16th, after stopping off at Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum to actually run the car on the tracks, see photo below. At our site, the car must be a static display.

Perry and Kevin gave us the best gift ever as the Griffith Historical Society celebrates our 40th anniversary this year — they restored our Inspection Car to better shape than it was before. It now has front and back working lights, which were not on the car when it was donated some 40 years ago.

The car also has small brooms attached to the wheels to sweep off the rails while moving along, which was unknown to us. A broom is visible in the upright position on the left side of the car in the picture below.

For now the car will be kept off display until we can find a way to exhibit it without it being constantly exposed to the elements. However, we will be showing it off in the Griffith 4th of July Parade, and it will be on display at the Griffith Historical Society’s 40th Anniversary event up at the Depot, where it all began for us.

Watch our website for more information about the Anniversary event, which will, of course, include having the Depot, railcars and the Tower open to the public. Also on hand will be our Hess Express barrel train, among other fun things.

L to r, rear, Griffith Historical Society President Nancy Stout and Secretary Karen Kulinski.
L to r, front, Directors Marthann Gatlin and Debby Hoot.

All of us at the Society will be forever grateful to Perry and Kevin Frye! Our beloved little car came home all in one piece for our 40th anniversary.

Don’t We Look Great?

We are excited to display our photo that is in the new 2023 Griffith Animal Shelter Calendar. Debby Hoot and her furry friend, Dorey, a white husky mix, are surrounded by members of the Panther Adult Program.

The calendar is an annual fundraiser for the Shelter, which is under the auspices of the Griffith Police Department. Our picture was shot in late September at our Griffith Historical Park. The members of the Panther Adult Program were helping us with our newest effort, The ElmerJ Project, introducing Griffith third-graders to the history of our town. 

The Animal Shelter Calendar is filled with photos of town places, town employees, and lots of dogs and cats, too. In addition, the town events are marked on the calendar so you won’t miss any of our fun times in Griffith.

The calendar is available at Town Hall and the Griffith Police Department during their regular hours and sells for $10. A great stocking stuffer for friends and family this Christmas, plus you’ll be helping save homeless animals and find them new homes. 

This calendar is definitely Santa-approved!

Santa Is Coming to Town!

We are planning to bring back Santa in the Caboose this year!

However, we are making some changes to the event. To limit the number of people gathered in the close quarters of our small transfer caboose, we will not be taking nor printing photos.

Parents will still have a private visit with Santa, but now, for a donation, parents can take their own photos and even videotape their child’s Santa visit.

We also are bringing back our Holiday Bake Sale for the weekend, too!

Santa in the Caboose dates are Saturday, December 10th, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday, December 11th, noon to 4 p.m.

We’ve Entered the 21st Century!

Beginning October 25th, the Griffith Historical Society has a webcam broadcasting live on YouTube from our EJ&E Interlocking Tower!

It is thanks to member John Wotkun’s hard work that made this happen. Thanks, too, to Logan Kulinski, our website manager.

A bit of history. Once Griffith had five railroads crossing at Broad Street. As many as 180 trains a day traveled on the 11 tracks that made up the interlocking. The railroads were: Michigan Central, Erie, Elgin Joliet & Eastern, Grand Trunk Western/Canadian National, and the Chesapeake & Ohio.

Today, only Canadian National operates routes through Griffith. However, the former Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway tracks still cross those of the former Grand Truck at the Griffith interlocking.

These connecting tracks can be seen allowing trains to connect between these two routes. As a result, a number of different railroads are on the move though Griffith every day.

The Griffith Historical Society’s EJ&E tower webcam is offered through the Steel Highway YouTube page. Follow this link to view the live feed: https://youtu.be/go55919p86I

Beautiful Memories

These Griffith Centennial Black-Eyed Susans flourished this summer in Board Member Karen Kulinski’s back yard.

This plant was the official flower of the town’s Centennial in 2004. A couple of Susans were set out that year in the Kulinski back yard and have made themselves at home. It doesn’t seem possible that celebration of Griffith and its history was almost 20 years ago.

The Griffith Historical Society continues to celebrate our town and its history every day. Stop down to Franklin Center’s lower level and view our newly reimagined displays, featuring The Story of Griffith from its damp beginnings, and our Wall of Honor celebrating Griffith’s veterans.

The museum is open in September and October on the second and fourth Saturdays from 10 to 2, enter through door G. In November we go back to our normal first and third Saturday schedule.

Griffith Historical Society hosted its first Calumet Outdoors Tour

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On November 16th, we hosted a Calumet Outdoor Series Tour, which came from a contact at the Field Museum.

Mario Longoni, Urban Anthropology Manager at The Field Museum, is the Calumet Outdoor Coordinator and is working to unite the Northwest Indiana historical societies to help preserve, promote and expand their combined resources and assets for the mutual benefit of the residents and enthusiasts of regional history.

The plan is for these different area historical societies to meet every three months to learn more about each other,  sharing each other’s history and local stories and how they operate within their communities. In addition, the Outdoor Series will be creating a traveling relic tour to offer additional opportunities to provide further education on the history and what makes each of the areas unique.

Considering this was our first time ever hosting something like this, it was a great turn-out. The twenty-four people who attended could not say enough great things about how beautiful Griffith is, and how supported we were with help from the community for our event. The Griffith Fire Department came out and grilled hot dogs, with proceeds going to the Historical Society, and the Griffith Girl Scout troop 15476 provided complimentary hot chocolate for visitors.

Even our signature Santa in a Caboose made an early stop to be available for the kids and a member of our Town Council played a major role in this event.

These visitors from the Calumet and Chicagoland  areas toured our Griffith Historical Park with its Depot Museum, Railroad Cars and Watch Tower. Inside the depot and railroad cars they were treated to a verbal and visual historical display of our town’s origins and railroading heritage presented by Karen Kulinski, our museum curator. 

The group was also able to visit our Franklin Center Museum with its artifacts and displays of our town’s history, and stop for lunch or refreshments in town before going back home.

Developed from an interview with Toni Rickert, Vice President, and Karen Kulinski, Secretary and Museum Curator, of the Griffith Historical Society.

Downtown Griffith Lantern Tour

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Lantern light lends an old-time aura to the town’s first postmaster’s house as walkers stop to listen to some old-time Griffith history told by Peter Ghrist, who led the tour, but is off camera. 

The Griffith Lantern Tours were Officer Ghrist’s idea as a fun way to let people know about the early days of their town and, hopefully, to raise the profile of the Griffith Historical Society, as well. 

The tour features old-time photos blown up so walkers standing in front of a current structure can see what once stood there. We are grateful to Walgreens, 407 W. Glen Park, Griffith, for sponsoring the event. 

The tours ran every week from early September through early October. Plans are to continue the tours in the spring.

New Historical Society Events!

Open House at our Franklin Center Museum, followed by our first Historical Walking Tour.

September 11th – 6 pm

Join us as we tour Broad Street’s 100 N and 100 S blocks to learn about some old-time businesses, the railroads and early Griffith citizens. This is a first for us, but a couple more tours are planned in coming weeks.

The Hess Express is running at the Fall Harvest Craft Festival in Central Park.

September 28-29 – 10 to 5 pm, weather permitting.

The Hess Express is running at Griffith’s Octoberfest in Central Park.

October 4, 5 & 6 – weather permitting. Friday – 4 pm to dusk; Saturday and Sunday – 1 pm to dusk.

A new Fun Fall event coming in late October. More details coming soon.

December – Santa dates To Be Announced in November.

The Hess Express Returns!

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If it’s late spring, it must be time for The Hess Express barrel train to start running at Central Market!

Central Market begins on May 10th, and our train will be there then, and every week until September, weather permitting. Rides cost only $2.

So bring the kids and grandkids to ride the train, and maybe buy a few Super 7 Raffle tickets, too!

The raffle is so named because it runs seven months, from now to mid-November and whatever we collect, we will split with the winner.

Tickets are $2, or 3 for $5, and will be available for purchase at our Central Market booth every Friday the train is running.

We will also be selling Super 7 tickets when the train runs at: 

  • Broad Street Blues & BBQ Festival, June 28,29,30th 
  • Public Safety and Community Day on August 24th
  • Rock & Rails Street Festival over Labor Day weekend
  • Griffith Octoberfest, October 4th to 6th

What’s Up for 2019?

IMG_2486We’ve got a lot going on this year!

— We have a new operating status, Board Member Emeritus, which is designated for long-time board members who, because of health or age issues, can no longer serve as an officer or director, but still want to be involved in our activities. These members have been devoted to the Society and have years of experience we can draw upon.  Current Emeriti are listed at the foot of the page, along with current officers and board members.

— At Franklin Center, we are in the process of creating a new display board — this one will be permanent – entitled, GRIFFITH BECOMES AN OFFICIAL TOWN.  Items displayed will be from 1904 and 1905, and include the petition for incorporation, election notice, election judges’ affidavits, 1904 special census, balloting results and incorporation order. These documents were saved by our late Board Member Merle Colby when they were going to be thrown out.  And new school displays will be created this summer, as well.

— We continue to enter information into our cataloging program created for us four years ago by student member Logan Kulinski.  To date we have entered nearly 10,000 items into this program, which are available for viewing and printing out when needed.

— At the Historical Park, basement cleaning is being done now and when the weather is better, a Boy Scout will be painting the inside of the Depot for his Eagle Scout Project.

— We are also considering two new events for the  summer and fall. Watch this space as more information will be added as we’re further along in each project. As always, we are looking for volunteers so email depotkaren@aol.com if you are interested in helping.