Osborn Tower, Hammond Indiana

The Holy Ground

Osborn is an interchange point between what was originally the New York Central and the Nickel Plate Road, about 2.5 miles east of downtown Hammond, Indiana near the village of Hessville. It also happens to be the one place in the universe where I truly became a railfan. Model trains were always in my blood, but it was summers at my grandparents' house, on Osborn Ave. that solidified my passion for the N&W. The above photo is one of the oldest I could find that I took myself at this location, probably in about 1970 looking out the window of the tower as easbound CB-12 hits the diamond crossing.

These are not the greatest shot in the world - for some reason a lot of my older Kodachromes which still look great in the projector will not scan very well on my Nikon LS2000. This darkening, blueing effect is common - I have not figured out how to deal with it, other than forcibly adjusting the image after scanning. Since the original slide doesn't have this blue shift, I'd rather make a better scan of it.

So I have chosen these photos as the first on my Osborn page just to illustrate a couple of unique aspects of the location, as well as compliment my current SD40-2 project which you can view here on my N&W 1636 Construction Page. The following photos were taken in July, 1974.

The 407 was one of six true RS36s built for the N&W. Often mis-identified as RS32s. The 407-412 are easily spotted and distinguished from the much larger RS11 fleet by the distinctive pair of small dynamic brake louvers in the top center of the long hood, or "eyelash" louvers as I call them. This shot also shows the Nickel Plate style semaphores - the eastbound in the foreground, the westbound barely visible in the distance. It also shows the tower, located at the northwest quadrant of the 4-way diamond where the N&W main line crosses the Indiana Harbor Belt/Penn Central mains. The fat kid in the white shirt is my brother, who at the time was shorter and fatter than me. I can say that because now he's taller than me and quite a bit thinner!
One of the unique benefits of railfanning at Osborn was that it was an interchange point for many new EMD locomotives being delivered to points east from the La Grange, IL assembly plant. From La Grange the new locomotives were transferred to the IHB, on to Blue Island, then Gibson Yard in Hammond, and for many destinations, on to the N&W at Osborn. Here, Union RR MP15 #11 is waiting in Osborn Yard, on it's way to the Pittsburgh area. One year later, Union RR changed their paint scheme from this "John Deere" green to something a lot more like Conrail blue.
As the end of our visit to Hammond was approaching that year, we got treated to a nice surprise. This abbreviated IHB transfer appeared out of Gibson toting a transfer caboose, a box car, Union RR MP15 #12, and two brand new N&W SD40-2s. I don't know the sequence in which the order was delivered. As you can see, these two units, 1640 and 1643, are not consecutive. The first in the order would have been 1636. But, having been in town for about a month, we had not seen any of the other SD40-2 deliveries so it's possible that this one was the first. In this photo you are literally seeing the 1640 and 1643 touch their wheels to N&W property for the first time, as they are shoved down the wye from the IHB into Osborn Yard.
If these locos had not been delivered in the dead of summer, I would not have gotten these photos. The sun was going down and on Central time, it was probably after 8:00 pm. Shiny black doesn't photograph well under any conditions, so these would never have been optimum detail shots. That's my brother Tim again in the red shirt, and the guy with the notebook in the yellow shirt is Brian Bowersox - one of Hammond's rabid railfans, and a regular contributor to Extra 2200 South at the time. So you are seeing an X2200 moment here, as Brian hurredly runs around the new units jotting down as many spotting features and details as he can.
This picture reveals a few things you don't normally see on an in-service locomotive. Notice the missing class light lenses, the fresh safety stickers. I did not get a look at the roof, but the turbo stack may have been capped. Also notice the green cylindrical "can" below the sill, just to the right of the first brake cylinder. Anybody know what it is? I've never gotten a positive ID, and by the time the loco had been in service for a month, the green can was the same color as everything else below the sill - ballast crud gray. A guy by the name of McGowan, who identified himself as the Calumet Yard roundhouse foreman, showed up that evening to inspect the new locomotives, which were actually scheduled to go back west into Chicago/Calumet to be started up and put into service. McGowan invited Brian and another friend who had probably set the speed record for driving over from Gary, to come to the Calumet facility. Unfortunately, Tim and I were scheduled to catch the bus home within the next couple of days, and we never got to take that tour.
Back to Home