October 19, 2013

Bicentennial Train tells a story of past, present and future

Bicentennial Train tells story of past, past and future

By Amie Sites Pharos-Tribune

---- — DELPHI — The task was to draw a flag of Carroll County. The result was different for each third-grader. Some students drew corn and farmers while others drew a cougar paw for their Carroll Elementary mascot. Some even created a flag with water for the canal the students were visiting.

Jeff Harris, director of local history services for the Indiana Historical Society, instructed students to draw what they associated with Carroll County. He said the entire event was designed to make students think.

“The hope is they’ll think of what Indiana will look like next,” Harris said.

The activity was just one of many available while the Bicentennial Train was in town. Presented by the Indiana Historical Society, the train has three 65-foot renovated freight cars and features a traveling exhibit called The Next Indiana.

The train has already stopped at four locations this fall, including Kokomo, New Haven, Valparaiso and Delphi.

After the students participated in activities, they took a tour through the Wabash and Erie Canal Interpretive Center, stopping at the many hands-on activities.

An exhibit with a model of a canal boat was a favorite for Owen Duff, a student at Carroll Elementary.

After the tour, students went back in time to a 1916 interpretive presentation before stepping on board the Bicentennial Train.

Before the tour, several students were excited to see the train, including Gavin Carman and Reed Humpharies.

The train was free and open to anyone who wanted to take a tour.

Dee Dellenbach, Delphi, said she wanted to visit because the event sounded interesting. She brought her friend, Shirley Saltsman, with her.

“I see trains go through Delphi every day,” Dellenbach said. “It’s beautiful, and I wanted to see the history.”

Jeanne Scheets, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Indiana Historical Society, said several hundred were on hand Thursday morning and even more were expected to arrive. The activities for students were supposed to be thought provoking.

“Several activities talked about how important the community is,” Scheets said. “We tried to show that what they do can contribute to the next Indiana.”

The actual exhibit on the train featured 400 photographs and 200 years of history. The exhibit was to celebrate Indiana’s past, present and future, Scheets said.

The exhibit proved to be something many could enjoy, she said.

“You might hear someone say they’re not a history person, but everyone is a sucker for a story,” Scheets said. “We try to really bring stories, that are contemporary, to life that will resonate with people. We want stories people can relate to.”

For Scheets, it’s important to study the past 200 years. About 58,000 visitors have toured the train, originally known as the Indiana History Train, at 24 stops across Indiana from 2004 to 2008.

“We often can look to the past issues and they usually are similar issues that we face today,” Schees said. “We’ll deal with our present and be prepared for our future.”

Amie Sites is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5117 or Follow her: @PharosAES.