A unique look into Indiana’s past will literally roll into town Sept. 26 when three renovated train cars carrying an extensive historical exhibit pull into downtown Kokomo to celebrate the state’s bicentennial.
The exhibit, titled “The Next Indiana,” will be housed aboard the Indiana Bicentennial Train, which is making stops in four cities this fall. The train makes its debut in the City of Firsts.
More than 400 images and in-depth historical displays will be inside the three, 65-foot renovated Amtrak freight cars.
“The exhibit focuses on where Hoosiers have been, how they got there and where they are going through the lenses of transportation, land use, talent and community,” said Amy Lamb, a spokeswoman for the Indiana Historical Society, which organized the train exhibit.
The first train car explores Indiana’s early history through 1900, the second car covers the 20th century, and the third looks at Indiana today — and what might be in store in the future.
“People are fascinated by trains,” Lamb said. “Some people come out just to see the train. Others are really into the history. But whatever the reason, there’s something nostalgic about it, and it really catches your eye.”
This isn’t the first time the train has come to Kokomo. Back in 2007, the Indiana History Train came to town during its run from 2004 to 2008.
Now, after a five-year hiatus, Lamb said the train is back to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Indiana becoming a state.
But the Indiana Bicentennial Train is more than just a history exhibit aboard train cars. At each stop, visitors can visit temporary “depots” filled with hands-on activities, games and presentations.
“We’re kind of like the circus,” Lamb said. “We come to town, set up tents and make a big scene.”
Inside the tents, guests can create their own community flag, design their own park or vote for their favorite Hoosier innovation, from Elwood Haynes’ pioneer automobile to Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn.
An historical interpreter will also be on scene every day portraying Daniel Morgan Cook, who spent most of his younger life in the 1910s working on and around Indiana’s early trains.
The Bicentennial Train and all the activities are free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 26 through 28. The train will be located at the intersection of Superior and Buckeye streets.
The Indiana Rail Road Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation are sponsoring the event. The Kokomo stop is presented by Duke Energy, with in-kind support from the city and The Excel Center.
Additional assistance is provided by Central Railroad Company of Indianapolis, Winamac Southern Railway and U.S. Rail Corporation.
“Getting the train on the tracks takes an extraordinary effort on the part of our staff and partners, but the train and its associated activities are sure to generate a lot of enthusiasm for the bicentennial,” said John Herbst, IHS president and CEO.
Carson Gerber can be reached at 765-854-6739, or at email@example.com.