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A Peek into the Big Four Shops of Beech Grove

RailroadA collection of black-and-white photographs captures the lives of employees at the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railway (Big Four) shops at Beech Grove for the years 1919 and 1923.

The 1923 images include group portraits of track crews, workers beside heavy equipment, men and women office workers and management at their desks, and an interior view of the facility. The collection also contains a panoramic photograph that shows men of the Car Department assembled outside on Feb. 6, 1919.

During the early 20th century, more than 700 locomotives and 4,600 cars would be repaired annually at the facility.

Amtrak took charge of passenger rail service in 1971, and the Beech Grove shops became part of that entity. Today, the shops occupy the same buildings constructed more than a century ago, and the workers there continue restoring passenger cars and locomotives at the facility.

Volunteer Robert W. Smith was instrumental in the research and writing of the historical sketch for the Big Four collection guide. A retired college professor who likes to keep busy, his essays have been used in many of the newly processed collections.