Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Muncie’s Railroad History is Subject of New Publication, Exhibit, and Digital Collection

As anyone driving around Muncie knows, railroads are very prominent in this community as they are in many cities and towns throughout the country. The many tracks you may cross each day are reminders of the importance of railroads in the history and development of our local community and our nation. As Michael L. Johnston states in his history Railroads in Muncie, Indiana, “Throughout the history of the United States, the railroad industry has been a prominent contributor to the development and growth of states and communities.”

Thanks to Mr. Johnston, Ball State students, faculty, alumni, and others can learn about the history of railroads in Muncie and Delaware County, Indiana, by reading his publication that was recently published by the University Libraries in the Ball State Virtual Press, www.bsu.edu/libraries/virtualpress/johnston/index.html.

This publication and a recent well-attended Friend of the Alexander M. Bracken Library program on the history of local railroads given by Mr. Larry Campbell are the inspirations for a forthcoming exhibit by Archives and Special Collections in Bracken Library. Railroads of Delaware County will feature photographs, timetables, histories, and other items documenting the history of the local railroad industry. It will run from July 1 through mid-September. A digital collection of railroad history materials is also planned for the Digital Media Repository,
http://libx.bsu.edu/.

According to Johnston’s history, the railroad industry began about 1810 in the United States, and railroad construction became rampant after the Civil War. He writes that Muncie attracted railroads earlier than many cities because of the gas boom and the resulting rapid industrial growth starting as early as 1848. The first railroad line in Delaware County was completed through Muncie in 1852. By 1902, six intercity railroads, a local industrial railroad, and a belt-switching railroad served Muncie. During the peak railroad period, Muncie had five railroad freight houses, five agency offices, and a railroad division headquarters.

In the first half of the 20th century, Muncie enjoyed direct or indirect railroad passenger service to all major cities. The railroad history by Michael Johnston published in the Ball State Virtual Press is just one more example of his and his wife’s many contributions to Ball State and the University Libraries. A Ball State alumnus with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration and marketing, Mr. Johnston served 20 years as an adjunct professor of international transportation in the Miller College of Business.

He worked for many years in logistics and transportation Mr. Johnston is a member of the Friends of the Alexander M. Bracken Library’s Board of Governors, and he serves on Ball State’s Beneficence Society Advisory Committee, the National Philanthropy Council of the Ball State University Foundation, and other university and community organizations. Mr. and Mrs. Johnston donated a collection of contemporary art works to the University Libraries in memory of their late son, Michael Gregory Johnston.

For more information on the Railroads of Delaware County exhibit, or railroad research materials in Archives and Special Collections, contact John B. Straw, Assistant Dean for Digital Initiatives and Special Collections, JStraw@bsu.edu, 765-285-5078

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