October 12, 2010
I decided to visit the local museum in my hometown when I went home this past weekend and was lucky enough to go when they were showing the exhibit they called the Wabash Railroad. The Wabash Railroad ran its first train through Van Buren Township (Belleville) in 1881. A depot was then erected on Sumpter Road a main road in my birthplace. From this time on the little village of Belleville became the commercial center of the township as hotels and shops grew up to serve the thriving and great railroad traffic. For many years, everything from mail to coffins arrived by rail, and convenient passenger service was available on both morning and afternoon trains. As auto and truck travel came to dominate the local economy, train service to Belleville stopped. The depot was torn down in 1968. A small replica using things found by local archeologist of the former Wabash Depot has recently been constructed on the second floor of the museum by volunteers Fred Hudson, Don Keene, Bob Anderson, and Neil Griffin. It displayed a collection of railroad memorabilia including telegraph equipment, Wabash Railroad records, and the pocket watch which belonged to station agent Otto Fielder. This exhibit also included old bottles, wood extractions, trains wheels and replica of the depot itself. It was very interesting to learn a little bit more about my city and its history. I didn’t think that archeologists were around digging in Belleville, but in fact they were and are. It was fun day out for my family and I and we all learned something new. I wish they had more detail on where most of the trains traveled to and who opened the railroad; but overall it was very interesting. I am looking forward to visiting my local museum again when Christmas time comes around, because I found that they have a Christmas tree exhibit with old artifacts hung on trees for ornaments.