MP 73.0 1st Subdivision-Ra
This settlement, first platted on June 12, 1839, was originally named Newton and was established at the rapids of the Iroquois River. By 1844 it had been renamed to Rensselaer after James Van Rensselaer, a merchant from Utica, New York who came to the area after his business failed in the Panic of 1837. He took over the land from Joseph D. Yeoman, who had established a farm some years earlier and had begun to plan the village. The first Post Office was established, as Fez, Newton County with Joseph D. Yoeman serving as Postmaster, August 9, 1837. On August 9, 1841 the name was changed to Rensselaer and Samuel L. Sparling was the first Rensselaer Postmaster.
The Indianapolis, Delphi, and Chicago Railroad Company was organized on September 3, 1872 to build a narrow gage railroad from Indianapolis to Chicago. 40 miles from Rensselaer to Delphi opened on September 4, 1879. At foreclosure sale in 1880 the line passed to the Chicago and Indianapolis Air Line Railway Company, which would become eventually the Monon. The original depot did not meet the "liking" of the community, so a new and creditable structure was built at the beginning of the 1900's. The Monon was essential to the livelyhood of the community and served the community well. The Rensselaer Elevator has been in business since the 1880's. In 1898 fire destroyed the planing mill and another fire in April of 1911 destroyed the elevator. The new elevator also caught fire on July of 1914. Today it is known as the Jasper County Farm Bureau Cooperative.
A late arriving, but important local industry, arrived in 1984. The White Castle Bun Bakery located at Melville and Maple Streets. The Iroquois River flows through the south part of the city. The city is also the home of St. Joseph's College, founded in 1889 by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.
Left: Washington Street scene, circa ealy 1900's. Right: Another shot looking down Washington Street.
Left: Makeever House, Rensselaer, early 1900's. Right: Washington Street Bridge over Iroquois River.
The Rensselaer depot, date unknown. Courtesy of Kevin Ruble.
Left: Rensselaer depot as seen from the windshield of Train #12. No date listed. Note REA Express truck waiting at far end of the platform. Right: Another shot of the Rensselaer depot, date unknown. Courtesy of Kevin Ruble.
NEW 03-16-2010 Another look at the depot, circa 1930's.
One more picture of the Rensselaer Depot. Date unknown. Water tank in also pictured.
Left: Monon Steam #430 pays a call at Rensselaer in May of 1932. This appears to be a station stop. Right: Steam engine #414 paying a call in August 1932. Charles Huffer collection. -MRHTS Archives-
Monon Steam Locomotive #440 on a northbound passenger naking a stop in Rennselaer, May of 1932. -MRHTS Archives Collection-
Monon Centennial Celebration, Rensselaer, Indiana. Note the curve on which the train is traveling. Train is moving south towards Monon, Indiana. Photo courtesy Ken Weller.
Northbound passenger train gliding to a stop at the Rensselaer depot on a rainy morning. -Bob Wheeler Photograph-
Left: Rail train passing the depot at Rensselaer, Indiana. Judging by the vehicles present, late 1950's, early 1960's. Right: Rensselaer, Indiana, circa 1960's. You are looking railroad north at the mainline through Rensselaer from Franklin Street.
View from the end of a train passing through Rensselaer. The year was 1964. The train is headed railroad north, so you are looking towards the railroad south. This picture and many others are available on Tim Swan's Monon Image Collection that can be purchased from the Company Store. Order one and help support the Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc
View from the vestibule as the northbound Train #6 The Thoroughbred passes the depot at Rensselaer, Indiana. -Tim Swan Photograph-
Northbound freight approaching the depot, March 1969 -Dave Ritenour Photograph-
Left: Northbound freight passing the depot in Rensselaer, March of 1969. Right: C-420 #514 at Rensselaer. 1970. -Dave Ritenour Photographs-
The death of a depot. Left and Right: Jeff Strombeck captured these pictures as demolition work began on the depot, April 25, 1981. Today, only some of the red tile floor remain.
Rensselaer was also home to the Miniature Train Company. The Miniature Train and Railroad Company got its start with a small electric train built by Phillip Allan Sturtvant of Elmhurst, Illinois. The train, constructed in 1928, was a 1" scale steam-outline affair that ran on 7.24" gauge track. Relocated in 1948, the company was the world's largest exclusive manufacturer of amusement part trains. The company also produced block signals and crossing warning devices. The company building was located on North Cullen Street and manufactured trains like the one pictured at Indiana Beach on Shafer Lake, Monticello, Indiana.
Left: Circa 2006. Franklin Street crossing pictured. Right: Looking west, railroad north, along the old right of way. Much of the elevator building pictured to the left and right above has been removed.
Jasper County Courthouse 2003, Rensselaer, Indiana.
White Castle Bun Bakery. This plant has been in operation since 1984. -Jim Wolfe photograph-
September 2006. Foundation and remains of the water tank that once stood near the depot..
Former depot location 2003. The reddish tile flooring is still there. Location is west of Cullen Street crossing, where the current Amtrak depot is now. This spot is between the Amtrak depot and the crossing.
Gravestone of Harry R. Kurrie, former President and Trustee of the Monon Railroad. Kurrie was President of the Monon between 1914 and 1935, and President and Trustee between 1935 and 1938.
Left: Looking southeast along the mainline from Cullen Street crossing. Right: Looking to the northwest from in front of the elevator across the crossing. I would like to know if the white building north (right) of the tracks was formerly a tavern? It has that look to it.
2015 Update. I heard rumors that Amtrak was investing in improvements along the old Monon. On a nice sunny day, I drove down to Rensselaer to check out the new building. Very nice. Beats the old glass bus depot-like structure. The new platform is really nice too.
October 2003. Bridge across the Iroquois River east of Rensselaer.
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