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Book covers history of local railroad line

Darrell French has always enjoyed railroads.

The Morgantown, Indiana resident grew up with an appreciation for them.

“I grew up in a time where model trains were the number one gift parents gave,” he said.

His enjoyment of them, and the discovery when he purchased his home of an old railroad track on his three-acre property, prompted him to look into the history of that track.

While it wasn’t originally his intention, the result of that research became the book, “The History of An Indiana Railroad,” a story about the line that ran from Fairland to Franklin to Martinsville.

From his research going through archives in Cincinnati, and Columbus, Ohio, and national archives in College Park, Md., as well as interviewing people who remembered when the line was in service, French dove into the history of the railroad, which ran from 1865 to 1972.

It began after he bought the property and discovered the original flat bar rail. He didn’t realize when he bought the property that the rail was there, but the discovery prompted him to start researching by talking to locals who knew nothing about its history.

That led him to go through archives.

“One thing led to another and I kept plugging away it,” he said.

He originally was going to compile it for the Joseph Boggs Society for Historical Preservation but ultimately decided to turn it into a book. It took eight years of compiling information and writing during the weekend before the book was ready for publication.

“I made it my mission,” he said.

Using diaries, archives and interviews from residents who provided first-hand accounts of the railroad before it was shut down, the book tells the story of when the railroad was first being laid down in May 1846 to when it shut down in 1972. What started out as a hobby turned into a passion project.

French, who belongs to several historic trains organizations as well as the Boggs Society, said he has copies available for anyone interested in purchasing a copy. He can be reached at 765-346-1130.

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