Zimmerman School, Bowling Green, OH

     The Zimmerman School is located at the intersection of Nelson Rd. and Carter Rd. north of Bowling Green, OH.  It is a restored 1892 one-room school used for living history programs and  special events by appointment only.  The Zimmerman School Living History Experience is a collaborative project of the Wood County Park District and the Wood County Educational Service Center.  This one room school closed to educating children in 1924. Under the leadership of Ms. Sally Loomis, who attended the school from 1917 – 1924, the children who attend these sessions from around Wood County come to the classroom to meet with Ms. Loomis and can learn about how the one room school functioned.  They are encouraged to dress in the attire of the early century. Ms. Loomis has the children sit around the old fireplace to hear about how she was educated. At the end of each Zimmerman School session, several students are recognized for their efforts and work back in the regular classroom.  If you would like more information about this program, please contact Mr. Jason Smith at wcesc_jsm@nwoca.org . Jason is a school improvement specialist at the WCESC office.



Monticello Railway Museum, Monticello, IL

     Our last stop on our way home was the Monticello Railway Museum, 992 Iron Horse Place, PO Box 401, Monticello, IL 61856 (217/762-9011 or 877/762-9011; http://www.mrym.org/index.html ).   This is an all-volunteer organization in central Illinois with an operational railroad yard open to the public. They offer train rides on weekends and holidays from May through October, regardless of weather conditions, as well as a number of special events throughout the year.
Also they collect, preserve, interpret, and exhibit materials and artifacts from throughout the fascinating history of trains and railroading.  Anyone can come and explore their many rail cars and other equipment, and view the museum displays at either the Wabash Depot station in downtown Monticello or the Nelson Crossing station north of town, or both.  The museum is open weekends and holidays May through October. and visitors may walk through the museum cars to view many pieces of rolling stock at the museum site, as well as visit the gift shop.
Main Banner

     The Monticello Railway Museum, a not-for-profit educational organization, was founded in 1966 as “SPUR” (Society for the Perpetuation of Unretired Railfans). Its goal at that time was to maintain and operate steam powered passenger train excursions. In 1969 the name was changed to the Monticello & Sangamon Valley Railroad Historical Society, Inc., and then in 1982 the name was again changed to the present day Monticello Railway Museum.
     The first land purchased was about five miles of former Illinois Terminal right of way between Monticello and White Heath. This right of way had only ballast in place. A former popcorn field was purchased for the yard area. The volunteers prepared the yard area for the arrival of #1, the first engine acquired by the museum. Through the years track was laid toward White Heath until approximately 2½ miles was completed. A run-around was put in place at the north end (Blacker’s). (A run-around enables an engine to “run-around” it’s train to pull it in the reverse direction.) In 1988, this portion of the track became known as the Terminal Division.
     In 1987, the Museum purchased 7 ½ miles of Illinois Central Gulf trackage between Monticello and White Heath which parallels the Illinois Terminal right-of-way. A crossover track connecting the two lines was installed in two weekends, and the first run into Monticello was made. The Alco RS-3 #301, led the way, followed by Davenport #44, and finally by steam locomotive #1. This became known as the Central Division.
     Today the ride takes place on the Central Division, using the Terminal Division only when pulling into the depot at Nelson’s Crossing. The station names used on both the Central and Terminal Divisions were used by the original railroads. 
    On February 21, 1861, the Monticello Railroad Company was chartered. Construction began in 1863 and was completed in the 1870″s. Since then, trains have operated on this line. The Monticello Railroad Company consolidated with the Havana, Mason City, Lincoln & Eastern Railroad in June of 1872. That same day, there was a consolidation with the Indianapolis, Bloomington, & Western Railway and it became known as the Extension Railway. There was a default on the payments and the Champaign, Havana, & Western Railway was incorporated in February, 1879.
     In March 1880, the C, H & W was consolidated and absorbed by Jay Gould’s Wabash, St. Louis, & Pacific Railway. The Wabash system, facing bankruptcy, sold its interest in the “Havana Division” to the Chicago, Havana & Western Railway which was incorporated in October, 1886. The new C, H & W was controlled by Edward Harriman, who was involved with the Illinois Central Railroad.
     In March, 1888, the Illinois Central Railroad leased the line, and on December 15, 1902, purchased it for “$1.00 and other valuable considerations”. The Illinois Central Railroad later merged with the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio to become the Illinois Central Gulf. It has since returned to it’s original name, the Illinois Central Railroad.

Staerkel Planetarium, Champaign, IL

     Last year, we took a couple of days to see some things in the Champaign-Urbana, IL, area, the most important of which on our list was the William M. Staerkel Planetarium on the campus of Parkland College, 2400 W. Bradley Ave., Champaign, IL  61821 (217/351-2568; www2.parkland.edu/planetarium ).  However, it was closed then, so we decided to go back this year.

William M Staerkel Planetarium

     The Planetarium has public shows during the summer, usually two films at a time, some in the morning, some in the evening.   We chose an evening showing.  You can see either one film or the other or both, with a slight discount for seeing both.  We saw the two shows they offered the night we were there: Summer Prairie Skies, and IBEX: Search for the Edge of the Solar System.

Bryant Cottage State Historic Site, Bement, IL

     After leaving the Ernie Pyle home and museum in Dana, IN, we headed for Champaign, IL, but on our way stopped in to see the Bryant Cottage State Historic Site located at 146 East Wilson Street in Bement IL (217-678-8184). 

     Bryant Cottage was built in 1856 as the home of Francis E. Bryant, a local businessman and friend of Stephen A. Douglas.  According to Bryant family tradition, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas met in the parlor of Bryant Cottage to plan their famous series of 1858 debates.  The cottage is maintained with original and period furnishings, providing a glimps of small-town life in the mid-1800s.  Bryant Cottage State Historic Site is managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.
     Francis E. Bryant settled in the village of Bement in 1856.  His was only the seventh family to arrive there.  Bryant opened the village’s first bank and store and began merchandizing grain, coal, lumber, and salt.  The aspiring businessman built his four-room cottage, which was thoroughly modern in its time, just one hundred feet from Bement’s lifeline, the Great Western Railroad tracks.

     On July 24 Lincoln had written a letter to Douglas formally challenging him to a series of nine debates, one in each congressional district.  Douglas had not yet replied when the two opponents met five days later on the road between Bement and Monticello.  Douglas had completed a speech at Monticello and was traveling to Bement with the Bryants when they encountered Lincoln about a mile and a half south of Monticello on present Route 105.  Lincoln was scheduled to speak at Monticello – seven miles away – later in the day.  The two men conferred briefly and agreed to meet that evening to plan a series of debates.  It was in the parlor of Bryant’s Bement cottage that, according to tradition, Lincoln and Douglas worked out the details of the debates.  Lincoln then, it is said, took the midnight Great Western train to Springfield.”

Bryant Cottage

      The picturesque one-story, four-room wood frame cottage has been “restored” and is interpreted as an example of a middle-class life in mid-nineteenth-century Illinois. The furniture on display is of the Renaissance Revival style, appropriate for a small-town family of the mid-nineteenth century.

    The cottage is accessible to persons with disabilities. The site hosts portions of a variety of locally sponsored events  throughout the year.

     The home is small and doesn’t take much time to go through, but our guide did an excellent job explaining the history and background of the Bryant family, their life in Bement, and the meeting of Lincoln and Douglas there.  For more information about the Bryant Cottage State Historic Site, you can check the following websites:


The site is usually open:
March-May, Th-Su 9-5 pm
June-Labor Day in September, We-Su 9-5 pm
Post Labor Day in September-October, Th-Su 9-5 pm
November-February, Th-Su 9-4 pm

“Ernie Pyle Birthplace and Museum”

     Several years ago, while travelling through western Indiana, we passed the Ernie Pyle Home in Dana, IN, and thought that it would be interesting to see but didn’t have time to stop.  Earlier this summer, we were driving through the same area, so we planned to visit it.    The address is  Ernie Pyle Home,  P.O. Box 338, 120 W. Briarwood Ave. , Dana, IN 47847-0338; phone: 812.882.7422.

     Ernie Pyle was one of the best known war correspondents during World War II.  He was shot to death on the Pacific island of IeShima by a Japanese soldier just before the war’s end in 1945. 

     Ernest Taylor Pyle was born August 3, 1900, on the Sam Elder farm, just southwest of Dana, Indiana. Pyle served in the Naval Reserve after graduating from high school near the end of World War I. Having studied journalism at Indiana University, he became a cub reporter for the LaPorte Herald. Four months later, he was offered a $2.50-per-week raise to work for the Washington Daily News. He wrote a daily aviation column for four years before becoming the paper’s managing editor.

     Pyle loved to travel and succeeded in persuading Scripps Howard executives (the company that owned the Daily News) to allow him to be a roving reporter. The five-year odyssey that followed took Pyle and his wife, Jerry, across the United States and to Central and South America. Pyle wrote about the ordinary; human-interest stories attracted him. His unpretentious pieces received the attention of people everywhere.

      In 1940, with war raging in Europe, Pyle went to England to report on the Battle of Britain. By 1942, he was covering America’s involvement in the war. During the next three years, battle campaigns took him to North Africa, Italy and the Normandy Beaches in France.  In 1945, Pyle accepted what would be his last assignment — the Pacific theater. His death silenced the pen of a man whose writing had served as the link between men at the front and their loved ones back home.

     Through the efforts of the Indiana Department of the American Legion and a sizeable contribution from the Eli Lilly Foundation, the Historic House was moved from its rural site to its present location. It became a state historic site in July 1976.  On April 18, 1995, a new Visitor Center, constructed from two authentic World War II Quonset huts, was dedicated. The center features a video theater, research library, exhibits and a gift shop. This addition was made possible through a grant from the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Paige Cavanaugh estate.

     The Visitor Center exhibits feature life-size scenes based on Ernie Pyle’s writings and experiences as a World War II correspondent. The exhibits include state-of-the-art audio and video stations and contain authentic World War II uniforms, weapons, and gear, including a 1944 Willys jeep. The Historic House from the farm where Pyle was born is furnished as an early 1900s rural Indiana farmhouse.  The permenant exhibits were completed in 1998. Local veterans groups donated a 1944 Ford jeep for outreach programs.

     Unfortunately, when I tried to get some information about the site while making the plans for our trip, I found that it was closed and no longer in operation due to budget cuts.  Evidently, this closure was intended to be permanent, because the were to be moved to the Indiana State Museum.

     I understand budget cuts, but I still thought that it was a crying shame that no way had been found to keep it open.  However, we decided to go ahead and drive by the site just to see it.  Lo and behold, there was a sign on it saying “Open.”  We were able to see both the museum with its exhibits and the house under the guidance of two very knowledgeable ladies.  Evidently, the local volunteers came up with a plan to keep it open, and the property is being transferred from the state to them.

The Stone Academy, Zanesville, OH

     Located in the Putnam Historic District of Zanesville, OH, the Old Stone Academy is one of the oldest and arguably the most historic building in Muskingum County. Constructed in 1809 by Dr. Increase Mathews, Levi Whipple, and Ebenezer Buckingham, in what was then the town of Putnam, it was designed to serve as the new state capitol building. Across the river in Zanesville, then a separate and rival community, John McIntire and others constructed a building of their own with the same goal. Zanesville was selected and served as the capital of Ohio from 1810 to 1812.  The Stone Academy functioned as a school and a public building until it was converted to a private residence in 1840. In the 1830’s it was the center of abolitionist activity in Putnam. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society held state conventions in the building in 1835 and 1839. On both occasions violence erupted when mobs of pro-slavery Zanesville “Tuckahoes” disrupted the proceedings.  The building also served as a station on the Underground Railroad.  It is now a museum that is open to the public.  The museum’s most popular exhibit highlights a hidden trap door under the staircase that accessed a crawl-space where run-a-way slaves hid. 


Other things to see in Pennsylvania near Gettysburg, Valley Forge, and Lancaster

     On our Pennsylvania trip, there were several other sites of interest near the places where we visited that were recommended to us or that we saw advertised but simply didn’t have time to include them in our itinerary.  Here are some of them.

     1. The Gettysburg Diorama and History Center, 241 Steinwehr Ave., Gettysburg, PA  17324; 717/224-6408; www.GettysburgDiorama.com .

     2. Paoli Battlefield Historical Park and Memorial Grounds, Monument Ave., P. O. Box 173, Malvern, PA  19355; www.ushistory.org/Paoli (we did see the nearby Historic Waysborough).

     3. Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, 2 Mark Bird Lane, Elverson, PA  19520; 610/582-9535; www.nps.gov/hofu .

     4. Pottsgrove Manor, 100 W. King St., Pottstown, PA  18464; 610/326-4014; http://historicsites.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor .

     5. Rock Ford Plantation, 881 Rockford Rd., Lancaster, PA  17602; 717/392-7223; www.rockfordplantation.org .

     6. The Amish Experience at Plain and Fancy Farm, 3121 Old Philadelphia Pike, Bird in Hand, PA  17505; 717/768-8400; www.amishexperience.com (we did take the Aaron and Jessica’s Buggy Tour at Plain and Fancy Farm).

     7. The Amish Farm and House, 2395 Lincoln Highway East, Lancaster, PA  17602; 717/394-6185; www.amishfarmandhouse.com .

     8. Ephrata Cloister, 632 W. Main St., Ephrata, PA; 717/733-6600; www.ephratacloister.com .

     9. Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, 300 Gap Rd., Strasburg, PA  17579; 717/687-8628; www.rrmuseumpa.org .

     10. The National Toy Train Museum, . 300 Paradise Ln., Strasburg, PA  17579; 717/687-1976; www.nttmuseum.org .

     11. Strasburg Railroad, 301 Gap Rd., Ronks, PA  17572; 717/687-7522; www.StrasburgRailRoad.com .

     12. Hershey Farm, 240 Hartman Bridge Rd., ROnks, PA  17572; 800/827-8635; www.hersheyfarm.com .

     13.The Amish Village, Route 896, P. O. Box 115, Strasburg, PA  17579; 717/687-8511; www.800padutch.com/avillage.html .

     14. President James Buchanan’s Wheatland, 1120 Marietta Ave., Lancaster County, PA; 717/392-8721; www.wheatland.org .

     There is so much to see and do just in the areas of Pennsylvania where we visited that we could have spent another couple of weeks there.  But we had a great time.

Hershey’s Chocolate World, Hershey, PA

     Up until a few years ago, Milton Hershey and the Hershey Company gave free tours of their chocolate factory.  I don’t know whether it was insurance concerns or federal regulations or what (maybe just inconvenience), but they stopped doing the factory tours and built Chocolate World, 251 Park Blvd., Hershey, PA  17033 (717/534-4900; www.HersheysChocolateWorld.com or www.HersheysStore.com ).  It is like a chocolate-themed amusement park.  The main feature is a free tour which simulates the former factory tour and explains how cocoa beans grow in the tropical rain forest, journey across the ocean to America, are delivered to Hershey, and become milk chocolate.  There are several other features, all of which cost something, such as Hershey’s Really Big 3D Show, a chocolate tasting adventure, a chocolate works machine, a create your own candy bar, and others.  The complex also has a food court and several places to shop.