DYER | Victor Baird fondly remembers the Wabash Fourth District railroad from summers spent at his grandmother’s house in Wolcottville, Ind.
Baird, 56, grew up a self-described Army brat. He spent a good portion of his childhood moving from one military post to the next to keep up with his father’s service commitment. But in those summer days spent with his relatives in northeast Indiana, he could be found exploring the Wabash Fourth District which ran just down the street from his grandmother’s home.
Nearly half a century later, Baird has shared the story of those who worked and lived near the Wabash Fourth District in his new independently published book, "Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District." Baird will be making an appearance at Park Lane Hobbies in Dyer for a free book signing from noon to 5 p.m. June 14.
Baird graduated from Indiana University and pursued a career in the business world working in accounting among other fields of work. After recently losing his job in the automotive industry, the train enthusiast decided to pursue a self-made career writing about the railroads he grew up exploring.
“I told myself if I lose my job or things get bad enough, I would start my own publishing company and write railroad books and hopefully people would come to me who enjoyed railroads,” Baird said. “So that’s what I did.”
The Fourth District opened in 1893 and served as the Wabash Railroad’s “Chicago Extension," running through Northwest Ohio and Northern Indiana.
It was an integral part of the shortest railroad between Detroit and Chicago. "Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District" is a 320-page hardcover book filled with stories, photographs, maps and written history surrounding the railroad and those around it.
The book is organized into 11 chapters, each with a different theme. The first chapter is the longest and offers a factual history of the railroad from 1891-1964. Other chapters are devoted to the actual railroad workers on the line and monumental events in the railroads history.
“It’s a niche book — a railroad book,” Baird said. “It’s a scholarly publication, but about half of the book is the words of the people who worked on the railroad and the people who lived on the railroad.”
As an independent publisher, Baird has mostly marketed and sold the book by himself. He has spent the summer traveling along the Fourth District’s old route selling his book at signings. Dyer is the closest he has been able to get to Gary — the largest city on the line — in his appearances.
"Railroading on the Wabash Fourth District" costs $39.95 plus sales tax, but there is no charge for the book signing. Baird said he welcomes people to stop in and buy a book or just chat with him about the railroad or other trains. The book is also available online at www.erstwhilepublications.com.
“It’s not everybody’s book, but for some reason, this book appeals to a lot of people,” Baird said. “Apparently I’m doing something right because people like my book and they seem to be selling well and I hope it’s a good event.”