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BP Whiting Refinery Contributes Historic Working Sand Tower to Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum

Monday, June 12, 2023

This sand tower was recently donated by BP in Whiting, Indiana, to the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum. Photo by John Eagen.

Former EJ&E Sand Tower Will be Moved from Whiting to North Judson

NORTH JUDSON, INDIANA - In an area rich with sand dunes, you would think that the procurement of sand would not be an issue.  But when the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, Indiana, recently added four larger railroad locomotives to their collection, supplying these locomotives with the sand needed for traction became an issue.

The problem was solved thanks to a donation from BP’s Whiting Refinery in Whiting, Indiana.  

As museum member John Eagan watched other volunteers hoist buckets of sand from the ground, climbing ladders 16 feet in the air to the filling hatches on top of the locomotives, he knew that there would be a better, more efficient, and safer way. That’s when fellow member Les Beckman casually commented, “Anybody got a spare sand tower?”

Eagan knew of one at the Whiting Refinery, once used by the Elgin Joliet & Eastern Railway, built in 1954, but no longer in use. Eagan reached out to the refinery to see how to make this transfer a reality. Eagan pitched the idea of the refinery declaring the sand tower as surplus equipment, and requested it be donated to the museum in furtherance of the mission to educate the public on how railroads operate.

When asked, Donnie Brown, Vice President Refining for BP’s Whiting Refinery said, “Whiting Refinery turns 134 in June, it isn’t surprising to find antiques spanning the last century. It’s great to be able to preserve a piece used to support our refining business.”

Nearly one year after the first contact, the refinery agreed to donate the sand tower to the museum.  The tower will be carefully dismantled, parts marked for identification to aid in reassembly, and transported in pieces over 60 miles to North Judson. There the sand tower will be cleaned, painted, and reassembled, becoming a working piece that will make filling the sand boxes of the diesels an easier task.

The museum is no stranger to moving railroad structures, having moved an Indiana Harbor Belt interlocking tower that once stood along Kennedy Avenue in East Chicago, Indiana, 50 miles to the museum...on a truck! The sand tower will be re-erected nearby this other historic tower.

The Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is open to the public and offers train rides from North Judson through the Indiana farmlands to the Kankakee River bridge overlook. Hauled by vintage steam and diesel locomotives, the operations will be enhanced, thanks to the generous contribution by BP America.

About the Museum

Founded in 1988, the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum is a 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization dedicated to the preservation of railroad history in northwest Indiana. The museum educates the public through interpretive displays and its tourist railroad operations. Additional information about the museum can be found online at hoosiervalley.org or on the museum’s Facebook page at @hoosiervalley.


HVRM member John Eagen contributed to this article.