Founded near the rapids of the Iroquois River, Rensselaer is centered on the majestic Jasper County Courthouse, whose soaring tower is a local landmark.
776 North Cullen Street Rensselaer, IN 47978
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- Hoosier State
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On August 21, 2013, city and Amtrak officials and local residents gathered for a ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of a new passenger shelter at Rensselaer. Students from the Rensselaer Central High School show choir serenaded the crowd with three songs, including the Star Spangled Banner. Following the event, participants were invited for a celebratory lunch.
Funded by Amtrak, the one story red brick building features grey stone trim at the base and in the window sills, and it is topped by a seamed metal hipped-gabled roof. Wide eaves supported by graceful paired brackets protect passengers from inclement weather. Inside, the waiting area appears light and airy due to large tripartite windows, while metal benches line the walls. Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Rensselaer station also received new light standards and a $500,000, 550-foot long concrete platform with tactile edging in 2011.
The new brick facility replaced an earlier shelter erected in 1979 that was later cared for by volunteers from the Lions Club. It in turn had replaced an early 20th century Monon Railroad passenger depot razed in 1981. Today, some of the brick paving and red tile flooring from the Monon building can still be seen peeking out of the grass near the Amtrak shelter.
Originally called Newton, the town of Rensselaer was platted on June 12, 1839 as a small farming community near the rapids of the Iroquois River. After the financial Panic of 1837, the merchant James Van Rensselaer, having lost his business in Utica, N.Y., came to Jasper County and took over land previously owned by Joseph D. Yeoman—who became the area’s first postmaster. On August 9, 1841, the settlement’s name was changed to Rensselaer. The city was incorporated on June 12, 1858.
A narrow-gauge railroad came through as early as 1879; however, a foreclosure sale in 1880 passed the line to the Chicago and Indianapolis Air Line Railway, which would eventually become the Monon. A two-story wooden depot was built around 1900, and photographic evidence suggests the succeeding brick depot—the one demolished in 1981—was built about ten years later. The Monon Railway operated almost entirely within the state of Indiana from 1896 to 1956. It was merged with the Louisville and Nashville (L&N) in 1971. Much of the Monon right-of-way is now used by CSX, successor to the L&N.
Rensselaer was also home to the Miniature Train and Railroad Company factory, which built a plant in 1948. The original 7.24” gauge train was built by Phillip Allan Sturtvant of Elmhurst, Ill. in 1928. Mr. Sturtvant's interest began when he built a large model for his son in their backyard. The railroad came to the attention of Sears, Roebuck & Company, which in 1932 installed a Sturtvant electric train as part of a Christmas display in its new Chicago State Street store. The popularity of this installation led to the establishment of the Miniature Train and Railroad Company, a partnership between Sturtvant and R.D Robertson, Sturtvant's brother-in-law. The company was sold in 1956, but parts are still made for these popular train sets. The original 1928 train set is in a private collection in Illinois.
Rensselaer, the Jasper County seat, has been selected as one of Indiana’s top five small cities. It is the home of St. Joseph College, a Roman Catholic liberal arts school with about 1,000 students that holds the unique distinction of being the only post-secondary institution in the United States with a puma as its mascot. Fair Oaks Farms, a family-owned business that is one of the country’s largest dairies, is also in Rensselaer and hosts a Dairy Adventure tour of every step of the dairy production process, called from “Grass to Glass.”
This stop is one of two stations in the Amtrak national network with Rensselaer in the name, with the station in Rensselaer, N.Y., located across the Hudson River from Albany, N.Y., known as the Albany-Rensselaer station.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this station. Between the Hoosier State and Cardinal, Rensselaer is served by two daily trains. The Hoosier State is financed primarily through funds made available by the Indiana Department of Transportation and communities along the route.
Photo courtesy of Donna Cochran, city of Rensselaer.