#HomeGrownStories – Scott Trostel
September 26, 2017
Piqua native and local author, Scott Trostel, has written 53 books. Scott is especially interested in trains and has penned many books on the subject. He has also been involved in historical projects to educate the community about our past. Scott is currently working on historical markers for the path of Lincoln’s Funeral Train.
On growing up in Piqua:
I was born and raised in Piqua. I’m a “South-Ender”, having grown up in the blue-collar south end. As a kid, I visited all the factories in the south end. Sometimes I was able to stand in a doorway and watch industrial commerce unfolding.. Looking back, it was stunning to have experienced that. All but two of those south-end factories are now gone.
I had no idea where life would take me. I had a solid management offer from a firm in Pueblo, Colorado to manage a railcar repair shop. I was a partner in a business venture at Fort Wayne, Indiana. We looked at moving there. But I was able to conduct business at home and drive there once a week until the market collapsed.
How he became interested in trains:
I have a photo of me with my first train-set, a gift from Santa at age two. I had a train board that was brought out when it was cold and played with indoors. At age eight, when other kids were getting into and sports, I sustained a significant injury that prevented me from playing. I wasn’t allowed to ride a bike for a couple of years. In that time I’d walk two short blocks to the railroad crossing to watch the trains. It was something to keep me occupied. The trainmen all introduced themselves and even put me on the engine, and that cemented it for me. I never looked back, except for railroad history, and that has been my full-time career since age 30.
How he became interested in history:
I’d listen to the stories of my great-grandparents and grandparents. It was an experience and well beyond anything they called history or tried to teach me in school. As a high school student, I would go to the Flesh Public Library in Piqua. In the attic, I would sit and read articles from old issues of the Piqua Daily Call under a single 60 watt light bulb. When I got my driver’s license, I would go to Troy and read the microfilmed Troy newspapers. The archives are where I learned a whole different viewpoint about history. I learned a lot about local and regional history. There is a great difference between today’s journalism and the style of reporting from 50 years ago.
About the books he has written and other media he has been involved with:
Bradford, a significant railroad center, peaked my youthful curiosity. I heard so many stories but somehow nothing seemed to tie in exactly. At age 14, I decided I would write a book about Bradford and started my research. I also collected any notes about the death and funeral train for Abraham Lincoln along the way. For 22 years I scratched at the topic of Bradford. After the usual quantity of publisher turn-down letters, I decided to publish it myself. Since it came out I’ve sold over 5,600 copies. That was going to be my only work of railroad history. Turned out to be the first of what is presently 53 titles.
Then there are five documentary DVDs. One I helped with and appear in is the WBGU TV’s Made in America Lima Locomotive Works. It received an Emmy award. Another was done with the History Channel’s, Stealing Lincoln’s Body. I was a consultant for the producers, then got an invitation to appear on set in front of the cameras. We did most of the filming in Springfield, Illinois.
As for my books, the Lincoln notes became my popular title The Lincoln Funeral Train. It took 37 years of research to write that one. I have since completed a DVD about the 13-day funeral journey. Then there is the second book, The Lincoln Inaugural Train. Among others are four books about the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroad. One of those is solely about Henry Ford’s ten years as president of that line. I completed books about several of the interurban railways in the region.
The titles that I am personally fondest of are the WWII canteen books. It has been a great honor to meet the women and men who so unselfishly gave greatly of their time to volunteer. Truck side canteens served food and drink to the armed forces and POWs of WWII. Never has such a humanitarian project been so faithfully carried out. Then it slipped into silence.
I am humbled to have dined with many of those volunteers. They have told me their experiences and trials while volunteering at canteen sites. I wrote books for the canteens at Troy and Bellefontaine and created an Ohio Historical Society marker for them. I wrote of the Lima canteen and worked on an OHS marker and a museum exhibit. The canteen at Crestline has a chapter in my book, Angels at the Station, and an OHS marker. I researched the one at Springfield, but too much time has passed and those recollections are largely gone.
On his local history projects, the Lincoln Funeral Train historical markers, and the Fletcher Covered Bridge:
Sadly, local history is not taught in any of the local schools. I set out to help shine a light on our local history. My first involvement was the dedication of an Ohio Historical Marker at Bradford at age 21. Then there have been many published books. Since that time there has been the dedication of 13 other Ohio Historical Markers around the state.
I wrote books about the 1913 flood. I talk in Dayton and Montgomery County about the flood. In every case, the people tell me they didn’t know the 1913 flood went anywhere beyond Dayton. The full story of that flood has never been told. It is a dramatic event well beyond what has been portrayed.
I had Troy’s surviving Canteen girls recognized and honored at the USAF Band of Flight concert in Troy. Some of the USAF officers came to Troy to meet the ladies. In 2006 the USAF did a flyover salute at the marker dedication and then the pilots came to Troy to meet the ladies. I was very glad for all the thanks the ladies finally received. We even got them recognized by President George W. Bush.
In 1984 the Bradford Community Improvement Corporation ask if I could help them get a caboose to commemorate that Village’s history. I managed to help procure the caboose, get it shipped to Bradford and placed on a display track. I gave the dedication address once it was in the park.
In 1993 the old iron bridge over Gustin Ditch Fletcher was condemned in 1993. I had an idea to get a replacement covered bridge for the up-coming sesquicentennial in 1998. I took the idea to Village Council, along with a plan to raise the needed funds. It took three years to get the fullest of support in the community, but we did it. We had a good board and raised the $57,000 to build the bridge. It stands as a testament to the Village’s past.
The recent appearance of the Lincoln Funeral Train in Troy during 2015 is still stunning. What impressed me the most were all the thousands of people who attended, nearly 22,000. It would not have happened if it had not been for the many supporting organizations. I spent 40 hours in the funeral train car telling people about the funeral train. I was pleasantly exhausted each day. I am grateful for the support of the Miami County Visitors Bureau and Troy Main Street. They were rock solid in promoting the project to bring the train to Troy.
The Lincoln Funeral Train Historic Markers were an idea that has had many false starts, but I have not given up. Again the Miami County Visitor Bureau stepped up and found sponsors. I agreed to make the foundry patterns, get them poured and do the finishing here. I also will deliver them to the three locations. The Fletcher and Covington markers are nearly complete. The finishing touches are going on the pattern for the Piqua marker. The first two markers for Miami County should be done next week. My next project would be to link all the markers along the trail of the Lincoln Funeral train between Columbus and Richmond, Indiana.
His Miami County recommendations for out-of-town visitors:
I enjoy Susie’s Big Dipper for ice cream treats. As for events, Troy’s Festival of Nations and the annual Mayor’s Concert. The weekly Piqua Civic Band concerts in July are enjoyable and they do a Christmas Concert. The new location for the Piqua Fireworks is wonderful and finally gets the people to the river. We generally do one of the farmer’s markets in either Piqua or Troy every week. I have seen several of the bicycle tours and it seems like fun for the more athletically inclined.
Most importantly, we are blessed with a solid Visitors Bureau with a vision. I have been very impressed with the quality of their efforts across a long period of time. I recommend any out-of-town visitors to get in touch with them for a full list of events. You can’t go wrong in Miami County.
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