Archive for Thursday, June 10, 2004

Ceremony once again connects Baldwin, Ottawa by rail line

June 10, 2004

For the traditional "golden spike" ceremony Saturday between Baldwin City and Ottawa, the Midland Railway Historical Association went one up on the famed transcontinental-connecting spike driving back in 1869 when the Union Pacific and Central Pacific lines were joined in Pomontory, Utah.

Michael Fox, president of the MRHA, referred to the 1869 ceremony and also said that when the original line between Ottawa to Lawrence was connected in the early 1900s, there wasn't much fanfare. That wasn't the case Saturday when the line between Baldwin and Ottawa was officially opened with a ceremony attended by around 100 people at Norwood, where the two lines now meet.

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"As far as we can tell, there was never such a ceremony back then," Fox said. "Today, we're driving two golden spikes. If one is good, two is better."

There were a host of dignitaries on hand, including Kansas Department of Transportation officials who provided the funding to refurbish the track and train trestles between Norwood and Ottawa. Also in attendance were Rep. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, members of the Franklin County Commission and numerous others.

But, one of the honored "guests" was Ryan Richardson, a Boy Scout from Ottawa, who is one of the 10,000 Boy Scouts who have gone through the Midland Scout program. Richardson was representing that group and was one of several who tried their hand at actually driving the golden spikes.

"When Mike asked me to come out for this, I said 'it's not 125 degrees or pouring rain.' That's the only time I've been here," Richardson said, drawing a round of laughter. "It's a great day for the railroad."

Indeed it was. Saturday's ceremony was the culmination of years of planning and work to rejoin the rail lines between Baldwin and Ottawa that had been idle for decades. The Baldwin side of the tracks has been in operation for years by Midland, but the trip only went to Norwood.

In his remarks, Fox recalled the early days of the project, which was funded by a $300,000? grant from KDOT.

"When the project was approved, we were off and running," Fox said. "Well, sometimes it seemed like we were crawling. But, we got it done.

"Partnership has been the key to all of this," he said. "We have a project completed on scheduled, on budget."

Then it was time to pound the golden spikes. Rep. Holland, who filed for re-election Tuesday, was first up. He missed. So did Harold Benoit of KDOT. Richardson didn't have much better luck, either. But, Fox, did, driving in the first spike with ease. The second one was also dispatched quickly.

After that, the train that had come from Ottawa with the dignitaries and the train from Baldwin carrying Midland members were joined. The were then uncoupled and the boarding process for the return trip started.

Saturday's ceremony was one of many events scheduled for the Midland Railway this summer. Also upcoming is its portion of the Planes, Trains and Automobiles event scheduled in Baldwin for June 19-20. There is also a Chamber of Commerce Night on the Midland Tuesday and, of course, Day Out with Thomas (the tank engine) is set for July 16-18 and July 23-25.

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