Midland remembers railway’s past
There's a reward for the railroad lovers here, a reward born in these old cars, these wide-open windows, the click-clack of rolling wheels on historic tracks.
"The reward is looking in the faces of these kids," Mike Fox explained.
Their faces, he said, light up with the thrill of riding a real train -- a train that ran these Midland Railway tracks long before Amtrak offered quiet, sheltered rides across the country.
Fox and his organization, the Midland Railway Historical Assn., will be here all Labor Day weekend offering folks young and old the opportunity to see area countryside from inside historic rail cars.
The rides for the Midland Railfest happen every year, but this year the old Santa Fe Railroad Depot turns a century old, and organizers from both Midland and the Santa Fe Trail Historical Society thought this weekend would be as good as any to throw a birthday party for the old station in Allen Park.
"It's a combined celebration," said John Jackson, president of the Douglas County Santa Fe Trail Historical Society.
Although owned by Baldwin since the railroad turned over the deed in 1977, the depot is still maintained and operated by the two historic preservation groups. The Midland group also is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
A midafternoon ceremony Saturday celebrated that deed transfer, with officials from the Santa Fe Railroad presenting a copy of the deed to Baldwin Mayor Gary Walbridge in the depot shelter.
The day's events helped paint a picture of area history. Passengers rode coaches from as far back as the early 1920s, all pushed by a 1951 ALCO locomotive along 11- and 22-mile round-trip courses to Ottawa and the former townsite of Norwood.
An old mail car was put back into service for the weekend as well, harkening back to when mail rode the rails along with town-to-town passengers.
As conductors helped passengers to their seats, Dee and Roger Clark sang old-time tunes with the Misty River Band.
For older folks, Fox said, the weekend rides served to spark nostalgia of childhoods spent riding trains around the county and the area.
But Fox said he found his real rail pleasure showing young people -- or first-time riders -- what life was like when old passenger trains still rumbled along old tracks, before cars and country roads were the only way to get around.
"An awful lot of people out here have never been on a train," Fox said. "This is a real train trip."
Sandi Vena, of Olathe, and her two grandsons, Alex Ott, 3, right, and Andrew Ott, 5, left, poke their heads out from one of the train cars during the annual Midland Railway Railfest at the Baldwin depot. The family planned to go on the train and speeder before leaving Saturday.