Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

Midland to make 20th milestone

August 9, 2007

A milestone will be reached at the Midland Railway Depot Saturday.

Midland will be celebrating its 20th anniversary with several speakers and discounted train rides. The one-day event begins at 10:45 a.m. Saturday at the Baldwin City depot.

"We thought we would take this time to recognize the past 20 years," said Charles Pitcher, one of the Midland founders.

The event will begin with the national anthem and will be followed by the introduction of original and current members of the Midland Railway Historical Association. Then there will be several five to 10 minute speeches given.

The speakers will be Pitcher, John Jackson (of Santa Fe Trail Historical Society), Baldwin City Mayor Gary Walbridge, a representative from the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce, State Rep. Tom Holland, Congresswoman Nancy Boyda and former Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden.

Since the first train departs at 11:30 a.m. and the temperature is expected to be near 100 degrees, Pitcher hopes the speeches will be fairly short.

"We might tighten them up a bit, because of the heat," Pitcher said. "It's supposed to be 100 degrees that day. We will try to shorten that up if we can."

Hayden was the governor when Midland was created in 1987. He was in Baldwin City to cut the ceremonial ribbon. He will return for the 20th anniversary Saturday.

"It's amazing that they got him to come back," Pitcher said of Hayden. "It's special to have him back here. It's amazing to get people like him back for this event, because some of the original members have passed away."

After the speeches, the train rides will begin. The train will depart at 11:30 p.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. The price of the ride will be discounted dramatically from the normal price.

The cost will be the same as it was in 1987, which is $4 for adults and $2 for children (between the ages of 4 and 12). Children under the age of 4 ride free. The trains will travel to Deerfield, which was the original location of Nowhere.

"I think this is a nice celebration," Pitcher said. "Like any organization or business, we've had our ups and downs, but we always seem to prevail. We started out with just a few tracks and now we can go all the way to Ottawa."

Midland began making the trip to Ottawa in May 2004, when the route from Baldwin to Ottawa was reconnected. It had been 66 years since that trip was made before 2004.

"That was a pretty big addition for us," Pitcher said. "That was a major milestone."

That was just one milestone during Midland's 20 years in Baldwin City. For the past six years, Midland has hosted A Day Out With Thomas the Tank Engine events during the summer. This year the event drew 15,600 people to Baldwin City.

Pitcher said Thomas and other events have helped Baldwin grow during the past 20 years.

"In our own little way, we helped bring tourism and some money to Baldwin City," Pitcher said. "We've seen a lot of changes to Baldwin in the last 20 years."

On June 17, 1985, an announcement in Traffic World magazine said that responsible parties have 10 days. . .to tender a reasonable offer for a section of railroad between milepost 14.95 (Baldwin) and milepost 26.04 (Ottawa), a distance of 11.09 miles.

Purchase of the rail line, a joint venture of Santa Fe Trails Historical Society and Midland Railway Historical Association, was completed on May 15, 1987.

On Aug. 8, 1987, Hayden cut the ceremonial ribbon. A band played, a double-deck bus from England and a Railway Express Agency truck were on display. Dedication ceremonies were opened by the American Legion Color Guard. Inside the depot were operating telegraph instruments manned by members of the Morse Telegraph Club.

"We wish you tremendous success with this very, very remarkable train," Hayden said that day.

Fueled by a blaze of publicity and good will, the tourist train got off to a fast start. During the 1987 season, there were 176 revenue trips during 30 operating days. For the whole year, a grand total of 8,639 fares (6,107 adults, 2,532 children) were collected, including Maple Leaf Festival Specials, which were operated during the weekend of October 17-18, 1987, carrying a total of 2,825 people.

For more information on Saturday's event or Midland Railway, visit www.midland-ry.org.

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