Archive for Thursday, August 16, 2007

Midland’s 20th draws an anniversary crowd

August 16, 2007

Jack Morgan approached the 1906 Santa Fe Railway depot, donning an old, olive green Midland Railway uniform with a tattered sewn-on patch and a yellow cap.

He remembers the day when the first train from Ottawa was brought to Baldwin City.

"We had just rebuilt them," Morgan said. "They looked like they had come out of the factory."

He remembers the disappointment when tree branches slapped the freshly painted train on the way, causing it to lose its attractiveness.

But at Saturday's 20-year anniversary of the railway, Morgan couldn't have been happier.

"It's a great day to see the boys again, to see the equipment," said Morgan, 84.

He joined about 150 others who came to the depot for the celebration, which was designed to resemble the opening ceremony 20 years ago, when then-Kansas Gov. Mike Hayden sent the first train on its way, making it the state's first tourist railroad.

Hayden, now Kansas Wildlife and Parks secretary, was back to help out with the rededication ceremony, along with several of the original Midland crewmen who helped operate the trains on opening day, Aug. 8, 1987.

Kevin Jones, one of the railroad's founders, also came back. He said he was gratified to see his years of hard work pay off for so long.

In 1982, Jones and five other investors worked to preserve the section of railway and to educate future generations about transportation history. Now their nonprofit mission carries on.

The railway runs between Baldwin City and the Ottawa Junction. When it first opened, before maintenance was complete on the entire 20-mile round-trip route, the train traveled more than a mile between Baldwin City and "Nowhere, Kansas," then back again.

The train operates Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from the depot, 1515 W. High.

"I hope that we're able to be back here 20 years from now," Hayden said.

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