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The Journey From Wichita, Kansas to La Plata, Missouri 5/29/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I arose and after our regular morning preparations, checked out and I drove us to IHOP for an excellent breakfast, after which I drove us east to Augusta to our first station of the day.

Santa Fe Augusta station built in 1917.

Santa Fe 6793 West with Canadian Pacific ES44AC 8949 in its consist. We consulted the Railroad Station Historical Society listing for this county and saw that there was another station, which was not difficult to find.

St. Louis-San Francisco station built in 1917 and houses Augusta's Welcome Center. The front lobby houses offices for Downtown Augusta Inc. and the Augusta Chamber of Commerce, as well as a small museum featuring historic railroad artifacts and a diorama donated by the Augusta Model Railroad Club. The Frisco Depot Welcome Center features two meeting rooms, the San Frisco Room and the St. Louis Room, that are available to rent for parties, showers and family get-togethers.

This is definitely a Frisco station. From here I drove us to El Dorado.

Santa Fe El Dorado freighthouse. We then found the station.

Missouri Pacific El Dorado station built in 1883 which was built in a town of less than 2,000 people. It served as a center of activity and development for the community with news being brought in by train and other news transferred by the telegraph located at the depot. Both freight and passengers passed through the station. With the discovery of oil in 1915, population soared and the need for a new and larger depot became more urgent. On January 29, 1918, workmen moved the old wooden depot about 150 feet to the east to allow for excavation of the new brick structure. The Depot was also center in many memories of local men and women who went off to two World Wars. For many soldiers, the Depot was the last view of El Dorado as they boarded the train bound for army camps and later Europe. For those fortunate enough to return, the Depot was also the first look at home, where large crowds of loved ones and friends anxiously awaited.

With the cessation of use in the 1950's, the depot fell into disrepair and there was talk of tearing it down. In January 1992,the Friends of the Depot group was formed to restore and renovate the old building then owned by the Union Pacific Railroad. The building renovation was dedicated in 1996 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

We made our way to Cassoday.

Santa Fe Cassoday station built in 1910, after which we proceeded to Matfield Green.

Matfield Green section house built in 1924. When the Santa Fe extended track south from Bazaar, the property was developed as pens for transport of cattle by rail, a bunkhouse for ten workers and a foreman's house. Most of the forty-seven acres is never-tilled prairie. While BNSF trains continue to traverse the site, active railroad use of Matfield Station ended in the 1960's. Now, Matfield Station is home base for visitors to relax and enjoy the beauty of the Flint Hills.

Next I drove us to Cottonwood Falls.

Santa Fe replica Cottonwood Falls station, now the Cottonwood Bank and before that, a gift shop.

Santa Fe replica Williamsburg station. The original depot was torn down in the mid 1970's and in 2002, the community raised funds for a new $450,000 community library to be a "replica" of the Santa Fe depot, to be erected in Santa Fe Park, on the site of the old depot.

On the outskirts of Williamsburg is the Missouri-Kansas-Texas station from Mildred in Allen County (48 miles away) at Pome on the Range Apple Orchard & Winery.

Next I drove us to Baldwin City where we were both very pleasantly surprised at what was here, and Elizabeth was in her element.

Santa Fe Baldwin City station built in 1906 built by Leavenworth, Lawerence and Fort Gibson Railroad. This abandoned railway was originally built in 1867 as part of a rail route between Leavenworth and the Kansas state border to the south at Coffeyville. After a couple of bankruptcies and their consequent reorganizations, the line was finally purchased by the Santa Fe Railway in 1880, though it continued to operate the line under the name of Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Railroad, and later under the Southern Kansas Railway umbrella along with other AT&SF properties. The AT&SF abandoned a portion of the line between Lawrence and Baldwin City, by then named the Lawrence District, in 1963.

Sign in front of the depot.

Santa Fe club-lounge 1347 built by Pullman-Standard in 1947. It had served as a railfan's retreat on a farm east of Overbrook, Kansas for more than thirty years and moved here in 2019.

Chicago and North Western combine 441 built by American Car and Foundry in 1912 from a 1898 Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha Railway coach.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train (Midland Railway) dining car 805 "City of Prairie City", nee Canadian National 5500-series built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1954. It was originally a cafe/ lounge car, and now contains a small dining area and one of our kitchens.

Midland Railroad GP10 8250, ex. Farmrail 8250, exx. Illinois Central Gulf 8250, exxxx. Illinois Central 8250, nee Illinois Ccentral GP9 8250 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1957.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas RS3m 142, nee Missouri-Kansas-Texas 1701, built by American Locomotive Company in 1951.

Larry's Truck and Electric F40PHR 310, ex. Metro North Commuter Railway F40PH-3C 4910, exx. Metro North Commuter Railway 4194, nee Amtrak 310 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1979.

Virginia Rail Express bi-level coach 427, ex. Metra 7654, nee Chicago and North Western 21 built by Pullman-Standard in 1956.

Virginia Rail Express bi-level coach 428, ex. Metra 7672, nee Chicago and North Western 39 built by Pullman-Standard in 1956.

Virginia Rail Express bi-level coach 424, ex. Metra 7662, nee Chicago and North Western 29 built by Pullman-Standard in 1956.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train dining car "Maple Creek", ex. VIA Rail, nee Canadian National 5300-series coach built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1942. It was remodelled into a bar/dining car in December 1988, but kept its Canadian heritage, and became the second car in the Fremont Dinner Train fleet. It has a seating capacity of 56 seats and is often used as our main theater and entertainment area.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train dining car "Rose Creek", ex. VIA Rail, nee Canadian National coach built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1947. After a thorough reconstruction, it joined our fleet in mid-February 1997. It functions as one of our most-used dining cars and is unique in our operation because of the divided sections highlighted by the etched glass. And for the ladies, the restroom facilities represent one of the unique features of the car. With the addition of our third car, it added an additional 56 seats and a second galley.

Midland Railway coach 803 "City of Baldwin City", nee Ontario Northerland 803, built by National Steel Company in the 1930's.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train cafe-lounge 102 "Fontanelle Springs", ex. Canadian National 5500-series coach built by Canadian Car and Foundry in 1954.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific coach 2507 built by Standard Steel in 1923.

Illinois Central coach 2618 "Gentilly" rebuilt in table car "Marais des Cygnes River" built by Pullman-Standard in 1947.

Kansas Belle Dinner Train baggage-dorm "Cedar Creek", nee Milwaukee Road baggage-dorm 1315 built by the railroad in 1947.

Norfolk and Western power car 412, nee Norfolk and Western storage/mail car 1410 built by Bethlehem in 1927.

Engine and a caboose.

Midland Railway NW2 524, ex. Burlington Northern 524, nee Chicago Burlington and Quincy 9227 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1946.

Kansas City Southern transfer caboose 394 built by the railroad in 1967.

After that I drove us to Lawrence.

Santa Fe Lawrence station built in 1956 which is served by Amtrak's Southwest Chief. We then drove over to the interuban station.

Kansas City, Kaw Valley and Western Railway interurban station. This was an electric railway that ran between the cities of Lawrence, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri between 1914 and 1963. Passenger service was eliminated on the Lawrence segment prior to its demise in 1949. The line between Kansas City, Kansas and Bonner Springs, Kansas remained an electric freight operation until 1963. Major portions of Kansas Highway 32 are built on the original roadbed. The line was opened in 1914 between Kansas City and Bonner Springs. In 1916 the line extended to Lawrence and had 75 passenger station stops with trains leaving Kansas City hourly between 5:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.

Kansas City, Kaw Valley and Western Railway plaque on the building. I drove us across the Kansas River to our last station of the day in this city.

Union Pacific Lawrence station built in 1889. This restored Union Pacific Depot is symbolic of the city's commitment to historic preservation and to the arts. The depot, which originally opened to the public in 1889, sat unused for many years before its renovation began in 1991. In 1996, the newly rehabilitated depot reopened as the Visitor Information Center and public meeting facility. Once again, the depot is the gateway to Lawrence.

When Charles Francis Adams, president of the Union Pacific Railroad, decided to build a bigger and better depot for its busy line through Lawrence, he turned to the highly respected Boston architect Henry Van Brunt. Van Brunt, who graduated from Harvard in 1854, had served an apprenticeship with noted American architect Richard Morris Hunt in New York. Van Brunt soon established a fine reputation for himself both in Boston, where he designed churches and buildings, and at Harvard University, in nearby Cambridge.

About the time Van Brunt received the Lawrence depot commission, he and his partner, Frank Howe, established an office in Kansas city, from which they produced designs for the Coates House Hotel and the Emery, Bird, & Thayer department store in Kansas City, as well as Spooner Hall at the University of Kansas. The design of this charming and sophisticated depot (on the site of its predecessor, a smaller, more utilitarian building) blends proportions and forms of French vernacular architecture with the robust masonry exterior of the Richardson Romanesque.

The new building was hailed for its beauty when it opened. One of two railroad depots in the city, it became a focal point for the comings and goings typical of a college town. The depot was the point of departure and return for soldiers during World War I and World War II. It survived two devastating floods in 1903 and 1951, when it was filled with water 30 inches deep. Even as railroad passenger traffic dwindled nationally, the Union Pacific Depot continued to receive and send off passengers until 1971.

The years took their toll on the depot. The canopy shelter on the west end of the building was demolished after being damaged in the 1903 flood. Sometime in the 1920's the building's prominent, but structurally deteriorated, steeple was removed. When the railroad discontinued freight service in 1984, it announced plans to tear the building down within a week. Preservationists, history buffs, members of the community and even the University of Kansas rowing team rallied to save the building from demolition. After more than a decade, the Union Pacific Railroad agreed to sell the building to the city for one dollar. With title to the building, the City of Lawrence used local funds, state and federal grants and contributions from private citizens and businesses to restore the depot.

I drove us east on Interstate 70, then Interstate 635 to Interstate 29 south to Interstate 35, then north to a truck parking area where we switched drivers. Elizabeth then drove us to Kirksville where we had dinner at Colton's Steakhouse and enjoyed our meals. Afterwards, I drove us to the Depot Inn and Suites in La Plata where we checked in and received Room D. After getting online, Elizabeth and I walked to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point and I photographed one train.

The westbound Southwest Chief was leaving La Plata for Kansas City and points west.

The Amtrak Exhibition of History Cars still have no stairways to access them. I wrote most of this story before Elizabeth proofed my previous story while I had a bath then Elizabeth had hers before we called it a night.