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Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad's Santa Fe 3415 Charter 9/15/2023

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I arose at 5:30 AM and after checking our e-mails, Elizabeth drove us to the Rock Island train station and we parked on the street just south of the station. Wen checked in, said hello to Dak Dillon, the charter's organizer, before boarding the train for the pre-dawn departure at 6:25 AM. I had ridden this railroad in 2009 and Elizabeth was making her first visit.

Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad

The Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad was founded in 1993 as a heritage railway, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the railroad industry in Kansas by highlighting the inter-connectedness of railroads, the people, and the land in our state. An all-volunteer organization, the A&SV runs regular excursions, private charters, school field trip excursions and dinner trains between Abilene and the neighboring Dickinson County community of Enterprise. The railroad operates on track that was initially laid by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1886.

Passengers on the A&SV do more than just ride trains. Since we are a living history museum project, you can experience train operations firsthand by touring our engines, talk with crew members and observe them doing their jobs, and hear the stories of how the Rock Island and other railroads once provided dependable transportation service that was the lifeline of a burgeoning regional agribusiness economy. You will board the train at Abilene’s historic Rock Island Depot in Old Abilene Town and ride in antique passenger and freight cars, including a wooden coach that was manufactured for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad in 1902.

The Abilene and Smoky Valley is the only steam railroad in Kansas. We use Santa Fe 3415, a century-old Baldwin "Pacific" locomotive that our volunteer staff rebuilt after the engine sat in Abilene’s Eisenhower Park for 40 years. Santa Fe 3415 is our railroad’s superstar, attracting thousands of railfans to Abilene since the engine made its first run on our rails in 2009. The engine has been featured in railroad publications and TV programs, including the PBS "Tracks Ahead" series. In 2022, the Saturday Evening Post's website named the A&SV as one of America’s best steam train rides.

Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad's Santa Fe 3415 Charter Information

Join us for a special photo charter with Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad's Santa Fe 3415, featuring unique photo opportunities including a night photo session – hosted by Dak Dillon Photography. Proceeds from this event will go to Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad to help with the FRA-mandated 15-year rebuild of Santa Fe 3415, scheduled to begin at the conclusion of the 2023 operating season.

This is the first time ASVR has held a full photo charter, and we look forward to a day of opportunities with Santa Fe 3415 and the organization's volunteers.

Santa Fe 3415 will be pulling its standard passenger consist which has been recently repainted ahead of the 2023 season. The consist includes passenger cars, a boxcar and a caboose in new maroon and gold paint. Preview the new paint here. We'll have staged photo runbys in addition to static shots with reenactors and classic props. We'll ensure 3415 puts on a good show, even as an oil burner!

Santa Fe 3415 Information

Santa Fe 4-6-2 3415, donated to City of Abilene, nee Santa Fe 3415, built by Baldwin in 1919.

Steam locomotive 3415 is halfway through its 2023 operating season on the Abilene & Smoky Valley Railroad, the final year before the locomotive is slated to be taken out of service for its federally-mandated 1,472-day inspection. Though the start of the season saw multiple sidelines to the 4-6-2 due to unforeseen repairs n late May and issues with the injector in early June, it has since put in a strong performance all the way to the end of July.

"The early season work by our steam crew backed up with the expertise and on-site work provided by the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad's steam team", said Ross Boelling, the president and general manager of the A&SV. "While we had a couple of setbacks early on, they all stepped up and continued working every weekend to keep the fires burning".

The 2023 season includes an extended steam schedule of consecutive weekends in June, July, September, and early October. According to Boelling, the biggest takeaway has been the increase in a collective effort to supply enough fuel to cover the operation’s expansion. So far it has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor for the staff and volunteers of the Abilene & Smoky Valley. “We are proud of 3415 and recognize the draw it is to our property and operations”.

Our trip

Our trip started by going east out of Abilene to Kyle Bridge Road which would be the first of many photo runbys this morning.


The train sitting on the mainline just east of the road. Now we waited for the sunrise.

Reverse move one.

The sunrise took its time on this great morning of my life.

Photo runby one.

A glint picture of the train.

Reverse move two.

Photo runby two.

Reverse move three.

Photo runby three.

Reverse move four.

Photo runby four.

Glint pictures two. We reboarded the train and headed east to the next photo runby location where most of the passengers detrained.

Reverse move five.

Photo runby five at a creek bridge.

Posed pictures on the bridge. We reboarded then went further east.

Reverse move six.

Photo runby six on the long straight track.

Reverse move seven.

Photo runby seven, after which everyone walked to our next- locatiom.

Posed picture three.

Reverse move eight.

Posed pictures four on the Smoky Hill River bridge.

Our group taking their pictures at the bridge.

Reverse move nine.


Photo runby eight. We all walked down and crossed the bridge to our next photo runby location.

Photo runby nine.

Photo runby ten.

Photo runby eleven.

The engine then reversed onto the bridge to perform its blowdown.

Photo runby twelve from the rock pile. We walked the rest of the way into Enterprise.

The engine at rest at Enterprise. Now two vintage cars would be added into our photo runbys.

Photo runby thirteen.

The two car owners dressed for vintage pictures.

Reverse move ten.

The group on the other side of the tracks.

Photo runby fourteen.

Photo runby fifteen.

Reverse move eleven.

Photo runby sixteen.

The Hoffman Grist Mill in Enterprise.

Photo runby eighteen.

Reverse move twelve. It started to rain so everyone returned to the train which took us back to Abilene. Elizabeth and I joined a group from the train at the Hitching Post Restaurant adjacent to the Rock Island station and both had umbrellas, so were fine walking around to the restaurant and back to the station. After a filling lunch, we walked back to the depot where I, along with a couple of others, was interviewed by the local newspaper.

After that we toured the railroad museum in the Rock Island station.

Railroad photographs on the wall.

Hats and scarves of railroaders.

Conductor's hats.

Steam engine oil cans that fill the cylinders and other parts of the engine.

Marker lights and conductor's lanterns.

Whistle post signs.

Hobo symbols of the freight door.

Tools of the railroaders.

Wig-wag crossing signal.

A Rock Island track speeder.

Official guide, timetables and rule books.

Union Pacific and Rock Island timetables plus other railroad equipmemt.

Two cases of typewriters, Santa Fe timetables and other railroad items.

More hobo symbols on the walls of the depot.

Santa Fe timetable board.

Railway Express Agency symbol.

Date nails and railroad locks and keys.

Two cases of railroad china and silverware.

The Enterprise station sign.

Railroad trainorders hoops.

Switch stand.

Locomotive bell.

The station's stove.

Two railroad photographs.

Fred W. Schmidt Railroad Museum.

Rock Island Timetable board. We waited with some of the other passengers in the station then after checking the local forecast, which said rain until seven, we decided to leave and said goodbye to Dak and other people whom we had we met and walked back to our car but stopped for one last picture.

Santa Fe 4-6-2 3415 sitting in the rain at Abilene. I drove us out to Interstate 70 then we found a pair of stations off that route.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific McFarland station. The building is now used as the city hall with a meeting room and offices, and serves as a place to preserve McFarland and Rock Island Railroad memorabilia and history.

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Paxico station. Elizabeth drove us to Cracker Barrel near the Kansas City International Airport and I enjoyed roast beef with Elizabeth choosing Lemon Sole Fillets. We checked into Quality Inn and Elizabeth made me go to bed as I was not feeling very well. I slept for twelve hours and started to feel better in the morning.

9/15/2023 After a good night's rest, we awoke and after checking the e-mail and the Internet, we checked out and Elizabeth drove us to Cracker Barrel where I had pancakes and sausage links and Elizabeth had French Toast with peaches. I then drove to the rental car center to return the car and we walked downstairs to the bus that returned us to Kansas City Airport then checked our two larger bags, went through Security and then to the gate where I checked and we waited at the gate to board the first of two planes to home.

Southwest Airlines 2451 9/15/2023

On this flight, I gave Elizabeth the window seat and I read Railpace and did word search puzzles. We landed at Austin and our gate was next door.

Southwest Airlines 3886 9/15/2023

On this flight I did word search puzzles and watched the clouds as we headed home. We landed at Orange County then picked up our luggage and Bill Compton drove us home. He had brought with him our empty boxes for our move to Columbia, Missouri and we gave Bill two of his boxes.

It had been an excellent trip to the National Railway Historical Society convention, to Missouri, Iowa and Kansas with the photo charter on the Abilene and Smokey Valley Railroad, plus Elizabeth's first time on the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad, as well as the railroad station we found.