Baldwin — A long-forgotten stretch of railroad track from southern Douglas County to Ottawa soon may be back in service.
With a federal grant in hand, the Midland Railway Historical Assn. plans to renovate the 4.5-mile track between Norwood and Ottawa and extend its excursion train route. The train has been running the past 15 years from the Midland Depot in Baldwin to Norwood.
"It will allow us to offer essentially a 20-mile round trip with the 11 miles we have now," said Art Davis, chief clerk at the depot.
The grant, administered through the Kansas Department of Transportation, was sought three years ago with the assistance of the Franklin County Commission. A few months ago, Davis said, "all of the hurdles" that held up the grant were cleared and Midland began working toward the expansion in earnest.
Though Midland has a cost estimate for repairing the track, it can't release the estimate because of the bidding process, Davis said. But earlier this year in the association's seasonal newspaper, Midland said the federal portion of the grant was $365,544. Midland is expected to come up with more than $91,000 for the project for its 20 percent share.
Midland is accepting bids through mid-August for the track renovation, which will include repairing a trestle. Once selected, the contractor will have 120 working days to complete the job, Davis said.
Renovation of the track, which is thought to have been out of service for at least 50 years, will mean replacing more than 4,272 wooden crossties, installing some 5,850 tons of rock ballast and rebuilding eight grade crossings, Midland officials have said.
"The biggest thing is fixing that trestle," Davis said.
He estimated that the Midland train would make its maiden run on the new stretch next spring.
When the stretch is opened, the Midland Railroad train will travel from Baldwin to the north edge of Ottawa where the Santa Fe Railway's main line goes under U.S. Highway 59 and return to Baldwin.
The extended excursion train ride will last about two hours, Davis said.
"You'd be surprised at how many people come out here and say they've never ridden on a train," he said.
Midland eventually would like to build a depot at Ottawa, similar to one that once existed, said Dave Holland, who serves as the Midland depot's grade crossing officer.
"That just depends on our money -- it's not part of the grant," Holland said.
To help raise funds for its cost of the project, Midland is getting a return visit from Thomas the Tank Engine. The train, from the popular cartoon character, will be "hauling" children and their parents the next two weekends.
|Baldwin -- Thomas the Tank Engine returns for an encore visit this weekend to Baldwin's Midland Railway Depot.The train engine, built to look like the cartoon character, is in town Friday through Sunday and again the next weekend, Aug. 8-10.Tickets have been on sale since May and about 9,000 people are expected, said Art Davis, chief clerk at the depot. Ticket information is available by calling, toll free, (866) 468-7630.The train will make 25-minute round trips from Baldwin to Norwood.Thomas the Tank Engine drew large crowds during its visit in May 2002.|