Train enthusiasts young and old converged in Lawrence for the National Train Day celebration Saturday.
Children gathered at Buford Watson Park during the morning hours for an opportunity to clamber inside the old 1073 steam engine that lies dormant on tracks that lead nowhere. Wearing “junior conductor” hats, they listened with wide eyes as Gary Knudsen, a Burlington Northern Santa Fe engineer, told them how the old train used to work.
Knudsen, who said he’s been interested in trains his entire life, explained to the kids how the train they were playing on changed the world.
“Trips across the country used to take months to complete,” Knudsen said. “When trains came along, those same trips took days. The impact was astronomical.”
National Train Day in Lawrence also drew a crowd to Santa Fe Depot, 413 E. Seventh St., for free tours and live local music.
Carey Maynard-Moody mingled with people of all ages as they took in the sounds and free refreshments.
Maynard-Moody, a member of Depot Redux in Lawrence, a group working to restore the Amtrak station, helped organize the day’s events. She arrived in Lawrence by train in 1981 and says keeping the station in good shape is important.
“Celebrations like this are a wonderful opportunity to educate all aged people about their part in restoring a system,” she said. “In getting it back to the future.”
Maynard-Moody and Depot Redux are working to establish the Santa Fe Depot on the National Register of Historic Places. The designation would open funding streams that otherwise would not be available to the depot. The funding could be used to restore the depot to proper working order. The depot is currently maintained by volunteer cleaners and staffed for arrivals and departures.
Cameron Stussie, 11, said he hopes passenger trains become more commonplace in Lawrence. Stussie, who’s taken a train trip from Kansas to California, said he preferred it to riding in a car.
“It’s really neat how they travel such great distances and with such great comfort,” Stussie said. “It’s more fun, even if it does get a little bumpy.”
Maynard-Moody smiled as she watched the crowd mill about inside the old depot.
“It’s a gateway to the city,” Maynard-Moody said. “It should be something we’re proud of.”