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Archive for Saturday, May 11, 2013

Railroad enthusiasts celebrate National Train Day at Santa Fe Depot

May 11, 2013

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Five-year-old Piper Journey sports a conductor's hat and a blows a train whistle as she waits with her stepfather, Devin Zell, of Lawrence, Saturday at the Santa Fe Depot, 413 E. Seventh St. Attendees listened to a presentation from David Calwell of the National Railway Historical Society's Topeka chapter.

Five-year-old Piper Journey sports a conductor's hat and a blows a train whistle as she waits with her stepfather, Devin Zell, of Lawrence, Saturday at the Santa Fe Depot, 413 E. Seventh St. Attendees listened to a presentation from David Calwell of the National Railway Historical Society's Topeka chapter.

For some, the sound of a train whistle has always meant adventure, opportunity and freedom. It still means that to railroad enthusiasts in Lawrence, who said Saturday that they aren’t ready for the day when the train leaves Lawrence and never comes back.

More than 100 people gathered Saturday at the Santa Fe Depot in East Lawrence to celebrate National Train Day, the anniversary of the 1869 completion of the transcontinental railroad. Railroad historian Dave Calwell, of Topeka, told stories from his 34-year career working in trains, and two lucky visitors won round-trip tickets to either Chicago or St. Louis.

The event was hosted by Amtrak and Depot Redux, a volunteer group in Lawrence that has worked to improve the station and advocates for the city to take it over from BNSF Railway Co. The group hopes the city of Lawrence will eventually buy the 57-year-old depot so it can qualify for federal grants that could pay for improvements.

“We want to get people recharged to bring back awareness and the time is now,” Maynard-Moody said.

Calwell, the historian, said he still travels the country by rail — as a retired railroad worker, he has a free pass — and urged Lawrence residents to preserve their own piece of railroad history.

“We don’t want to take a chance at losing this station,” he said. “In other places, you lose the station, you lose the freight. Then you lose the passengers, the business and the trains.”

City officials have said in the past that they have not yet found a public use for the station that would allow the local government to take it over from BNSF. Amtrak also uses the station.

“With deep pockets, I think the city could do more,” Lawrence Mayor Mike Dever told the assembled group on Saturday. The recent economic downturn, he said, had stalled some plans to improve the East Lawrence landmark with bike paths and other amenities. Some of those ideas were still in the works, he said.

“There’s lots of talk, but I hope we can actually do some of this in the future,” Dever said.

Comments

gccs14r 11 months ago

12k people commute from Lawrence to KC every day. Put them on a train and there suddenly is enough traffic at Union Station in KC to warrant expanded bus service. And for those who work farther east, they can hop off at the stadium complex and grab bus service from there.

It would work, but obviously the trains have to be there first, and they have to be on time (meaning having priority over freight on shared rail).

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none2 11 months, 1 week ago

GCCS, Tgil is correct. You think they are going to make a commuter rail in this part of the county? Why on earth would they? Lets consider just Lawrence to the metro area. Once you get everybody to Grand Central Station, you'd have to get all these people to destinations all over the metro area. There is not just a handful of destinations for prospective riders. If their final destination is Johnson County, K-10 would still be faster.

The energy spent on such a pie in the sky idea would be better spent improving internet speeds. It is a lot cheaper and faster to haul ideas than people. Thus a lot more energy could be saved focusing on the internet, then trying to bring back the golden days of trains. It would be nice if they could just keep what they got. However, odds are in just a few years Kansas will loose even more access to trains as BNSF wants to reroute the Southwest Chief way from southwestern Kansas, southeastern Colorado, and northeastern New Mexico. Instead they want to route them from Newton, KS down to Amarillo, TX. While it will be a boon for Amarillo and other communities along that route, it will be a blow to those who currently have access as well as those that like to travel through the mountains.

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Tgill 11 months, 1 week ago

Gccs I just wonder what you have neen smoking Not gonna happen ever. private enterprise cant make money at it the feds aint gonna fund it and the states dont have the money get your little model train out and fantsize some more

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gccs14r 11 months, 1 week ago

If we'd get commuter rail set up between Lawrence and KC (and should be between Manhattan and Independence, MO), we'd have enough passenger traffic to warrant a newsstand and café at the depot.

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riverdrifter 11 months, 1 week ago

Tgill is correct. If Calwell was a conductor then I am a chinese fandancer. He was never in train service. I was there and did that for Santa Fe, 1974-1990. I'd wager I could tell more tales about the Lawrence depot (zkz-2727) than anybody -unless George Bocquin is still around and I hope he is. The memories come back: conductor Jack Valcour (killed in the yards by a kicked ATSF 525609), Sonny Baker, Jeraldo Hawkes (you know who you are!), conductor George Buhler, L. D. Ellison, E. D. Kirk, Caddilac Cal and amazing Grace, Sonny Sal Vega (killed by a train near Lebo) and the list just goes on.

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Tgill 11 months, 1 week ago

Calwell did work for the railroad he was a claim agent. He never got paid for working on a train and was not a conductor. He may have a pass as do all former ATSF employees who hired out before 1971 (I think) He is just another foamer who plays trains in his mind. Ask him about his track car accident at railroad days a few years ago.........He is truly a railroad legend in his own mind

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