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Honoring The Past At Railroad Day

By Kevin Gray

Young Hepanna Gayton from Lawrence likes trains; his father, Danny, and mother, Rhonda, enjoy running, which is why the family came to Osawatomie Saturday for Railroad Day. Hepanna and his two sisters could visit the Missouri Pacific Depot Museum and his parents could participate in the Tri-Ko Run the Rails 5K.

The pastor of the Fontana Christian Church, Chris McCullison, also likes trains. Model trains to be exact. McCullison said he has several full-scale table-top railroads. Choosing his smaller working model trains display, he spent Railroad Day in the Missouri Pacific Depot Museum showing young model train enthusiasts how to operate the trains. “I have the trains, so this is the best place to spend Railroad Day,” McCullison said.

Children liked the train cars, but their favorite car appeared to be the yellow school bus on train wheels. “This is the one that seemed to run more often all day,” McCullison said, as children attempted to place cars on tracks.

Four-year-old Kevin Newcomb loves the caboose, said his mother Jacki Newcomb, referring to the one that sits behind the depot museum. “If Kevin becomes a railroader someday, like I did, he’ll be the seventh generation to ride the rails,” Newcomb said. Newcomb is a carman, she said, and works for the Greenbrier Rail Service headquartered in the Union Pacific train yard in Osawatomie.

Pointing to an old black and white photograph, she said that is John Punshon, the first generation. “John also built several homes here in Osawatomie during the Great Depression. Being a railroader, they, the railroaders, didn’t really feel the depression. That’s because they were railroaders,” Newcomb said.

Retired 30-year railroader Charlie Brand knew the original Grand International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers charter from 1887 should have a home instead of the closet at his house. The charter used to hang in Room A at the Osawatomie City Hall, he said, where they used to meet. “But the city needed the space, so we started meeting elsewhere and bringing the charter to meetings. Then, it just ended up in my closet, when the frame was getting dinged up,” Brand said.

The charter, said Brand, had been issued in Holden, Mo., in 1887 for the T. F. Dunaway Division number 336 of the engineers’ brotherhood. Before long, Osawatomie became a major maintenance center, and the charter eventually was moved to Osawatomie.

By 1903, for example, the Osawatomie engine house or “roundhouse” had expanded to eight stalls, the third largest in the Missouri Pacific Co. behind St. Louis and Baring Cross, Ark. In the 1980s, the Missouri Pacific had merged with and became the Union Pacific Railroad.

The members felt the charter should have a place where it could be displayed.

After a vote, Brand said, they chose the museum. “After all, this building was a Missouri Pacific Depot, and we have the original charter. It should be here, and the presentation made on Railroad Day,” Brand said.

The Run the Rails 5K attracted 171 runners. “But over 200 probably participated, as we had walkers and volunteers for some of our Tri-Ko clients. Children in strollers were not counted in the 171,” said Susan Barrett, Tri-Ko director of Community Relations and Development.

Runners for the 5K, an event used to kick off the day’s events, included runners and their families from 28 different cities, Barrett said. Several runners, who visited the vendors and purchased food, told me what a beautiful town we have and how they enjoyed running through the park and Osawatomie. They plan to come again,” Barrett said.

All proceeds from Run the Rails benefited Tri-Ko. “As it looks, we grossed over $10,000. Our expenses were right at $2,500 with $1,742 spent at the T-shirt shop in Osawatomie, $500 for the KC Track Club to do our timing, and the rest was spent on bib numbers and awards. Basically, it looks like we made around $7,500,” Barrett said.

Barrett said Tri-Ko was pleased with the support from the community and the volunteers. “We could not do it without everyone. All our food and water was donated, and all advertising donated from three local newspapers,” Barrett said.

After the race and a cool down period, Danny Gayton, who finished first overall with a time of 18:15, was eating oranges with his family in the museum’s courtyard. “My son, Hepanna, likes trains. This is why we came to Osawatomie. We wanted to bring him to the museum and spend the day,” said Gayton.

After their snack time, Gayton and his family visited the museum, where Danny and Hepanna read “Tell Time With Thomas”, a children’s train book, and Hepanna and his sisters listened to Chris McCullison telling Hepanna and the other kids, “We get a bunch of people in here, and I start having train wrecks.” Gayton also collected information packets from informational booths and vendors at the museum.

McCullison took his time with the children to show them how to place train cars on the tracks and how to operate the on/off switch. “At Christmas time, I set up a much bigger working model train display and invite children in. They love it,” McCullison said.

Tri-Ko client Lisa Marton and Tri-Ko staff member Retha Barnett, walked the race route. “God gave me this job. They’re my angels,” said Barnett. Marton said she could not wait for the race to begin. “I walk a lot and watch my diet. I’ve lost 100 pounds, which is why I want to be in the race,” Marton said.

Top male finishers were Gayton – 18:15, Mark Fuchs – 18:39, Mike Hake – 19:40; top female finishers were Marcie Caldwell – 22:24, Gwen Ingersoll – 23:57, Amanda Jones – 24:43; top female children finishers (1-13) were Emily Erickson – 29:28, Madison Matthews – 30:33, Brianna Francis – 32:43; and top male finisher (1-13) was Dylan Page – 43:29.

Although Nikki Ingersoll, a Paola High School senior, had not run since middle school, she came in second in her first race. “I regretted not running in high school. I didn’t do cross country or track, but I’ve been going to the Y here in Osawatomie every day and working out for a purpose, not just to look good, but to be healthy,” said Ingersoll, who will be attending Washburn University in the fall.

Fontana Elementary fifth grader Emily Erickson, who finished first overall in the 1 to 13 age bracket, said she began running several months ago. “My grandfather has Parkinson’s so mom and I ran in a race to raise money for Parkinson’s,” Erickson said.

Since then, Emily has run in several races. One at Shawnee Mission Park included both The Strut 5K and the Polar Bear Plunge. “After the run, you could jump into the Shawnee Mission Lake. But they had to cut ice out of the way first,” Erickson said. She also ran in the Tri-Ko La Cygne run.

The Railroad Day Arts and Crafts/Vendor Fair, ongoing all day in the Osawatomie City Auditorium, brought in a steady stream of visitors, while the stage provided a location for musical performances by the Band of Oz, Asylum Bridge and Scarecrow.

A few of Osawatomie’s founders and famous citizens from both sides of the law were able to stop by with the help of Osawatomie Time Machine. The 1950s era teacher, Mrs. Cox (Julane Wilson) explained why “under God” had been added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1955 (the Cold War); the poet and educator May Williams Ward (Beth Gulley) talked about her travels and read sample poetry from one of her books; the outlaw Marshall Cleveland (Asher Gulley) shared a few words; and Owen Brown (Israel Gulley) reminisced about his father, John Brown, and Bleeding Kansas.

Osawatomie High School forensics team members performed dramatic readings and skits. And, if parents did not get enough pictures taken at the railroad museum of their children playing with the model train set, a petting zoo allowed children to pet small animals like rabbits and goats.

The city of Osawatomie started as a farming community, said Grady Atwater, John Brown Museum site administrator, but the railroad changed all that. “Before the railroad, life around here was basically a struggle. Osawatomie really grew with the railroad and ultimately in other ways, such as the arts,” Atwater said.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad Co. considered both Osawatomie and Paola for potential sites for their Central Kansas Division, Atwater said. Osawatomie won out, he said, when Paola city officials insulted the railroad agent. “The Paola official had said within hearing of the railroad agent, ‘Who would pay for two crossings?’”

The railroad agent left Paola and, while eating a meal at an Osawatomie restaurant, complained about the comment. After the agent left the restaurant, Atwater explained, and was riding towards Lane, someone ran to let Osawatomie city leaders know about what happened in Paola. “They caught up with the railroad agent, and it’s all history now. Osawatomie got their railroad,” Atwater said.

 

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Posted by admin on Apr 27 2011. Filed under News and Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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