As a child, growing up in a house that was next to the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (FRISCO) Cuba subdivision in Webster Groves, Missouri with the Webster station that contained at the time a little train layout that was called the Springfield and Ozark aka the Big Bend Railroad Club. I was always intrigued by the trains. The members were always welcoming to me and my family. I had two uncles that worked for the roads. One worked on the Illinois Central and the other the Missouri Pacific, running the Kirkwood Local. I would often run down to the MoPac tracks after school to meet my uncle and ride his engine back to the Mill Creek yard, where he would then put me on a FRISCO train that was headed back to Webster in time for dinner. Of course, that was pre 9-11. I would ride my bike to the Maplewood Sutton Ave location and then head to the Lindenwood yard. Still other times, I would ride to the Kirkwood station and hang with a great group of people that would sit in the grass in their lawn chairs that the kept in the trunk of their cars. I started visiting Kirkwood station when I was just nine years old. I met a great man there, his name was Jim Chenault. He took me under his wing and showed me what a true railfan is and should be. He passed away this past December. Because of him, I would visit Kirkwood anytime I could.
I got job back in 1999 as a shuttle bus driver. It gave me a opportunity to see the country during my vacations. I got married in 2006, after being one of the original downtown St. Louis loft residents, moved to the rural western suburb of Washington. I had been to the town several times before. the first time was when my father and mother bought our new car at a dealer in Washington that has long since closed. I took the first AMTRAK train that started to be a test stop in Washington. I was there the first week they started stopping there permanently. I would take my bike on AMTRAK and get off and ride around Washington on the trail or around Downtown Washington. I remember each and every hill. Afterall, the town is on the banks of the mighty Missouri River.
When I got married and moved to Washington, I went to a public hearing about the planned rebirth of the downtown area. I was the only member of the community to stand up and speak about the TIF. I was for it, after a bank was going to expand and create a great new landmark for Washington. Another developer was going to create group of row-condos that fronted the front door of Washington. The town has a passenger depot and a freight depot. The benches in Railroad Park face in and have not been turned around so that railfans can watch the trains. The freight depot was recently converted to a retail.manufacturing business. The visitors center staff are Chamber employees. Most do not understand or have time for the railfan. I am trying to change that slowly. I am trying to show them, if you show interest in railfans , they will come and visit the town like all those motorcycle folks that visit town.
A few miles east down the Missouri Pacific line, lies Pacific. This town, was renamed after the railroad carrying its name. The town has hosted railroad days as long as I can remember. The steam trains have paid a visit, Amtrak has paid a special whistle stop. A local group of business owners in the downtown area, got together made a park next to the mainline of the Union Pacific and the BNSF railroads. the lines parallel each other pretty much most of the way from the Mississippi River. The line part from each other, in Pacific. BNSF’s Cuba subdivision heads to Springfield. Missouri via Cuba, Missouri. thus it namesake. UP’s heads west through two tunnels to Jefferson City and on to Kansas City.
A local concrete contractor turned property owner, found a local railfan, that was turned off by the Washington, Missouri folks not being interested in railfans, and the business they could bring to the town. The railfan, Bob, discovered that the property owner had a building right next to the UP tracks and was interesting letting railfans start a viewing center in the building. The property owner, Ron had no idea what a railfan was. All he knew that the city hosted a annual Railroad Days that attracted lots of people. Plans started growing. When I was first introduced to the center and both gentleman. I feel like they have a plan. I know that it is a grassroots plan. They seem to have the city of Pacific officials watching cautiously. I hope to bring them together with folks from Rochelle, IL and Galesburgs, IL. These two communities have shown that if you plan, build it, they will come. I have visited the center several times. I have even podcast the Let’s Talk Trains show from there. I am pleased that each time I go, I see new visitors and new blood watching the train. The center is in a great spot. next to two different railroads. The city is on the Old Route 66, now known as Interstate 44 which runs from St. Louis to Tulsa. Their website is still in the infant stages but it is up and running: http://www.Route66railfan.com. Keep watching for updates on their progress in upcoming blog post.
That’s it for this posting, we will to it again soon.