Old Curiosity Shop
By Bob Davis dnry122@yahoo.com

Old Curiosity Shop for Apr. 2019

Bobby Boy visits Kansas

Kansas:  “She’s my Sunflower from the Sunflower State”  This song for Kansas is in honor of my sister-in-law, who is a native of that state and who has my undying gratitude for recommending back in 1986 that I try square dancing as an activity to improve my social life.  I won’t go into the long story that follows, but will get into my experiences in her old homeland.  

My first trips through Kansas were under cover of darkness; it’s not the most scenic state, and long distance trains generally pass through in the middle of the night.  It wasn’t until 1981 that I set foot there, heading east on my “No Scene Twice Seen” train trip from Pasadena to Chicago on the Southwest Limited.  It was after midnight that we stopped in Dodge City, and I got off to stretch and observe that the place was very quiet; I guessed that Marshal Dillon had chased all the bad guys out.  

 Finally, in 2007, on our first cross-country RV trip, we drove through the southeast corner, for the shortest segment of US 66 between Baxter Springs and Galena, about 12 miles.  At Galena we stopped at the local historical museum, which has a small diesel locomotive and a caboose on display.  I didn’t get a really good look at Kansas until we did our 2011 RV trip.  We came from Colorado on US 400; Pat got this photo showing why this is not a good place for mountaineers or alpine skiing enthusiasts:

One of the first towns east of the Colorado line is Garden City, home of the Garden City Western RR.  As luck would have it, one of their locomotives was at work, switching local industries near the BNSF (ex Santa Fe) main line.  I parked the motor home and walked back to get some photos; here’s one of them.  

After the train headed away from the road, I was walking back toward the RV when a Finney County Sheriff’s patrol car drove up.  The deputy asked if that was my RV, and I said, “Yes, is it in the wrong place?” and he replied, “It’s fine; I thought you might be having trouble.”  When I told him why I stopped there, and that I had finished taking pictures, he offered me a ride back to where we were parked, which was gratefully accepted, considering that it was hot and humid that day.  A kindly welcome to Kansas.

Our first night in Kansas was at the Gunsmoke RV Park in Dodge City, where the state flag was proudly displayed:

Next day I found one of the things that were on my list of “Things to see in Kansas”— A General Electric locomotive that had worked for the Hutchinson & Northern RR, which was the “big brother” to H&N No. 1, which went to Orange Empire Ry. Museum (my home road) in Perris CA.  Unlike No. 1, H&N No. 2 is inoperable, and is on static display at the Strataca Salt Mine Museum in Hutchinson.

Our next campground was in Salina, and right across the road was a museum of farm and industrial machinery, such as this restored tractor: 

Next day we went to Abilene, where we rode the Abilene & Smoky Valley train, which on special occasions is powered by a restored Santa Fe steam locomotive, but for our visit, the engine was the diesel that replaced the electrics on the Hutchinson & Northern.  The train runs on a former Rock Island track to Enterprise KS, and the vintage passenger car is named for the town (much to the enjoyment of visiting Star Trek fans).  Blues Brothers fans who are very observant will find that the car came from the MKT RR, the Katy, as in “She Took the Katy (and left me a mule to ride)”

 

Not far from the railroad is the Museum of Independent Telephony, where I felt right at home amid all the telecomm hardware that was once part of my “day job”.   Here’s a switchboard that brought to mind Lily Tomlin’s “Ernestine” character on “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in” TV show of 50 years ago.

 

And this “step exchange” selector unit is like the ones that I became very familiar with before SCE went to electronic switching systems. I used to tell visitors that our step exchanges were “made in Chicago from old pinball machine parts.”


But after all this technological history, it was time to rejoin the 21st Century at head east on I-70, pass through Topeka, bypass Atchison, and cross into Missouri.  We’ll take up the Show-Me state in a future installment, and our next chapter will start with the Bluegrass State, which I haven’t explored, Kentucky.   Until then, keep the shiny side up and the dirty side down, and watch out for the bears.

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