Train rides to resume at Prairie Village

RAILROAD COMMITTEE members at Prairie Village work on Saturday to prepare the passenger cars for use on opening day, May 2. Among those at work were Harold Boer (left), committee president, Gary Johnson and Rick Meyer. Plywood was temporarily placed over two openings where windows will be installed.

Members of the Prairie Village railroad committee were all aboard on Saturday, preparing the passenger cars for use in 2021. Like many attractions, the Prairie Village, Herman & Milwaukee Railroad did not run in 2020.

"There was one day we took it out to make sure it was working," said Harold Boer, committee president.

On Saturday, committee members were cleaning the passenger cars and making repairs in preparation for opening day, May 2, when the train will run at 2 p.m. This year, train rides will be offered regularly at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. In addition, the train will run on Mother's Day and throughout the Steam Threshing Jamboree.

The cost is $4 per person with children age 3 and under riding free. A family pass for $15 can be purchased for a family of up to five. One train ride is included in the cost of a season pass.

Currently, the committee plans to run steam only twice during the summer months -- on June 26, Railroad Day, and during the Jamboree.

"It's fairly involved to get the steam up and running -- about four hours in the morning," Boer said, explaining why a diesel engine will be used most weekends.

Only one steam engine -- the No. 29 which was built in Lima, Ohio, in 1944 -- is operational. The No. 11, which was built in Pennsylvania in 1924, was dismantled in the spring of 2019 so the boiler could be replaced.

"The COVID pandemic has slowed up the construction of the new boiler," Boer said.

In preparing for the summer season, volunteers have been replacing rotten wood around windows in the passenger cars, replacing unused doors with windows, and installing security latches on the windows. Boer explained that children like to stick their hands out of the windows, and the latches will ensure no one is injured due to a falling window.

In addition, an air compressor was used to blow peeling paint flakes from the walls of the cars.

"Our goal this year is to have the inside painted," Boer said.

Bill Lutter, the committee historian, is pleased the trains will be running again this year. Although he remains somewhat concerned about the public health threat posed by the COVID pandemic, he also knows the train rides are an integral part of the Prairie Village experience.

"It builds a lot of interest and shows what it was like in the past," Lutter said. "People sometimes complain it's not comfortable. That's the way it was!"

Normally, at this time of year, the railroad committee would be working with Faron Wahl, manager of Prairie Village, to staff the train for school tours. Most years, they give rides to 1,400 to 1,500 school children. This year, that is not likely to happen, though committee members remain interested.

"If they request one, we could probably accommodate it," Boer said.

Even without this normal start to their season, the railroad committee anticipates a good year.

"We have a lot of people interested," Boer said.