Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Nostalgic Ride on the Rails

I haven’t ridden on a train in a very long time, so yesterday was an awesome experience. Instead of heading to the office as usual, I boarded the Columbine car, one of several Union Pacific heritage series cars being pulled by the Challenger 3985 – a 1940s-era steam engine. It is one of only two steam engines of its kind that still runs today.

Soon we were departing for Washington, Missouri. I was awed by the site of the fog still rolling off the Missouri River as we pulled away from Jefferson City. The thick, billowing steam from the engine continuously rolled over the top of the train, helping block the bright glare of the sun on this crisp fall morning. The sway on the tracks and the clacking of the car connectors wasn’t enough to distract from the beautiful view of bluffs and trees now beginning to sport their fall colors.

Not too long into the journey, we passed over the Osage River. This is where a second train bridge will soon be built with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds awarded to MoDOT. This project will help eliminate another bottleneck that impacts the speed and velocity of today’s modern trains.

Later, we passed over the Gasconade River where UP eliminated a bottleneck two years ago by completing a second track over the Gasconade River. Then just before we got to Washington, the train correctly stopped to let the westbound Amtrak train go by.

Throughout the journey, we must have been quite a sight to see for the many people who were stopped at crossings along the way and in the quaint towns nestled by the tracks.

Although the Challenger left us behind there to travel on to Illinois, it will return to Missouri this weekend as a part of Sedalia’s sesquicentennial celebration. What a fitting tribute to a city that was shaped by railroad history. What a great way I have discovered to see Missouri!