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Ann Rutledge #304/Kansas City Mule #301 Travelogue by Ed Alexander
January 16, 2001
Half Day Trip from Kansas City to Sedalia, MO and Return

Kansas City's incredibly grand Union Station will once again serve Amtrak beginning in Nov. 2001. That should make this little morning jaunt quite popular. Since 1985, passengers have entered a hole in the ground and waited for trains in a subterranean waiting room a block from the city's historic train station. But on Jan. 17, 2001 I watched as the new "Amtrak Tickets" sign went up inside a small portion of the meticulously restored Union Station.

The sign in Union Station reads, "FUTURE AMTRAK ROOM. With the return of passenger rail service to Union Station in Nov. 2001, this east midway space will serve as the Amtrak Waiting Room. The room to your right, originally a drugstore, will be the Amtrak tick office. Passengers will access the train platform through a door at the northeast end of the midway."

[Update received from Ed Alexander on December 29, 2001: Word from the information booth at Union Station is that bids were put out in December 2001 for work on the arrival platform. So, nothing is close to being started. Signs heralding the target date have been removed. An empty room and the "Amtrak Tickets" sign remain.]

A sign on a stairway to the right invites you upstairs to a railroad exhibit. The stairs are crumbling, so the prospect of anything worthwhile is dim. At the top of the stairs is a look through large windows at the heating & cooling system of the depot. I am not a repairman so I continue down the corridor and am surprised to find a real museum devoted to the building and restoration of this magnificent depot. It is so fancy that little overhead lights come on when you walk into each section. Railroad artifacts fill the museum cases. This place is great! The exhibit opened about November of 2000.

On the outside wall of Union Station is another story, told by bullet holes, a reminder of the "Union Station Massacre" of June 17, 1933. The information booth attendant will show you a picture of exactly where to see the bullet holes. From the main entrance, you go out the southernmost of the two sets of main doors. The bullet holes are at around eye level just around the door to the south, on the main wall.

The story was explained in a placard in the walkway between the Westin Hotel and the Hallmark Building. "June 17, 1933 Bank robber Frank Nash passed through the station as he was being transported to the Federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas. When gangsters (reputedly led by 'Pretty Boy' Floyd) made a rescue attempt, a bloody gunfight broke out. Nash along with four FBI agents and policemen were killed."

2001 Jan. 16 Tuesday 7:00am CST Kansas City, Missouri, Depot-Below-the-Street

The building opens at 7:00am. I arrive at 7:20am with my 4-month old son and buy my ticket, and we board at 7:25am. To park at a garage connected to the station is $10 a day. But I'm staying at the Westin Hotel, which is connected by elevated walkway to Union Station, which is a block from the present station.

2001 Jan 16 Tuesday 7:30am (7:30am scheduled) CST, Train #304, Ann Rutledge We are underway right on schedule. The conductor had taken our tickets outside on the platform. We boarded in middle of the train, with one coach open to the right, and the cafe/business class car to the left. The second coach car to the right was closed off. Maybe 20 people are on the train, which is referred to only as "Train # 304," never the "Ann Rutledge." At no time in either direction did they ever use a name. The schedule printed by the Missouri Department of Transportation lists only numbers. From the station to almost the first stop is mostly an industrial area. My son's eyes are wide open as he takes in this new stimulation. He is awake and alert for the whole trip.

2001 Jan 16 Tuesday 7:49am (7:49am scheduled) CST Independence, Mo.

Just before Independence we finally enter some rolling farmland. The stop is only a couple minutes and we resume.

2001 Jan 16 Tuesday 8:06am (8:06am scheduled) CST Lee's Summit, Mo.

8:20am Pleasant Hill

8:30am Strasburg, sleepy little village with a tall steeple.

2001 Jan 16 Tuesday 8:53am (8:49 scheduled) CST Warrensburg, Mo.

Stop at Warrensburg's stone station

2001 Jan 16 Tuesday 9:19am (9:19am scheduled) CST Sedalia, Mo.

Three of us detrain here. The train depot is open but gutted. It has a foldup table but that's about it. It looks like it was captured in a war and then abandoned. (A pamphlet I picked up later in town projected the depot would be refurbished in 1999. Looks like it didn't happen.) I've got 90 minutes before the westbound Kansas City Mule comes through.

I head straight south on the winding main street, and the most noticeable structure is an old hotel. It is odd because the neon lettering above the entryway is completely lit, not burned-out as would be expected of an old hotel. It is about 20 degrees and cloudy and I'd like to wait for the next train somewhere besides the depressing depot. I hope the hotel is not a dump.

Well, inside I find the recently restored Bothwell Hotel. It is elegant. Two years ago it was returned to its 1927 glory. Even the old metal arrow above the passenger elevator door works, and follows the floor numbers in an arc. I rest in a nice, firm sofa in the middle of the plush lobby and give my son his bottle. There is an expresso counter connected to the hotel, and cookies just happen to be on sale at half off. I ask the girl at the counter for some warm water to heat the baby's bottle, and she fills my container with steaming hot water from the coffee machine. I tip her and her associate a couple of dollars as I left, since I appreciated their thoughtfulness. Soon it is almost 11am, so I bundle up the baby and walk quickly back up the street to the depot.

2001 Jan. 16, Tuesday 11:10am (11:07 scheduled) CST Sedalia, Mo., K.C. Mule

Who is on the train to wave me aboard but the same conductor I had on the run up here. The operating crew change is somewhere mid-state. I tell him I have business class, and he looks at me a bit surprised. When I got on in K.C., somebody asked him what the difference was between coach and business class. He just said, "14 dollars!" He explained it was the same kind of car, and the same seats with the same legroom. But where I'm getting on with only 1/3 of the route to go, the extra fare is only $7. I get a coupon for $4.50 off on anything in the cafe car, all the pop I want and a USA Today. Also, I get an unobstructed view out of the back of the train AND my baby & I are the only ones in the car besides the attendant!

2001 Jan. 16, Tuesday 11:41am (11:41 scheduled)CST Warrensburg, Mo.

Baby has fallen asleep and remains so for the rest of the trip. I get a big ham & cheese sub sandwich and paid the $1.75 left after the coupon. It is slightly frozen and I persuade the attendant to microwave it for me.

2001 Jan 16, Tuesday 12:45pm (1:10 scheduled)CST K.C. Depot-Below-the-Street

Unlike every other train I've been on, the cafe car attendant stays on duty until we pull into the station. I got another pop from him not 5 minutes before we arrived. I bundle up my son under my parka and take him right next door where his mother works, in time for his lunchtime feeding.

And the fare for this was $24 roundtrip rail and $7 for business class on the way back. Pretty good for a entire morning of fun.

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