All aboard…for downtown Railfest

By Amy Geiszler-Jones | August 29, 2018

3rd annual Railfest features train rides

This year’s Railfest offers a rare opportunity to ride the rails in downtown Wichita. 

Volunteers with the Great Plains Transportation Museum, located at 700 E. Douglas across from Union Station, have restored the museum’s 1934 Whitcomb locomotive. 

It will pull several of the museum’s vintage cabooses during the third annual Railfest Sept. 22, according to Drew Meek, committee chair.

Railfest will run from 9 a.m. 4 p.m. Admission is $10 for 13 and older, free to those 12 and under. Included is a tour of the museum, face-painting and other kid-friendly activities, live music and guides who will provide histories of the museum’s locomotives and other cars. 

Tickets will be available on-site only during the day of the event. 

The train will run on the museum’s lead track from the north side of the museum grounds to the track lead at Union Station, which is a distance of about two city blocks, Meek said. 

The train will move back and forth three times, allowing the riders to get a train ride of about 1¼ miles. 

There is a separate ticket price to ride the train: $5 for ages 3 and older, free to those 2 and younger if not occupying a seat. 

The train will also be available to ride during the Open Streets ICT event from noon-5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, four miles of Douglas between College Hill and Delano will be shut down for various activities.

Volunteers run the museum, with twice-a-week work nights for tasks such as preserving and restoring the museum’s rolling stock. 

“We always need volunteers,” said Meek. “Anyone who is passionate about railroading or history is welcome.”

With the restoration of the Whitcomb, two of the museum’s six locomotives are now operational. 

The Whitcomb’s first service duty in the 1930s was to haul New York City subway cars off the barges at the 207th Street subway yards. Its last service duty was at the Mobile Oil refinery, in Augusta, Kansas.

Proceeds from Railfest help the museum continue to preserve, restore and exhibit the history of railroading in Wichita and the Great Plains.

“All of our large equipment is outdoors,” he said. “The cost to keep equipment intact in the outdoor elements costs lots of money. ”  

Parking for Railfest is available in Old Town, with many areas being served with the Q-line trolley that transports visitors to the museum. 

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