Hanging around trains seems to be in Ed Pavey’s blood.
No, the Valley City resident didn’t follow his father and grandfather to work for the railroads. Indeed, his father advised against it.
“One of the things that Dad always told me was, ‘You can do whatever you want in life, but don’t go to work for them,’” Pavey recalled, noting that his father worked six days a week and found it hard to get consecutive days off.
Instead, Pavey has volunteered for Wichita’s Great Plains Transportation Museum since retiring from a long career in law enforcement in 2018.
“If we don’t preserve the history, it’ll be gone,” said Pavey, who spent two decades as a Sedgwick County sheriff’s deputy and nearly three with the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center.
Pavey is one of about two dozen active volunteers for the museum, which is located at 700 E. Douglas across from Union Station. The two-story museum, which opened its doors to the public in 1986, has indoor exhibits of railroad items such as signs, lanterns and tools, while outdoors on the railroad tracks it showcases different rolling stock.
The museum is run entirely by volunteers, who spend time guiding visitors and operating the reception and gift shop areas when the museum is open and doing upkeep in the museum at other times. The museum is open on weekends April through October and on Saturdays from November through March.
“There’s a lot of sweat equity that goes into working on this equipment and maintaining this equipment,” said Mike Martin, who became an active volunteer when his career in public relations brought him to Wichita in 2010 to work for Cargill. Martin spent the first 20 years of his PR career working for the BSNF Railway.
Pavey and Martin have personal connections to the museum’s two largest displays: Santa Fe steam locomotive No. 3768 and Santa Fe diesel-electric locomotive No. 93.
As a rail yard engineer, also known as a hostler, Pavey’s grandfather would move locomotives between tracks to keep the trains organized and on schedule. Not long ago, Pavey found a photo published in a railway magazine of his grandfather in the cab of No. 3768.
As a BSNF Railway PR director, Martin went to its San Bernadino, Calif., plant in the early 1990s to photograph No. 93 when it was painted in a historic red, silver, black and yellow paint scheme that BSNF revived. The paint scheme, which had first been used on the Santa Fe’s Super Chief passenger train locomotives between 1937 and 1971, was referred to as the Warbonnet scheme. The Lionel model train company applied it to its models in the early 1950s, helping it gain popularity and recognition.
Martin’s connections are now coming in handy as he and Pavey co-chair the museum’s recently launched campaign to cosmetically restore the No. 93. The elements have not been kind to the locomotive, resulting in fading, peeling paint and patches of rust.
The museum has enlisted the help of actor Michael Gross, perhaps best known for his role as Steven Keaton on the “Family Ties” TV series, to be what museum president John Deck is calling “the face and voice of our efforts to restore 93.” The fundraising goal is $193,000.
Martin got to know Gross in the 1980s when the railroad enthusiast did some promotional work for the railway company. Martin accompanied the actor and his family on a private train ride.
“He had done some pro bono video work for Santa Fe training videos, and he only asked for an opportunity to ride one of our private passenger cars, from LA to Chicago and back, with his family.”
Martin also culled his collection of Santa Fe Warbonnet merchandise from when the paint scheme was revived to put together a second-floor display case in the museum to help showcase the fundraiser campaign.
His son, Matt, is a trainmaster at the BNSF Railway’s Amarillo, Texas, freight yard.
“My son’s also a big model railroader, and now our 5-year-old grandson has become enamored with chugs, as he calls them. So, yeah, it’s kind of become a family thing now.”
For more information on volunteering or supporting the Great Plains Transportation Museum, visit www.gptm.us, call 316-263-0944 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Amy Geiszler-Jones at email@example.com.