The Little Melvern Caboose

12961232_10153358390977035_7246945173445784745_oIf you have a train enthusiast in your life, Melvern, Kansas, is the place to be. Off the main street in Melvern, is located on Kansas 31 highway four miles north of Interstate 35 (exit 160) and three miles east of US 75.

The caboose is located in Melvern Railroad Park,  where you’ll also find the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Pratt Truss Bridge, which  was built in 1909 to carry vehicular traffic over the hand dug cut.

In 2013, the caboose was donated to the Railroad Park by a Topeka couple, Gary and Marcia Ross. Melvern searched for 10 years for a caboose to add to their park. According to an article by the Osage County Herald-Chronicle, a member of the Melvern PRIDE Committee,Larry Salisbury, 12909681_10153358394162035_3562522592804361503_o spotted the caboose off of Interstate 70, west of Topeka. The committee approached the couple and were informed they would donate it to the park.

The caboose was built in 1979 and valued at $10,000. It was moved to Melvern on Oct. 2 . Relocation and installation work was donated by Criqui Construction, of Melvern.12916365_10153358394442035_6956673272270481471_o

The caboose sits next to a platform that was built for people to view the trains going by — a fitting addition to the park.

Inside the caboose are a few chairs, a sink and a refrigerator. Writing on the walls still give instructions the former crew had to adhere to: “nothing should be put in toilet other than human waste and toilet paper” and “use crushed or cubed ice only” to keep things cold in the refrigerator. The crank on the paper towel holder still turns.

A quick history lesson: the use of cabooses goes back to the 1830s when railroads housed trainmen in shanties built onto boxcars or flatcars, according to an article on the Union Pacific’s website.  According to the article: “the caboose served several functions, one of which was as an office for the conductor. A printed “waybill” followed every freight car from its origin to destination, and the conductor kept the paperwork in the caboose. The caboose also carried a brakeman and a flagman. In the days before automatic air brakes, the engineer signaled the caboose with his whistle when he wanted to slow down or stop.”

Today cabooses have been largely replaced by technology, automatic air brakes, which took away the need for manual brakes. “End of Train” devices are installed today to monitor whether the end of the train is moving.12898245_10153358392477035_7119969790147409268_o

It’s places like Melvern’s Railroad Park that keeps the cabooses alive. Melvern’s little caboose transforms visitors to the days when it still traveled the rails and the rhythm of the train can almost still be felt as it glided down the track.  Melvern is a small town with lots to offer in addition to the train including a cafe, a skateboard park and a nice playground which includes facilities.

So, if you’re a train lover, this is the small town to swing into and spend a few moments. Here is a link to the city’s website, where you can also find information about the community and all it has to offer.

 

 

St. Aloysius Church Historic Site

Another road-side gem in Kansas is the St. Aloysius Church Historic Site in unincorporated community of Greenbush, Kansas. To get there go to the website below and follow the map. It’s a 20151025_134922fantastic photo opportunity!

According to the Kansas Travel website, a church and church ruins are side by side. “The 1887 St. Aloysius Church was replaced by a larger building in 1907, but the 20151025_135140newer building was struck by lightning and destroyed in 1982 and the congregation returned to the older building. The registered Kansas state historic site is very picturesque,” the website stated.

Here is the entire text of the legend of Greenbush, which was borrowed from the website mentioned above:

THE LEGEND OF GREENBUSHAccording to legend, in 1869, Father Phillip Colleton, was caught at this site by a furious hail and thunder-
storm. The frightened priest took refuge under his
saddle and vowed t20151025_135140hat if his life was spared, he would build a church on this spot. The fervent promise resulted in the establishment of St. Aloysius, Greenbush. The
first Catholic Church erected in Crawford County was
a wooden frame structure completed in 1871. Located on the Historic “Mission Road”. The church was destroyed by a storm in 1877. Parishioners quarried limestone from Hickory Creek and completed the second church in 1881. The first resident pastor, Father F. M. Verdan, arrived in 1882 and served the church for fifty years. A larger church was needed and completed in 1907. The 1881 church was converted into a community building. The third church stood for 75 years as a landmark before it was struck by lightning and burned in 1982. The ruins remain. The 1881 church was 20151025_134749renovated into a place of worship. Thus the second church became the fourth church on March 9, 1986 and served the people until it closed in 1993. Father Colleton’s promise will continue.

Registered state historic site – February 26, 1994.
Erected by the St. Aloysius Historical Society and Kansas Department of Transportation

Abandoned Kansas: Camptown Greyhound Park

20151025_132339The dogs no longer run at an abandoned track in Frontenac, Kansas. The track, formerly known as Camptown Greyhound Park, wasn’t open very long. Some reported it closed after just 13 weeks of operation, while other sources reported it closed after six months of operation. It reportedly re-opened in 2000 after its 1995 failure. It again closed after another failed attempt.

Today, the massive building and track sits abandoned and rotting. There were rumblings it would be turned into a casino, according to an article by the Capital-Journal. Howev20151025_132313er, the property still sits abandoned.

Camptown was opened in 1995, at a price tag of $14 million. Its operators filed for bankruptcy in 1996, according to the Joplin Globe. According to Greyhound Network News the track was losing $30,000 a week before it was closed. When the track closed there were 12 kennels with about 60 dogs.

20151025_132318“On Nov. 17 (1996), the racing commission issued “Final Orders,” a five-page document containing 32 provisions which included requirements that the track’s owner provide food, water, bedding, and an overflow kennel for greyhounds designated for adoption. Within weeks, 186 greyhounds had been moved into the adoption holding kennel.”

The rescue operation was successful.

The Capital-Journal reported the following: “Two of the original investors bought it for $3 million in 1998, then sold it in 2000 to developer Phil Ruffin, who owns the Wichita Greyhound Park and several casinos.

“Ruffin walked away from the deal because of a disagreement with the state over the investment required to open it and the percentage of return on that investment.”

Today, no activity at the property is apparent. Another property frozen in time.

Frozen in time: Dinosaur World

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On a recent trip to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, we came across a fascinating find — a former amusement park frozen in time. A sign still points to the park roadside. Once you get there, however, it’s evident that the park is long-closed.

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Roaming…forever

The park, which opened in the 1960s, was once the largest dinosaur-themed park in the United States. It once covered 65 acres and had 100 live-sized dinosaurs. It was also known as John Agar’s Land of Kong and Farewell’s Dinosaur Park.

According to a post on http://www.abandonedar.com/,  “The sculptures were created by Emmet Sullivan, who also designed the dinosaur statues in Dinosaur Park and Wall Drug in South Dakota, and the Christ of the Ozarks statue in nearby Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Two local men, A. C. McBride and Orvis Parker handled the actual construction of the dinosaurs.

“Along with the nearby Beaver Dam, a few of the park’s dinosaurs are featured briefly during the opening scenes of the 1969 horror movie ‘It’s Alive!’. The tyrannosaurus is featured in the 2005 film Elizabethtown and is shown on the film’s cover.”

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Former foot bridge 

The park sadly closed in 2005 and is now owned by an adjacent resort. We tried to gain access to the park, but the resort owner is an attorney and doesn’t allow anyone on the grounds anymore. Sadly, like so many abandoned structures, the park has fallen victim to vandalism. The former gift shop was burned to the ground in 2011, likely due to arson.

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Still looking fierce!

Today a few of the dinosaurs can be viewed from the road, which is where I obtained these pictures. (I did not enter the property, rather used a telephoto lens roadside). I did witness a few people hop the fence and walk into the park. Sadly, people who do this ruin access for the rest of us. Private property means one thing: stay out unless you have permission.

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Through the trees

With that said, please enjoy the photos. It was so amazing happening upon this!

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Dinosaur eggs!

Missouri State Pen

wpid-20150815_215557.jpgThis weekend I had the opportunity to live a dream — an overnight paranormal investigation of a decommissioned prison.wpid-20150815_230151.jpg

I went with a group to Missouri State Penitentiary, in Jefferson City, Mo., which was originally opened in 1836 and decommissioned in 2004. It was once the largest prison in the United States and held 5,200 inmates at its peak, according to their website. Known as the “bloodiest 47 acres in America,” this trip was a trip of a lifetime.wpid-20150816_033615.jpg

The prison held men and women, criminally insane and general population. It carried out executions through a gas chamber, which we had the opportunity to tour, and also one person was executed via lethal injection.

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Death row cells included a slab bed.

“A former Union General, the first train robber, 1930s gangsters, world champion athletes and the assassin that killed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. all came through the gates of the Missouri State Penitentiary (MSP) as inmates,” according to the website. To read more about infamous inmates go here.

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Rows and rows of cells. Imagine the noise when this was in operation.

Being in those halls, in those cells, at night, was an incredible experience. I was struck by how much echo carries through the halls and imagined how loud it must have been in “A Hall” with several floors of inmates, two (or more) to a cell.

The feeling from cell to cell varied. In one cell I’d feel nothing. The next, sadness and anger. It’s amazing how energy sticks around long after the physical being is gone.

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Gas chamber

The entire experience was incredible and I hope to go back soon!

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Some inmates got to paint their cells in “A Hall.”

Birthday wanderings

In true Wandering Pigeon style, I got lost for my birthday. What an incredible day it was.

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No food left to serve. REALLY cool building though!

First, one of my passions is photographing old and abandoned things. Especially buildings, and my birthday road trip didn’t disappoint. It provided some surprises along the way too.

Osage City provided my first photographic opportunity. But they weren’t selling slushes that day. 😦 The new Sonic is across town. But, I didn’t want a slush by then…

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The next stop was Osawatomie. I hadn’t been there in a while, and I love driving past the grounds of the state hospital. First, let me tell you if you don’t come in on the major highway, the hospital is not easy to find. After driving around town for quite a while (no, I did not ask for directions), finally we found it…the signs are right on the highway!

The first thing you spot when driving near campus is this huge 11666224_10152869854677035_7320978375395732835_nabandoned structure. The building is beautiful so we drove on campus to get some quick shots. Sure enough, we were spotted and not allowed to stay long. But we got a few pretty cool shots. Would have loved to see the inside of the building, but, of course, that wasn’t possible.

11667427_10152869857382035_4644211741100903781_nOn the way back out of town to our next destination we stopped at a memorial. There are only numbers on the headstones: no names. A faceless cemetery. It’s a very somber, sad place. Each and every stone represents a person — someone who lived and someone who died. I find it a tragedy that we don’t even know their names.11698395_10152869853517035_5001088201834398_n

The next stop on the map was Rantoul, which I honestly didn’t even know existed until this trip. Again, another charming place with a few abandoned structures to photograph. But the real gold mine of this place wasn’t in town, it was outside of town. We were driving and I looked off to the right. I had to do a double-take — there was a field and it was full of jets. Just a random pasture full of planes. We looked to the left and there was a company. The company, called Dodson International Parts, also has a salvage yard full of planes.

11665687_10152869862762035_7393019342610639299_nThe next stop on the list was Neosho Falls. Neosho Falls, located in Woodson County, was founded in 1857, according to Wikipedia. According to the 2010 census, the town has 141 people. The town was once the county seat, but today is mostly abandoned. Entire streets are deserted with e11709611_10152869864792035_3562376862052619439_nmpty lots replacing what was once a block full of homes.

As a newspaper person, I was interested to learn this: “The first newspaper in the county was the Frontier Democrat, which was
started in October, 1869 by Isaac Boyle, who published the paper 11698694_10152869861012035_3849727224818170149_nat Neosho Falls until January, 1870, when it was sold to William H. Slavens, who changed the name to the Neosho Falls Advertiser.” See entire article here.

I got some great pictures in Neosho Falls, especially of the high school, which, according to the article sourced above, closed in 1961.

So, I spent my birthday in wandering bliss! Many more wanderings to co11707528_10152869865072035_5041031833055878670_nme!

I’ll end with one final house: this one actually has a “for sale” sign on it. For $2,500 you can own it! Oh and air conditioning, compliments of nature, is free! (The house to the right is not in Neosho Falls).

Happy birthday, mom

Today is my mom’s 60th birthday. Happy birthday, mom.

In true Wandering Pigeon fashion, my mom and I wandered around Wellington Saturday. My mother, brother and I lived in Wellington for a couple of years before moving to Wichita. I spent my 7th, 8th and part of my 9th grade there — go Wellington Blue Knights! My mom worked at the hospital in Wellington — it was her first medical technician job out of school.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVisiting our old stomping grounds Saturday was a lot of fun — and at 60 degrees in January — what a gift!

Our first stop in Wellington was our home on C Street. We lived right across from an elementary school. My brother and I recall burying a time capsule at that home. Our hopes is that the current residents will one day let us dig it up — if it still exists.

Our next stop was our next house we lived in — a modular home located at the edge of town on A Street. We actually had two modular homes, which were connected by a breezeway. Only the main home remains today — alone and abandoned. I loved that home because I had the bedroom in the back and right out my window was a horse corral. I could see the horses right outside my window — a young girl’s dream!

Today, only the horses’ shed remains, along with the bathtub that served as their watering hole and a lone section of fencing. I’ll admit it made me a bit sad that so little remains. I remembered feeding those horses. While they were not ours, I’d sneak into the shed and grab them a tiny bit of grain as a treat every now and then.

My brother and I used to play in the creek that is across the horse field and in some woods — simple, carefree times for us spent at the creek looking for fish.

That house also is where I learned to respect red ant hills. Railroad tracks ran in front of the home across the road. One hot summer day I foolishly decided to go over to the tracks and stomp on an ant hill. The angry red ants ran up my legs, which were bare because I was in shorts. Even today I have a healthy respect — and even a bit of fear — for ants.

After looking around the outside our former home, we headed back into town and drove by the former Wellington High School, which is no longer being used as the high school. I recalled standing on those steps with my friends waiting for school to start.

Our last stop in Wellington, was at what is known as “The Pink Palace.” This adobe-style, (and very pink), home is something I remember fondly from when I lived there. The external architecture is so striking. The outside of the home is covered in pink stucco and tiles lead up to the majestic home’s entrances. A quick peek in the window yielded a level of architecture I had never seen in a home before. “Exquisite” doesn’t even begin to cover this home — the sad part is that the home needs signification repair though it appears recent restoration attempts have been made.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My family and I have always loved to wander around looking at things — not just places we used to live. We once drove to Nebraska on a whim, came across a lone, old abandoned house that we peeked into. Inside the house was an old piano. My then-child self asked mom if we could take it home. Her response: we’d have to take home the spiders that lived inside it too. Enough said. We, of course, left the piano.

Other family road trips included runs out to California where my mom grew up. We’d throw our bags into the car on a Friday night after mom got home from work and we’d be there by Sunday. We’d visit the coast, Disneyland and mom’s childhood stomping grounds. You learn so much about a parent, relative or friend by going with them to their former haunts — I highly recommend it.

One of the best parts about roads trips with someone is time to talk and memories being made. I love sharing experiences on road trips with family and friends taking photos, talking, laughing and just wandering around — most of the time no destination is needed. Growing up we usually just all got into the car and wherever we ended up — there we were.

So, another great birthday road trip with my mom on Saturday. More memories made, more laughs shared.

Happy birthday mom. I love you. Let’s do another road trip soon!

—Brandy Nance is the online and news editor for The Emporia Gazette. Her blog, The Wandering Pigeon, can be found online at thewanderingpigeon.com. Brandy can be reached at brandy@emporia.com.