Hundreds take part in Railroad Days
As they listened to a bluegrass band perform in Miller Park Sunday evening, Herb and Helen Schmidt attempted to choose the best part of their day.
The Schmidts were among the 200 plus passengers who rode a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train from Topeka to DeSoto. It was one of three excursion rides to DeSoto offered Saturday, Sunday and Monday as part of Topeka's Railroad Days.
Once the arrived in DeSoto, the Topeka couple and other passengers were served a meal of barbecued chicken that was included in their ticket price.
"This is very nice," Herb said. "We enjoyed the train ride, but this is certainly a nice surprise."
"The food was wonderful," his wife added.
A dollar from each meal served this weekend went to the DeSoto Enhancement Committee. It was just one local group that benefited from the arrival of the excursion trains.
Sunday, ladies from the DeSoto Baptist Church sold pies to the passengers and local people attending the event. While the ladies of the DeSoto United Methodist Church had about 400 passengers as potential customers the night before, Kathy Hayden said the Baptists had the better weather.
Learning from its experience the year before, the Baptist ladies brought 130 pieces of pie packaged in individual plastic containers.
"We didn't have to deal with the flies like we did last year," Hayden said. "It's a hundred percent better."
It was also a success. Hayden estimated the church sold three-quarters of the pie pieces it brought to the park.
The hot weather probably hurt ridership on the excursion trains, said Bob St. John, president of the Topeka Railroad Days Board of Directors. Those who passed on a chance to ride the train from Topeka missed out on an event that had the feel of an old-fashioned community gathering.
"As we were walking over from the train earlier, one of the train crew members remarked that for all the politicians in Washington, events like this is what this country is all about having good times with people in the community," he said.