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Reviving dummy line railroad may provide city with economic, eco-friendly transportation

Jun 7, 2012, 11:49 AM

by ANDY LYONS, Digitalburg

Above, the original Dummy Line leaves Pertle Springs. The Dummy Line got its name from the three specially silenced engines that were used to take visitors between the Estes Hotel and Pertle Springs. Operation of the line started in 1889. The train, painted orange and trimmed in black aluminum, was three cars long, each car holding as many as 70 people, and made eight to 20 trips daily. (Photo courtesy of Warrensburg & Pertle Springs Railroad)

(WARRENSBURG, Mo.)—Two brothers are attempting to revive the Dummy Line railroad as a chance to bring environmental friendly transportation with a taste of nostalgia to Warrensburg. The current plan is to have the tracks laid in almost exactly the same route as the Dummy Line of the late 1800s.

Warrensburg natives, Tim and Bob Bryant of the Warrensburg and Pertle Springs Railroad Project, said they see the Dummy Line as an exciting opportunity for the entire community of Warrensburg.

The railroad arrived in Warrensburg in 1864. Seven years later, the state opened Normal No. 2, a teacher’s college a short distance south of the train station. Local businessman J. H. Christopher owned a water works at Pertle Springs, about a mile south of the city proper.

Former fireman and engineer on the original line, Jackson C. Hackley, stands behind a model he built of the original railway, which he engineered when he was 17 years old. (Photo courtesy of the Warrensburg Historical Society)

Christopher promoted his water works by claiming the water from the springs was a cure for numerous ailments, and in 1889, a religious group known as the Dunkards informed Christopher they were sending 20,000 members to Warrensburg for its national convention the following spring.

In order to transport the massive amount of people to his resort, Christopher bought rails and equipment from a defunct railway in Wichita, Kan. to build his Warrensburg and Pertle Springs Railroad. Eight months later, the two-mile line was ready.

The line was never a true railroad but a single-track streetcar route with a few open-sided passenger cars and a tiny steam locomotive called a “dummy.” With the rise of the automobile, the dummy line faded out because it was no longer a necessity.

A model of the original Dummy Line was donated to Warrensburg Historical Society by Jackson C. Hackley. (Photo by Andy Lyons, Digitalburg)

Pertle Springs has changed drastically, no longer the resort it was in the late 1800s. Christopher eventually sold the railway and it was dismantled in a matter of weeks. All that remains is the roadbed near Pertle Springs and the University of Central Missouri.

The plans for rebuilding the Dummy Line include using an eco-friendly battery powered streetcar as opposed to coal or other high emission engine. The proposed line would cut between downtown Warrensburg and Pertle Springs with several stops along the way, along Holden Street and at the UCM campus.

Tim Bryant said he sees the Dummy Line as an opportunity for the community in a variety of ways.
“We believe that a properly located route at the downtown terminus would produce the demand there for a hotel that would draw guests attending university events and other visitors arriving in Warrensburg by car as well as Amtrak, especially as planned improvements in train service are achieved,” he said.

Students attending UCM would also benefit from the line as well, Bryant said.
“We also believe the Warrensburg and Pertle Springs Railroad would do much for UCM,” Bryant said. “The planned two-mile route passes through the middle of campus on the existing pedestrian mall. Because the streetcar would run on batteries, the nearly silent train would require no overhead power lines to interfere with campus vistas.”

The proposal of additions to Pertle Springs remains key to the line and its connections there. According to Bryant, there are hopes to build an outdoor amphitheater there, and the streetcar would produce a need for a downtown Warrensburg hotel. The line would be the connection between the two.

“We envision business for both as a result of tourism, university events and business meetings of mid-size Kansas City firms that would send their employees to Warrensburg by train,” Bryant said. “After a day or two of meetings, many employees might want to spend an extra day playing golf or enjoying fishing and boating on an enhanced Lake Cena before returning to Kansas City.”

The obvious results, Bryant said, would include more spending at Warrensburg businesses, greater tax revenue for the city and promotion of the area as a fascinating place to visit.
Jason Elkins, president of Warrensburg Main Street, agrees that the opportunities presented by adding the line should improve revenues and provide tax money for the city.

“Stops downtown will benefit the shops downtown with increased foot traffic, and the train will have a feel of nostalgia for the historic district,” Elkins said. “Since it’s on the same line as the original line, it’ll feel like it did 130 years ago. It’s a great thing, who wouldn’t encourage something like that?”

The biggest issue of a project like this is how it is funded. Right now, the Warrensburg and Pertle Springs Railroad Project is designated as a Missouri not-for-profit company. The not-for-profit corporation will seek federal, state and private grants to finance the project. According the W&PSRR website, www.dummyline.org, additional financing for the line’s construction and operation could come from bonds backed by a new UCM student activity fee.

UCM President Charles Ambrose said the university is always supportive of projects that draw upon the history and heritage of the community and the former rail line between downtown and campus. "Pertle Springs once drew people to Warrensburg on the basis of a real sense of destination when transportation was primarily provided by rail," Ambrose said. "The vision for reestablishing the dummy line or train would invigorate a new sense of destination on the resources that include downtown Warrensburg and all of the features that are provided by Pertle Springs. A future vision built on history and heritage is very positive and exciting and we will continue to engage with the community."

For more information, visit www.dummyline.org.
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