Sedalia’s own “Train Guy” Jack Slocum has had an affinity for all things “rail” since childhood when he lived near a train track and heard and felt the engines chug along.
“I grew up on East Broadway about five blocks from the track,” Slocum, a 1982 Smith-Cotton High School graduate, said Tuesday.
At that time, he said trains came through much more than they do now days.
“Back then there was quite a few trains, there was actually a train crew that was stationed in Sedalia,” he added. “It was a lot different place than it is now. Trains were just an everyday part of my life.”
Slocum received his first train set when he was 5-years-old.
“It wasn’t a Lionel, but it was like a Lionel train,” he said. “I played with that until I got 12 or 13 and then I got into HO Scale models.”
Slocum has about 600 to 800 N and HO Scale train cars in his collection that he stores upstairs in his “bonus room.”
Many people already know Slocum for the countless hours he worked, and coordinated others to work, on the large scale 1865 steam locomotive for the Trail’s End Project that now sits on the Missouri State Fairgrounds.
“We had a crew of guys who worked on the train and I was one of the ones who headed that up,” he said. “I had the vision, you might say.”
He added that his “train habits” were responsible for helping him find out about the project.
“One day I was searching the Internet and there is a couple sites where you can buy railroad stuff,” he said. “I was just perusing through there and I was looking at steam locomotives. There was an ad that said ‘group looking for steam locomotive in Sedalia, Missouri.’ Of course that peaked my curiosity.”
He called Dale Yelton, Trail’s End Committee co-chair, and told Yelton he was interested in the project. The rest is history.
After working with small scale model trains for years it was a high point to work on a full scale locomotive. Slocum added that the 1865 steam locomotive is a facsimile of an original since most originals are now located in museums.
“To learn full scale modeling … and getting to work with the rail stuff and physically get your hands on it and see how it’s built it brings something to you,” he said. “I’ve always been a tinkerer, I’m a maintenance man by trade.
“At the time this started happening, I was already a member of the Missouri Pacific and Katy Railroad Historical Society,” he added. “So, I had at that time had exposure to full-sized trains and the guys who used to work on them.”
Slocum said his interest in trains also stems from his grandfather Calvin Busker, who worked for the Katy Railroad, and his two uncles Virgil and Raymond Busker, who worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad.
“At the time I graduated from high school, the shops were shutting down,” he said. “I couldn’t get a job with the railroad, it wasn’t really a viable option.”
Slocum was worked at Maxion Wheels, formerly Hayes Wheels, for 28 years. He is now an electronics technician for the company.
With the closing of the railroad shops, an era ended for Sedalia. Although he was never able to work for the railroad, Slocum has future plans for other local train projects.
“I was real excited when I heard they were moving the caboose over to the (Katy) Depot,” he said. “I was hyped up on helping them with that, but when they started that I was still way too involved with Trail’s End to lend a hand.
“But my next train gig I would like to get involved in is the Frisco locomotive out at the fairgrounds,” he added. “It’s really sinking down (into the ground) and they are really going to need to do something with it. My ultimate dream is to have it sitting outside the Katy Depot painted up as a Katy locomotive, but that’s an awful big thing to move.”
He added that the locomotive probably weighs a half a million pounds.
“The Katy Depot is just a jewel for the community,” he noted. “It would be fantastic to have a steam locomotive sitting outside it.”
He said he’d love to see a railroad museum started in the Sedalia area also.
“I would love to be involved with that too,” he added.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.