Despite Sedalia’s claim to fame as a railroad town, I had actually never left town by rail. I’ve arrived at the downtown Sedalia Amtrak station on a steam train as a special part of the celebration of Sedville’s sesquicentennial. Yeah, a bus full of Sedalia dignitaries and members of the media loaded onto a bus and went to Jefferson City just for the privilege of riding a real steam train back to Sedalia, but I had never taken the Amtrak.
So I figured I would go up and spend the weekend with one of my friends in Kansas City.
I went online to buy my ticket – wow, $17 for a reserved coach seat on the Missouri River Runner is actually really affordable. I didn’t expect it to be that cheap. I put in my card information and in no time at all the ticket was sitting in my email inbox ready to be printed.
I know it’s kind of a first-world problem, but the air conditioning in the waiting area was practically non-existent. I’m warm-natured anyhow, but I noticed the sweat beading on the foreheads of the other people in the room. The man behind me was fanning himself like we were waiting over an active volcano.
I didn’t believe it at first, but when I went outside I quickly realized the breeze meant it was better out there. The literal heat advisory outside was better than the room temperature inside.
There was a grand total of three books sitting on a shelf and one of them was the dictionary. I mention that as a positive, because it’s three more books than I see in most train stations. And the decoration is a little sparse: we need a mural, or a plastering of old event posters or something in there.
I know we spent a lot of money just getting it there in the first place, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.
The train was slightly late, but the boarding process was painless. I’ve taken more planes than I have trains in my day and it was almost surreal to not experience the security theater we’ve grown accustomed to in this post 9/11 world. Go ahead and get on the train, find your seat and put your bag in the overhead compartment; we’ll deal with that whole ticket thing later.
It was so smooth, and pleasant and agreeable — after I took my seat a quick scan of the QR Code on my ticket sealed the deal and we were off to Kansas City.
There were plenty of seats to be had – a magical wonderland of seats in comparison to your standard continental flight. One passenger was enjoying a standard American light beer on his tray table but had a six pack of something a little more fancy sitting out in the open on the overhead shelf. This is the kind of transportation where you can bring your alcohol if you want to enjoy some on the other side.
As for the ride itself, there wasn’t really anything to complain about. There were a lot of trees, but that’s going to be true of any terrestrial transportation that makes its way through a state like Missouri. It was serene to watch them pass by my window. It was smooth — smooth enough to get some real work done on my tablet. And despite the fact the train was late, we managed to arrive in Kansas City roughly 20 minutes earlier than my ticket estimated.
So if you need or just want to go to St. Louis, Kirkwood, Hermann, Washington, Jefferson City, Lee’s Summit, Independence or Kansas City, don’t be reluctant to do it by rail. Sometimes I think we take for granted just how much being one of the Amtrak stops is and can be a boon for the city of Sedalia.
Travis McMullen is a longtime Sedalia resident who shares his views on the city through his weekly Democrat column.