I have written before about the beauty of Missouri, especially in the fall of the year, and on Tuesday I had the opportunity to experience that beauty first hand again. My wife and I had signed up for the Katy Trail Tour the Sedalia Democrat wrote about in early September that would be taking place in several locations throughout the state in October. The tour we chose would travel on the trail from Windsor to Leeton, and back, a two-hour tram ride over the track bed that once held tracks for the Missouri Kansas Texas (MKT and Rock Island Railroad Lines) years ago.
The ride began at Farrington Park in Windsor adjacent to the Katy Trail at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon. My wife and I joined a small group of other tourists, and five members of the Missouri State Parks Department for the two-hour ride. A lady named Megan Kelly one of the park’s department staff kept a running commentary relating the history of the railroads, Henry County, and the cities of Windsor, and Leeton as we rode. As someone who loves hearing any history of Missouri I thought it added greatly to the enjoyment of the trip. I also learned some interesting facts about the area.
The main attraction of course was the ride over the roadbed that was laid down over 150 years ago. A squirrel watched as our tram made its way onto the trail from the blacktop road that ran by Farrington Park, an appropriate greeter to the tree lined trail we would travel the 10.8 miles to Leeton.
The day was everything an open tram rider could hope for, the sun while hot could not fully reach the riders through the thick trees, which acted to regulate the temperature to a comfortable temperature as we rode. Occasional gaps in the trees gave us glimpses of farms and farm animals like cattle, and horses. As for wild animals two-squirrels counting our greeter at the start of the trail were all I saw during the ride, but I have to believe that was due to the thick foliage on both sides of the trail. One thing that I noticed as we made our way on the trail was the deep valleys at some points, that must have required a massive amount of fill dirt to keep the rail bed at the proper grade, and also the areas where the rails were in man made valleys that required dirt and rock removal on a large scale. This would have required many man hours due to the earth moving capabilities of the times. I also noticed the narrow width of the track bed, which made the man made the valleys look much deeper, and more precarious for a heavy train to have ran on, and I could imagine a train tumbling down their steep sides. Also noticeable along the way were old railroad ties mixed in with broken trees and vines alongside the trail. The jumbled piles were most likely bulldozed to the side during the clearing of the trail.
We arrived at the turn around in Leeton approximately an hour after pulling onto the trail in Windsor, and everyone including my wife and I felt the need to stretch out the kinks, and gain feeling in those areas where even a pillow could not fully protect. After a 15-minute stop where people gathered in small groups to give their own versions of local history we left Leeton for the return trip. As we rode I caught one of the distinctive smells of the season coming from somewhere close by; it was the smell of burning leaves, and I could not think of a better punctuation mark for the fall ride. This was the last fall ride for the Park Department this year, but they will be back next year, and for those who have not taken the tour I recommend the experience for all those who love railroads, Missouri and history.
A final note: I was not the only local citizen on the tram, Pettis County Sheriff Kevin Bond, and his brother Robert Bond a good friend from my car salesman days were there to enjoy the ride too. I am sure they too will recommend the trail tour.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column will run in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.