Sunday, December 7, 2008

KCS Sighting

For the benefit of Glen, John, and any other readers whose lives had strong ties to the Kansas City Southern Railroad, I wanted to share a recent 'sighting' with you.

This past Saturday afternoon, Dec. 6th, I had reason to be driving through Heavener on US Hwy 59. I had met one of my sisters in Longview, Texas and she and I were on our way to Fort Smith to visit our Dad who was in the hospital there.

As we drove away from the stop light in Heavener, we noticed that the KCS's 'Holiday Express' was parked on the track next to where the old depot once stood. I had read about it in the Ledger in past years, but had never seen it in person. It was a colorful sight and it was understandable why there was a long line of children and parents waiting for a tour and a chance to see Santa. I can see why
this special train has become an anticipated part of the holiday season along the KCS route.

But the 'Holiday Express' isn't the MAIN reason I'm reporting this sighting. It was just an added bonus. What really excited me as I drove through town, parallel to the tracks, was what I saw parked at the North end of town, just short of the 'old pike' crossing (where the fueling station is now). [I'll stop here to admit that I never knew the correct jargon for the tracks, cars, and engines of the railroad. I only knew them, in a general sense, as 'a train'. So, forgive my generalization. I knew the difference between the steam engines and the electric engines, but that's about it.] Nevertheless, there...parked on the tracks...was a "complete" KCS passenger train! It was beautiful! There were three engines and at least 7 or 8 passenger cars in trail. They were all painted the new KCS colors and had the "Kansas City Southern" emblazoned on the sides of each car...or, at least, on the sides of the engines. I wanted to take a picture, it was so shiny and pretty. I suppose there was a connection between the passenger train and the Holiday Express and that would explain why they were both in town and the same time. I don't have any facts related to that correlation, just that I saw them both, parked within a mile of each other.

It had been a long time since I had seen a KCS passenger train and it brought back fond memories of those days when we could see them several times a day or night while living in Heavener.

(Photo courtesy of the KCS website)


At December 8, 2008 at 7:30 AM , Blogger Glen Lazalier said...


Thanks. The KCS was among the last railroads in the US to give up passenger service (1969 comes to mind) and abandon that service to AMTRAK. The Southern Belle and the Flying Crow were the premier trains and were among the first to adapt the lightweight car concept in our part of the country after WWII. From 1941 till after I left Heavener, the Deramus family was in charge of the railroad and Mr. Deramus loved passenger trains.

I rode the train a few times as a youngster. One of the trips was a "football excursion" to Mena for a HHS game. My last ride was in 1961 when I rode to Kansas City to interview AT&T for a job.

The KCS got its investment capital in large part from the Hetherlands--hence the names of towns along the route such as Vandervoort and Dequeen (a corruption of a Dutch name). Stilwell was named for Arthur Stilwell, an early founder of the road.

At December 8, 2008 at 10:03 AM , Blogger Pat Burroughs said...

Hi Chuck,

We heard about Lonzo's problems only yesterday so went up yesterday afternoon to see him. He seemed in amazingly good spirits,considering. He said you were on your way up. When you have to go home, please let us know if there's any way we can help Judy and Joyce help him. Clem is itching for something worthwhile to be doing anyway.

Clem spotted the Christmas train Saturday when he went to the Post Office to pick up the mail, and came home and got the camera and we went back down there and made pictures. That was Saturday morning and there was no crowd there yet, just another few people making pictures. It was the first time we'd seen it, and us living right here in town. I know--we need to get out more. At the time we saw it, it was still hooked on behind the lovely old KCS passenger train you saw farther north. I'm sure you noticed that the "engine" of the Christmas car is actually a very realistic looking fake, built on a flat car. We were really impressed with both the Christmas train and the passenger train. I would have loved to go through the passenger train and look it over, as I never got to ride a train but for a couple of short hops. Take care.

At December 8, 2008 at 1:24 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Chuck, for the blog and for bringing back many memories. I rode the rails many a time going to Poteau and Stilwell and/or other places. Cynthia will love your blog, too, since her dad worked for the railroad for years as an engineer, as did her brother Larry until he suffered an accident. I miss the old KCS days. I have ridden AMTRAK a few times, but there's nothing like the KCS.

At December 8, 2008 at 6:57 PM , Blogger Bill Hinds said...

Thanks Chuck, I love that picture, what a great looking train. Of course the KCS has been a big part of our lives. My dad was a Brakeman & Conductor before he retired from the RR. My brother Jerry retired from the KCS a few years ago and one of his son's, Mack, is working on the KCS as is John Hinds, my brother Donald's son who retired from the Air Force and went to work on the KCS.
Thanks for the memories.
PS - Remember when Harry Truman came through Heavener on his "Whistle Stop Tour", my brother, Tim, actually shook his hand. Mercy!


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