Wednesday, August 5, 2015

East Central Kansas – Moving North (#1)

After overnighting in Manhattan Kansas, we continued our trip generally moving north and then a little east with our ultimate goal being our grandson’s home (with their parents) in Omaha Nebraska.

Just outside of Manhattan, we came across this old one-room limestone school house at 1969 Barnes Road in Riley County.  The Rocky Ford School was built in 1903 and rebuilt in 1927 after a fire.  An outhouse was built in 1904 and a well was first excavated in 1909.   A merry-go-round (not pictured) was installed in 1929.  The school contains antique school desks and other period furnishings as well as some classroom items.

The one-room school building served first through eighth grade students.  After the 1927 fire nearly destroyed it in 1927, the builder used the original limestone during the reconstruction and improvements such as electric lighting were made.  The building is nominated as part of the "Historic Public Schools of Kansas" multiple property nomination for its educational and architectural significance.

The Riley County Historical Society maintains/operates 6 different buildings… In addition to the Rocky Ford School, they have a museum, 3 different homes and a pioneer log cabin.  To learn more about this very active group, go to

Moving north along US Hwy. 77, the land and the sky around us just seemed to stretch on and on… One factor that creates this vast appearance is that Kansas ranks 47th, (with only 2.2% coverage), out of the 50 States when it comes to forest cover.  In comparison our state of residence, Tennessee, ranks 14th with 52.9% forest coverage.

Many people believe that Kansas is the flattest state in the USA.  They’d be wrong!  It is in 7th place, behind Florida, Illinois, North Dakota, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Delaware.  FYI…the state gradually rises from an elevation of 679 feet in the east to 4,039 feet in the west.  Note to those just following along the Interstate Highway… Road builders tend to prefer the flattest terrain for highway building so you will see more flatland from the Interstate system.

Kansas is the #1 wheat producing state with around 15% of the total wheat crop.  The state is also 8th in corn and 11th in soybean production.  We sure saw a lot of cattle as we drove through the Flint Hills region.  The fact is that Kansas runs about 6,000,000 cattle on the range, 3rd in the nation after Texas and Nebraska!

OK… I’m embarrassed by this photo!  We drove into the center of Waterville Kansas with the primary goal being to find the depot… I focused too much on the area by the railroad tracks and I didn’t explore the town much beyond them.  We missed finding this 1907 Missouri Pacific Railway depot…that had been moved away from the tracks.  We were about a block away…

The Missouri Pacific Depot has been restored and it houses a museum of Waterville collections.  Per the information posted on the museum’s website, the depot was actually built in 1870.  Somebody has the date wrong…but I think that 1907 is correct.  The museum doesn’t have regular hours but a volunteer will turn up should a visitor want to look over the collection on display.  For more information, you can just go to

We did find quite a few railroad relics and other items of interest.  This old Missouri Pacific Railway wooden caboose sits on a siding close to downtown Waterville.  It’s full of railroad memorabilia…a mini museum! 

Waterville was established in 1867 as a pioneer town at the end of the Atchison and Pike’s Peak Railroad and beside the Little Blue River.  When the railroad had decided to extend west exactly 100 miles from Atchison, KS, the site for the city was determined.  It was named by William Osborne, a railroad superintendent, for his hometown of Waterville, New York.

I wish I knew the history of this 1860’s replica locomotive.  In the local literature it’s referred to as the “Little Engine that Could” and it periodically pulls visitors along 12 miles of track from Waterville to Blue Rapids Kansas.  I tried to learn more but it appears that the “Marshall County Railroad Historical Society’s” website has been ‘hijacked’ by a company that is promoting crepe making equipment…

The yellow open air rail car under the protective cover above appears to be the coach that the replica locomotive pulls along its 12 miles of preserved railroad right of way.   

The Atchison and Pike's Peak Railroad changed its name to Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad in January of 1867, better reflecting its purpose of connecting with the transcontinental railroad.  Unfortunately, for the Central Branch, (and Waterville), the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division chose a different route into Colorado, leaving the Central Branch with a “hanging end” at Waterville.  The Union Pacific finally just absorbed the Central Branch Railroad in 1880… Although rails and some local traffic still run through Waterville, they come to an end just west of the nearby town of Barnes Kansas.

Travelers on the Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad in Kansas found a landmark stop in Waterville at the track-side Weaver Hotel.  Built in 1905, the Weaver Hotel sits directly across the street from the railroad tracks. Passengers could eat in the dining room, find lodging upstairs and wait for their train in the front parlor of the hotel.     

The Weaver Hotel came into being because of the railroad and it lives again as a piece of railroad history.  After sitting quietly empty for years, the Waterville Preservation Society purchased the building and set out to save a piece of the community’s history.  With the help of two grants and the hard work of many concerned citizens, the Weaver Hotel was given a new face-lift inside and out and it’s open for business!

One featured special at the Weaver Hotel is the “Rail Ride Get-Away”.  This includes an overnight stay in a queen room at the hotel.  In the morning, guests enjoy an early morning open air train ride on the “Little Train that Could” with breakfast on an 85 foot long trestle north of town.  The price for this package price is only $99.00!  The Weaver Hotel’s Website is at:  

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I was surprised at how rolling kansas was where we were - not western NE was another story - "flat as a flitter" to quote Bev - not sure what a flitter might be though.

  2. What a great post, and your photos are beautiful!

  3. Dear Dave, Looks like a beautiful and great trip. Blessings, Catherine