…continuing with our back road adventures in Missouri, this time focusing on the northern tier of the state close to US Hwy 36, a 4-lane highway that is mostly not a limited access roadway. The speed limit is 65 mph vs. 70 on I-70 further south, but the lack of traffic and trucks plus a smoother roadbed, makes this our preferred route across Missouri to I-29 North to Iowa and Omaha Nebraska.
I’ll take up where I left off on my last post about our road trip…in Marceline Missouri. This post may be ‘just a bit long’, even for me.
The photo above shows the first Marceline Santa Fe Railroad depot, a frame structure that served the down for over 20 years.
In the early to mid-1800s, the area where Marceline has been established was open with farms and cattle across the prairie. Then, one day in 1886 representatives from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (aka the Santa Fe Railroad), turned up in the neighborhood offering enticing prices for land, obtaining contracts as needed. In 1887, the Missouri Division Point for the route on the line between Kansas City and Chicago was platted and, in January 1888, the first town lot was sold in the city of Marceline.
The town was named for the wife of one of the directors of the railroad, whose Spanish name was “Marcelina”. The city became a boomtown almost overnight. It grew so fast that only 6 months after that first lot sold, Marceline had 2,500 residents. Today, the city has a population of 2,123.
This handsome new Santa Fe Passenger station and office building replaced that old frame depot. This sold brick structure was dedicated in April of 1913. At that point, Marceline had only existed for 25 years…and now it had a first class passenger depot. It had 107 windows and over 200 – 100 watt lights.
In the early 1900s, the railroad also built a separate structure which was called “The Reading Room”. Santa Fe employees could go there, read books or play the piano. It was featured in a 1909 edition of the Santa Fe railroad worker magazine. Occasionally special performances were staged there. Marceline enjoyed special appearances from people like Shirley Temple, Mae West, W.C. Fields and Clark Gable. In return the performers would travel on the Santa Fe for free. Sadly, by the 1940s, the Reading Room was gone…
The Marceline Santa Fe Depot closed in the 1980s, with the last Amtrak Passenger train stopping here at the unmanned depot in 1997. After standing empty for a couple of years, in 1999 the depot was purchased and converted into a museum, which opened in 2001. More on that to follow... That double set of tracks is quite busy though. Three or four freight trains roared by during our visit.
The EP Ripley Park, adjacent to the old but renovated museum, contains two pieces of railroad equipment that are of interest to railroad fans around the country.
This is not a coal burning locomotive but rather an oil burning version. Locomotive #2546 is a Consolidation type (2-8-0) engine built in 1911 by the Alco Locomotive Works for the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway. It was sold to the Santa Fe Railroad in 1927. The locomotive weighs almost 112 tons and the tender weighs about the same. The tender could hold 8,000 gallons of water and 3,657 gallons of oil.
Locomotive #2546 was donated to the City of Marceline by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1955. Note the designation painted on the side of the tender. Walt Disney requested that the Santa Fe and Disneyland Railroad be painted on its side… Why would he do that?
That little park in Marceline is also home to an EMD SD40, a 6-axle diesel-electric locomotive built by General Motors Electro-Motive Division. Santa Fe #5008 was built in 1966.
Locomotive #5008 had a benefactor who was intimately connected to her. Sam Baily, a retired Santa Fe and Burlington Northern engineer singlehandedly restored this engine. Now that is a real retirement project! Sam had actually operated this locomotive as a hostler, (an engineer who moves a locomotive between shops, rail yards and fueling tracks), when the locomotive was only 2 years old. He was also at the throttle throughout his career. #5008 was retired 2 months before Sam did. Marceline was selected as the home for this locomotive because it was once a division point for the Santa Fe Railroad.
A modest section of the interior of the museum contains a selection of railroad memorabilia, such as the Santa Fe ‘grandfather style’ clock, the old cash register and that little step stool that would have been used when boarding passengers. The woodwork around the ticket windows has been well maintained. Love the ‘look’ of the uniform too…
There are small reminders of days past in other objects such as these Santa Fe caps. Ticket agents used to wear their caps on the job but I haven’t seen one in use for many, many years. Looking on eBay, a variety of different old railroad caps are up for sale, ranging in price from $50.00 to over $300.00.
The old brakeman’s cap is the most interesting to me. Their original job was to assist in the braking of a train by applying the brakes (frequently for the roofs) on individual wagons or cars. The advent of braking systems that could be controlled by the ‘driver’ or engineer, allowed that person to slow and stop the train. Brakemen also provided ‘flag’ protection from following trains if his train had to stop, ensuring that couplings were set correctly, and assisting with switching operations.
The number of brakemen jobs continues to decline. As of 2018, there were only 14,270 brake men or women employed in the USA.
It’s probably just a quirk with me but I do love old railroad and airplane china, drink glasses and flatware. They don’t sell for a lot but they just make me feel good. I have a set of 8 cocktail glasses from the Burlington Northern Railroad and one dinner knife from United Airlines.
Looking at eBay, I noted Santa Fe Railroad dishware items with asking prices ranging from $47.77 to $180.00. Glassware seems to be generally lower…
But to what does this former Santa Fe Railway Depot…now a museum…focus on that earns it a lot of attention and visitors?
The big Mickey Mouse figure wearing a railroad engineer’s outfit at the entrance does provide a significant clue. The little bronze with Mickey and Walt Disney is yet one more clue. The old Santa Fe Depot in Marceline Missouri is now the “Walt Disney Hometown Museum”. As Walt is famous for saying, “It all started with a mouse”. More on Disney and Marceline follows in this post.
Mickey Mouse, a world famous cartoon character, was co-created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1928. Mickey is almost always characterized as a sympathetic underdog that gets by through pluck and ingenuity despite facing challenges bigger than he is. He is one of the most recognizable and acclaimed fictional characters of all time… Walt not only co-created Mickey but Walt also provided Mickey’s voice in the beginning.
We aren’t particularly enamored with Mickey Mouse, Disneyland, Disney World or cartoons…but we both truly appreciate those who strive to build something and who succeed even beyond their imagination. This museum is more about Walt Disney…the boy and the man…then it is about his cartoon characters, amusement parks or movies.
The photo above shows Walt Disney and his brother Roy during a visit in 1956 at the Santa Fe Railroad Depot in Marceline.
Remember that wood frame depot at the beginning of this post? It stood on the exact same spot as the new depot/museum stands now. It was that depot that welcomed the Disney family when they moved to Marceline. Flora Disney arrived first with the 3 youngest children including Walt. Elias Disney and their 2 older sons arrived a few days later in a boxcar loaded with family belongings and 2 horses that Elias had purchased in the Chicago stockyards.
Elias and Flora’s children were Herbert, Raymond, Roy, Walt and Ruth. Walt was only 4 years old. At his young age, he wasn’t expected to do much on the farm so he was able to explore and his experiences in the area spurred his imagination. I think that the photo above may be mislabeled as Roy was older than Walt.
Main Street in Marceline was imprinted in his memory and all Disney Parks feature a “Main Street” attraction. His Uncle Mike was a Santa Fe engineer and he often passed through Marceline, sparking Walt’s love of trains. Walt also attended a play about Peter Pan, one of his favorite stories. When Elias Disney’s health failed in 1911, the family moved again, this time to Kansas City. But Walt never forgot Marceline and his experiences in the area helped shape his future successes.
Walt Disney's visit in 1956 was for the dedication of a park and swimming pool named after him. He was accompanied by his wife, Lillian, Roy Disney and Roy’s wife. Walt had visited Marceline before…in 1948 when some filming was done here. He returned once again in 1960, when the town’s new elementary school was named after him.
A variety of Mickey Mouse related items are scattered throughout the museum. If you go online and look at Mickey Mouse eBay collectables, there are more pages than I have the patience to go through. As a youngster in the 1950s and into the mid-1060s, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a bicycle like this one…
The Walt Disney Hometown Museum opened in 2001, just in time to celebrate Walt Disney’s 100th birthday. The museum’s displays were built using the personal collection of Ruth Disney Beecher, Walt’s younger sister. She had been close with both Walt and Roy and she knew how fondly they remembered the hometown of their youth.
This is an original Mark I Arrowflite Tracked Junior Automobile. It was built as part of the Midget Autopia Ride built for Disneyland (CA) in 1956. The cars on this ride ran on a center rail and kids got the illusion that they were steering it. That ride was closed for a new ride in 1966. Walt gave this auto to Marceline along with remnants of the ride which were installed in the town’s EP Ripley Park. Eventually, it was taken down and this car has been preserved.
This is one of the rooms displaying Disney artifacts. Walt himself presented that Mickey flag to the city in 1960.
The Walt Disney Hometown Museum covers 10,000 square feet and it includes over 4,000 Disney related artifacts that don’t exist elsewhere. Included are: personal family artifacts donated by the Disney family; family letters; original artwork by graffiti artist Arcy, including a portrait of Walt; information on “The Marceline Project”, Walt’s plan to build a live history park in town; a Collector’s Gallery with items loaned and donated by Disney collectors from around the world, and; memorabilia from the premiers of 2 Disney movies that were first screened in Marceline. Those movies were “The Great Locomotive Chase” in 1956 and, “The Spirit of Mickey Mouse” in 1998.
Laurie does own a few old dolls but nothing like these early Mickey Mouse dolls from the 1930s. I found one on-line with an asking price of $1,995.00.
When Walt Disney visited Marceline in 1960 in order to dedicate the new elementary school, he also donated custom playground equipment and he had legendary Disney animator Bob Moore create murals throughout the school with some of the most famous Disney characters. Those murals are restored on a regular basis and are still there for the school children every day.
Over the years, Walt Disney had repeatedly related that the Coca-Cola Building in Disneyland was modeled after the Zurcher building in Marceline Missouri. For years the connection between Coca Coal and that structure had never been quite understood or verified.
It turned out that Albert Zurcher had constructed an apartment annex behind his jewelry store in 1919. When that annex burned to the ground in 2002 and the debris was taken away, the ‘lost sign’ that Walt would have seen as a child was discovered.
In late 2015, Coca Cola sent a team of artists to Marceline and they restored the historic “Coke” wall. A company historian thought that it was probably originally painted in 1906, the year that the Disney family moved to Marceline. Note the advertisement for Hutcheson’s Furniture and Undertaking above the Coke Sign. Roy and Walt made a little money cleaning the company’s horse drawn hearse. As per Walt’s memories, Roy did all the work while Walt laid inside the hearse and played dead.
There is even more about Walt Disney and the influence that his time in Marceline had on him…but this post is way too long already. If you made it to the end and read all of this, I’m impressed! To learn more about this museum, go to Walt Disney Hometown Museum (waltdisneymuseum.org).
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a longer than usual visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave