This time, Mrs. Shuttletrain and I wanted to show off Kansas City in November. As most of you know, on Thanksgiving night, the first planned outdoor shopping districts host the annual lighting of the Country Club Plaza. More than a million people come every year. Well, since Kansas City is where I proposed to Mrs. Shuttletrain, we always go back to Kansas City on our wedding anniversary. This year we added a visit to Train Town in the Ward Parkway mall. Train Town has couple of club layouts in an unused storefront. This layout is still in the building stages so here are a few bright spots.
We have a few patterns; the first is visiting the Hallmark Store in Crown Center, which is the headquarters of the company. We pick our Christmas card styles that we will be sending out that December. Then we have lunch at Fritz’s Railroad restaurant. Then wander through the Crown Center and walk over the “Link” to Kansas City Union Station for their Family Holiday Experience. I was one of the first charter members in the Union Station organization. I was really excited when the Metro Multi-State, Multi-County committee came together to fund the rebirth of this once beautiful station. The station has now experienced the normal locals, “ok I been there, done everything …now what” The managers were forced to bring in non-conforming businesses. The US Post office took over the area that was the original ticket counters and later the ticket counters for the science city, extreme screen, planetarium, and the KC Rail Experience. There was a very well done exhibit of how the rebirth was accomplished, that was replaced by a private business. The old Harvey Restaurant, that became a food court in the original rebirth, then a quick service sit down counter, has been closed off and now hosts a board room for the KC Chamber of Commerce. The once fairly smooth access to the “Link”, has moved along the inside white walls hallway. Visitors from the two hotels, and shopping mall of Crown Center are now, presented with a hallway, at twists and turns, the Union Station staff has place a couple of old pictures of the station further up the hallway, but, the echo excessive bland hallway ruins the visitor experience.
Now, next let’s talk about what the rebirth did to AMTRAK. Kansas City Union Station was a pull through station, meaning that trains approached the station from the east and west, entered on tracks that ran underneath the Passenger Hall. When KCUS, started its decline, the city let AMTRAK close the rest of the station and AMTRAK used an inflatable bubble as their waiting room. That lasted for a couple of years, then the City of Kansas City, built a new station just east of KCUS. The station used the original east parking lot, had a pull off on the Main Street Bridge, with stairs and a directional escalator that most of the time was out of order.
Kansas City knew that they had a treasure in KCUS, so they allowed a private developer to erect a office building between the new station and the now closed KCUS. The original agreement was that the developer was to remodel and restore KCUS. That never happened; the developer was always stating that no one would lend them money in the current economy to restore it. Well, Kansas City civic pride finally got tired of waiting. With the rebirth of St. Louis Union Station and several other less stations, Kansas City moved forward. Unfortunately, because of the office building now blocking access to the old tracks underneath, officials had to come up with option. Their answer to make another two track platform out back of station and connecting to the station with a metal superstructure combo-walkway and stairway with one elevator that smelled bad when it worked. Mrs. Shuttletrain just reminded me that the last time we arrived into KCUS on the train, the metal was rusting and the elevator service room door was one quarter rusted through. The AMTAK ticket counter is now ticked behind a set of doors in the northeast part of the station. The waiting room is a small windowless room, almost like you would except to find in the Kansas City Police station, including the security cameras staring down at the passengers. To get to the train, you walk down a long metal walkway hanging off the east side of the building. There is a roof, but on a cold windy or rainy day, does not help.
The end of the Passenger hall, or the north most part of the building is a room that once housed the “colored” waiting area. Mrs. Shuttletrain and I both believe that this would have been a better place for the departure point for AMTRAK. Then AMTRAK passengers go have the great hall views and access that the travelers of the past had.
That area now houses the traveling exhibits such as BODY WORLDS, TITANIC, and the KC Holiday Experience. To get to the Experience you have to walk around a huge Christmas tree, which has the Jones Store train running around it.
The Jones Store was KC department that had a huge Christmas display downtown. The Jones Store became Famous-Barr then merged into the Macy’s family. Once you walk the tree, you are greeted by two very large train layouts on either side of a doorway. Visitors walk in and turn right to another Olympic size train layout. The layout has several levels and runs several trains.
Did I mention that they have a Gingerbread train display?
Anyone for a Coke?
There was lots more but camera batteries and the throng of people prevented us from getting anymore. Except the Clock!
That Clock started a tradition at KCUS, people were told to meet their parties under the clock. To this day, the station has a meet at the clock party.
After the visit to Union Station, we discovered that Crown Center has two new features to visit. The first is a Legoland. Unfortunately, since we did not have any children we were not allowed to enter. Meanies! But wait…if you come to one of the adult only nights you can enter, but alas no adult nights while we were in town. But we were able to go to the new Sealife. It was smaller than the one at Mall of America but still worth it, Mrs. Shuttletrain got to climb into the kid tunnels.
After the underwater adventure, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the big anniversary dinner at, where else? The Cheesecake Factory the scene of our first date. The evening was great as usual. That is why Kansas City is my favorite wandering get-away town. See you next time.