City, Mid-Mo Railfans celebrate Columbia's history with new MKT Trail signs
COLUMBIA - Columbia Parks and Recreation and Mid-Mo Railfans are commemorating the history of the Columbia branch of the M-K-T Railroad.
The organizations worked together to place interpretive signs along the MKT Trail, which was built on the old railbed. John Wilke, member of the Mid-Mo Railfans and coordinator of the project, had approached Parks and Recreation.
"Everyone that knows me knows that I'm a very prolific walker. I have spent probably hundreds of hours walking on the MKT Trail," Wilke said. "A few years ago I found a timetable that showed there were four flag stops designated on the Columbia branch railroad that is now the MKT Trail, and I thought it would be a good idea to mark their locations just to the show the railroad heritage of the trail."
Parks and Recreation placed four replica flag stop signs at the locations of where they would have been along the railroad. It also placed two descriptive signs that talk about the history of the railroad. One is located at Flat Branch Park and the other is at Rock Quarry.
"This is to show the locations of four stops along the original railway where people could stand out on the railway and basically flag down a train to either load livestock or board the train or take something off the train that they were waiting for," said Janet Godon, planner for Parks and Recreation.
Godon said former Columbia mayor Darwin Hindman was instrumental in the Rails-to-Trails movement, which is a nationwide movement that turns former rail lines into trails.
"The MKT Trail was one of the first ten trails or so in the nation that became a public use, multi-use trail from having been a railway," she said. "That's a big part of the project as well, that Columbia, Missouri was in the forefront of the whole Rails-to-Trails movement and really making that happen across the nation."
Wednesday's event will also cover the history of the railroad in mid-Missouri. There will be several speakers, including Mike Offineer, who worked as a brakeman along the railway for 41 years. Wilke also said Parks and Recreation director Mike Griggs is going to make a big announcement.
"It will be an asset that will be added to the Jay Dix Park to further define the heritage of the MKT Trail originally as a railroad," he said.
Wednesday's event will be at the Boone County History and Culture Center, located at 3801 Ponderosa St. Refreshments will be served at 6:45 p.m. and the program will begin at 7 p.m. It will be free and open to the public.