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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!

Date: 06/21/19 02:49
Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: santafe199

I first came to know the station name of Zarah, KS in my highly educational summer of 1974. I had broken away from my narrow childhood awareness of the Santa Fe as merely a branchline RR running through my 2nd hometown of Abilene, KS. In May of that breakout year I had hired on with an Eastern Division track labor extra-gang and was assigned to a Santa Fe ex-baggage car-cum-bunk car #203551 which was parked behind a Floquil-orange depot at Morris, KS. ( https://www.trainorders.com/discussion/read.php?18,3806955,3814603#msg-3814603 ). My permanently entrenched railfanning psyche forced my head into a constant spin with the brand-new vision I was getting of my childhood favorite railroad.

I’m here to tell you right now that the super heavy 136-pound rail on 9-foot ties comprising multiple side-by-side main tracks with super-elevated curves running under huge black iron bridges that supported multiple, over-under searchlight signals which governed traffic flow through 40 MPH crossovers & 70 MPH tangent track was most definitely NOT to be found anywhere close to Abilene, KS. The only time I wasn’t soaking up this brand new, BIG-TIME Santa Fe was when my eyes were shut in sleep in that bunk car. But even then my ears were registering the sounds of a dozen or more trains passing by just a few yards away from my bunk car every night.

Being over 2 years short of realizing that photography & railfanning went hand-in-glove I spent most of my off-time driving around Kansas City getting to know the Big Town, especially all the RRs. I suppose I can say I have regrets not being a photographer in those pre-Bicentennial days. But I was soaking up lots of vital ambience that would serve me well when I did get around to picking up a camera. I also spent countless evenings that summer at the vacant agent/operator’s desk in the Morris depot listening in on the TCS scissor phone earpiece. The rhythmic hum, intermittent clicks & occasional snippets of human dialogue between the DS and other exotic, down-line places were every bit as interesting as they were foreign to my comprehension. While getting this priceless audible tutoring I would read & devour all the station names in the Santa Fe “Form 598 Standard(officers, agents & stations) booklet that never left its sanctified place on that operator’s desk. It covered the entire Santa Fe system.

It was at this point in my education that I was introduced to Miss Zarah. In those nostalgic evenings it was fascinating to read the names of the places where by day my 19 year old body produced gallons of sweat building muscle mass by handling heavy tie-tongs, spike mauls, shovels full of ballast & tamping forks. It would be the best shape I would ever be in throughout the rest of my life. (Don’t EVEN ask about my present day physique!) The Eastern Division 2nd District main line, my main line, became the standard which no other stretch of main line trackage anywhere else in the country could ever compare to. And it was all there in that Form 598 (circa 1974): Turner, Morris, Holliday, Zarah, Craig, Olathe, Clare, Gardner, Edgerton, Wellsville, Le Loup, Ottawa, Pomona, Quenemo, Melvern, Olivet, Ridgeton, Lebo, Neosho Rapids & Emporia. There were depots at Morris, Olathe, Gardner, Wellsville, Ottawa, Melvern & Lebo before the end of the district at Emporia. All my girl Zarah had was a small grain elevator whose track my gang spent a day on replacing & re-tamping ties.

45 years later the area around Zarah has been predictably overrun with urban Kansas City sprawl. That old elevator is decades astern in history. And you can’t even get fully trackside there without running the risk of trespassing. The late Mr Lee Berglund of Larned, KS acquired this Kodachrome slide of the quaint depot at Zarah. But it was gone by time I came onto the scene in ‘74. Lee was an intrepid and very prolific photographer of the Santa Fe, also his favorite. He & I had many mutual railfan friends throughout Kansas. But I deeply regret getting only one opportunity to meet him face to face.

1. This is the AT&SF “depot” at Zarah, KS on the DT TCS* Eastern Division 2nd District main line out of Kansas City. This is the first station west of the junction at Holliday where the single track ABS Eastern Division 1st District passenger main cut away toward Lawrence and ran on into Topeka, thence down to Emporia. In those days we called the 2nd District merely the ‘main line’. Today this trackage is shamelessly called the “Transcon”. Needless to say it looks VERY different than it did on this 1st day of May in 1958.
(Original slide from the Lee Berglund collection, copy image from the Robert D Walz collection)

Thanks for looking!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
In remembrance of the late Lee Berglund

*TCS stands for Traffic Control System. This was Santa Fe’s version of the more familiar “CTC”, which it differed from in name only.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 06/21/19 21:13 by santafe199.

Date: 06/21/19 20:14
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: ATSFSuperChief

Another nice shot and story. You should really considered writing  book about all your railroad career and enclose several thousand of your great photos.

Don Allender

Date: 06/23/19 10:52
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: LocoPilot750

Never knew that little building ever existed. I went by that location thousands of times on trains, and never saw anything but trees and the broke up concrete remains of what must have been the elevator.

Posted from Android

Date: 06/29/19 18:31
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: mmisin2

Very cool, I live just a few miles West of Zarah. The bridge in the background is now four lane on Shawnee Mission Parkway. Amazingly Zarah also was the terminus of an Interurban at one time.

Mark Mitscher
Shawnee, KS

Date: 07/01/19 12:30
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: santafe199

mmisin2 Wrote: > ... Zarah also was the terminus of an Interurban at one time ...

Thanks, Mark! Do you have any details about this? I am vaguely aware of that part of Zarah's history. But I know virtually no details. I have gone online to research the name Zarah as a feminine name. This turned up many Arabic references, with a predictable side note that Zarah is an alternate version of "Sarah"...


Date: 07/05/19 18:50
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: sfn2633

Mark and Lance

There is a book published about Inerurbans around KC and it covers the Zarah line.  I seem to remember there was a park at Zarah that was the line destination.  More info in book...I will get Title for it if you are interested....Doc’s probably has it in stock.

Jeff N

Date: 07/06/19 18:02
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: OSWishram

As Jeff indicates, one of the books which covers Kansas City area interurbans, albeit briefly, is Monroe Dodd's "A Splendid Ride - The Streetcars of Kansas City 1870-1957."  Other books may cover the interurbans more fully, as Dodd's book has a chapter on "The Interurbans."  The line in question was the Kansas City, Lawrence & Topeka Electric Railroad, "The Hocker Line," mentioned on pp. 120-121.  According to Dodd, the Hocker Line was built from downtown Kansas City, Mo., to Merriam, Kan., then west to Shawnee.  Hocker Grove, the amusement park, was located closer to Merriam.  Always the financially weakest of area interurbans, the Hocker Line reached Mill Creek, just east of Zarah, but was unable to negotiate a crossing of the steam line, the AT&SF, so that's the reason the Hocker Line ended there.

Bob Willer
Overland Park

Date: 07/15/19 19:12
Re: Depot Nostalgia: Zarah!
Author: mmisin2

Thanks Bob, if memory serves me right the ultimate goal was to reach Lawrence, like the KCKVW wanted to reach Topeka. Zarah always struck me as an odd terminus. Trolleys throught the Countryside by Chandler (?) also has an excellent chapter on this line.

Mark Mitscher
Shawnee, KS

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