Wichita sat right in the middle of the Chisholm Trail as cattle were run from Texas up to Abilene, Kansas, from the late 1860s to early 1870s. It wasn’t until 1872 that the Santa Fe Railroad came to Wichita, marking the start of a booming industry bigger than the townsfolk could ever imagine.
When the railroad came, the bustling cow town was set on its way to becoming a booming industrial hub, and a sign was put at the edge of city limits saying, “Everything goes in Wichita.” Soon, the first Santa Fe train arrived in Wichita, and it was a cause for celebration. From parades to fireworks, people in the area knew just how big of a deal it was for a steam-powered locomotive to have access to the town, because it meant the city could grow into a distribution center.
And grow it did. Today the city of Wichita is an industrial paradise, known for its manufacturing of aircraft parts and assembly of aircraft, but the Great Plains Transportation Museum does not want people to forget the city’s roots in the railroad industry.
At the Great Plains Transportation Museum, visitors can see a Santa Fe steam locomotive #3768 and Santa Fe FP45 diesel #93. Those two locomotives are unique because they are the last of a dying breed of locomotives built in their era. There are several other locomotives available to see, including the Burlington Northern #421, Plymouth locomotive, Whitcomb locomotive and Kansas Gas & Electric Switcher car locomotive.
Visitors will get to see rolling stock cars, including one of 24 Burlington cars built in 1929, and a Frisco #876 wood caboose from 1904. The museum takes guests back in time to see railroad prints, signs, lanterns, tools and other artifacts from when the railroad was just getting started in Kansas.
Each year, the museum puts on Kansas Railfest, bringing more interest to the museum’s goal of raising awareness and appreciation for Kansas rail history. This special event offers rides in an authentic steam locomotive through Union Square as well as live music, artists, shopping and interactive activities for both kids and adults.
To learn more about this museum and other history museums in Wichita, click here.