Old Chingawasa train car gets its own house
The Chingawassa Days annual celebration bears close to the same name as the short-line railroad, “Marion Belt and Chingawasa Railroad,” which ran from Marion to a health resort at Chingawasa Springs, northeast of Marion, in the late 1880s to early 1890s.
After the rail line ceased operation, the train cars were sold. At least one of those cars was preserved and it now sits at the National Orphan Train Complex in Concordia, where it has been restored and is known as “The Legend.”
A wood-frame structure now encloses the car to protect it from the weather. Former county tourism director, Teresa Huffman, was at the museum Friday at the 2019 celebration of orphan train riders for a ribbon cutting and tour of the train car.
“All the information inside was about Marion,” she said. “It was all about Marion.”
According to museum director Shaley Georgeone poster, “The Legend” is not the train car that was the Owl Car Café in Marion.
But, why would the orphan train museum be interested in a train car from the Marion Belt and Chingawasa Railroad?
C. C. Jones, a Marion dentist, purchased one of the cars and made it his office. Jones later played a key role in placing orphan children in homes when they were brought from New York City to Marion in 1911. He looked after their welfare until they came of age – 18 for boys and 21 for girls.
Jones’ daughter, Mabel, whom he adopted as an orphan, used the car as a playhouse after Jones moved his office. She later married Henry Holub, and Jones moved the car to his farm, where Mabel made it into a chicken coop.
The windows were covered, and many patches were applied to the siding as the car deteriorated.
Historical records that a car was in Marion in 2005. Its owner had died, and the car was taken by the city.
Susan Sutton, president of NOTC, read an article about the Chingawasa railroad, “The Marion Belt and Chingawasa Springs: Kansas First Excursion Railroad,” and contacted the city about donating the car to the orphan train museum.
The car was moved to a site near Concordia, where multiple contractors and researchers restored it over a 10-year period. “The Legend” was moved to the museum in August 2015 and unveiled in a special ceremony June 3, 2016.
Now, the little car has a permanent home all its own.