The Belton, Grandview & KC Railroad offers a ride through history
By Lisa Lance
Just 17 miles south of Kansas City, you’ll be pleased to discover the small-town charm of Belton, Mo. And if you’re looking to book a historic excursion for your group, look no further than the Belton, Grandview & Kansas City Railroad Co. (BG&KC). Located on Main Street in Old Towne Belton, the railroad offers short-line train rides and a demonstration museum. Its collection includes a 1950s diesel locomotive, a 1920s coach, a caboose from the 1970s, and an open-air car. The train yard also features maintenance-of-way equipment and two static steam locomotives on display. “Belton started its history in 1872, and that’s where our trip begins and ends,” says passenger services director Edith Friel. The BG&KC is open from May to October each year and offers passengers a five-mile, 45-minute ride. “We do operate slowly,” says Friel. “[The ride offers] an out-and-back movement, meaning that we back out and pull forward. It’s a pleasant ride at approximately 10 miles per hour.”
Book a memory
The train can accommodate 66 passengers for charter tours. It is neither heated nor cooled, but it’s a very enjoyable ride in comfortable weather. Friel says the railroad generally does not book the open-air car for groups, but that’s only to ensure that all passengers can ride safely out of the elements in case it rains.
Group charters can be arranged in advance; Friel says these charters are booked around regularly scheduled ride times. Staff can help group organizers decide on times that won’t interfere with scheduled excursions. The cost for groups varies, but is roughly $9 per person. Friel says the railroad depot offers plenty of parking, but it’s best to take care of your group’s restroom needs before arriving at the railroad. Diane Huckshorn, executive director of the Belton Chamber of Commerce, has worked with the BG&KC on several occasions, and has ridden the train with her own groups. “The railroad is one of our members, and one of the things we’ve done (with BG&KC) is an after-hours mixer,” says Huckshorn. “We had dinner in the chamber office, which is just in front of the railroad depot. Our guests could eat and then go shop on Main Street; then we boarded the train.” The group brought dessert and had a local singer provide entertainment during the ride, Huckshorn says. Her group rode the train out to its stopping point, and spent about half an hour enjoying dessert and entertainment. “On the way out, Edith gave the group a wonderful history about the railroad, how it got started, and where it came from,” she says. The chamber also has organized special train rides for Vintage Market Days of Kansas City, which is operated by a company based in Cleveland. Other groups that have booked charters with the BG&KC include Appletree Academy Preschool in Lees Summit, Raymore Historical Society, and Sunny Day Tours.
Dine and shop by the depot
While the railroad doesn’t offer food service or have a liquor license, groups are welcome to bring in their own food. Staff at the BG&KC also can help coordinate other dining and catering options, such as summer barbecue dinners. Friel says the railroad works with groups to accommodate their individual needs.
She recommends the Tea Room by Country Keepsakes on Main Street as a before- or after-ride lunch option. “The Tea Room offers good home-cooked food, in tea room-sized portions,” she says, “and the meals are moderately priced. It’s just a three-block walk from our railroad.” Huckshorn says there are a number of other restaurant choices on Main Street as well, such as Tara’s Café & Malt Shop, offering diner specialties. Passengers enjoy visiting the shop before they ride, or afterward if they’re in the mood for milkshakes or lunch, Huckshorn notes. She also recommends setting aside time for guests to browse Belton’s shops. “Main Street is a fabulous shopping destination,” she says. “We have 100-plus-year-old buildings that line our downtown Main Street. And we have six antique shops right here within a two-block area.” Making memories Huckshorn says the after-hours mixer she booked on the BG&KC made for a truly memorable night. “The most magical thing happened during that event, which was held in September,” she says. “It happened to be monarch butterfly migration season. As the train was going down the tracks, it would stir up the butterflies that were in trees along their migration path. As we looked up, thousands of butterflies were flying up above the train, and coming down into the open air car that we were in. “The word that was used most by passengers that day was ‘magical.’ And it really was – just one of those perfect fall evenings,” Huckshorn says. “The weather was warm, we had a big crowd, and everyone had the best time.”
For more information on the Belton Grandview & Kansas City Railroad, visit www.beltonrailroad.org.
Lisa Lance is a freelance writer in Baltimore, Md.