COLUMBIA — Dressed as a train conductor with a black conductor’s hat and vest and holding an, admittedly broken, pocket watch, Sean Brown greeted people as they entered Wabash Station for its Centennial Jubilee kickoff ceremony on Friday afternoon.
“Can I offer you a train ticket for the day?” he asked as he handed people a program detailing the history of the station.
Odell Robb, 70, of Cairo, Mo., attended the event. He worked for the railroad from 1959 to 1989 and he was at the Wabash Station in Columbia from 1962 to 1967.
He remembers many of the passengers were girls who attended Stephens College.
“They had great, big old trunks full,” he said, remembering helping the students move their heavy luggage off the train.
Brown started the ceremony with a loud cry of, “All aboard!”
Mayor Bob McDavid detailed the recent history of Wabash station, including the remodel and expansion completed in October 2007, and explained how the building now serves as the hub for the Columbia Transit System.
Wabash station continued to serve as the bus depot as the ceremony progressed as people waited outside for their buses. Occasionally the loudspeaker announcement of a bus arriving interrupted McDavid’s speech and he spoke over the rumble of buses idling outside.
In the packed station, the mayor introduced the descendants of Leonard Wolff, who served as the general contractor for the construction of the station completed on July 16, 1910.
He also announced the winners of the Wabash photo contest. Clarisse Shum won first, Randy Hughes was second and Mike Seat was third. The photos were framed and will be displayed in the station.
McDavid introduced local historian Bill Clark to further explain the history of the station.
“I want to set the record straight, I was not here in 1910,” Clark jokingly said as he started his remarks. He told of how before the railroad people had to get around on horseback, in a carriage or on foot. He said that in 1910 a car trip to St. Louis would have been front-page news.
“I invite you to adjourn to our dining car in the rear,” Brown said as he pointed to the rear of the lobby where a table was set up with cake and punch.
That evening, a jubilee was held to celebrate the 100 year milestone of the station's opening.
People lined up behind a ticket window in the Wabash Station lobby much like they would have 100 years ago. This time, however, they were in line for "Wabash Tracks" ice cream, which is what Tiger Stripe ice cream from Buck's Ice Cream Place was dubbed for the occasion.
Inside the station, there were also historical displays including an antique telegraph key and shovels from the railroad.
Outside, the Columbia Fire Department displayed its General Fire Apparatus fire truck that was delivered brand new from Detroit on the Wabash in July of 1940. The department used the truck until 1975. Now it is only used for parades and special occasions. The truck is often referred to as "Herc," which is short for the Hercules engine that is under the hood, Captain Adam Sapp said.
Richard and Sheila Weiman and Russ and Carol Reidinger of Columbia built a train for children to ride that's powered by a lawn mower. One child rides in each car made from a plastic drum and the wooden caboose was large enough for this reporter to ride a loop through the parking lot.
Also outside were antique cars, a hot dog stand, children's art projects and a balloon artist.
Underneath Artlandish Gallery in the "catacombs," where goods were stored that were entering or leaving the city via rail, railroad enthusiasts displayed table-top trains and memorabilia from the Wabash Railroad.