I swayed back and forth to the repetitive “clickety-clack” sounds that reverberated through the railcar traversing northwestern Missouri headed toward Kansas City, Mo. It almost lulled me to sleep, but like a kid the night before a Disney World trip, I was too excited to sleep. It was my first train ride — ever.
Aboard the Kansas City Southern Railway’s Southern Belle, it was like stepping back in time, but with a little more modern feel. KCS ran passenger trains from the 1940s to the 1960s from Kansas City, Mo., to New Orleans, but stopped the service in 1969. The focus switched to transporting commodities, many of them related to the agriculture, coal and steel industries.
But in 1995, the rail company president decided to bring back the passenger train for its guests and shippers. The Southern Belle was first painted dark green, but in 2007, it went to a black, yellow and red color scheme. Still, not everyone can jump aboard this locomotive.
Today, the Southern Belle only goes out once a year, to pull the Holiday Express Train in December — and perhaps another special occasion, such as showing the governor, along with a few journalists, the importance of rail to the state’s agriculture industry. It’s sad that others cannot see this train, because it is a beauty.
There are dining, bar and dance cars. There are individual sleeping quarters, complete with contemporary amenities such as TVs and bathrooms. Then there are cars that offer conference rooms for meetings.
For my first train ride, the Southern Belle really set the bar high. It will be hard for other trains to even compare to what she has to offer. But while the inside was stunning, it all pales in comparison to the view outside.
The Southern Belle offers a second-floor observation deck with a glass window surrounding it, enabling passengers to take in the splendor of Missouri’s countryside, mile after mile. It was a great time to sit back, relax and truly enjoy being involved in the agriculture industry. Trust me, Missouri is a beautiful state to travel by car, but it is even better by train.
To see the inside of the KCS Southern Belle click on the slideshow.