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Organization seeks to bring regular passenger rail service through county

Staff writer

The board of directors of the Northern Flyer Alliance, Wichita, met Saturday at the Harvey House Museum in Florence to celebrate legislation signed April 8 by Governor Mark Parkinson authorizing the state of Kansas to cooperate with Oklahoma and Texas in developing regular passenger rail service between Kansas City and Fort Worth.

The organization includes members from all three states who are interested in economic development opportunities and alternative transportation sources for their communities.

Teresa Huffman, Marion County Economic Director, met with the board. She was instrumental in bringing them to Marion County.

They hope to procure federal funding for capital improvements. According to vice president Evan Stair, the three states would need to commit a total of $8 million a year to support daily operation of the route.

Stair said Oklahoma and Amtrak started a 206-mile passenger train route between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth in 1999. After six years, $23 million in economical development had been deposited in local economies based upon the route, with nearly a half-million tickets sold. Since then, ridership and economic benefits have increased rapidly.

The proposed 600-mile route would include a stop at Strong City, providing a convenient link for Marion residents. Stair said the stop at Strong City could potentially bring tourists to the area who could enjoy meals at the Harvey House Museum and visit other historic sites.

Stair estimated that 174,000 people would use the proposed route daily.

“We are pleased with what the Kansas legislature did this year,” he said. “With Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas working together, prospects for obtaining federal funding are good.”

For more information, visit the Web site: www.NorthFlyer.org.

Harvey House Museum

The museum originally was part of a hotel restaurant facility established by Fred Harvey in 1879 to serve passengers on the Santa Fe Railroad. Meals were served by waitresses who became known as “Harvey House girls.”

The facility was closed in 1900. One-third of the structure became a parsonage, and another third became a small hotel. The remaining one-third, which included the dining room, was moved to Marion Street in Florence and became a boarding house. It is the only part that remains.

In the early 1970s, Florence Historical Society purchased the building, turned it into a museum, and later began offering group dinners by reservation.

The society renovated the building in 2004, giving the dining room a complete makeover with new wallpaper, border trim, and velvet swags on the windows. The dining room seats 24.

The restaurant serves the traditional Harvey House menu. It includes a relish plate, French coleslaw, roast sirloin of beef au jus, Fred Harvey whipped potatoes with beef gravy, Santa Fe asparagus, fresh baked rolls with raspberry preserves, charlotte of peaches with sweet whipped cream, an assorted cheese and fruit tray, and coffee, tea, or milk.

Waitresses, members of FHS, wear uniforms identical to those worn by Harvey House girls and serve meals in the traditional way. One of the waitresses presents a history of the Harvey House.

A minimum of 12 guests is required. The cost of $20 per plate does not include gratuity but does include a tour of the museum. All labor is voluntary and all proceeds go to Florence Historical Society.

Reservations can be made by calling Linda Heath at (620) 878-4355.

Last modified April 29, 2010

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