If a clearance inspection goes well on Friday, the “track” will finally be cleared for Amtrak service to come to the Arcadia Valley in just a matter of weeks.
“There will be a stop going south at around 10:30 at night and then another going north at around 4:30 to 5 in the morning,” said Carol Kelsheimer, Our Town Tomorrow president and the one who has spearheaded the project since its inception in 2011. “It starts in Chicago, Illinois, and ends in San Antonio, Texas. The Texas Eagle only has three stops in Missouri — St. Louis, here and Poplar Bluff.
“Amtrak has already had a meeting with all of the departments. After the platform railing and signage is up, then John Bender — who has been my main contact in Washington, D.C. for Amtrak — has to come down and do an ADA inspection and to make sure the signage is correct and where it’s supposed to be — that everything is done right.”
And making sure that everything is done right can get pretty expensive.
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“Just one Amtrak sign costs $1,900,” Kelsheimer said. “It’s hard to have a budget when every time you turn around, somebody else comes in and says, ‘OK, you’ve got to have three instead of two and that’s another $2,000.’ Another thing we want to do, but we may have to wait on because of the cost is resealing the parking lot, adding some more parking in front of the caboose and striping.”
While nothing has been set in stone quite yet, Kelsheimer believes Amtrak’s “Texas Eagle” will make its first stop sometime around the middle of next month.
“We’re shooting for Nov. 18 to have the grand opening,” she said. “That will be the first stop for the southbound train at 10:30 p.m. We’re probably going to be having some activities, including the ribbon cutting, during the day and have everything lead up to that night when the first train arrives. We want this grand opening to be something that’s really big and I’m working on that now by seeing what other places have done.”
According to Kelsheimer, there is a group that has already made plans to be on that first Amtrak passenger train when it finally arrives at the train station which is located in the town of Arcadia.
“We have a railroad group, Railroad Enthusiasts, out of St. Louis that’s booking the first train that’s going to stop,” she said. “They’re having a motor coach come down and then they’ll ride the train down and get off, tour the museum and then go back.”
What’s exciting many in the community is the possibility of economic growth coming to a part of the state that’s been in an economic slump for years.
“We’ve just had the Iron Mule restaurant open over the weekend and then we’ve got another restaurant that we just signed a contract with,” said Sandy Francis, director of Partnership Development for Iron County Economic Partnership. “We have one company — they haven’t actually submitted their bid yet — but they’re going to be working on getting a rental car agency that we need here.
"Things are moving and the other communities are really anxious for it to start, too. People from Fredericktown, Farmington and all over are just really eager for this stop to become a reality.”
Kelsheimer agreed, saying, “A businessman in town has a shuttle service that he’s going to try for a year when Amtrak stops here that will take people to local motels and then bring them back. He’s also opened up a tour company and he’s already set up a website and I think he has maybe four tours planned. One is a battle tour and one is a wine tour that takes you to Caledonia and back. One of Elephant Rocks State Park and one that’s just a general Arcadia Valley tour that takes in a lot of the historic sites downtown.”
She noted that many of the vacant buildings in town have been sold — many of which have been sitting empty for years.
“I think once people see that it’s happening, there will be a lot more come onboard,” she said.
“When you travel and see the other stops, they’re nothing compared to us. It has been a long time coming and I’m glad it’s coming to fruition.
“I can see why at the onset they told me it would take five years — and I said no, we’re going forward, but it did take five years. We just hope and pray Friday that this inspection passes and everything’s in compliance and then we can start getting ready to party.”
Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or firstname.lastname@example.org
“When you travel and see the other stops, they’re nothing compared to us." — Carol Kelsheimer, Our Town Tomorrow president