Abilene and Smoky Valley Railroad Designated at Kansas’ Official Heritage Railroad

By Ryan Duey

The Kansas legislature last week approved a bill that officially designates the Abilene and Smoky Valley as the state’s official heritage railroad. The legislation, HB2481, also names Santa Fe 3415, the railroad’s prized steam engine, as Kansas’ official steam locomotive. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

The designations are expected to give the railroad more statewide stature, while greatly enhancing the non-profit association’s ability to obtain grants and other funding options.

“This is indeed an honor,” said A&SV President and General Manager Ross Boelling. “Our organization was founded three decades ago on the idea of preserving the legacy of railroads as builders of our state. It’s great to make our mission an official Kansas tradition. More importantly, this designation is a great recognition of our volunteers and the tens of thousands of hours they have dedicated to the A&SV.”

While the official status will be used as a focus in grant writing, Boelling said the A&SV will immediately begin branding itself as “the Kansas heritage railroad.” A logo has been designed that incorporates an image of Santa Fe 3415 with the railroad’s new slogan.

The legislation was the idea of State Representative Scott Hill of Abilene, who introduced separate bills in the House on January 12, one for the state heritage railroad designation and the other naming Santa Fe 3415 as the official state steam locomotive. As the bills made their way through the sometimes tenuous legislative process, they were first combined into a single bill and finally bundled together with other transportation-related bills. The bundled bill was unanimously passed by the House 120-0 and Senate 39-0. The bill now goes to Governor Laura Kelly, who is expected to sign the legislation.

The Abilene and Smoky Valley is the only excursion railroad experience in Kansas and Santa Fe 3415 is the only operating steam engine in several Midwestern states. One of about 200 operating steam engines nationwide, the locomotive enjoys national prominence and is a popular tourist attraction. The engine is out of service this season, pending the Federal Railroad Administration’s mandated rebuild, which happens every 15 years. Boelling said the A&SV will be kicking off the ATSF 3415 rebuild project and fundraising in the next few weeks.

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