History of the W&PS Railroad
Warrensburg is a college town and a train town
How would the modern W&PSRR benefit the Warrensburg community? The battery-powered streetcar would be new transportation infrastructure and, more significantly, a driver of economic development.
Easy to envision is a new downtown hotel serving the community and featuring a three-minute streetcar ride to UCM’s on-campus conference center. Kansas City and St. Louis companies that use the center for business conferences send their employees to Warrensburg on Amtrak and lodge them at the new hotel. Many stay an extra day and ride the W&PSRR to Pertle Springs to play golf. Hotel guests spend money at downtown shops and restaurants. Directly on the streetcar route is an historic brick stable that supplied mules to the Army in World War I and is ideal for renovation as a microbrewery. On the route between downtown and the UCM campus is a residential area ripe for redevelopment as mid-rise student housing and condos for adults, including UCM alumni who want to renew their Warrensburg ties with car-free travel to campus events, downtown, Pertle Springs and Amtrak.
In short, when people move, they spend money.
Recent studies describe the streetcar effect: Areas near new rail transit lines experience greater housing density, more business activity and rising property values.
About that previously mentioned dog. In a now-famous 1870 trial at Warrensburg’s historic Old Courthouse, a jury decided the case of a farmer who sued his neighbor for shooting and killing his beloved hunting dog, Old Drum. In an impassioned closing argument, the farmer’s lawyer--future U.S. Senator George Graham Vest--delivered his “Eulogy to a Dog” and established the dog as “man’s best friend.” Jurors awarded Old Drum’s owner $50 in damages and Warrensburg became known to dog lovers everywhere.
A bronze statue of Old Drum stands outside the current Johnson County courthouse, which is less than three blocks from the proposed streetcar line. Six blocks west is the Old Courthouse, now restored as a museum.
In addition to the people and money the W&PSRR will attract to Warrensburg, the streetcar will directly benefit UCM. As a community symbol and a form of “green” transportation, the W&PSRR will boost student recruitment and retention. The W&PSRR will provide university students carless commutes. And instead of searching for scarce parking, personnel and part-time students from nearby Whiteman Air Force Base will use a satellite lot near campus and take the streetcar to class.
Also, out-of-town kids on school field trips can take Amtrak to Warrensburg, then visit the W&PSRR maintenance facility to learn about environmentally conscious public transportation. The experience will prompt many of them to consider UCM when they’re ready for college. In addition, the W&PSRR will provide student employment and be the centerpiece of a new transit-focused program at UCM’s technology school.