History of the W&PS Railroad
Warrensburg is a college town and a train town
The railroad arrived before the college. Steel rails pushing west across the prairie from St. Louis reached Warrensburg in 1864, 31 years after blacksmith Martin Warren arrived and set up shop on an Osage trail. In 1871, the state of Missouri opened Normal No. 2, a teachers’ college, four blocks south of the train depot in Warrensburg’s rapidly growing downtown.
Normal No. 2 has evolved from its founding as a training college for teachers to the University of Central Missouri--a comprehensive university of more than 14,000 students, faculty and staff.
UCM and a hound--more on the dog later--are Warrensburg’s claims to fame. But rail transportation also remains a key Warrensburg element. Four passenger trains stop in Warrensburg daily as part of Amtrak’s nationwide network.
From 1890 to 1926, Warrensburg had a second rail line. The two-mile line, known as a dummy, connected a downtown hotel and a Victorian-era resort called Pertle Springs. The resort was so popular that train tickets to Pertle Springs were sold at Grand Central Station, in New York. Train passengers arriving in Warrensburg walked about 200 feet to board the dummy and complete their journey to Pertle Springs, which had lakes, campgrounds, an auditorium and a hotel. On its busiest days, the dummy--more streetcar than passenger train--made 30 round trips and carried 8,000 people.
Like resorts elsewhere on the Chautauqua speaker circuit, Pertle Springs succumbed in the 1920s to the one-two punch of radio entertainment and the rise of the auto industry. After the resort closed, workers pulled up the dummy line’s rails and the little train faded into memory.