Seven Historic Bridges in Clay and Platte Counties
—the Living Legacy of the KCCC&StJ Electric Railway
Although perhaps not as romantic as the covered bridges of the popular book and movie “The Bridges of Madison County,” the artistry and ingenuity of the Luten design concrete archways built ninety years ago for this Missouri electric light-rail Interurban system were considered by the builders as civic monuments of unique design.
Ed Gentry in this program will discuss the remaining concrete bridges built to carry the Kansas City, Clay County and St. Joseph Railway in its 79 mile route through the Northland from 1913 to 1933. His presentation examines the railway, other remaining artifacts and includes video interviews of those who road the rails.
Next Scheduled Presentation
Ed Gentry grew up in Southern Illinois in a family who gave him a sense of history and a sense of good storytelling. As a high school student in the early 60's exploring his home county, he was able to see 40 years ago the abandoned railroad bed of the Coal Belt Electric Railway which connected the communities and mines of Williamson County from 1905 to 1926. But, he just thought it was a trolley unique to the circumstances of the mining industry of the towns, Marion, Herrin, Carterville and the hub of the electric railroad - Energy.
In central Illinois a vast interurban network went from St. Louis to the state capital of Springfield, up to Peoria and eastward to Decatur, Danville and Champaign-Urbana. This Illinois Terminal Interurban Railroad still had passenger business in the 1950's, but that was gone in the years Ed attended the University of Illinois, graduated, and lived in Champaign. He knew nothing of that wonderful system.
Ed's awakening to the importance of the electric railroad industry came when an article in the St. Joseph News-Press about Platte County's Interurban Road prompted his curiosity about the 79 mile KCCC&STJ system. "I am working in Kansas City and commuting 500 miles a week. I've lived in Phoenix and Chicago and was completely surprised to learn about a commuter system that was right here in Western Missouri." When Chicago friend K. J. Schadt joined Ed and his wife Debbie in May of 1997 to look at the sites of the Platte County's Interurban Road, a video of that weekend adventure was the beginning.
Following a column in February, 1999, by Alonzo Weston in the St. Joseph News-Press about Ed's video work and his presentations, the video project has expanded to included interviews with those who rode the rails so long ago. Since that time Ed has presented programs about the interurban that include videotape of his search for cars, buildings, bridges and other artifacts of the railway. Often at his presentations, people who rode the train show up with colorful antedotes to share, which Ed enjoys capturing on video.
There's always something new at his presentations!
Ed Gentry is available for booking within a 50-mile radius of the interurban trail. If you are interested in making comments about this website or if you have historical information to share about the interurban, Luten concrete bridges or the development of hard roads in Northwest Missouri please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call (816) 233 4017.