By Jim Misunas
LARNED — When citizens tell William Nusser their fond memories on the John Schnack Express Train at Schnack Park, it brings tears to their eyes. At one time, children could ride the Schnack Express train for free on Sundays.
It was last November when Larned Kiwanis Club members saw the Schnack Express was riding its last legs.
Six months later, the John Schnack Express is ready to roll Saturday July 4 at Schnack Park.
“We had seen reliability was getting less-and-less the last couple of years. At Halloween, we saw it was smoking, oil was leaking and brakes were not good,” Nusser said.
The Kiwanis Club partnered with Larned Pride, which received a Golden Belt Community Foundation $3,500 grant.
“Angie Murray’s input with Larned Pride is invaluable and their members get engaged in projects,” Nusser said. “That initial funding sparked our ‘Save the Train,’ project. Larned Pride has invested in successful projects like the Splash Pad, Camp Pawnee and the community garden.
The Larned Kiwanis Club sponsored a “Save the Train,” fundraiser dinner for the John Schnack Express renovation at last winter’s homecoming basketball game. Kiwanis, Larned Pride and Larned Middle School students provided the volunteers and others made desserts, which were a big success.
“The meat was donated. The community really stepped up. I learned they love that train,” Nusser said.
Harley Carr from Carr Auto Electric, Gene Nusser from Hutchinson and Terry Taylor from Auto Pro provided mechanical and technical expertise. William Nusser, a dirt track racer, tossed in his two cents worth as an active driver.
“Harley Carr has great experience working with old engines. Terry Taylor is the former city mechanic who worked on the train,” Nusser said.
Their work brought back memories of C. Linzie Williams, who served as an engineer of the Schnack Express miniature railroad, and was a caretaker for the Schnack Memorial Rose Garden.
After consulting with train experts, a new engine and transmission was installed with a hydraulic drive system.
The work required dozens of hours of donated labor.
After all, doesn’t everyone love a train?
The test drive went smoothly and Kiwanis Club members are gearing up for their debut from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Schnack-Lowrey Park. The train is designed for young children.
“Of course, you’re always nervous, but so far it’s turned out nice and worked great,” Nusser said. “We’re hoping that gets us down the road into the future for some time.”
Future improvements are also planned for the track and preservation of the train.