Saturday, September 22, 2012

Sedalia's Wild Railroad History

While we attended the Escapees RV Rally in Sedalia, MO, we also took time to explore around the town and learned that the city owed much of its growth to the railroad.
 The first railroad line reached Sedalia in 1861, shortly after the city's founding in the late 1850's. Soon after, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad (also known as the KATY) also entered the city (in about 1870) and ended up building this fabulous depot in 1896. Today, the depot serves as a museum featuring the railroad history of the area.

 Rick visited the depot with friends Denise and Butch, who also were attending the Escapees Rally (I guess that makes us all escapers).

 We really enjoyed the museum's exhibits and information on the past. Here, Rick checks out some of the typical railroad items that were so common not so long ago.

 Due to Sedalia's central location, both the KATY and Missouri Pacific Railroads established large locomotive repair and construction shops. Here, an aerial view of the Missouri Pacific lines large facility in downtown Sedalia in the 1920s shows the size of this installation.

 Imagine the capacity of this crane that could easily lift a large steam engine, weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds, and move it around the shop.

These shops, employing hundreds of machinists and other workers like these men, could literally build a locomotive from scratch. They could also totally rebuild one if needed. Here, they are working on the rods that connect the driving wheels together. 
This locomotive is typical of the large engines that roamed the rails around Sedalia. Now displayed at the Fairgrounds in Sedalia, Rick was able to see this one every day at the Rally since it was right next to the free coffee stand!

Sedalia grew rapidly with the two railroads running through the city as this picture of downtown in 1890 shows. The railroad also provided a target for large cattle drives from Texas in the late 1800's. The combination of railroad workers, cowboys and the like also caused Sedalia to have a thriving "red light" district with the city being referred to as the Sodom and Gomorrah of the Nineteenth Century. 

The city was quite the active spot not only for railroads, but also for livestock, such as these mules that Missouri (and Sedalia) was famous for. These four sold for over $7,300 in 1909 -- a huge sum of money for the time!

 Finally, Sedalia as a cattle drive headquarters, was firmly established by none other than Clint Eastwood while starring in Rawhide. Here Rowdy (Clint Eastwood) and Gil Favor (Eric Fleming) have a quick draw contest (in the KATY Depot) with the winner of a Sedalia contest. Bet that kid was pretty excited, although they would likely all get arrested today!

Today, Sedalia still offers many things to see, although the railroad has a very small presence. The locomotive shops are all gone and Main Street is pretty much deserted. In fact, as we drove down it, we saw this collapsed building that may have been built back in the city's heyday. Bet it would have had some great stories to tell if it could have talked. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Escapees Rally in Sedalia, MO

I must confess that I have been a bit slack in posting to the blog over the last few days and that is because I have been attending the Escapees Rally in Sedalia, MO. The Escapees RV Club focuses on fulltime RVers (although you do not have to be a fulltimer to join!) and offers a number of benefits for their members. 

Each year, they hold an Escapade Rally featuring entertainment, seminars, and of course, vendors. Rick attended the rally and parked in the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia, MO, as shown here. 

 There were close to 600 RVs at the rally and lots of experiences that attendees shared over coffee and snacks!

 The Escapees organization is based in Texas and does a great job in hosting a rally. As you can see, they have some serious equipment in use for the rally.

 Rick was interested in updating his Electrical Surge System with one from the Progressive Industries organization. They had a great booth in the vendor area and are well know in the RV arena for excellent customer service.

 Rick found exactly what he wanted and at a very good price at the show, so quickly snapped it up. He was also able to install that, but that will be another blog post.

 There were quite a few vendors offering RV items that are hard to find anywhere else. Indeed, these vendors almost make the rally worth attending by themselves.

 We were also very impressed by the Sedalia Fairgrounds, which are huge. Every RV was able to have full hookups and the many nice buildings provided a great setting for seminars and entertainment. This beautiful, brick building actually houses the Swine exhibits -- pretty nice facility for pigs.

Indeed, we were treated to some great in-person entertainment by outstanding stars, such as Yakov Smirnoff, the well know comedian now based in Branson, MO. He gave a super show and we had a great time. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Sioux Falls Courthouse Museum

 Sioux Falls is the largest city in South Dakota, but was not settled until 1856. This stone tower was erected in 1949 to commemorate the pioneers who settled the area. The memorial is located on a hill near the Falls of the Big Sioux River.

Downtown is the original Courthouse of Sioux Falls, now serving as a great museum. We have been to the museum before, but learned that they change the displays frequently, so we decided to take a look -- and glad we did!

 When first entering, it seems appropriate to see this buffalo standing in greeting (he is stuffed, fortunately). The displays all around it show the many uses of the buffalo and its parts by native tribes and pioneers.

 Most folks may not realize that Sioux Falls is the spot where the modern hot air balloon was invented back in the early 1960's. Since then, the industry has expanded and there is a vibrate ballooning group in Sioux Falls which is reflected in some great exhibits here at the museum.

Here, Rick is trying out a balloon basket for size. He had a chance to fly in a hot air balloon a few years ago and loved it. 

 There are a number of great exhibits on the early balloons including this pre-cursor to the balloon basket -- a simple aluminum chair. Imagine sitting in this light chair while you cruised a couple thousand feet in the air -- wow!

 This is what the early balloon system looked like -- the small chair and a couple of propane tanks to fuel the balloon. Pretty basic!

 Another major display focused on the American Flag which provided some remarkable insights on the flag and its history.

 Since we are from South Dakota, Rick thought this flag was pretty interesting. This 43 star flag was created when five states, including South Dakota, were admitted to the union.

 We learned that there were many different arrangements for the stars included in the flag, including this "Great Star" flag design flown after California was added tot he Union.

 Of course, this great shot of Buzz Aldrin taken by Neil Armstrong shows the flag on the moon when they landed in 1969. We remember this clearly -- and it sure seems a long time ago now!

 South Dakota also experiences some wild weather, including tornadoes.  On July 9, 1932 a strong twister hit Sioux Falls, destroyed a steel bridge and drove a beam right through this tree.

 Want proof of this tornado hit? How about this -- the real tree and beam from the picture above. Wow -- this must have been some heavy wind to do this.

 A display that Rick got a kick out of dealt with bicycling. Back in the later 1800's, cycling became popular, but not everyone was pleased. Indeed, medical professionals advertised against cycling since it caused injuries caused by crashes, various "nerve" problems, as well as vague biking maladies. The answer? See your doctor, of course!

 Finally, Rick loved this vintage Schwinn cruiser. Now that is a bike! This is a great museum and is sure worth the visit.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Sertoma Butterfly and Marine House -- Butterfly Division

 We had a great chance to see the wonderful aquariums in the Sertoma Butterfly and Marine Cove house in Sioux Falls last time. However, now it is time to take a look at the star attractions -- the butterfly house.

 The Flight Room is about 3,600 square feet of tropical paradise and contains many, many tropical plants, flowers and of course, butterflies. Held at a constant 80 degrees, this is a perfect environment for the butterflies.

 There are thousands of butterflies tooling around as you stroll through the flight room on paved paths. They are literally everywhere and beautiful to see.

 Rick was not sure where to take pictures first, as there were many, many butterflies all vying for his attention. He did not know the names of these, but had a great time watching them.

 The butterflies arrive at the Sioux Falls location as chrysalises which were raised at butterfly hatcheries. These are grown and hatched in a special room (which we could view) and when they emerge, enter the flight room. 

 Butterflies from around the world are represented here and include locations such as Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

 It was amazing to sit on one of the benches, next to a small waterfall, and watch these beautiful creatures fly among the tropical foliage.

 Rick was surprised at the wide variety of color, shapes and sizes of the different butterflies as these two indicate.

 There were small and large butterflies and literally all colors of the rainbow.

 This fellow was hard to pin down for a picture, but eventually Rick was able to wait for him to light long enough to take this shot.

 Rick really liked this one. Not sure where it is from, but the colors were amazing.

 Finally, this one was one of the largest in the flight room and flew very rapidly and well.

The Butterfly House is a great place to visit to see both butterflies and aquarium dwellers. This is well worth a visit of a few hours when you are in the Sioux Falls area.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Sioux Falls Sertoma Butterfly House and Marine Cove

Located in the city of Sioux Falls is a very unique attraction -- the Butterfly house and Marine Cove. This large building houses thousands of butterflies as well as a number of very large aquariums which makes up the "Marine Cove" portion. Rick thought the addition of the aquariums was a great idea since he used to keep large aquariums in years past.

 Rick started his visit at the aquariums, which were great. There was a wide variety of freshwater and marine aquarium displays featuring many wonderful fish.  These large Oscars were clearly the masters of their large tank. There were a few other fish in it, but they stayed well away from these guys!

 The next aquarium was a marine tank and featured these clown fish that seemed interested in checking me out while I was watching them.

 One of Rick's favorites is this yellow tang. A saltwater fish, this beautiful marine specimen comes from the Hawaiian and Indonesian reef areas. I really liked the related materials in the tanks, such as this coral which makes the Tang feel right at home.

 I enjoyed the way the tanks were mixed between freshwater and marine environments. After the coral reef tank and the tangs, we came upon this blue discus fish in a nice freshwater tank. As you can see, the tanks were in great condition and well maintained.

 Moving back to the marine tank environment, Rick spotted this fellow nestled into the coral. I am not sure of this species, but it is a colorful and interesting fish.

 The fish were great to watch, but Rick also enjoyed the interesting plants and corals in the tank. The plants and reef materials really set off the fish and help display them in a fashion similar to their native environment.

 There were even a number of anemones in the marine tanks. While these look like plants, they are actually predatory animals and wait for their prey to land on them. These are beautiful to look at, but can be dangerous to unwary fish and other small marine creatures.

The aquariums are great and Rick loved them, but wait until we get inside the butterfly area!