“Old Engine 99“: Rescued from a pile in the salvage yard
The television show Antiques Roadshow often features valuable items which have been rescued. That’s “Old Engine 99″‘s story. Goodland Public Library’s stained-glass window, often called “The Railroad Window”, survived a trip to the salvage yard to shine in the library at 812 Broadway.
Railroad connects Goodland to the world
Engineer C.E. Biddison and Engine 99 pulled the first Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railway train into Goodland July 3, 1888. He drove the train from Horton to Goodland. The train carried the rail and wooden ties that were needed to complete the building of the track in Goodland. (The CK&N was part of the Rock Island System.)
The town erupted in joy. The Sherman County Republican‘s headlines read “HURRAH! HURRAH!! HURRAH!!! … Goodland connected to the outside world by railroad and telegraphic lines….” The celebration lasted all day with over 5,000 people pouring into Goodland, five times the town’s population.
Goodland’s identity would soon be tied to the Rock Island. The railroad brought population and prosperity to the community, but it also brought tragedy.
The tragic loss of Charles Winsell
In September 1911, 23-year-old brakeman Charles J. Winsell was killed while watching the train cars for a hot box, a problem with an overheated axle joint.
The video above explains more about the problem Winsell was watching for. In order to watch for a hot box’s telltale smoke, he was standing on the steps between two cars, holding onto the handholds land looking backward. He apparently had lost track of his location. When his train approached an iron bridge near Mattison, Colo., the CK&N’s second station west of Limon, he was still leaning away from the train. With the train running 50 miles per hour, he struck his head on a girder and was killed instantly.
The railroad brought back his body the same day as he was killed. Bower & Sons Funeral Home handled the funeral (PDF) at the Methodist Church. Winsell’s service was the first ever held in the newly-built church building. Winsell’s death shocked the community and a large audience attended his funeral, the Goodland Republic said. The railroad employees purchased a stained-glass window for the church in Winsell’s memory.
Rescuing the railroad window
Eventually, the Methodists tore down their 1911 building in order to build a new one. The 1911 windows, including “Old Engine 99″, were hauled to Wichita for salvage. The contract specified that the salvage yard could remove everything. Mrs. John Cogswell, the Mayor’s wife, lamented their absence. The Cogswells bought the railroad window for $700, hoping to install it one day in a new library. With orders to “Bring back the train!” (PDF), Larry Eves of Goodland Glass went to Wichita to salvage the window. After a half-day search, Eves found it in a pile of rubble, including old bottles. He encased it in plywood and took it home, where it sat for four years.
Restoring the window
Finally, in 1975 the new library came to fruition. Mrs. Harold Stickle and Mrs. Paul McBride, daughters of Sherman County homesteaders the Joseph F. Kimmels, furnished an estimated $1,250 for restoration in their parents’ honor. Stickle and McBride hired Martin Eastwood to restore the window. He said that the Goodland window was “the only one like it in the world” and that the “ceramic art paintwork” is “rare.” Unfortunately, the original artist’s name has been lost. Eastwood needed six days to restore it. It still shows the effects of its rough treatment.
Library patrons still cherish the treasure that Eves and others saved from the salvage yard. The library holds events in “The Railroad Window” room and it adds a touch of elegance to every occasion. While the window remains, the community of Mattison seems to have disappeared.
Other things to see
While in the library, see the mysterious Kansas Room painting. Greg Todd’s sculpture More Than Words stands outside the library’s front door.
Tristan Cooper’s Eagle Scout project (PDF) stands on the south end of the library’s property. Take a break under the project’s gazebo or rest on the benches.