September 2, 2016
For use: Immediate
Finney County Historical Society
Contact: Steve Quakenbush, 620-272-3664


Celebration starting at “Old Two Bits” site in Lee Richardson Zoo

There’s a celebration coming up to mark the 100th birthday of the Garden City Western Railway, which operated “Old Two Bits,” the well-known antique steam locomotive which rests in retirement at Garden City’s Lee Richardson Zoo.

The celebration, conducted by the Finney County Historical Society, is set for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 10, sponsored by Pioneer Railcorp of Peoria, Ill., which owns and operates the local railroad today. The schedule includes:

  • A welcome program outdoors at the old locomotive, south of the Finney County Museum, 10 a.m.
  • Railroad history presentations inside the museum at approximately 10:30 and 11:30 a.m.
  • Model railroad demonstrations in the museum, with trains running throughout the celebration
  • A Garden City Western Railway exhibit in the museum’s Front Door Gallery, on display during and after the celebration
  • Refreshments at the museum, outside on the patio if weather permits
  • Rides for $1 per person on the Richardson Railroad, courtesy of the Friends of Lee Richardson Zoo, with pickup outside the museum near the pedestrian entrance of the zoo.

The Garden City Western, now covering 40 miles, was created in 1916 to serve a large factory at the southwest edge of Garden City, first opened in 1906 by the Garden City Sugar Company. “Old Two Bits” hauled sugar beets from stops throughout the area to the factory, which operated until 1955.

A diesel locomotive went into service with the railroad in 1946, and six years later the original coal-powered Baldwin locomotive was donated and located at the zoo, where it has been viewed by generations of visitors.

Though the sugar factory closed more than 60 years ago, the railroad has continued to haul equipment, agricultural products and other freight, initially operated by the Garden City Company, then Garden City Co-op, Inc., and now by Pioneer Railcorp. Artifacts provided by the railroad are being incorporated into the museum exhibit, which will open the morning of the celebration. The display also includes historic photographs.

Pioneer Railcorp owns more than 15 short-line railroads in multiple states, and local personnel have assisted in developing the celebration as well as providing the artifacts. Company representatives plan to be on hand for the celebration.

The Finney County Historical Society has drawn on assistance and support from FOLRZ and Lee Richardson Zoo for the celebration, which is designed to mark a unique component of Finney County’s history. The celebration is taking place the same day as the Garden City Community Mexican Fiesta, and organizers hope the public will be able to participate in the activities of both observances.


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