Reviving the Pertle Springs Dummy Line

A model of the Pertle Springs Dummy is displayed at the Johnson County Historical Society museum. The model was made by Jackson C. Hackley, a former fireman and engineer on the Dummy Line.

It’s hard to imagine a streetcar running from downtown Warrensburg to Pertle Springs.

It’s harder to imagine someone bringing that streetcar back to life.

But that’s exactly what brothers Tim and Bob Bryant want to do – revive The Dummy.

“We would never (have) begun this project if we weren’t from Warrensburg and if the streetcar had never existed,” Tim said via e-mail. “We’re convinced a quiet, emission-free modern version of the old dummy will lead to more tourism and economic development as well as providing unique public transportation.”

The three-car train ran for some 35 years starting in 1889. It was apparently called The Dummy for its quieted steam engine. The streetcar succumbed, along with the Pertle Springs resort, to the popularity of the automobile.

A postcard shows The Dummy next to the Estes Hotel, which burned several years ago, at the corner of what is now Commercial and Holden streets.

The railway connected the former Estes Hotel downtown to what was once a major resort at Pertle Springs. The Estes burned down several years ago, and the Minnewawa Hotel at Pertle disappeared long ago.

A long, tall bridge once connected the Minnewawa to a convention center and an onion-domed pavilion. Lake Cena was once loaded with boaters and swimmers, and the spring house was popular for its drinkable mineral water.

The stuff bubbling forth from the spring now leaves behind an interesting orange sludge.

The University of Central Missouri now owns Pertle Springs and recently built a $1.7 million clubhouse at the golf course there.

And the updated UCM master plan calls for a new amphitheater on the southeast bank of the lake.

Tim and Bob Bryant have already chatted with university and city officials, along with some other well-connected locals, about their idea. They are currently seeking nonprofit status for their organization – the Warrensburg and Pertle Springs Railroad.

The idea is to create a battery-operated Dummy that takes visitors from a hotel downtown to Pertle Springs. Tim and Bob aren’t developers. They are merely suggesting that an advantageous location for a hotel is the mostly vacant lot east of the UMB bank building, on the north side of Railroad Street.

The original line started about a block to the south, on the other side of the Union Pacific tracks, across from City Hall.

The goal is to build the estimated $2 million railway on the cheap. They would seek donated rails from the defunct Rock Island Line along with grants, private funding, advertising trade-outs and other partnerships and donations to make it happen.

“We don’t know if there’s anything in it for us financially,” Tim wrote. “If eventually there’s sufficient income in the nonprofit, we’d consider drawing a fee commensurate with whatever would be proper given the size of the company. Until that might happen, we’d defer any payments to ourselves. Regardless, our primary payoff would be realization of a project we think would make Warrensburg a premier college town in the Midwest.”

Bob Bryant, 67, has a marketing degree from UCM (CMSC at the time) and is “mostly” retired from Meridian Creative, an ad agency in Ozark, Mo.

Tim, 60, started out at CMSU before transferring to Boston University. He is a former reporter and sports editor at the Daily Star-Journal and is currently a business reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The two brothers grew up on a chicken farm on S. Main Street in Warrensburg.

Tim said they are not seeking money from the city. However, they need an easement to install a single track on short sections of College Avenue and South Street. They also need right-of-way along Southwest Drive and South Main Street through Lions Lake park and easements on short sections of downtown streets next to a potential new downtown hotel.

Overall, Tim said the route is still open and mostly free of obstructions. The planned route would basically follow the historic route: South on College, west on South and south on the campus pedestrian mall (formerly College Street, which jogged west at South and turned south to run past the science building and student union).

The route then crosses Clark and turns southwest just south of the Panhellenic Hall. It crosses Holden and runs along the edge of the parking lot on the south side of Fitzgerald Hall, veering off the lot and passing near the apartment complex on Washington.

Tim said some of the original roadbed and stone retaining wall are visible at Washington and Hunt. The new line would then run along Southwest to South Main, turning south to run alongside Lions Lake.

After crossing Hale Lake Road, the plan is to run alongside Lake Cena to the parking lot next to the old spring house.

The plan sounds unbelievable, but Tim is absolutely correct. If they can pull it off, a revived Dummy Line would bring quite a bit of attention to this historic little college town.

The brothers have a nice website, Dummyline.org, which has some local history, Pertle Springs history and an overview of their streetcar idea.

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  1. #1 by Kate on April 19, 2012 - 1:18 am

    This would be 100% cool for UCM and Warrensburg. I hope it happens. I can already see a noble portrait of a streetcar on all of UCM’s promo materials, can’t you?

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