Belle of the ball

When the elegant Kansas City Southern Belle passenger train rolled onto the property of Central Missouri AGRIService in Marshall, Mo., the retro railcars were unlike anything this modern grain-handling facility had ever seen. Here, it’s usually utilitarian hopper cars that are being loaded with corn and soybeans, not plush Pullman cars being loaded with people.

But the grand opening of the new shuttle-loader in June called for a special celebration, so railroad officials offered to bring out the Belle, said John Fletcher, CMAS general manager.

“The KCS wanted to bring the train out to show their appreciation for our business, and it certainly added an extra-special touch to our grand opening,” Fletcher said. “Our guests who rode the train told me it’s an experience they’ll never forget.”

Not only did the Southern Belle transport invited guests to and from the ceremony but also to a time when travel by rail was preferred. The train is a reproduction of the original Southern Belle streamliner, which operated between Kansas City and New Orleans between 1940 and late 1969 until hard times and a weakening passenger market forced its cancellation.

In 1995, the president of KCS at the time, Michael Haverty, ordered the creation of an executive train to entertain company leaders, customers and guests. Just like the Belle of old, the new version is built for comfort and includes dining and lounge cars, a glass-domed observation deck and luxurious sleeping quarters. In 2007, the train was repainted in the railroad’s heritage colors of dark green, yellow and red.

Each December, the train transforms into the KCS Holiday Express, a six-car train that brings Santa Claus and his elves to communities throughout the company’s U.S. rail network in November and December. Guests can visit with Santa and walk through three cars filled with holiday displays. Each event is free and open to the public. Several cities in MFA territory are typically on the Holiday Express scheduled stops, including multiple dates in Kansas City.

Visit www.kcsouthern.com for more information.

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