March 2018 Friends of the Arboretum Newsletter

Updates on the Leaky Roof Line: Train Garden

I hope you’ve all been out to see the progress with our final phase of the Train Garden.  This new area is complete with six tracks that wind over the sidewalk, around mountains, over waterfalls and up to a special destination.  For those of you new to the Arboretum, here’s some background on the current Train Garden.

Caboose:  After much searching, and still more searching for a caboose to anchor the garden, one was finally located in Indiana.  As you travel around the KC metro, start to notice how many railroad cars and cabooses are around. Many in places you wouldn’t expect.  The all steel bobber caboose was built in 1956 for the Elgin Joliet and Eastern Railroad (EJ&E). In 1999, the Joliet Junction Railroad ceased operation and the track right-of-way was converted to a walking and biking trail in and around Minooka, IL.  The caboose was sold to a private collector who kept it at the Hoosier Valley Railroad Museum in North Judson, IN and was used for tourist runs. In 2011, the owner sold the caboose to the Arboretum. It traveled along the railroad until it reached Overland Park, was refurbished in town and roaded down I-435 and 69 Hwy. finally landing at the Arboretum.  That was the beginning.

Leaky Roof Layout:  The Leaky Roof layout represents the train era of 1890 to 1950, located in the Mid-West to the Southwest.  Many volunteer hours and Parks construction crew time was invested in creating this 3 track area, complete with a mock railroad sidewalk, trains running under the sidewalk and a vintage crossing signal and arm.  

I think it was Dale Jenkins who suggested the name Leaky Roof Line.  It comes from a route the Kansas City Clinton & Springfield Railroad (KCC&S) ran from Springfield, MO, to Clinton, MO, through the village known as Stanley, and on to Olathe, KS.  As the story goes, one rainy day the superintendent of the White Swan Flour Mill at Clinton, which shipped a considerable amount of its finished flour south on the KCC&S line, looked out over the waiting railroad cars and saw that the railroad had brought down another batch of decrepit old cars. Since the mill’s flour output would be ruined if it got wet, the superintendent called out to his general manager “Don’t send out any flour today, they’ve got another bunch of those leaky roofs in the yards.”

The three bridges on the layout are modeled after bridges located in the Kansas City area: the Harry S. Truman Bridge, the Kaw River Bridge and the Fairfax Bridge.  The Leaky Roof Line was dedicated in May, 2012.

Old Town aka The Strang Line: This layout recreates downtown Overland Park circa 1910 to 1940.  The area includes Santa Fe Drive from 79th Street to 80th Street through which the original Strang Line operated.

The buildings are scale models built from photographs.  Many of these buildings are still standing today. The Car Barn at 79th Street and Santa Fe Drive is the Traditions Furniture Store and the Carriage House in the Santa Fe Commons Park at 80th Street and Santa Fe Drive is home of the Overland Park Historical Society.

The Train is a model of the trolley operated by the Missouri and Kansas Interurban Railway which ran from Olathe, Kansas, to Kansas City, Missouri for 1906 to 1940.

The layout is named after William B. Strang, Jr. (1857 -1921).  He was an American railway magnate who founded and platted Overland Park, Kansas in 1905.  Our Strang Line was dedicated in September 2014.

Two additional features are found in the Train Garden – The Leatherwood Depot, opened in 2013 and the Freight House, completed in 2015.  

Watch our progress this spring as we complete track installation, building placement and finishing touches.


Volunteer Spotlight: Leo Handzlik

This month’s featured volunteer wears many hats. He is a quiet, unassuming, easy to work with individual whose background is as interesting and diverse as his duties at the Arboretum. Leo Handzlik is pretty much a jack of all trades.

Leo has been volunteering at the Arboretum since January 2015. He is the lead for the Wine Tasting Committee; he is on the sub-committee for logistics for the Kinetics Symposium; on the Botanical Brewfest committee for logistics; and serves as a volunteer assistant to the Development Director for logistics and set up supervisor for STEMS. He is a train operator and mentor for new train volunteers. His handyman work includes constructing buildings for the new train layout and repairing luminary displays that tend to get damaged every year by hungry Arboretum critters.

Prior to the Arboretum, he was employed by three major insurance carriers as a commercial lines underwriter and manager where he held positions in the US and Canada. He says his avocation was, and still is as a FAA certified commercial pilot and flight instructor; he volunteered in the Civil Air Patrol, USAF Auxiliary and was a Region and Wing check pilot and mission check pilot for search and rescue operations. He was also a FAA Accident Prevention Counselor. Other activities that are part of his volunteer history include Cub Scout leader in the US and Canada, the US Coast Guard Auxiliary, member in the Commemorative Air Force which flies WWII era aircraft, and conductor and board member of the Midland Railway. He has held a FCC amateur radio license continuously since 1958 and because he is CERT trained by the Overland Park Fire Dept, he serves as an Emergency Response Volunteer for the City.

Aside from his volunteer activities, he’s also taken up many hobbies through the years: drag racing his B Sport Corvette – where he proudly boasts, “held the class record for one week”; sailing large sailboats on the Great Lakes and Lake Perry for over 20 years, until, as he claims, “I lost my crew when my 20 year old daughter found other interests.”

When asked what makes him most happy, he says it depends on the circumstances. He enjoys when he and his wife are able to sit, looking out on their acreage in the evening as the deer, squirrels and coyotes wander by – he adds, “not all at the same time!” He says that when on vacation, he enjoys dining outdoors with a nice glass of wine and jokes, “What is a meal called without wine? Breakfast” – this explains his involvement with Wine Tasting on the Terrace! When at the Arboretum, he says “I enjoy the volunteer work and especially the camaraderie of the staff and volunteers. Most important is the joy I see in the adults and children when they are at the Arboretum.”

Interviewing Leo for this article solidified what an intelligent, humble, kind-hearted man he is. He gives his time generously to help others and has always felt it important to give back to his community. What an honor it is to have a volunteer like Leo representing the Arboretum. We are grateful for his leadership and are a stronger organization because of him. Thank you Leo.