Rhythm of the Rails Celebrates History Saturday in Waterville

Chris Biggs and Ken Gustin, award-winning musicians from the Manhattan area, will present “Rhythm of the Rails” Saturday, April 15, at 2 p.m. at the Waterville Opera House, 126 Kansas Avenue.

The concert is part of a day-long celebration in Waterville showcasing Marshall County’s rich railroad history spanning nearly 200 years.

The musical program will take the audience on a ride along the Central Branch Railroad through music, narration and visual presentations.

Many Marshall County communities owe their lineage to the coming of the Central Branch Railroad.

The concert will include songs related to the railroad like “Nine Pound Hammer,” “Arkansas Traveler” and “New River Train.”

Admission to the concert is $10, children twelve and under are free. Tickets may be purchased at the door the day of the event.

“It’s a concert, a journey and a tale of a once mighty railroad,” said Gustin, one of the musicians.

To prepare for the concert, Gustin made seven trips to Waterville to meet with members of the Central Branch Railroad organization, visit Waterville’s museums and attend planning meetings.

“I’ve had fun every time,” Gustin said.

He estimates he’s invested at least 120 hours into developing the program.

“I’ve read three books, worked with the Kansas State Historical Society, the Missouri Pacific Historical Society and over 30 online sources for information and pictures,” he said. “It’s amazing how much great history there is.”

The concert includes eighteen railroad songs, three short movies and narration that tells the story of the Central Branch Railroad. The story begins in Atchison, Kan. in 1865 and progresses 100 miles through northeast Kansas to Waterville. Through song and story, the program tells how the railroad joined communities and residents along the way.

Biggs and Gustin are based in the Manhattan area. Both are multi-instrumentalists, vocalists and songwriters.

Biggs is a three-time finalist in the National Flatpicking Guitar Championships. His CD release “Blue Flannel Friday” in 2000 was met with critical acclaim.

Gustin is a past finalist in the Woody Guthrie National Folk-Singing Contest. He has performed for over 50 years from Alaska to Maine to Kansas.

At the concert, they will perform bluegrass, swing, folk, Americana and classic country.

In addition to the concert, activities are planned throughout the day in Waterville.

“The destination is Waterville,” said Ann Walter, a member of the planning committee. “We’re excited to showcase our community and offer a variety of activities for everyone. All ages will enjoy shopping, dining, riding the rails topped off with an amazing concert.”

Rides will be offered on the Central Branch Railroad at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m., 1p.m. and 4 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 through 12; children under 5 ride for free. Reservations are not required for the rides.

Those wanting to take a ride will load at the red caboose south of the Waterville Opera House. The ride will take passengers west out of Waterville. The ride lasts approximately one hour.

“Rail rides are going to be lots of fun this year with surprises along the way,” said Sandy Harding, one of the event organizers.

Local entertainers will perform at Nigley’s Saloon, located directly west of the Weaver Hotel, from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

A lunch buffet will be at the Weaver Hotel, 126 Kansas Avenue. Reservations are required by Tuesday, April 11, and may be made by calling the hotel at 785-363-2515. The buffet is $20 for adults and $10 for children ages 6 through 12.

The meal is catered by Dieck’s Catering, Linn, and includes roast beef and smoked pulled chicken.

The event is sponsored by the Marshall County Arts Cooperative, Central Branch Railroad, Waterville Community Connections, Waterville Opera House, Waterville Preservation Society and the Weaver Hotel.

For more information people may visit the arts cooperative’s website, marshallcountyarts.org, or call the Weaver Hotel at 785-363-2515.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttp://www.sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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