Home Away From Home: The Way Car

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

For years, the distinctive red train car that almost looked like a house on tracks signaled the end of the train. Today, the caboose is a a memory and the end of a train is marked with a blinking light on the last car.

Santa Fe Caboose, 999591, August 1987.

The Waycar, commonly called the caboose, signaled the end of the train for years. The waycar served a very particular purpose and was used almost exclusively on trains in the U.S.

First used in the 1830s to house trainmen, the caboose was was the “home away from home” for conductors. The earliest way cars were little more than “shanties built onto boxcars.”

Way Car #1951, old style, 1937.

Inside Waycar No 1951 — 1937.

Conductors were assigned a car and many added touches from home including curtains and family photographs.

Interior Way Car #1951, cupola end.

Items included in the above photo: pantry, 50 gallon water barrel, restroom, broom and coat closet.

Photo below shows the ‘bunk end,’ or living and sleeping area.  Water tanks with washing and drinking water, the conductors desk and four bunks a table with seats made of wooden boxes that held additional supplies.

Interior of Way Car #1951, Bunk End

The brakeman and flagman rode in the caboose.  When the engineer whistled that the train was to slow down or stop, one brakeman worked his way toward the front of the train  twisting the brakewheels located on the top of the freight car.  Another brakeman  worked  his way from engine to the back. When the train stopped, the flagman would exit the caboose and place lanterns, flags and other warning devices a safe distance from the train to warn and stop any other approaching trains. As technology improved these jobs changed.  For example in the 1880s, air brakes meant that the brakeman did not need to manually turn the brakewheels.

AT&SF Engine 1012, ca. 1905. Brakeman – A.F. McDowell & E.C. Humphfres; Engineer – H.B. Mell; Conductor- E.G. Pusey; Fireman – R.D. Beach

The Cupola

The cupola served as a lookout for the the trainmen. First used in 1863,  a conductor discovered that he had a better view of the entire train if he sat on boxes and peered through a hole in the roof. This idea led to the improved design for observation of the train.  A conductor was able to sit up in the cupola for a panoramic view.

Waycar #999095 — ca. 1960s

Everything necessary for day to day living of the crew was stored in the caboose.

Way Car 999095, Hurley Collection.

Interior of Way Car #999095, conductor’s desk.

Water Storage Tank.

Waycar #999752 Interior

Way Car Interior, #999752, refrigerator.

Way Car #999752 interior, wash basin in wash room.

Way car interior, Conductor’s Desk

Technology and the Caboose

Eventually, due to  improved technology and a desire for safer work conditions, the way car or caboose became obsolete. As trains became longer and rail cars became higher, it was no longer practical for the conductor to see the entire train from the vantage of the cupola. Improved detectors or “hotboxes” meant that equipment could be checked with more efficiency and reliability by the conductor. With the introduction of computers, the need for a place to store paper and records was eliminated.

Today, the end of the train is monitored using a remote radio, or “End Of Train” (EOT) that fits over the rear coupler and a caboose at the end of a train is rare.



  • Hurley, L.M. ‘Mike.’ Newton, Kansas: A Railroad Town – History, Facilities & Operations, 1871-1971. N. Newton, Ks: Mennonite Press, 1985.


“Tinkering:” Inventor Michael B. Adams

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Meet the Inventor

Our latest exhibit, Fathers of Invention, features men from Harvey, McPherson & Marion Counties that invented tools that provided a safer work environment, increased efficiency and improved lives.

Thank you to the family of Michael B. Adams for providing stories about their dad, a Harvey County inventor.

“Our father was always mechanically inclined and a problem-solving engineer who took great pleasure in “tinkering” – usually with engines and cars, making adaptations to better serve practicality – or on a whim or fun-loving idea.”

Michael B. Adams was born on July 16, 1916 to Walter G. and Blanche A. Bartley Adams He grew up in the family home at 514 E. Broadway, Newton.

Michael B. Adams, age 3. Photo Courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli

Michael B. Adams, age 3. Photo Courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli

He attended Newton schools and graduated from Newton High in 1934.  He  met his future wife  Florence Hiebert, while attending Bethel College, N. Newton. After two years, he transferred to Kansas State University and graduated in 1939 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Michael B. Adams, NHS Sr 1934. Photo courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli.

Michael B. “Bartley” Adams, NHS Sr 1934. Photo courtesy Jean Adams Tonoli.

 Shortly after graduation, Adams served in the Army Air Corps.  During WWII, he was stationed at Dum Dum AFB in Calcutta, India where he worked in aviation maintenance servicing the airplanes which flew over the Himalayan mountains.



“Santa Fe All the Way”

Michael B. Adams, Trainmaster.

Michael B. Adams, Trainmaster.

Following his time in the military, Adams returned to Kansas and continued his career with Santa Fe Railroad in Topeka.  During the span of his career he worked with the railroad’s transition from steam engines to diesel power.  As a result of his job, the Adams family lived in several different states including Texas and California.  While in Chicago, he was the Chief Mechanical Officer for the Santa Fe Railroad.  In the 1970s, to address changing fuel needs, he collaborated with a team to develop the Fuel Foiler—10 Pak.  The  lighter, more efficient Fuel Foiler was developed in response to the fuel shortages and increased cost of fuel in the 1970s. The invention improved the transport of  freight by rail.


From the initial idea by a few Santa Fe engineers, this rail transportation concept improved the efficiency of the Santa Fe’s growing freight transport business, and beyond that, the rights to the design were eventually sold to other companies for further development and manufacture.



Adams’ inventiveness and ingenuity was not limited to his career. A favorite story involved “Emily”, his first love, a Model T Ford that was “named after Emily Post, (because the car was so well mannered?!)” In one instance, to solve the problem of a missing radiator cap,  he used a tomato juice can.

“When the car overheated or the road was rough, he enlisted the help of his passenger, with a long stick to reach forward and keep the can in place.”

In addition to ‘Emily,’ Adams enjoyed working on unusual cars, including  two early Studebakers, two Peugeots and a Renault. He enlisted the help of his two sons in one project.

“A lengthy and special project was the overhaul of the Peugeot engine in the garage of our home. We completely dismantled the engine, cleaned and rebuilt with new parts, and learned first hand the workings of the internal combustion engine. We recall one little bit of ingenuity we needed. Since we didn’t have an engine hoist, usually used for this task, we removed the entire front axle and steering gear from the car to get access to the bottom of the engine.”

His children also recalled

 “a creation of Dad’s to solve the classic problem of 3 kids in the back seat of a car during road trips. He built a wood platform on the floor to cover up the hump in the floor of the 1957 Dodge so the three of us could sleep back there, one on the floor, one on the seat, and one on the back hat shelf. This of course was long before child car seats became popular, much less the use of seat belts!”

Throughout his life, Adams enjoyed do-it-yourself projects.  He shared this love of creatively inventing with his children from building a Soap Box Derby race car to overhauling car engines in the garage.

Michael B. Adams and diesel locomotive.

Michael B. Adams and diesel locomotive.

Adams died 24 March 1983.

For the exhibit, the Adams family  loaned the museum a model of the Fuel Foiler 10 Pak invented in 1980.




  • E-mail correspondence with Mike Adams (jr), 26 August 2016; Jean Adams Tonoli, 26 July 2016, 21 August 2016, 24 August 2016;  Jim Adams,  30 August 2016.

“Thoroughly Popular:” Clark Hotel

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Part 1 of the history of the Clark Hotel can be found here.

In 1892, George Clark retired from the hotel business for health reasons. Thomas J. Simpson from Fredonia, Kansas “assumed charge of Clark’s hotel.” For the next 20 years, the impressive building at the corner of 4th and Main would undergo changes in management and ownership and eventually be condemned and torn down.


Clark Hotel, 1890. HCHM Photo Archives.

“The New Clark”

The Newton Daily Republican announced improvements and changes to the Clark Hotel in January 1894, noting that with these improvements “it has become thoroughly popular with both residents of Newton and the traveling fraternity alike.” Under the direction of hotel manager, F.D. Van Duyn, the steam heating apparatus was refitted and in “perfect working order.” Other improvements included retouching the walls, new furnishings. “A handsome upright piano, a new parlor set and appropriate pictures” improved the parlor on the first floor. Forty rooms were repaired and re-papered. Meals were “served in the highest style of the culinary art, the best the market affords being drawn upon to supply the tables.” There were also four separate cottages near the main hotel that served as extra rooms when the hotel was crowded.

newclark 001

Newton Daily Republican, 14 February 1895, p. 4.

A year and a half later, the Clark Hotel had a proprietor, E. Horan.

Clark’s Hotel Rate $2.00 Per Day.  E. Horan, Proprietor.

“E. Horan who lives a mile south of Newton and is< well known in business circles will take charge of the Clark Hotel . . . Horan was one of the most successful hotel men of Canada.” (Newton Daily Republican, 29 July 1896)

E. Horan was involved in other business ventures in the area.  He came to Harvey County in the mid-1880s and established a farm and was involved in breeding and racing horses.

Newton Daily Republican, 16 March 1895.

Newton Daily Republican, 16 March 1895.

By 1890, he had moved to  a two story, eight room house with barn on east 6th in Newton, valued at $2,200. He was married and had at least one daughter, Susan, who married G.W. Puett 2 February 1890.

Interior of Clark’s Hotel, 1896, E. Horan proprietor. HCHM Photo Archives

In spring 1897, the Newton Daily Republican reported that the last meal was served at the Arcade Hotel.  This prompted Horan to make “extensive improvements “ at the Clark Hotel.  The improvements cost $400 and included fifty rooms.

“Realizing that the Clark must handle all the old Arcade business, the enterprising proprietor of the house, Mr. E. Horan, is making numerous changes and additions to the house . . . to meet the increased demand of public.” ( Evening Kansan, 1 June 1887.)

In December 1898, it was announced that the Santa Fe Railroad had purchased the Clark Hotel.  A written notice signed by representatives of the Investment Trust Co. and the Santa Fe, was sent to E. Horan, proprietor, indicating that he had sixty days to vacate the building.   Horan noted that he held a lease agreement good until April 1, 1899 from the trust company.  He refused to vacate, noting that he had furniture and contents valued at $1,500 that could not be moved quickly.

Newton Daily Republican, 2 December 1898.

Newton Daily Republican, 2 December 1898.

Over the next few months, E. Horan remained stubborn and refused to vacate the building. In February 1899,  the Santa Fe brought an “ejectment suit” against Horan.  Branine & Branine, representatives for Horan, “attempted to show that the Santa Fe had no legal right to purchase the hotel and were therefore in no position to bring a suit of ejectment.” The case went to jury and the verdict was in the Santa Fe’s favor.  E. Horan responded that “he has not been used in the right manner by the Santa Fe and now that he is in possession of the hotel he intends to hold it until the sheriff puts him out.” He also appealed his case to the district court and if “necessary . . . take the case to a higher court.”   Next Horan claimed that the Santa Fe “was not the legal owner of the Clark Hotel at the time the first notice was served . . . to vacate the hotel.”  Roughly two weeks later, the Santa Fe and Horan were able to come to a compromise.  Horan would be able to purchase the furniture for an agreed upon sum and he would vacate the hotel by April 1.

On Tuesday, March 28, the editor of the Newton Daily Republican noted:

“Sunday was the dullest day at the Clark Hotel since E. Horan has taken possession. .  . . . Mr. Horan has commenced tearing up the furniture and carpets . . . and will have everything moved out by April 1.”

The last breakfast was served at the Clark Hotel on March 29, 1899.

With the closing of the Arcade and the Clark, available rooms were limited.

wherewilltheystay 001

Newton Daily Republican, 30 March 1899.


The Clark and Santa Fe

Initial plans under the ownership of the Santa Fe  included the renovation of both the Clark Hotel and the Arcade. In one plan the Arcade would house the dining room with rooms for “roomers and the hotel help and the Clark hotel would be retained strictly for transient trade.”  One proposal even included a walkway between the two  buildings which would be a “light steel covered affair to accommodate people wishing to go from one hotel to the other without going into the open air.” None of these plans became reality. Instead, the Santa Fe used the upper stories of the Clark Hotel building for offices and the  Fred Harvey General Store was located on the lower floor.


Santa Fe Dispatch Offices in the Clark Hotel, 1901.

For the next 14 years the building served as headquarters for the Santa Fe railroad.  The “spacious dining room was partitioned off into suitable rooms, stairways were blocked and rebuilt, the sleeping rooms were changed and hallways rearranged.” Over the years, the structure deteriorated and by 1913 it was “well known . . .  that the office building was badly in need of repairs.” In a letter published in  Evening Kansan Republican  Judge Bowman noted that “the building [Clark Hotel] became wind shaken and the officers fearing a wreck vacated the building.” On April 19, 1913, the Santa Fe moved the offices to the Dotson Building on East 5th.  Initially, the move was temporary, “pending the completion of repairs on the old quarters.” However, the needed repairs proved more extensive and expensive than the Santa Fe expected and the once grand landmark was slated to be demolished.

democlark 001

Work taking down the building began on April 23, 1913 and 56 year old Chris Haman, who not only helped with the construction of the building, but also worked as a baggage master in the hotel, was there to watch, noting he “never expected to live to see the building torn down.”


Postcard, Newton 4th & Main Intersection, Newton, Ks, ca. 1910. Clark Hotel/Santa Fe Offices on left, Swartz Lumber Co., and Arcade Hotel on right.

“First Class in Every Respect: Clark Hotel Part 1


  • Newton Daily Republican: 12 June 1887, 3 February 1890, 16 April 18921 June 1892, 14 Feb 1895, 16 March 1895,  29 July 1896, 31 May 1897, 1 June 1897, 15 June 1898, 2 Dec 1898, 3 Dec 1898, 20 Feb. 1899, 15 Mar. 1899, 30 Mar. 1899, 1 Mar. 1902.
  • Evening Kansan Republican, 1 June 1897, 19 April 1913, 23 April 1913, 3 July 1913.
  • Atchison Daily Champion, 27 July 1895, p. 4.
  • Puett, G.W. and Susan Horan, 2 February 1890, Marriage License Collection, HCHM Archives.
  • Newton City Directories: 1885, 1887, 1902.