In August of 2018, an old "mule" was lowered into place on the front lawn of the Harvey County Historical Society — the tractor-type vehicle was hitched up to a former railroad cart used as a luggage rack and more in the heyday of passenger rail at the Newton train station.
Its owner, Bill Mills, had stored the piece of railroad history in Walton for about 40 years with the understanding that it would be placed in a historical museum there. However, it was never placed on display.
At 2 p.m. June 23, Mills and Joe Smiley will tell the story of the Railway Express Agency Shop Mule and their efforts to preserve and restore the Mule during a presentation at the Harvey County Historical Society.
"I would guess in the early 1970s when my dad still had a salvage yard, the railroad called and said ‘we have some stuff to sell, would you be interested?’” Mills said.
What was for sale, and sitting to the east of the depot, was the mule and a couple of old wagons.
“I asked ‘what do you want for them,’ and they said ‘whatever you bid,‘” Mills said. “I didn’t really want them all that bad. I offered $25 for all three of them. They said ‘you own them.’”
At the time, the mule still ran — though the clutch needed repairs. Mills put some work into the mule, including repainting it. His students at Newton High School ran the mule in the homecoming parade, pulling a trailer with a coffin labeled for the visiting team.
When the mule was in use by the railroad, there were passenger canopies over the tracks at the Newton station. The mule pulled a trailer, filled with whatever needed to get on, or off, a train while parked at the depot.
“They used them for baggage. They used to transport bodies on the trains,” Mills said. ”Anything off the train."
A search of the mule’s serial number showed a manufacture date of 1949.