Galena erecting Route 66 photo stop

Mar. 14—GALENA, Kan. — A new U.S. Route 66 highway shield is under construction on an original stretch of the Mother Road between downtown Galena and the Galena viaduct.

It is the latest in a series of attractions offering photo opportunities that city volunteers and leaders are building for the thousands they believe will travel the highway in the next couple of years.

Dale Oglesby, owner of B&B Discount and a former mayor of Galena, provided a large forklift to move the frame for the sign into its new home across from Luigi's Pit Stop on Thursday. Danny Charles and Billy Charles, son and husband of City Clerk and Kansas Route 66 Association President Renee Charles, will add aluminum skin over the next few weeks. It also will have lights on it.

Renee Charles said the result will be a 16-foot-tall highway shield with a 10-foot-by-10-foot driveway in the middle of it to allow cars and small trucks to drive under it and people to pose for pictures.

It will be similar to a shield recently installed in Kingman, Arizona.

"Vehicles can drive through it, and it's another photo opportunity at the Luigi Pit Stop," she said. "We've had a Muffler Man, but he burned down in 2021 and we're rebuilding him. We're putting this shield across the street, and we've got the sheriff's car on this pedestal and just some little photo ops for people to use, and they've really been a big hit."

She said the viaduct is already a historic attraction and volunteers hope they will draw more visitors to the original route.

"Locals call it the Front Street bridge," Renee Charles said. "It's on the National Historic Register, and to me, I love it because it's a curved bridge and it's on the original Route 66. We wanted more people to come down the original section of Route 66 instead of coming in Seventh Street so I asked the owner of this property if I could put a photo op right here, so that's what we're doing."

Renee Charles said the rest of the building known as Luigi's Pit Stop was once a lumberyard and storage building that now is festooned with signs and selfie stations.

The sheriff's car on the pedestal was signed by Michael Wallis, author of the book "The Mother Road," which did much to expand the fame of Route 66. Wallis also was the voice of the sheriff in the animated movie "Cars."

These and other preparations are going on to get ready for the centennial of Route 66 in 2026. Oglesby also was appointed to the Route 66 Centennial Commission, which will be promoting events nationwide.

"I'm just a volunteer here trying to help them get this set up today," Oglesby said. "I bought this property on the south side of the road so we could set up attractions and more photo spots. None of this makes money. It's not about money; it's about an experience. When we were working on this and bulldozing it out and making this drive area, the comment from the dozer operator was, 'I've lived here all my life and I had no idea this many people stopped to take pictures here.'"

Oglesby said that for millions of people around the world, Route 66 is an institution and that places like this spot east of downtown Galena make it special.

"We have visitors from virtually every country that allows their people to travel, they'll travel Route 66 because it's such a famous American institution," Oglesby said. "It's not just a road, there are worn out roads all over the states, but there's only one Route 66."