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To La Plata and the Coal Mine and Northeast Missouri Old Threshers

by Chris Guenzler

This trip's purpose was so to host the La Plata Railfan Event, also known as the Silver Rails Train Festival, after which I would be travelling to Rock Island, Illinois for Train Festival 2011 and embarking on some other trips to surprise you with in this series of journeys.

I started packing the day before, then the morning of this trip, passed my 1,310,000.0 rail mile before returning home to finished preparing. My mother drove me to the Santa Ana station and after saying goodbye to Marti, my excellent night-time Amtrak agent, I took the elevators up and over the pedestrian bridge to Track 1 to wait for my train to Los Angeles.

First I saw Metrolink 609 departing Santa Ana for Los Angeles.

Next Metrolink 686 from Los Angeles bound for Irvine arrived and deprated then a few minutes later, I heard a horn and knew my train was arriving.

Pacific Surfliner 583 7/13/2011

The train arrived and I boarded the lower level of the Pacific Business Class car for a relaxing trip to LAUPT, reading USA Today and relaxing we stopped at Anaheim and Fullerton before making the final sprint to LAUPT, where we arrived a few minutes early. Since the Southwest Chief was not yet in the station, I made my way over to Track 11 to wait. Departure time came and went by and at 6:28 PM, the train finally reversed into the station after the crew had to replace one of the cars at the last minute.

Southwest Chief 4 7/13/2011

The train reversed in with the following consist: Engines 120 and 99, baggage 1754, transition 39033, sleepers 32072 "Arkansas" and 32000, diner 38019, lounge 33011 with coaches 34092, 34050 and 31025. The passengers all boarded and I had Room 11 in the 32072 sleeper with Joe Washington as my Sleeping Car Attendant. We departed at 6:50 PM and I had a 7:30 PM dinner reservation by the 8th Street Amtrak coach yards.

The Southwest Chief went up and over the Los Angeles River flyover and was off to Fullerton as I listened to my CDs of "Black Sabbath Live, the Ozzy Osbourne Years". At Fullerton, I took a fresh air break before being called into the dining car for dinner and was seated with Brian, going to Naperville, Illinois, along with Gena and her son Addison heading to South Bend, Indiana. I had the New York strip which was excellent and finished before San Bernardino, our next fresh air break. For the climb over Cajon Pass, I listened to the second disc of the Black Sabbath set, after which I called it a night.

7/14/2011 I awoke, changed clothes then went to the lounge car to read the USA Today that was under my door. I gave the paper to a Boy Scout then returned to my room and did one Sudoku puzzle before waiting for the dining car to open at 6:30 AM. My tablemates were two first-time train riders, a woman going to Albuquerque who has driven many road trips and a woman who was going to Chicago who once worked for the Milwaukee Road for 30 years at Chicago Union Station. I had French Toast and some crispy bacon then returned to my room to watch Yard Goat Images DVD of "Steam Specials in the Heartland".

After that I showed three of my Winterail programs to a father and son who were going to Albuquerque to ride the New Mexico Railrunner, Santa Fe Southern and the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroads. Following that I put on my Miley Cyrus CD "Breakout" and timed out my next Orange County Railway Historical Society Meeting program for August as the train approached Albuquerque. While there, I went online using Herzog-Data as I almost always do, cleaned out my e-mail then enjoyed some of the very warm 86 degree air outside.

I put on my Metallica CD "Master of Puppets" for my listening enjoyment as we left Albuquerque on time and headed on to Lamy where I switched to my "Cheap Trick Live" DVD. We met the westbound Southwest Chief this afternoon at Glorieta then after Las Vegas, I put on the Greg Lake CD "King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents Greg Lake In Concert" which I always enjoy listening to. I updated my 40 Years of Amtrak presentation before arriving at Raton for a much longer fresh air break than usual due to the Boy Scouts boarding and deboarding. After that we left Raton for my first trip across it since the fire which shut down the route for a few days.

The south side of Raton Pass where that horrible fire occurred. We climbed up to Raton Tunnel and soon were in Colorado as I waited for my 6:00 PM dinner time this evening then made my way to the dining car. I was seated with a father and his daughter going to Woodstock, Illinois for a family reunion and a lady who once worked at the Amtrak Beech Grove Shop. I enjoyed the steak and vanilla ice cream for dessert then relaxed in my room until La Junta, where I took a brief fresh air break before we departed on time and headed out into the night, made up my bed and called it a night.

7/15/2011 I was up after Lawrence and once Joe made up my room because of a quick room turnover in La Plata, I enjoyed a cinnamon roll and orange juice then watched my DVD of "David Bowie Live" as the train made its way into the BNSF Argentine Yard to the northern side fuel pads to refuel. After that, it was across the state line into Missouri and our next stop of Kansas City, my last fresh air break of this trip. It was already 88 degrees in Kansas City at 7:30 AM and very muggy and I hoped La Plata would be a little cooler. I can always hope. The train departed Kansas City eight minutes late and we were on the way to my stop of La Plata; once we neared Sibley, my camera was ready.

The train crossed a very full Missouri River with minor flooding north of the levee.

I wondered which railroad this train is from as it was on the joint BNSF/NS track and I I saw it later, I would know.

This BNSF train at WB Junction was waiting to follow behind us all the way to La Plata. I put on my CD of Yes "Union" to get me most of the way there. The road along the tracks near WB Jct was under water so no one would be chasing trains on that road for a while. I read USA Today as we ran at track speed across northern Missouri. Like all good train rides, this one was ending too soon as we arrived in La Plata at 9:56 AM, ending another fantastic trip aboard the Southwest Chief.

La Plata 7/15/2011

I was met by Bob Cox and Maria Snodgrass, who drove me to the Depot Inn and Suites where Brock handed me the keys to the Pullman Suite and I went online to check my e-mail then took the golf cart out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point to check on things there.

My all-time favorite path is the former Wabash Railroad right-of-way from the Depot Inn & Suites to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point.

BNSF 4756 East, which was the second train I saw at WB Jct waiting for us.

Next BNSF 1003 West stopped to wait to cross over at La Plata due to a broken rail on Track 1.

BNSF 4687 East with Norfolk Southern 9298 in its consist was the train in question back at WB Jct. From here I dropped off the computer at Trainweb before driving to KFC in Kirksville for a three-strip meal then continuing to Novinger where I had to ask directions to the Coal Mine Museum. Steve Grande and his wife Barbara Cepinko would be visiting this unique museum with me.

The Novinger Coal Mine 7/15/2011

This is the building that houses the Novinger Coal Mine Museum. If you want to visit, it is by appointment only, so call 660-488-6795 to schedule a visit.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy caboose 13979 in Novinger, which we do not believe is CB&Q, but cannot locate its history.

Novinger, Missouri Brief History

The community of Novinger, Missouri, was formed in approximately 1878, during a time of railroad expansion across Northeast Missouri. At that time, the Pacific Railroad began extending its line towards Kirksville, necessitating the crossing of farm land, and specifically that of John C. Novinger. In exchange for permission to run rail across his farm, Novinger negotiated the construction of a depot, named "Novinger", officially marking the formation of the city of Novinger.

Novinger was subsequently incorporated on April 5, 1901 and John Frank Novinger, son of the town's founder, was elected its first mayor. Although the railroad expansion initially spawned the forestry industry in the area, which supplied the necessities for the rail lines and depot, mining was to be the future for the town of Novinger. In 1890, with the organization of the O.K. Mining Company, the town's first coal mine was opened on a hill adjacent to the city. The introduction of coal mining was a significant event in the formation and history of Novinger and for several decades, was driving force behind the economy, expansion and identity of the city. Although the industry experienced down times over the years and Novinger suffered from a competitive imbalance, the Novinger coal mining business prospered through the early 1950's.

At the coal businesses peak, the Novinger Commercial Club boasted a population of 5,000 and the town had 27 developed coal mines, four churches, two railroads, two banks, two newspapers, a good school and numerous retail stores. This expansion was the direct product of the Novinger coal business, which fed markets all over the Midwest. An offshoot of the mining boom was the ethnic diversity it produced in the town. Over the years, people of various descents settled in the area, including those of German, English, French, Irish and Italian origin. During the early years, the individual ethnic groups remained close knit and lived in close proximity to one another. Over the years, like the country in general, the groups settled into one community and engaged in cross marriage and association. For some time following the fall of the coal industry, the city and its population fell into decline, appearing to be a town that time had left behind.

Many of its remaining citizens were retired coal workers and their families, who relied on the business and employment opportunities located in neighboring Kirksville for subsistence. This increased the decline of the infrastructure and morale of its citizens. In the late 20th and early 21st century, Novinger has undertaken a renewal project in an effort to revitalize the city and promote its history and legacy in the area.

The Museum

I now went into the museum.

Views upon entry.

This display case included picture of the former Novinger train station.

Film projectors from the old Novinger Movie Theater.

Many interesting artifacts to be found here.

Much of Novinger history can be found in the display cases and above them.

In the front corner were more memorabelia of the town and area.

An old piano.

The trunk and table drawer were both interesting.

Three more display cases of local history.

More interesting items including dolls my mother would love to see.

Those mannequins wear their clothes well.

You never know what you will find in a museum.

More period clothing.

Love that crib.

Click here for Part 2 of this story