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Back to La Plata on a sad trip!

by Chris Guenzler

I planned the La Plata Spring Railfan Event in April during my Spring Break from Heninger Elementary in Santa Ana. Everything was going well and I was looking foward to the events with my friends Christy and Winston Walker joining me both ways on the Southwest Chief. I planned to take them to Hannibal, Missouri for their first time before the event started. We had our Fullerton Train Travel Meetup Group on 3/23/2015 and Winston was really looking foward to going. Things were going well until I received a phone call on the evening of 3/26/2015 which really hit me hard.

The Death of Winston Walker 3/26/2015

On that morning, Winston was found dead on the bathroom floor. That news hit me hard and I thought back to how we first met. I had been writing my stories for years and out of the blue, received an e-mail of corrections for my latest story at the time. I thanked him , wrote another story and he sent corrections to that one. Now I wanted to know who this was and it turned out that Winston was the one. He loved trains and I found out he lived in Irvine so I invited him to the next Orange County Railway Historical Society meeting we had and he brought his daughter Christy along, who also liked trains. They became members and about that time Steve Grande started the Fullerton Train Travel Meetup Group and Winston and I were the first two people to join.

He started taking train trips with us and we went to many locations such as San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, San Diego, a Metrolink trip to Montalvo and a Coast Starlight Tehachapi detour plus others. I introduced him to riding private cars such as the "Pony Express", "Silver Splendor", "Silver Lariat" and "Silver Solarium" to name a few. We rode every mile of Metrolink together, he came to my Amtrak Million Mile trip to La Plata then we went home via Galesburg on the California and San Joaquin. He and Christy did a Coast Starlight Los Angeles to Tacoma then Talgo back to Portland, Empire Builder to Chicago, then California Zephyr to Emeryville and Coast Starlight back home. He and Christy came to two La Plata Railfan Events, the first one via the Southwest Chief both ways with a trip on the Columbia Star Dinner Train and the other one via the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle to St. Louis where I picked then up and we rode the St. Louis & Iron Mountain Railroad on the way to La Plata.

Winston also rode the first Santa Fe 3751 trip to San Diego on 6/1/2008 and the second trip with his wife and Christy from Los Angeles and San Diego plus a pair of Santa Fe 3751 trips to San Bernardino with Christy. He helped correct my future book then he did every story on my website, improving them with corrections. The funny part of this was my poor spelling of the Colombia River which we had to change to Columbia River and we had good laughs over that one for years. He then corrected the rest of my website so thank you for doing that for me, Winston. We almost always took a train trip before our Train Travel Meetup Group Meetings or would just go up to Fullerton and watch trains. He rode plenty of miles with me and I will forever miss him.

The Trip back to La Plata 4/1/2015

After the deaths of both Ken Ruben and Winston Walker, one could say I needed a fantastic vacation. I worked my job at Heninger Elementary School then took a round trip down to Irvine on Pacific Surfliners 572 and 573 for double Guest Reward Points before heading home to finish packing for the trip. Robin Bowers came over to take me to the Santa Ana station, he dropped me off and I took the elevator over to Track 1 to wait for my first train to Los Angeles.

First, Metrolink 684 came and left Santa Ana. I then waited for my train.

Pacific Surfliner 579 4/1/2015

Pacific Surfliner 579 arrived and I boarded Pacific Business Class car to Los Angeles. The train left, stopping at Anaheim and Fullerton before making the sprint to Los Angeles. It seemed like a very fast trip and once we arrived at LAUPT, a Red Cap drove me over to the Metropolitan Lounge.

Los Angeles Metropolitan Lounge 4/1/2015

This is inside of the front station door to the lounge.

This is where you check into the lounge; it was my first time visiting the Los Angeles Metropolitan Lounge.

This is to the left of the check-in counter.

The beverage and snack area of the lounge. The restrooms are in a hall behind this wall.

Interesting pictures behind the west wall of the lounge.

The seating areas of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Lounge. I plugged in the computer and worked on the story before going on-line as I waited to be taken out to the Southwest Chief for La Plata this early evening. The Red Cap drove us out to Track 12 and we arrived just as the train reversed into the station. The Red Cap stopped his cart then helped me get the consist of the train as it reversed in before driving us over to the train.

Southwest Chief 4 4/1/2015

I boarded the 430 car and went upstairs to Room 3 in Sleeper 32065. This Southwest Chief had a consist of Engines 112 and 81, baggage 1750, transition 39041, sleepers 32066, 32111 and 32065, diner 38040, lounge 33026 and coaches 34097, 34085 and 31036. We left LAUPT at 6:15 PM and I was on my way to La Plata. Dave Arthur was my conductor as far as Kingman and we had a very nice converstion. We waited in Buena Park for over twenty minutes for a late-running Metrolink train and had to do a double spot at Fullerton so spent extra time there as well. The train went slowly, and I mean slowly, as we made our way through Santa Ana Canyon. I had an 8:00 PM dinner reservation and had the steak with a chocolate mousse for dessert. I took a fresh air break at San Bernardino then told my car attendant the reason Room H was empty on this trip was because of Winston Walker's death. I enjoyed the trip across Cajon Pass from my darkened sleeping car room. I then made up my bed and put the blanket on the bed, a new feature of the service on this train, before calling it a night.

4/2/2015 I awoke west of Flagstaff after a restful night's sleep and prepared myself for the day.

The San Francisco Peaks were seen before we arrived in Flagstaff and I detrained for a few pictures.

The Santa Fe station in Flagstaff built in 1926.

Views of the Southwest Chief here. We were running late this morning but that meant coming into Flagstaff from the west and seeing it in the pre-dawn light. I made up my room for daytime travel and the train continued east then went to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast and sausage patties and both were very good. I was seated with a couple going from Tucson back home to Boston and a lady going to La Junta. These people were all golfers and the talk was very interesting. I pointed out Canyon Diablo and they were really impressed. We next stopped in Winslow before heading toward New Mexico as I read my April 2015 Railfan magazine and enjoying a Coca-Cola as we sped east on a beautiful clear morning.

The mesas ahead signal that we are about to be entering New Mexico this morning.

Almost into New Mexico.

Chief Yellowhorse welcomed me to New Mexico. At Gallup we had a brief fresh air stop on this cool late morning with a brisk wind blowing. We left for Albuquerque but stopped at East Gallup waiting for freight traffic to clear, adding 15 minutes more to our lateness.

Red Mesas of New Mexico as we climbed the grade passing BNSF freight trains on the way to the summit at Thoreau. More freight train interference cost us time as we sat.

The view as we sat for freight train interference and a BNSF tie gang.

Back on the move again, more New Mexico Red Mesas. I watched all of my Winterail programs to show Jim and John at the La Plata Spring Railfan Event 2015.

Mount Taylor off to the north of our train. We went through Grants then rolled the miles east to Rio Puerco where we had to switch train crews due to the hours of service rules. From that point, we went to Dalies where we left the BNSF mainline and headed to Albuquerque.

After Isleta, we crossed the Rio Grande River then entered Albuquerque.

BNSF motive power in Albuquerque. We pulled in for our major service stop of the trip where it was 69 degrees and breezy during our layover. We left at 2:17 PM {12:10 PM} and headed for Lamy where more slow running occurred as we tried to leave due to a meet with a New Mexico Railrunner train then made our way to Lamy where the westbound Southwest Chief was waiting in the siding west of town.

The Mission Church at Lamy.

Two former Santa Fe Southern cabooses.

Santa Fe baggage car built by Pullman, number unknown.

Santa Fe Southern GP7u 07, nee Santa Fe 2744, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1952.

Santa Fe Southern train at Lamy.

Santa Fe Pleasure Dome 502 "Plaza Lamy" built by Pullman Standard in 1950. The name was never applied to the car. It later became Amtrak 9352 then in 1982 it was transferred to Kyle Railways then Dr. Dan Marnell "Plaza Lamy" (PPCX 800403), followed by the Sierra Madre Express and Santa Fe Southern Railroad in 1999.

New York Central sleeping car "Hamilton" built by Pullman, later Southern Railway. PPCX 700100. Further history currently unknown. It was used by President Roosevelt used when he was in office.

We left Lamy and climbed the grade through Apache Canyon then over Glorieta Pass as the crew pointed out historicial facts. I contacted my good friend AC Adam then called my mother to check in with her just as the train crossed the Pecos River. It climbed the double "S" curves at Blanchard before passing Starvation Peak. I had a 5:00 PM dinner reservation for tonight and enjoyed the steak and chocolate mousse once more as the train made its way to Las Vegas and beyond. After going through Wagon Mound, we slowed to a crawl east of MP 715 because of a slow order then made our way to Raton, our next fresh air stop of this trip, which I really enjoyed although it was 52 degrees and windy. We made a twilight run to the top of Raton Pass and through the tunnel into Colorado then it was downhill all the way to Trinidad, after which, I made up my room and slept my way into Kansas. During he night, a major wind and dust storm hit La Junta, knocking out the power to the town there and by the time I arose in the morning, we were running over four hours late.

4/2/2015 It is really weird for me waking up on a train and having no idea where I am. It was completely dark out as I changed my watch ahead after checking my cell phone for the correct time. I went to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast and bacon; they make really good French Toast on this train. After breakfast, it became light on a mostly cloudy morning and we stopped in Hutchinson, leaving there at 7:09 AM {2:19 AM } or 4 hours and 50 minutes late. As Julie says "A late train can get later"! I was able to see more of Kansas than I have never seen before and this will now give me the entire Souhwest Chief route in daylight. I saw the north end of the detour route I took after the flash flood trip back in my drinking days when we went south to Mulvane and north to Ellinor in order to return to our normal route on 4/20/1993.

The Santa Fe Newton station built in 1929. We left Newton at 8:10 AM {2:59 AM} and headed to Topeka. Why does The Wizard of Oz come to mind this morning as I cross Kansas? We went through Strong City whose depot I photographed last summer and before we reached Ellinor, I saw a two-train BNSF meet before seeing the junction at Ellinor, the end of the 4/20/1993 detour. The train made its way to Emporia where I saw Santa Fe 2-6-2 1015 in the park that I took pictures of last summer. We turned off the BNSF mainline heading northeast to Topeka and at Osage City, I located the depot on the east side of the tracks with a Santa Fe caboose behind it, noting it for future photographs. From here we made our way into Topeka.

State Capitol of Kansas. We departed Topeka at 10:24 AM {5:18 AM} and then passed the BNSF Topeka Shops.

Scenes of the BNSF Topeka Shops. Chris Parker called me just as we were passing all the stored power to be rebuilt as well as some slugs and switchers. Seeing this in daylight was a truly interesting railroading experience.

Flowers beginning to bloom east of Topeka.

The Santa Fe Lawrence station built in 1955. The train left here at 10:54 AM {5:47 AM} and the next stop would be the fuel racks at Argentine Yard followed by Kansas City, our next major stop. We reached Holiday and the BNSF mainline which we would take east to the Argentine Yard fueling station. Here we will refuel our motive power for the rest of the train's trip to Chicago.

A switcher at the scrap yard, Erman 80 ton switcher, number unknown, built by General Electric, on the way to the fuelling station. The train stopped to be refuelled and we left at 11:43 AM.

BNSF Argentine Yard view. Our next stop was Kansas City into which we arrived at 11:56 AM {7:24 AM}. I took a fresh air break then tried to get on-line here with no luck. We left at 12:20 PM {7:45 AM} and it was off to La Plata next. I would check road conditions as we made our way there.

A couple of passenger cars as we attempted to escape Kansas City. I say that because we came to a stop at the fourth bridge east of the station where I heard the air drop and we reversed into the station. The reason for this was a car needing water and a person stuck in the bathroom who should have detrained. We left at 12:39 PM {7:45 AM} for the second, and hopefully last, time. We passed BNSF 7582 East before reaching the Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern flyover then had a slow order before Sibley.

The train crossed the Missouri River at Sibley and I relaxed the rest of the way to La Plata. This train was the latest eastbound train I have ever taken to get to here. The train arrived at 2:53 PM {9:55 AM} or 4 hours and 58 minutes late, ending my trip.

La Plata 4/3/2015

Maria Snodgrass met the train and drove me to the Depot Inn & Suites. She gave me Room P for my first two nights and then the Pullman Suite for the rest of my stay. It was always good to see her. She also gave me the keys to my rental car and I called Enterprise with my credit card number. I took the computer out of my camera bag, went to the golf cart and drove to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point to see trains and tried to update my trip page but lost it all. So bear with me folks while I rebuild it.

Union Pacific 7188 East came through La Plata first this afternoon.

Next BNSF 7944 West came into La Plata.

The final train was BNSF 7010 West. I returned to Room P and started rebuilding the 2011-Present Trip page. At 5:00 PM Tom Anderson came to pick me up and we went to Colton Steakhouse in Kirksville for dinner. It was great to get caught up with him again. We went to Walmart to get me a new disc player but they were out so Tom bought me one on Amazon for far less and it would be here on Monday. I worked to get year 2014 done then went out to Banner Road for a little night photography.

The moon at Banner Road.

Crossing gates at Banner Road.

Looking both ways down the tracks.

Banner Road.

The Southwest Chief at Banner Road. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and checked all my links before finishing the story to this point then called Bob & Elizabeth to proof it before I went to bed.

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