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Getting to the La Plata Spring 2016 Railfan Event

by Chris Guenzler


Pacific Surfliner 579 3/30/2016

For the year's La Plata Spring Railfan Event I thought let's do something different. We would head west driving to photograph the Southwest Chief on the Missouri River bridge. The next day drive east from La Plata to Revere then back to South Gorin. The following day we would go west from La Plata to Marceline and beyond. The final day would be spent east of La Plata to South Gorin. After that I could head to North Carolina for a pair of N&W 611 steam trips out of Spencer. One trip to Lynchburg and the other to Asheville with my good friend David Pressley. Plus I would pass 1,450,000 miles somewhere on this trip since all my travel would be on Amtrak except the N&W 611 trips. With that planned, all I had to do was work my job at Heninger until the day of departure arrived. I came home, finished packing, took care of some business I needed to do before my mother drove me to the Santa Ana train station to start this trip.

The train arrived in Santa Ana and I boarded the lower level of the Pacific Business Class car. Conductor Dave Arthur of the Southwest Chief came back and I showed him my Friday night Winterail program. That made the trip much faster than normal and all too soon we were running by BNSF's Hobart Yard on the final sprint to LAUPT. I took a red cap to the Amtrak First Class Lounge to wait for my next train. At 5:40 PM I was driven out to Track 9 to board my Southwest Chief to La Plata.

Southwest Chief 4 3/30/2016

This version of the Southwest Chief had engines 130 and 12, Viewliner Baggage Car 61059, Transition 39032, Sleepers 32067 and 32033, Diner 38049, Lounge 33025 and Coaches 34038, 34034 and 31039. My Sleeping Car Attendant was Jesus. He started off as working as a Pullman Porter until 1969 in Mexico. We started the trip leaving LAUPT at 6:10 PM with me listening to Emerson, Lake & Palmer from the Long Beach Arena on July 28, 1972. Since Keith Emerson died I am going listen to this CD set of 4 concerts as a tribute to Keith. It felt so good to be back on a long distance train once again. There is now Wifi aboard the Southwest Chief. Your attendant gives you the password and it works. I went to the Dining Car at 7:15 PM but exited 8:28 PM. The chef was overwhelmed but finally I got my steak then vanilla ice cream. I was seated with a mom and son heading to the Grand Canyon Railroad and a maker of children's programs. After that I finished the first ELP show as the train climbed up and over Cajon Pass. After Rondo, I made up my bed and called it a night.

3/31/2016 I was up at 6:00 AM and just hung out in my room until it was time for breakfast in the Dining Car. I was seated with a model railroader going to Washington, DC and a couple returning home to just outside of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. I had pancakes and sausage patties. After breakfast, I changed clothes and shaved before returning to room. I set up my computer, then put on Emerson, Lake & Palmer live in Saratoga Springs 8/13/1972. I checked things on line then worked on this story.

Entering New Mexico.

Chief Yellowhorse welcomed me to the great state of New Mexico.

A tippee at Chief Yellowhorse area. Our next stop will be in Gallup and I will take some fresh air there.

Red Mesas of New Mexico. Next I put on my Emerson, Lake & Palmer show from Louisville, Kentucky from 4/21/1972. The train was moving right along as the BNSF dispatcher was doing a fine job of handling our train eastbound on their mainline .

The Rio Grande River. We arrived in Albuquerque at 11:12 AM this morning. My good and dear friend Randy Jackson came to the station to visit with me today during my layover here. The train departed just after I finished that last ELP show. I had lunch at 12:30 PM and sat with a woman going to Buffalo and a couple heading home to Milwaukee. I enjoyed an Angus Beef Burger and Chocolate Mousse finishing just as the train pulled into Lamy. Next I put on the final Emerson, Lake & Palmer show of this set from Garlio Park, New York on 9/1/1971. We went through Apache Canyon before climbing over Glorieta Pass then down to the Pecos River, passing the westbound Southwest Chief at Fox siding. After ELP finished, I put on my DVD of Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson Thick as a Brick Live in which is both parts of Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 complete. The train stopped in Las Vegas.

Later, interesting weather off to the west on our way to Raton, our next fresh air break with snow flakes blowing in. We left Raton and climbed Raton Pass to the Raton Tunnel before we descended to Trinidad. It was trying to snow on us as we dropped down the grade into town. I had a 6:00 PM Dinner Reservation so I headed to the Dining Car for my dinner this early evening. I had the steak but was not feeling too well so I returned to my room and made it up for the night.

4/1/2016 I got up, feeling better, then went to the Dining Car sitting with friends from other meals. I had the pancakes and sausage patties while the train was refueling. After that we arrived into Kansas City early at 7:00 AM. I took some fresh air before I caught up this story. We left Kansas City on time and I put my DVD of Poison Live, Raw & Uncut this morning to really wake me up. It finished as we closed in on Marceline so I just relaxed the rest the way to La Plata where I arrived at 9:48 AM, 7 minutes early.

La Plata 4/1/2016

I got my rental car at the La Plata station then drove to the Depot Inn & Suites where I checked in. I got room V for my early stay here. Once I unpacked and checked a few directions on the Internet, I drove out to my first new photo spot by going out via Sumner, Hale and Bosworth and then west of my furthest old bridge to my new grade crossing to photograph trains. I parked and it did not take long for my first train at this new spot.

BNSF 7723 at County Road 260 MP 383.17. I drove to my next new photo location.

Union Pacific {CSX 833} West at County Road 271 MP 382.66.

BNSF 4311 East at County Road 271 MP 382.66. I headed west to my last new photo location.

BNSF 6336 West at County Road 255 MP 384.63. I started back towards La Plata.

Long Branch Road grade crossing with a storm coming. I continued eastward.

BNSF 7464 East at Newton Road. I headed over to the Route Z grade crossing.

The BNSF signal bridge at Route Z MP 336.01. With a storm coming I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites. I then went to Colton Steakhouse for dinner before I returned to the motel for the night.