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Training to La Plata for Grand Opening

by Chris Guenzler

I drove to the Santa Ana train station and parked my Geo Metro in the north parking lot. Inside the station I saw Marti, my excellent the night-time Amtrak agent, to whom I gave my parking permit for my car's stay of over 72 hours. I then met Pat Moran, along with her friends Irene and Ruth, who had delivered Pat to the station for the trip to La Plata. Pat then exchanged her tickets so she could leave Los Angeles with me before we stopped by the car and I picked up my luggage for the trip. We then walked to the Santa Ana Boulevard grade crossing in order to reach the east platform without having to use the new bridge. About fifteen minutes later, a southbound Metrolink train for Irvine arrived before we heard the horn of our train to Los Angeles.

Surfliner 583 12/7/2006

Surfliner 583 pulled into Santa Ana with Pat and I taking seats on the lower level in car 6400. This train had a consist of Surfliner Cab Car 6905, Coaches 6400 and 6412, Cafe/Coach 6301, Pacific Business Class 6807 and Engine 462. It was a quick trip to Los Angeles, with the Southwest Chief preparing to back into the station just before we arrived. Pat and I walked from Track 10 down, under and up to Track 12 just as the Southwest Chief was backing into LAUPT.

Southwest Chief 4 12/7/2006

I walked down to the front of the train for a picture as Pat watched the luggage. This train had Engines 165 and 141, Baggage 1709, Sleepers 32041, 32052 and 32090 Michigan, Diner 38008, Lounge 33042, and Coaches 24085 and 34047. George, the ever-smiling sleeping car attendant, would be with me in car 32090, with me having Room 4. Ken Ruben, riding coach, stopped by for a short visit. I put on Nirvana "Nevermind" for the first music of this trip. George gave Pat and I a 7:30 PM dinner reservation and later Pat came back for a visit. She was in Room 4 of sleeper 32052. We departed Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal on time and made our way to Fullerton, our first fresh air break of the trip. After we left Fullerton, we were called into the diner and we were seated with Pat from Fresno and Ken. I enjoyed the Pork Chop and a chocolate cake for dessert. After dinner, I walked through the train before our next fresh air stop at San Bernardino.

Views of the San Bernardino Station during the fresh air stop. I enjoyed the crossing of Cajon Pass from my darkened sleeping car room. After Summit, I made up my room and called it a night.

12/8/2006 I arose after Canyon Diablo and walked forward to wake up Pat, but she was already preparing for the day ahead. I met her in the dining car for breakfast. We had breakfast with Jon Hill from Topeka, Kansas. Pat learned last night at dinner, after I had left, that the other Pat from Fresno was also named Patricia Jeanne, just like her. It is sure a small world! I enjoyed French Toast and Sausage Links before I joined the Trainriders group in the lounge car.

It was Dan Dalke's birthday on this date so I bought him an Amtrak hat and Amtrak playing cards for his special day. It turned out that something else would make this day even more special for Dan.

Tom Johnson, Ken Ruben and Pat Moran were enjoying the view from the Sightseer Lounge Car this fine early December day as the train entered New Mexico.

It was way too exciting for one member of our group. Ken was under the weather and fell asleep with his mouth open. This was too good of a picture to pass up and I took a picture, Dan took his, and then a group of Japanese tourists did the same thing.

Ken missed the view of the New Mexico Red Mesas as he slept.

The landscape is always changing!

Dan Dalke passed his 275,000th rail mile at MP 72 of the BNSF Gallup Sub on December 8th, 2006. Dan took a picture of the spot while I photographed him. It is always nice to help someone else pass their own mileage marks.

Later we passed by another mesa as we proceeded down Track 2 towards Rio Puerco. We arrived in Albuquerque thirty minutes early with Tom, Dan and I making a trip to Coldstone Creamery for some ice cream. Back at the station, we took a look at the new New Mexico Railrunner station.

New Mexico Railrunner Train 507 arrived at the downtown Albuquerque station with engine 102 pulling it. When the Railrunner train was ready to run by the standing Southwest Chief, the conductor called "All Aboard!" to clear the platform so the Railrunner could pass safely.

The train now deadheaded to its storage area until its next call. I reboarded the Chief and put on the Rolling Stones "Bridges to Babylon" before we left Albuquerque on time.

I took a picture of one of my favorite rock formations, the Devil's Spine, along the route near Lamy. Next I photographed the remaining semaphores that I had not photographed until now which were the four that are just west of Lamy.

I went to the lounge car after Lamy for the climb through Apache Canyon and the meeting of the westbound Southwest Chief at Canyoncito. After that, I went back to the room to get a dinner reservation for four at 5:45 PM, before returning to the lounge car for an afternoon of conversation. I visited with Pat Moran and Ross Moore enjoying the lounge car later that afternoon.

Pat Moran and Ross Moore enjoying the lounge car later that afternoon.

Tom also was sitting at our table.

Dan was sitting at the other end of the lounge car reading his Trains Magazine.

Chris was sitting at his coach seat eating a snack. It got dark long before Raton, the next very cool fresh air break of the trip. After Raton we were called into the dining car for dinner. I had the Pork Chop, Tom had the Angus Burger, Dan the Braised Beef and Pat had the Cheese Tortellini for dinner this evening. I had the Sweet Temptation Chocolate Cake for dessert. Dinner ended at Trinidad and I returned to my room to relax and listen to Yes "Drama". We arrived in La Junta thirty minutes early so Tom, Chris and I walked over to Safeway for more 7 UP and batteries.

Looking down the side of the train at La Junta.

The Sothwest Chief at rest at La Junta.

The sleeping cars at La Junta during our servicing stop. I returned to my room to talk with my neighbor, who has 250,000 rail miles himself, and talked trains as I made up my bed for the night. We departed La Junta on time and headed east on this cold clear December night.

12/9/2006 I got up at 6:00 AM and prepared myself for the big day by putting on my long underwear and layers, before checking to see if Pat was up and about. We went to breakfast and were seated with Lori from Redondo Beach. I enjoyed the French Toast and Sausage Patties as the train refueled in BNSF's Argentine Yard. We arrived at Kansas City twenty minutes early and I was off to explore Kansas City Union Station once again.

There was a Christmas tree inside the station and outside.

There is a Kansas City PCC car now displayed outside at Kansas City Union Station.

Private cars Santa Fe 31 "Chico" at Kansas City Union Station.

Private Car Canadian National "Metis". I went back inside the station.

I was greeted by a wonderful mural as I came up the escalator.

There was also a model railroad display inside Kansas City Union Station.

There was a display of trains in cases near the Amtrak ticket window before I went back to train side.

Lincoln Service 314 was boarding this morning before its Kansas City to St. Louis run.

We departed Kansas City on time and we were ready for the final leg to La Plata.

I visited with Pat, Tom and Ross in the lounge car after we left Kansas City.

Another passenger on this train shot this picture with me in it.

The train crossed the Missouri River as the December sun shone brightly.

Pat went back to her room to pack up while Tom, Dan and I rode the lounge car until past Carrollton, when we returned to our areas of the train to pack up to be ready to detrain in La Plata. We went past West La Plata, where we crossed over to the north track. I had moved my luggage downstairs before we got there, so all I did was leave my room, go downstairs and wait to detrain. We arrived in La Plata on time and I stepped off the train here for the first time.

La Plata, Missouri 12/9/2006

This picture after I had dropped my luggage with the Depot Inn staff.

The sleeping cars pulled away so that the coach passengers could detrain. After the rest of our group had detrained from the coaches, the Southwest Chief departed La Plata and we loaded up the vans for the short trip to the Depot Inn and Suites. Once there in the lobby, I said hello to everyone before Carl Morrison let me store my luggage in his room. What a room it was. He had the Sportsman Suite complete with sauna, in-wall television with a DVD player and a fake fireplace. The bed looked incredible and large bathroom would suit anyone's needs. We returned to the lobby and I took a look around. What a railroad theme this hotel has! We met with everyone before Steve and I took a walk to catch up on a few things. Carl and I then walked down to the bridge over the BNSF mainline to try to catch a few trains. We sat out there for about half an hour before Carl needed to return to the hotel. I watched people over at the future railfan viewing area. The funny thing about standing on this bridge is that everyone who drives by waves at you in a friendly way. I guess La Plata is one friendly place.

An Amish buggy crossed the bridge over the BNSF mainline .

A few minutes later another Amish Buggy. Buggies two, BNSF trains 0 at the bridge. Chris Parker walked back to the Depot Inn while Richard and I walked over to the new Trainweb building. I walked inside, but after a few minutes I felt as if a BNSF freight was about to come, so I decided to go take a few pictures of the La Plata Amtrak station.

The La Plata Amtrak Station from the south side of the BNSF mainline.

BNSF 4603 West came through La Plata, so I finally saw a train here. La Plata, Missouri Grand Opening 12/09/2006

The new and building with the BNSF mainline to the left.

There are two logos on this building, one for and the other for This building was once a fertilizer plant which has been converted into offices and storage space. I went inside and saw a room full of invited guests and local people. Everyone was waiting for the start of Grand Opening.

On the stand were Linda Mohn, executive director of the Macon Chamber of Commerce, holding the left side of the ribbon and Ray Ivy, Administrator for the City of La Plata, holding the right side of the ribbon. Standing with them were Alisa Kigar, Executive Director of the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce, Shivam Surve, with his daughter Khushi, Barbara Cepinko, Ray Burns and Steve Grande. Barbara, Steve, Ray and Shivam are all the partners of Trainweb.

First Steve Grande and Barbara Cepinko were shown how to use the giant scissors.

Ready, set and cut!

The ribbon was cut and the Grand Opening started.

Harold Marshall, a preacher, gave the opening prayer.

Brock Hamilton, who works at the front desk of the Depot Inn, sang the National Anthem

Larry Herron, the Mayor of La Plata, told about meeting Ray and Shivam and what the City of La Plata had to offer.

The crowd listened to what the mayor was saying.

Kathy Chinn, a Missouri State Representative for the Greater La Plata area spoke to our group.

Jeff Kocur, President of the Amtrak Historical Society from Chicago gave a presentation about the future Amtrak museum in La Plata.

Alisa Kigar, Erxecutive Director of the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce.

Linda Mohn, Executive Director of the Macon Chamber of Commerce.

Ray Burns of told us the story of how Trainweb and Trainparty moved from Fullerton to La Plata. This was a very interesting story with all the twists and turns it took to get us here today.

John Rhein of the Friends for La Plata Preservation also attended.

Thomas Marshall of the Depot Inn and Suites told about the plan for the Rail Resort that is going to be built here which includes a standard gauge train for trips around the property and also for trips between the Amtrak station and the Depot Inn.

Once the event was over, it gave me a chance to get a picture of Richard Hamilton hosting his Lets Talk Trains internet radio show before he had me as a guest. You can hear this show at then go to showlist to get to it.

The final event of the party was cutting the cake which was decorated for Grand Opening, welcoming Trainweb to the Heartland. I enjoyed a piece of cake before I went outside thinking that another BNSF train would be coming by shortly.

BNSF 5432 West then came through, passing by the location where the former Wabash Railroad crossed over the Santa Fe Railroad. The new train watchers' tower will be built on the north side of the tracks on the former Wabash grade.

The view outside of the Trainweb Building looking towards the station. I went back inside where Chris Parker decided to take us into downtown La Plata for a look around. We were joined by Jonathan Ortiz for this short trip. We decided to see where the old Wabash line went through town and came upon a great find.

I photographed the Amish buggies that had been hitched up at the corner of Wabash and Sanders Streets.

This all was at the corner of Wabash and Sanders Streets in La Plata. We went back to Trainweb to pick up Carl Morrison and Richard Elgenson as the five of us would visit an Amish Store about three miles west of town. We made our way out there, taking a side road through some very unique northeast Missouri countryside.

Out in front of the Amish store, another buggy pulled in and the owner went inside.

Horse and Buggy hitched up to the post. We heard a train horn and decided to try for a picture.

We passed another Amish buggy as we drove toward the grade crossing.

It must have looked like a chaos to the train crew as we all piled out of the car when we stopped to photograph the train.

On the way to that train we passed a field of corn stalks which we photographed on our return. This led to an impromptu snow ball fight. I must say that being from Southern California, we all could use a lot of practice at the art of making and throwing snowballs. We heard another horn from the west and this time, we made it back to the crossing.

After an eastbound BNSF train came flying through west La Plata, we decided to drive to Kirksville because Richard wanted to go to a pub there. Along the way, we could see the former Wabash grade. Once in Kirksville, we found the Spazio Brewery and Pub and Carl and Richard went inside while Chris, Jonathan and I went looking for any signs of the Wabash.

On the north side, we found an old bridge over a highway. We returned to Spazio for some soft drinks and the waitress said that she had gone to school with a Chris Guenzler in Missouri. It is a small World!

Spazio Brewery and Pub in Kirksville.

Carl Morrison, Richard Elgenson, Chris Parker and Johnathon Ortiz were all enjoying Spazio Pub. We returned to the Depot Inn and relaxed before walking to the Red Rooster for a group dinner.

We had a group dinner at the Red Rooster Restaurant.

The group waiting for dinner. Those of us leaving on Amtrak were served first.

Shivam Surve and wife Kranti along with Khushi the baby. I enjoyed a Kansas City steak, baked potato and cottage cheese, which was all excellent. All too soon, it was announced that those of us going back to the train needed to return to the Inn to get our luggage.

On the way back to the Depot Inn & Suites at 7:50 PM, it was a brisk 42 degrees.

Here is a view of the Depot Inn and Suites.

The sign of the Depot Inn and Suites.

The front counter of the Depot Inn.

A train between the lobby and the indoor pool.

Carl and I went to his room where I called home and picked up my luggage. We went out to the front of the Depot Inn and got inside the van that Ray Burns was driving to the Amtrak station. On the way, I could not believe that I was already leaving La Plata, but I really was!

For the trip home click here.