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A Trip to the Passenger Train Historical Society Picnic in La Plata

by Chris Guenzler

This trip to the Passenger Train Historical Society Picnic in La Plata was a late add on to a trip I already had booked. Back in April after Bart Jennings sent me an e-mail about his Appanoose County Community Railroad rare mileage trip on August 16, 2008. I learned that the trip would start in Centerville only 75 miles from the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata. Since I had not taken the California Zephyr eastbound in a while I decided to ride the whole route from Emeryville to Chicago. I would visit my brother Bruce in Sacramento one night after taking the San Joaquin up from Los Angeles. I would go to work with him then take a Capitol Train to Emeryville. I would spend one night in Chicago before taking Train 4 to La Plata. I would rent a car to get to Centerville and where ever I would go to. Iowa was hit with record flooding wiping out several other railroads that Bart had hoped to ride on Sunday. Since I would have a rental car I decided to after the trip stay in Cameron, Missouri at a Best Western. I contacted the Midland Railroad in Baldwin City about riding their 11 AM Sunday train. Next I contacted the Belton, Grandview and Kansas City Railroad in Belton, Missouri about their 2 PM train and got yes's on both. I would head back to La Plata via the Norfolk Southern line via Moberly. I would then take train 4 home. Then it was announced that the Passenger Train Historical Society Picnic in La Plata would be held just before my trip. Steve Grande thought that I should attend after all I am the leading passenger train rider in America today and the Lookout Point is named after me in La Plata. I told Steve that I would have to leave Friday night so I could start my trip on Sunday which he did. Bart did get a Sunday event at The Railroads of Old Threshers which I had to pass on since I had already scheduled the other two trips which would both be brand new to me. I did that roundtrip to Seattle to ride an upgraded Coast Starlight and then I was home for three days before taking off once again. At this point, there is nothing new with my job. Thanks to all of you who have e-mailed me about being laid off after 25 years of service to Santa Ana Unified School District. If anything breaks, I will add it to a story when it happens.

Surfliner 583 8/4/2008

I checked the Internet on Surfliner 583 and it left San Diego one minute late. At 4:00 PM there was still no report out of Solana Beach. At 4:30 a call to Amtrak's Julie reported it had left Oceanside at 4:20 PM and was expected into Santa Ana at 5:17 PM. Knowing this info I knew I could still take it to Los Angeles to connect to the Southwest Chief there. At 5:17 PM Train 583 came into Santa Ana and I boarded the Pacific Business Class Car lower level and found it empty. After Anaheim I was told the Circus Train was passed at CP Bake. At Fullerton, Randy who works for Steve Grande had envelopes for Carl and I. Carl would be boarding in Fullerton when the Southwest Chief comes through there this evening. I worked on my new business cards to Norwalk then relaxed the rest of the way to LAUPT. The train arrived in Los Angeles at 6:15 PM and I walked around the front of the trains to my next train.

Two Metrolink trains leave LAUPT at the same time.

Surfliner 583 at rest at LAUPT.

Southwest Chief 4 8/4/2008

This Southwest Chief consisted of Engines 180 and 79, Baggage 1248, Transition 39007, Sleepers 32090 Michigan and 32067, Diner 38055, Lounge 33022 and Coaches 34038, 34037 and 31007. I put on my CD of Jethro Tull "Catfish Rising" as the train left LAUPT right on time. Craig Campbell is my Sleeping Car Attendant. The train ran at track speed until Norwalk when we came to a red signal. They called 7:30 Dinner Reservations and I was seated with a couple from Ceres, California heading to Walt Disney World. Carl was to join me but he was still in Fullerton and I was on the train. I called him and ordered his meal as I had my usual Flat Iron Steak and Chocolate Ice Cream. We sat there before we ran stop and go to La Miranda and then at Buena Park we had to hand rolled the switches there due to a power malfunction at the control point. We followed Metrolink 610 who had to do the same thing we had to do. Once we got on the move, we ran slowly to Fullerton where my good friend Carl Morrison will board arriving there fifty five minutes late. Carl soon joined me in the Dining Car as I was about to have my dessert. After dinner I gave Carl his envelope and I then worked on my story before I watched Queensryche "Video Mindcrime" as the train arrived into Riverside.

At the fresh air stop at San Bernardino, a fantastic crescent moon.

Station scene at San Bernardino. I watched the rest of the DVD and called it a night as the train descended the desert side of Cajon Pass. I made up my room and went to bed.

8/5/2008 I awoke about fifteen minutes before Flagstaff.

At Flagstaff where I took a fresh air break.

The old Santa Fe Freight House as the checked baggage is being done. The train departed Flagstaff still an hour late. I caught up the story as I waited for the Dining Car to open at 6:30 AM. The door to my Room 10 is off its track and is a royal pain in the you know what. I had breakfast with a father and son from Toledo, Ohio who had been visiting his sister in the Flagstaff area. I had French Toast and sausage patties as we passed through Winslow on our way to New Mexico. I put on my CD of the Poxy Boggards "Lager than Life". The train made its first stop in New Mexico at Gallup. Next it was "Liver let Die" by the Boggards. I switched to my DVD of Frank Zappa "Zappa in Barecelona" as we rolled the miles towards Albuquerque.

After Grants a picture of the south side mesas.

The landscape is green after the Summer monsoonal rains that came up from Mexico. The train arrived into Albuquerque at 12:16 PM {12:12 PM} and I detrained for some fresh air.

The Southwest Chief at rest in Albuquerque.

Get your kicks on Route 66!

The New Mexico Railrunner pulls into the downtown station.

New Mexico Railrunner engine 104. While I was off the train, one of the Amtrak workers in Albuquerque got the door back on its track and I know to be very careful with it the rest of this trip to La Plata. The Southwest Chief left Albuquerque at 1:00 PM {12:55 PM} and headed north to Lamy. I put on my DVD of Heaven & Hell "Live Radio City Hall 2007".

The train left Lamy eleven minutes late with an interesting sky to the east. After passing through Apache Canyon and climbing Glorieta Pass we met the westbound Southwest Chief at Glorieta. The DVD finished as we were dropping down the east side of Glorieta Pass and I decided a nap was in order after I had gotten a 6 PM Dinner Reservation. I awoke as we pulled into Las Vegas, NM. and then put on my DVD of Randy Rhodes "Six String God" which took me almost to Raton. I went and visited with Carl until Raton.

I took a picture of Carl and his Sleeping Car Attendant during the fresh air stop at Raton. The train climbed the south side of Raton Pass and I was called into the Dining Car for dinner at 6 PM. The train passed through the Raton Tunnel and then started down the steep grade towards Trinidad. I had the Flat Iron Steak again tonight which was excellent. At Trinidad I made a few phone calls before putting on my DVD of U2 "Zoo TV Live from Sydney" which would take me to La Junta and beyond. It appears our train is heading into a good storm as I could see lightning flashes ahead. It became a real light show with almost continuous cloud to cloud lightning. I just hoped it was not raining in La Junta. I took a break and got some fresh air in La Junta before I got on-line using my wireless. La Junta is under a severe thunderstorm warning. The train departed La Junta on time and headed east to Lamar then out into Kansas. I watched the U2 DVD until the encore then made my room up for the night.

8/6/2008 Sometime during the night my Sleeping Car was struck by lightning which knocked out the PA System and caused an intermediate buzzing sound until they got it fixed aboard. Being struck by lightning was a first for me aboard a train. I slept like a baby through all and woke up just west of Lawrence, KS and went to the Dining Car for my usual French Toast and Sausage Patties breakfast. I put on my DVD of Asia "Fantasia Live in Tokyo" as we pulled into BNSF Argentine Yard to refuel our engines on the north side of the yard.

Triple Crown Roadrailers were on a train as we made our way out of Argentine Yard, crossed into Missouri and arrived into Kansas City Union Station.

The Southwest Chief in Kansas City. The train departed KC at 8:29 AM {7:45 AM} and headed to its next station stop and mine of La Plata, Missouri. The train exited the greater Kansas City Area by way of the Missouri River Bottoms County on the way to Sibley where we crossed the Missouri River. I finished the Asia and then put on U2 Zoo TV to finish. Members of the Amtrak Riverside Reservation Office were on the train and asked for a picture of the Million Mile Man which we took in my room. We passed through Marceline and I packed up my room for the arrival in La Plata. The train arrived into La Plata at 10:56 AM {9:57 AM} ending a relax full Amtrak trip to Missouri.

La Plata 8/6/2008

Maria was there with the Depot Inn & Suites Bus and took Carl and I to the unique railroad themed hotel. Once there I got Room I this time and I put my luggage in there. I then got a screw driver from Maria and headed out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. I got there just as a UP eastbound stack train was going by. I met the Grandparents and their Grandson from Edwardsville, Illinois who were enjoying the viewpoint and played Uno between trains. They played plenty of games as the next train did not pass by for over an hour. My job was to unscrew the plastic covering and put the Amtrak routes back on the map with a Sharpee.

The finished job, with all the Amtrak routes back on the map where they should be.

My new friends enjoying themselves. We finally had a westbound UP stack train before I posed for pictures in front of the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites to relax. Carl and I decided to go to Bevier to the Pear Tree Restaurant for dinner leaving here at 4 PM.

Carl and I drove this 1941 Chevy pickup truck down to Bevier.

Bevier & Southern 112 on display in town.

Bevier & Southern 112 looking towards the grade crossing with the former CB&Q through town.

The outside of The Pear Tree.

Interesting flower pot in front of The Pear Tree.

The inside of The Pear Tree.

We had a picture of Carl and my table at The Pear Tree. I had Prime Rib and a Turtle Cake which was excellent. After a fantastic meal we drove back to Macon to the Walmart so I could get some sunscreen before we drove back to La Plata. Once there, we went out to the Exhibition of Amtrak History and in the heat, fixed the damage inside that several wind storms had knocked over the displays in the display cases. We even took out two burned out light bulbs and when we go to Kirksville in the late morning, we will get the replacements and put them in tomorrow afternoon. After an hour and a half of hard work we returned to the Depot Inn & Suites for the night.

8/7/2008 After a continental breakfast at the Depot Inn & Suites, I went out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point to watch some trains.

I always enjoy the walk down the former Wabash railroad grade through the tree lined path. It is so peaceful with birds singing with the occasional squirrel or rabbit to be seen.

The first train was a BNSF westbound stack train. Next an eastbound BNSF stack train rolled by my location. A few minutes later, a westbound BNSF grain train and another BNSF stack train with Carl joining me for this one.

Amtrak Southwest Chief pulled into the La Plata Station. Carl and I then went back to the Depot Inn & Suites and met with Maria. We then took the truck to Kirksville first to Radio Shack with no luck looking for the right bulbs. We next went to Collins Rentals to get the slide projector. A stop at ACE Hardware got the light bulbs and we returned to the Depot Inn & Suites. Out in the Express Cars which were an oven, we put in the bulbs and then discovered another bulb was out. We then found four more display cases which needed fixing and in one a spike had fallen breaking the shelf. We took out the glass and Carl put the other case glass up while I made two shelves into one. In the end it all came out really great and we were ready for tomorrow. I took Maria out to show her where the shelf had been and the new look. Carl and I had lunch at the Red Rooster before I relaxed for about an hour. Next I went back out to the Lookout Point for I hoped more trains.

I called home and found out that another registered letter was sent to the house but my mother was not home so it could not be left. After a BNSF eastbound and a UP westbound I needed to know. I walked back to the Depot Inn & Suites and called my brother Jon, asking if he knew what it was about. He transferred me to Human Resources and after I explained who I was and I was on a trip and would not be home until August 20th, she told me what the letter said. Good news! You have a job at Jefferson Elementary as an Administrative Assistant for six hours a day. Since they had to have my response by August 12, 2008, I asked if she could fax it to the Depot Inn & suites and if I could fax back my acceptance of this offer and she said yes! I went out to the lobby, called Jon to let him know what they offered and then called a few friends to let them know my news. The phone then ran with Sally and I going into the office to wait for the fax to come through. After I signed and dated the form with my signature, we faxed it back to SAUSD. What a relief! If I had to go to an elementary school, Jefferson would have been my first choice. Good test scores mean good kids. I felt really lucky to have this job. What I will be doing is up to my new principal who will assign my duties.

Carl and I met in the lobby and we drove the truck to Kirksville after learning about a surprise birthday party tonight for Steve Grande, who would be arriving in a little while. We drove to the Wooden Nickel and I had a fantastic steak to celebrate my good fortune. After dinner we visited Wallmart to get Steve some Missouri wine and camera batteries for my 35 MM Camera. We drove back to La Plata and watched the Southwest Chief coming into La Plata on time from the TV in the lobby. Box Cox then bought David Mangold, Events coordinator of the Passenger Train Historical Society to the Depot Inn and a few minutes later Steve and Barbara showed up. I had set up my slide show earlier so after the party we would do the slide show. Everyone then gathered in the Conference Room for the party and slide show.

Birthday boy Steve Grande gets his present from Carl.

Barbara socializing with the guests.

Shelly who planned this whole event.

David Mangold, Events Coordinator of the PTHS.

Carl and Bob Cox.

Party attendees.

Tom and Kelly Marshall, owners of the Depot Inn & Suites.

Kenny Marshall, the man who wrote the song "Ballad of Chris Guenzler, Million Mile Man", Tom's brother.

What would a party be without a cake. After the party, the Silver Rail DVD was shown before I showed a history of Amtrak 1971 to the present. David then showed a few slides and we all called it a night.

8/8/2008 Carl and I met at 8 AM and drove the truck to Grandma's Home Cooking for breakfast. After that we went to the CR Market to pick up the stuff for the BBQ today. It was not ready, so Carl and I walked around La Plata where we found some interesting things in La Plata. We returned to CR and got the stuff we needed or so we thought. We returned to the Depot Inn and Suites and Maria asked if we got all the things on the list and we said what list. When she asked if we got this, this and this, we said no! We took what we needed out to the Lookout Point and unloaded them. Carl and Maria then went to the store to get everything else.

David made his first visit to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point along with Carl. At 11:00 AM I made the fire for the BBQ and at noon Jon started cooking the hot dogs and hamburgers

The future great meal was being cooked by Jon our excellent chef.

Everyone enjoying their meals.

Steve along with Tom and Kenny Marshall.

The Southwest Chief arrived into La Plata at 1:32 PM {9:57 AM}. The picnic was enjoyable and we had 13 trains during our visit to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. Final total one Amtrak, four Union Pacific and eight BNSF trains. Ray Burns drove me back to the Depot Inn & Suites. I wrote this as I did my wash. I would finish my wash and relax the rest of the day. I would eat at the Red Rooster and then wait for the time to come to head back to the Amtrak Station to catch the westbound Southwest Chief tonight.