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La Plata and the Trip Home

by Chris Guenzler

1/03/2011 I got up and went to the lobby for my breakfast this morning. With people to take the train today, I first went out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. Once I got there the radio came alive with talk of two broken rails on Track 2 that would need to be repaired this morning.

One of the BNSF track crew heads out to the broken rail out by Banner Lane. I then worked on the rest of yesterday's story as I waited on trains.

BNSF 4724 West was first through La Plata this morning.

BNSF 7463 East then came through La Plata then I finished yesterday's story and checked things on the Internet. I then drove over to to have Shivam fix my sobriety counter. It took him less than five minutes to get it back up on my web page. Shivam is the best computer programmer that I know. With that fixed the web page is now 100% back and it wouldn't have been without all of Shivam's help. I went by the Amtrak Station and checked with Daryl that we were still shooting for a 11:40 AM arrival. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and added one more picture to the story. I then took six of the guests back to the Amtrak Station and dropped them there. I then drove as close as I could to the La Plata Crossover then waited in the van for the horn of the Southwest Chief to alert me to its arrival at this spot.

The scene is set.

The Southwest Chief came through the La Plata crossovers before arriving into the La Plata Station this morning, an hour forty minutes late. From here I drove to Brown Street to set up for a second set of pictures this morning.

The Southwest Chief passed beneath Brown Street on its way to Chicago. It was then back to the Depot Inn & Suites where it became my wash day and I put on my DVD of "Ian Anderson plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull". I relaxed the rest of the afternoon then went to the Red Rooster for dinner before watching NCIS and checking the Internet before calling it a night.

1/04/2011 I picked up some breakfast then got the keys to the van then drove out to Banner Road to wait for my first train of the morning.

BNSF 7805 West with DPU's on the rear end at Banner Road. From here I drove to a new spot, the bridge on Cranberry Lane over the BNSF mainline. Only come to this location from the west if you are going to take pictures here.

BNSF 1040 West at the Cranberry Lane Bridge. Next I headed back west into Gibbs to the Century Lane grade crossing and waited for my next two trains.

UP 7787 West at Century Lane in Gibbs.

I went on top of a pile of ballast for my pictures of the BNSF 4596 East. From here I drove back to the Banner Lane grade crossing and set up for my next set of pictures.

The Amtrak Southwest Chief had the private car Northern Sky on the rear end at Banner Lane.

BNSF 7278 West at Banner Lane.

BNSF 7541 East at Banner Lane. Back into the warm van I drove to Cambridge Lane by Santa Fe Lake for my next train.

BNSF 7556 West at Cambridge Lane. From here I drove over to the La Plata Station to visit with Bob Cox.

The BNSF Track Geometry Car came west through La Plata this morning.

The new platform was used for the first time to drop off a Sleeping Car Passenger at La Plata. I drove Bob over to the Sinclair Gas Station to get his lunch before I dropped him off at his house then I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites. I worked on the story then relaxed watching some Doctor Who this afternoon. I went to the Red Rooster for dinner then worked on the Exhibition of Amtrak History before calling it a night.

1/05/2011 I got my breakfast to go and then gassed up the van, I missed two westbound trains by a minute as I headed out to Clemson Lane.

The view waiting for a train at Clemson Lane.

BNSF 7517 West at Clemson Lane. From here I went north on Clemson Lane and made a right onto Columbus Lane that goes under the BNSF tracks. When I turned onto MO 6 I saw a train coming and raced to the bridge over the tracks.

BNSF 5202 West at the Missouri Highway Bridge 6. From here I headed east on MO 6 to Hurdland and took Route Z west to where it turned to dead end and took a dirt road west to a grade crossing with the gates going down.

BNSF 7841 West at Hurdland. From here I headed back to Clemson Lane for the next train to arrive there.

BNSF 5271 West at Clemson Lane.

BNSF 4608 East at Clemson Lane. From here I returned to Archer Lane for the Southwest Chief this early afternoon.

Amtrak's Southwest Chief came through La Plata on Track 2 today so it had to use the middle platform at the La Plata Station this morning. Here is the train at the Archer Lane Crossing. From here I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and talked with Maria. When I told her I was going out to the Exhibition of Amtrak History to take pictures of it, she gave me the hotel's digital camera to take a few for her.

The Exhibition of Amtrak History under reconstruction 1/05/2011

The exhibition had been removed and the car was insulated and we started to put the exhibit back together but in an improved way from what it had been before.

You walk into a more open area than before.

The menus still need to be tacked to the wall at the bottom of them.

The north end of the car now includes a reading area.

These displays are now waiting just for the glass to be put back in front of them.

The south end of the car is still being worked on.

The south car end wall.

This end is still being put together. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and Maria saw the pictures I took for her then I showed her all the pictures I had taken in the La Plata on this trip. I then worked on this story and relaxed my final afternoon in La Plata. At 4:00 PM I drove to Colton's Steak House in Kirksville for dinner then packed up for my trip home. I got a ride back to the Amtrak Station and waited for my train to home to arrive.

Southwest Chief 3 1/05/2011

The Southwest Chief came slowly into La Plata and picked me up on the new platform. I boarded the Arkansas Sleeping Car and took my Room 5 for my trip to Los Angeles. The train had a consist of Engines 150 and 10, Baggage 1707, Transition Car 39014, Sleepers 32072 Arkansas and 32098, Diner 38021, Lounge 33014 with Coaches 34073, 31023 and 34046. The train left La Plata on time and I took a walk to get these car numbers. My bed was already made up so I took my ice box and used it as a table for my computer. I then wrote this paragraph before I shut it down and enjoyed the view from my darkened room before calling it a night.

1/06/2011 I was up at 6:30 AM for breakfast in the Dining Car of French Toast and bacon. I was seated with a couple going to Flagstaff and then on to Phoenix and a young man going from out on Cape Cod to Flagstaff then on his way to Prescott to go to school there. After breakfast I went back to bed until the train approached La Junta and I detrained. I enjoyed the fresh air in La Junta this cold morning. The train departed La Junta on time then stopped. The Lounge Car and last coach were both out of water and had to be refilled. After that the train headed to Trinidad on this clear morning with me watching my ELO DVD "Out of the Blue, Live at Wembley". Then it was my DVD of Rainbow "Live in Munich 1977" that took me through Trinidad and on over Raton Pass to the fresh air stop at Raton and beyond. I had lunch at 11:30 AM with my friend going to Prescott and a couple going to Albuquerque. I had the Beef Angus Burger with Vanilla ice cream. After lunch I put on my Steve Miller Live DVD as the train headed to Las Vegas. Things were going good until we reached the west signal at Blanchard which was red. We got permission to go by that but after the "S" curves we came to a red signal 791.2 followed by red signals 798.1 and 800.1. The Steve Miller DVD finished and we came to Signal 803.1 which was green with me now watching Asia "Fantasia Live in Tokyo" as we got back up to speed. With the rough ride still across Kansas and these now common signal problems I think why is Amtrak running this way instead of the BNSF Southern Mainline which has far more people that Amtrak could be serving and is where BNSF wants the train to be run. Sometimes what Amtrak does or doesn't do drives me crazy! At Fox we met the eastbound Southwest Chief in the siding there before we climbed over Glorieta Pass and dropped through Apache Canyon to Lamy. The Asia DVD took me almost all the way into Albuquerque just a few minutes late this afternoon. We will still have almost 45 minutes here today. I stepped off into the 37 degree air and got on line, cleaned out my E mail and learned that Jim Boyd of Railfan Magazine has died. I guess Bruce will have some company in heaven. I met Jim at the hotel in Flint during Train Festival 2009 during my breakfast there. He was a real special man and thank you Jim for all the hard work you did with that great Railfan Magazine. I feel sad again so as you can tell from the title of this story Sadlap, it really fits this trip. We left Albuquerque seven minutes late and would be chasing the sunset. I put on my Gandy Dancer CD and listened to it until I got called into dinner at 5:30 PM. I you want a copy of this excellent railroad CD just go to the Silver Rails Gallery Shop on line you can get one there or at the front desk of the Depot Inn & Suites when you visit La Plata. I highly recommend it. Then the sky became so inviting I couldn't resist.

Now that is what I call a New Mexico Sunset! For dinner I had a steak and Vanilla ice cream. I was seated with my usual friend, a gentleman from Durango, CO who has the Silverton running through his backyard and another gentleman from Albuquerque. After dinner we got stopped by red signals west of Grants. I put on my DVD of the "Alice Cooper Theater of Death" which fit my mood perfectly tonight. I watched the whole thing then since I was dead tired, I made up the room and called it a night.

1/07/2011 I got up before Riverside, stripped the bed and then got dressed. I ate cookies with a Coca-Cola and worked on the story listening to the Gandy Dancers as the train headed to Fullerton. I got done and enjoyed the train's final sprint into Los Angeles Union Station which we arrived into early at 7:30 AM. I took my time as I would be taking Pacific Surfliner 566 this morning to Santa Ana.

Surfliner 566 1/07/2011

I boarded Pacific Business Class for the fast trip down to Santa Ana. This car has Internet but does not allow the public access to it and there are no newspapers aboard. We left on time and made our way back south to Fullerton then did Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana where I ended yet another Amtrak adventure. My mother couldn't picked me up as she was sick this morning so I had to taxi home. Now we will wait and see what the year 2011 brings for Chris Guenzler?