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My Wintertime Trip back to La Plata

by Chris Guenzler

I decided early to go back to the Depot Inn & Suites for my 51st Birthday and spend five nights and six days there to relax. It had been an interesting year switching jobs from McFadden Intermediate to Jefferson Elementary School just down Adams Street in Santa Ana. My Winter Break being three weeks I stayed home for a week riding locally. I took one of my favorite trips I do and now I will tell about it. I sometimes take Metrolink 602 down to North Beach San Clemente then walk the Beach Trail to the San Clemente Pier Station where I board Surfliner 785 for home.

I got Metrolink 602 and took a picture of him leaving for Oceanside.

This time of year yields excellent post sunset pictures after I enjoy a quick power walk down the Beach Trail to the San Clemente Pier Amtrak Station. Here I waited for Surfliner 785 to arrive in the dark and take me home. I kept on riding and on the Monday morning of the trip I did a Solana Beach turn and rode my final trip with Conductor Woody Lambert, who is retiring come January 1st, 2009. I want to thank Woody for his excellent service over the years he has provided me throughout my train riding career. I will truly miss Woody in the future and hope he has a most excellent retirement. I went home and packed up for my trip to La Plata. Steve Grande of will fly in Friday morning and Matt Melzer will be making his first ever trip to La Plata arriving on the westbound Southwest Chief on Friday night. It will be fun to show Matt around La Plata for his first visit. My Mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station and I carried my luggage over to Track 1 via the elevators.

Surfliner 583 12/29/2008

I boarded the lower level of the Pacific Business Class and set up my computer. I did a little work before I watched half of a Quiet Riot DVD. In no time we were on the Flyover across the Los Angeles River and I packed up. We arrived into LAUPT early and I walked over to Track 11 to wait for my train to La Plata to back into LAUPT.

Southwest Chief 4 12/29/2008

The train backed into Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal with Engines 175 and 165, Baggage 1733, Transition 39021, Sleepers 32099 New Mexico and 32118 Wyoming, Diner 38064, Lounge 33046 and Coaches 34027, 34085, 31018 and 31044. I am in the Wyoming in Room 12 downstairs. I got a 7:30 PM Dinner Reservation then was first joined on the platform by Ken Ruben and later by Chris Parker who I had an order form for the Bart Jennings Arizona Eastern Trip in early April.

Ken and Chris at LAUPT.

Me in the door of the Wyoming. The Southwest Chief departed LAUPT on time and headed to Fullerton for the first fresh air break of the trip. At 7:30 PM they called us into the Dining Car and I was seated with a couple from Newport Beach who own a boat and Terry Fox, from Toronto, who rode the Canadian west and then was on that 25 hour late Coast Starlight and is heading home via our train, the Lakeshore Limited to Buffalo and the Maple Leaf to Toronto. Terry knew who I was since he posts on Rail Forum on I had the Flat Iron Steak and Chocolate Ice Cream for dessert. Good conversations about trains were had at our table. After dinner, I took fresh air at San Bernardino then watched the rest of the Quiet Riot DVD as the train climbed Cajon Pass on the south track tonight. Feeling tired I made up my bed and called it a night after Summit.

12/30/2008 I woke up at Flagstaff and soon was in the Dining Car having French Toast and Sausage Patties. I had been seated with a man going to Albuquerque, a women going to Raton then the Thruway Bus to Denver and a man going to Kansas City. After Breakfast I went back to my room and went back to bed. I got up at Gallup, New Mexico and while my room was being made up I went to the lower level of the Lounge Car and just sat back and watched the views out the window. After an hour I returned to my room and caught up on this story and watched Poison "Live Raw and Uncut" that took me most of the way into Albuquerque.

A butte as we neared Dalies.

The Rio Grande River as we made our final approach to Albuquerque arriving there way an hour early at 11:15 AM. I detrained for a picture and some fresh air.

After an extended stay in Albuquerque, we left on time with me watching Motley Crue Live "Lewd Crued & Tattooed".

I paused the DVD during the Bonus Features and took this picture of the summit of Glorieta Pass. I relaxed once the DVD was done before I walked to the rear door for a picture of one of the remaining semaphore signals along this rail line. I got to the rear door finding it so dirty you could not even take a picture through it. Does not Amtrak have any pride and have all windows clean like VIA Rail in Canada does? I returned to my room for the Guns N' Roses "Use Your Illusion, World Tour-1992 in Tokyo".

A few scenes after Las Vegas.

Rolling east along the high plains towards Raton, our next fresh air stop. After Wagon Mound I put on my Richie Blackmore's Rainbow DVD "Live in Munich 1977" and paused it at Raton. It was cool but not cold and we left there on time and climbed Raton Pass. At 6 PM they called us in for Dinner and I was seated with a family from Tulsa. I enjoyed another Flat Iron Steak but with Vanilla Ice Cream. We stopped in Trinidad and I returned to my room for a Cheap Trick DVD that I would have to pause at La Junta, our next fresh air stop. It was cold in La Junta which we left on time and since I was tired I made up my bed and called it a night.

12/31/2008 My 51st Birthday

I awoke at the BNSF Argentine Yard as the train was getting refueled and headed to the Dining Car for a breakfast of French Toast and Sausage Patties. I was seated with a 4th grade school teacher from Mississippi. I finished just as the train pulled into Kansas City and got off for a walk and a picture.

The Southwest Chief at rest in Kansas City. The train departed KC on time and I put on Blackmore's Nights DVD "Castles and Dreams" which should take me most of the way to La Plata this glorious clear but very cold morning.

The Southwest Chief crossed the Missouri River on a very beautiful final day of 2008. I watched and relaxed the rest of the way to La Plata. The Southwest Chief arrived on time to La Plata and I finished another excellent eastbound trip on the Southwest Chief as I detrained.

La Plata 12/31/2008

I was picked up and taken to the Depot Inn & Suites and was given Room S. I next walked down to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. There I got on the Internet and cleared out my e-mail. I then read the entire USA Today as I waited for any freight train action. I then checked the walls to see where people had come from and signed the walls. 22 states, The District of Columbia and three counties Canada, Australia and Holland. I then decided to walk over to the Train Party Building and drop off a Million Mile DVD Set for Ray Burns. Ray was not there so I left it in his office. I then headed back over to the lookout point.

On the way back from Train Party, I stopped for this picture of the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point.

After two and a half hours finally a westbound BNSF baretable train showed up. I returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and relaxed. I watched The Mummy "Tomb of the Dragon Emperor" with the Director Rob Cohen doing a Feature Commentary. At 4 PM Amy Cox picked me up and drove me to Bob's Show Off Photography Shop. I delivered a few more Million Mile DVD Sets then Bob, Amy and I drove north to Kirksville to Ruby Tuesdays for dinner. After dinner we made a stop at Walmart before they dropped me off at the Depot Inn & Suites. With noisy neighbors I was moved into Room V for the night. I visited with Tom and Kelly for a while then watched the New York City New Year's Celebrations. After that, I called it a night.

1/1/2009 Happy New Year

I got up, moved back into Room S and then got some breakfast in the lobby to go. I walked out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point and waited for the train on a 26 degree morning with a strong 25 MPH wind blowing from the south.

The view showing the Train Party Building and La Plata behind it.

An eastbound BNSF grain empty passed by next.

A westbound BNSF grain train came next.

The grain train DPU's passed the Southwest Chief that arrived ten minutes early into La Plata this morning.

The on time Southwest Chief leaving La Plata.

A BNSF Z train then came east.

Then a BNSF westbound came by and I headed back to the Depot Inn & Suites. I watched some of my WKRP in Cincinnati DVD from Season One. I then watched the National Hockey League Winter Classic as the Detroit Red Wings beat the Chicago Blackhawks. Once that was over, I watched USC beat Penn State in the Rose Bowl and took time out and went to the Red Rooster having a Porterhouse Steak for Dinner.

In the hallway Axy Dent of the Santa Fe.

I noticed this hanging in the Bank of La Plata. I relaxed the rest of the evening before calling it a night.

1/2/2009 The Road Trip in Search of Trains.

An odd BNSF freight train at Callao. From there we drove straight to Sumner and found where the old Wabash line crossed the old CB&Q Line.

The old southbound Wabash signal at Sumner.

Old Wabash tracks up to the point where they crossed the old CB&Q Line.

The old Burlington Northern signpost at Sumner.

The old Sumner crossing diamonds.

The old northbound Wabash signal at Sumner. We drove west across the bridges to the grade crossing and waited for two and a half hours but had not a single train.

The westbound photo location before we shot pictures of the Grand River Bridges.

The eastern trestle across the Grand River.

The middle trestle across the Grand River.

The western Truss Bridge across the Grand River. With that done, we headed to Chillicothe, Missouri. There we first found the shortline railroad called the Missouri North Central Railroad.

Motive Rail 5316 was out at the Industrial Park served by this railroad. From here we drove into downtown Chillicothe.

Missouri North Central Railroad 4485 in town.

The old Wabash Freight House now the Wabash Bar.

The old CB&Q later Burlington Northern also ran into Chillicothe.

The old Wabash Passenger Station now the Wabash BBQ.

Chillicothe, MO. Bob and I enjoyed a good lunch at the Wabash BBQ in Chillicothe. Bob then learned from a Illinois, Chicago and Eastern track crew that an eastbound train would be arriving into Chillicothe in less than an hour. We took off south then went west finding the tracks at Dawn, MO.

Dawn, Missouri with a red signal. Twenty minutes later it turned green. At 2:10 PM we spotted the headlight and set up for the pictures.

This Illinois, Chicago and Eastern freight is really now a CP Rail train passed through Dawn. Satisfied we next headed east to Hale, MO.

The small station building at Hale is now used as a maintenance base by BNSF. We return by the bridges and Sumner with no trains then returned to La PLata via Ethel and Elmer with no trains.

Since I did not have a good picture of the Trainweb/Train Party Com Building I had Bob swing by there on the way back to the Depot Inn & Suites. I thanked Bob for an interesting day and returned to Room S and watched two episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati. I then meet Ray Burns and Steve Grande and the three of us walked over to the Red Rooster for dinner.

After dinner, we all drove to the Train Party Building and I walked behind the building to get a picture of their new sign that faces the tracks. From here we drove to the Amtrak Station to wait for Matt Melzer to arrive on the Southwest Chief.

Steve took this picture of me by the Amtrak Million Mile Display in the La Plata Station.

Matt Melzer stepped off of the Southwest Chief in La Plata for his first time. Steve and I drove Matt to the Depot Inn & Suites.

Here Matt is meeting Brock and checking in. I got the key to the Amtrak Exhibit and we went with Matt to the Pullman Room and showed him how all of the features worked. Next we walked out to the Exhibition of Amtrak History.

Here is Matt by his favorite Coast Starlight display. After he was done looking around, we took Matt out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point for a night time view.

Matt signed the wall of the Lookout Point. Everyone who comes here is welcomed to sign the wall of the Lookout Point but please include what state, district or country you live in. After I finished redoing my signatures, we headed north up US 63 to Kirksville to show Matt that city. I made sure Matt got to see the old CB&Q Station still standing in Kirksville. After giving Matt the grand tour of Kirksville, we returned to La Plata and showed Matt the rest of the property that will be used for the Silver Rails Resort. We all returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and called it a night.

1/3/2009 I was up early and went out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point and had no trains in the 1.5 hours I was out there. I returned to the room and was working on yesterday's part of the story when Matt knocked and I suggested that we walk out to the Lookout Point to see the Southwest Chief.

Another on time Southwest Chief leaves La Plata for Chicago. Steve, Tom and Kelly then picked us up and we all went to the Silver Rail Event Center.

Matt on the stage made from the wood that was the bowling alley lanes from Marceline.

The third of the Chris Guenzler Amtrak Million Mile Plaques that are in La Plata is on display at the Silver Rail Event Center. After showing Matt the Silver Rail Event Center next we went to Tom Marshall's Work Shop. Bob Cox joined us there and Tom then gave Matt the driving tour around La Plata. Tom dropped Steve, Matt and I off at the Depot Inn & Suites and we climbed into Steve's van and went to Santa Fe Lake.

Steve and Matt at Santa Fe Lake. Next we headed to So Gifford via the Amish countryside.

Matt at the So Gifford Station, the ex CB&Q structure. From here we drove to Marceline and parked before we walked down Main Street USA.

We had lunch at Susie's Place.

The Santa Fe 2-8-0 2546 in E.P. Ripley Park in Marceline.

The old Santa Fe Station in Marceline.

A BNSF eastbound passes through Marceline.

The old Santa Fe Station in Marceline that houses the Walt Disney Museum.

The DPU's working hard on that eastbound BNSF train.

Matt in front of the Santa Fe 2546.

Steve and Matt in front of the tender of the Santa Fe 2546. Matt thought pictures should be taken of me so on the way back to the van they found the perfect setting.

Me with a Coca-Cola in front of a wall billboard for Coca-Cola. With that we headed back towards La Plata.

At Callao when we crossed the former CB&Q we saw this signal and I had Steve stop as I knew I had a train coming.

A westbound BNSF train with solid CSX power. From there we drove to the Amish Store.

Here is Matt petting that wonderful cat that loved me and I really wanted to take him home but did not. We returned to the Depot Inn & Suites and relaxed for a while. After 6 PM we all met in the lobby and the Marshall's, Cox's, Steve, Matt and I all got into Bob's Van and drove to the Wooden Nickel in Kirksville for dinner.

After dinner, we walked across the street to the Dukum Inn to see the bar that Tom had built for this establishment. I showed that CB&Q Station to everyone before we returned to La Plata and the Depot Inn & Suites for the night.

1/4/2009 Day 5100 of my Sobriety

The storm last night dropped nothing and I walked out to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point and put on Lets Talk Trains and listened to their new Blog Talk Format. Steve and Matt left this morning to fly to their homes.

At 9:38 AM a BNSF stack train finally came east.

The Southwest Chief came and went and I returned to the hotel in a 25 MPH wind that took the wind chill down to around 5 degrees. I decided it was a good day to stay inside. I watched the television and relaxed then later went to the Red Rooster for dinner. I did my wash also during the day and it was a complete day of rest.

1/5/2009 I got up, grabbed some breakfast and headed out for my last visit to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point hoping to see some trains. I called Amtrak learning that the Southwest Chief was running about an hour late this morning. I checked the Internet and then had my breakfast.

First an eastbound BNSF stack train went east through La Plata.

Later a westbound BNSF grain train surprised me so it was a pair of going away pictures.

Amtrak Southwest Chief then arrived and with that I headed back to the Depot Inn & Suites with a side trip to Casey Gas Station for supplies. I finished up watching the WKRP in Cincinnati episodes and then watched a little of the Rush "Snakes and Arrows Live" Disc 3. I watched more television as the afternoon dragged on. Bob and Amy along with a friend went to La Plata for a Mexican Dinner and picked me up some KFC on their way back. I watched the "Return of the Sith" on Spike TV then finished packing and was driven down to the Amtrak Station ending another excellent stay at the Depot Inn & Suites.

Southwest Chief 3 1/5/2009

The Southwest Chief pulled into La Plata with Engines 195, 186 and 43, Baggage 1714, Sleepers 32098 New Jersey, 32111 Texas and 32011, Diner 38040, Lounge 33032 and Coaches 34029, 31046 and 34117. I boarded the Texas taking Room 6 and then walked the train. I rode in my darkened room past Marceline then made my room up for the night and went to bed.

1/6/2009 I got up in very western Kansas and went to the Dining Car for my breakfast sitting with a lady from Boston. I ate the French Toast with Sausage Patties. Later we arrived into La Junta on an eighteen degree sunny morning. I took a walk and saw Eugene on his last day of being the Amtrak station agent here. He is off to Albuquerque and then El Paso. The train left La Junta on time and headed west with me putting on my Rush "Snakes and Arrows" DVD. The train stopped at Trinidad just as Disc 1 was ending and Disc 2 took me across Raton Pass to our next fresh air stop at Raton and beyond.

The old grade and bridge pillar from the former Southern Pacific Railroad line to York Canyon and French, New Mexico. The Rush DVD lasted until west of Springer where I switched to my Queensyche "Mindcrime at the Moore" DVD set. That took me all the way almost to Canyoncito and I was given a Hot Towel. We took the siding at Canyoncito for the eastbound Southwest Chief and I put on the Daylight Productions DVD of "San Diego Steam Special" as we waited. The train paused at Lamy before it arrived in a cold 34 degree afternoon in Albuquerque forty five minutes early. After I made several phone calls on my cell phone, the Southwest Chief left Albuquerque on time and chased the setting sun west. I played Solitaire on my computer until I was called into Dinner at 5:45 PM. I had a Flat Iron Steak and Vanilla Ice Cream for dessert. After Dinner I put on my DVD of Aerosmith "You Gotta Move" which took me almost to Winslow where I made up my bed and called it a night.

1/7/2009 I was woken up by crew members talking in the hallway as the train was dropping down Cajon Pass. I went to the Lounge Car for some mini Do-nut Holes before the train arrived early into San Bernardino. The train ran with no delays to Riverside before it made the final sprint to Fullerton arriving there a few minutes late. With a Green Signal and no signs of Surfliner 562, I crossed the Crossover Bridge and waited for Surfliner 562 to take me back to Santa Ana ending another excellent Amtrak Adventure and a relaxing trip to the Depot Inn & Suites. I taxied home and had five full days to rest before I returned to work at Jefferson Elementary School.