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New Year's Eve 2009 and a Trip to La Plata, Missouri ~ December 31st, 2009 to January 4th, 2010

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The year 2009 had been very eventful, not only from a personal angle (moving from Canada to the United States) but featured several special train trips and excursions, which I have described in previous travelogues. The end of the decade would also be memorable as I travelled over the New Year's holiday to northeast Missouri. The Depot Inn and Suites in La Plata was holding a New Year's Eve event and it would be a celebration of the New Year, Chris Guenzler's birthday and the opening of the Silver Rails Gallery where the Internet radio show Let's Talk Trains would be broadcast from.


It may sound strange, but this was the first time I had been out of town for the New Year. Growing up, my parents and I only travelled in the summertime and during my seventeen years at the British Columbia Ministry of Municipal Affairs (1991 to 2008), I chose to compile the quarterly and annual bylaw statistics that I was in charge of on the first day of the year. For a few years, Bob would travel to Victoria and assist me with this but I never went anywhere outside of Victoria to celebrate. I just never had anywhere to go or anyone to go with. Then in July 2009, Richard Hamilton, the host of "Let's Talk Trains", suddenly passed away. Chris had been a frequent guest of his and through him and a few others who did not want to see the show come to an abrupt end, Bob and I joined the half dozen hosts of the weekly radio show, interviewing various people in the preservation and magazine field over the course of six years. The Silver Rails Gallery in La Plata was opening on January 2nd and "Let's Talk Trains" was going to have its maiden broadcast of 2010 originate from there.

So it was for these reasons that Bob and I flew from Seattle to Kansas City on December 30th and took Super Shuttle to the Hyatt Regency Crown Centre. On New Year's Eve, we walked through the enclosed walkway (the Link) between the hotel and Union Station to catch the 07:45 departure of Amtrak's Southwest Chief. It was running an hour-and-a-half late but we eventually were on board and my first time on Train 4, albeit for a very small part of its journey, 139 miles. Chris was there to meet us, as well as Steve Grande (owner of and his wife Barbara Cepinko and others.

The former Santa Fe station in La Plata, now the Amtrak station.

The La Plata water tower. Chris drove us to the Depot Inn and Suite where we checked in, then went for lunch and some afternoon railfanning.

Working with local governments for many years gave me an interest in municipalities and I could not resist taking a picture of this sign and noting the Village's very small population.

The former Chicago, Burlington and Quincy station in South Gifford, looking very dilipdated.

Union Pacific 7893 West at Cardy.

Union Pacific 5505 West at the Hanover/Hilton crossing near La Plata.

The DPUs on the rear. From here, Chris drove us to the Trainweb building (the company had re-located to La Plata from Fullerton, California) and then over to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point, which was named for him after he reached 1,000,000 rail miles. It is situated on the former Wabash line and overlooks the Santa Fe main line.

Chris leading the way to the lookout point.

The covered and heated Lookout Point where we would be ringing in the New Year a few hours later. We returned to the hotel and I went exploring.


The sign for the Depot Inn and Suites with an apt message.

Side entrance to the hotel.

Looking down the hotel building.

Myself at the entrance in 10 degree weather.

The driveway and Bank of La Plata sign.

Below the check-in counter is the hotel's name and a steam train etching.

The front desk.

The Missouri House of Representatives resolution upon the opening of the Depot Inn and Suites in 2006.

Santa Fe stained glass inserts in the lobby windows.

Decorations for the New Year's Eve party.

The library of railway and other books in the lobby.

An operating small model train display.

Railway uniform displays in the hallway.

Various railway lanterns on display in another hallway.

Several display cases of toy trains.

Old pictures of area communities (Gifford in this view) on the walls.

Railway photographs by Bob Cox on display.

Railway map, Southwest Chief cosist and steam engine 5020.

A Santa Fe Southwest Chief cover for the emergency lights.

Various railway company plaques in the laundry room.

Picture of the Wabash depot in La Plata in 1910. After relaxing in the room, everyone carpooled for the drive to Bevier for dinner at the Pear Tree Restaurant but there was a picture to take before we went in.

Bevier and Southern 2-6-0 112 on display opposite the post office. It was built in 1920 and retired in 1962, then donated to the City of Beiver by the President of the Bevier and Southern to commemorate activity of the railway in the business life of Bevier, and as a monument to the steam locomotive in the railway industry.

Not only was this a group New Year's Eve dinner but Chris' 52nd birthday was celebrated. After a delicious meal, we returned to the hotel and walked down to the Million Mile Lookout point.

The ATCS (Automated Train Control System) monitor showing the BNSF Chicago Division Marceline Subdivision.

Chris working on his story during the evening. A few trains came by and we braved the cold late evening to photograph them.

It was then time for photographs as the clock counted down to midnight.

A group shot of everyone as midnight struck, signalling a new year and a new decade. We all then walked back in the snow to the hotel for the rest of the night.

January 1st

After a very good night's sleep in the most comfortable bed I have ever experienced, we went next door to the Red Rooster for breakfast. Mid- morning, Chris drove several of us to the Heartlands Community of Hope in Newark. Heartlands is a Christian community where men, women and youth are finding hope in the power of Jesus Christ to change lives and restore families. Year-long recovery programs for men and women, along with a boarding school and Bible College for youth, and a church family provide opportunities for help, growth and discipleship. It had been in operation for sixteen years as of 2009 and the group has 20,000 actres, teach many trades and have goats and cattle. We had lunch at the Solid Rock Cafe, which is a combination restaurant and museum before driving around the site.

There is a Ford museum in the Solid Rock Cafe and a historic petrol pump from Route 66.

Advertising signs from petrol stations and repair shops around the Midwest.

More signs on display.

A 1906 Ford Model S.

Horse and sleigh.

A 1927 Ford Model T.

Various Model T's on display.

A Heartland dairy truck.

Vintage Ford cars.

Mill's Creamery wagon.

There were historic photographs from the Ford factory at the Ford Museum in Solid Rock Cafe. Our group was given a tour of Heartland then we made our way back to La Plata but found something of interest along the way.

A unique mailbox in the shape of an aeroplane in Novelty.

There are several municipalities throughout the country with amusing names. The very small village of Novelty is one of them.

Most definitely not a novelty! Chris beside the Welcome to Novelty sign. We returned to the hotel and went back to the Lookout Point.

The former Wabash right-of-way and bridge abutment through La Plata as seen from the Lookout Point.

A late afternoon view looking west.

A late afternoon view looking east.

BNSF 9713 East passing the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. A little later, Chris drove Bob, myself and Nathan Chidester (who had arrived from Kansas City for "Let's Talk Trains" tomorrow to Kirksville where we had a nice dinner at the Ruby Tuesday Restaurant there. It was then back to the Depot Inn for the night.

January 2nd

We all awoke to a frigid morning in La Plata, as was evidenced by the -4 degree readout on the Bank of Plata sign. That was the coldest temperature I had experienced {and remains so to this day}. After breakfast, Bob and I met up with Chris and Bill Compton and he took us out to the very aptly-named Iceberg Avenue, or MP 315.75 of the Marceline Sub. .

BNSF 749 East was the lone train this morning. A stop at Cardy did not result in any trains so we returned to the warmth of the minivan and then the Lookout Point.

The eastbound Southwest Chief stopped at La Plata and passed the Lookout Point as it headed toward Galesburg and Fort Madison, en route to Chicago. We returned to the hotel, enjoying the warmth, then went down to the Silver Rails Gallery and the Richard Hamilton Memorial Library to set up for "Let's Talk Trains".

Nathan and Chris ready to broadcast the first episode of 2010, with Bob and I as co-hosts. The live broadcast went off without a hitch and since it was now 14:00 hrs, we drove to Kirksville for a Subway lunch then returned to La Plata where we had a tour of the Silver Rails Event Centre and the Exhibition of Amtrak History.

Two former Amtrak mail handling cars which house the exhibition of Amtrak History (left) and a model railway layout (right).

The plaque in the Exhibition of Amtrak History commemorating Chris' millionth Amtrak mile.

Displays of Amtrak history throughout the decades. We returned to the hotel and I helped Chris with his story before the four of us went to Kirksville for dinner at the Wooden Nickel. Then it was back to the hotel for a while before Chris drove Bob and I down to the station as we were getting on this evening's Southwest Chief to Kansas City for the trip home. But before we left, there were some other pictures to take.

The former Santa Fe station in La Plata, now the Amtrak station.

The ticket counter of the La Plata station.

Schedule, plaque and posters in the station.

I had never seen so many models trains on display in one place!

The Friends for La Plata Preservation Historical Society then-and-now photograph. With that, the train arrived at 20:06 and we said our goodbyes to Chris and boarded. Since it was a winter's evening, we could not see anything outside but enjoyed the ride bak to Kansas City where we detrained and walked through the Link to the Hyatt Regency and checked into the hotel. Tomorrow would be exploration of Kansas City Union Station and return to Seattle the next day.

I had thoroughly enjoyed my first time at the Depot Inn and Suites and would return here in a heartbeat to take in more of the northeast Missouri countryside, railfanning and everything that the Depot Inn offered. But that would not be until July 2011, when the weather was the absolute opposite to what it had been.