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Train Festival 2011 -- The Journey to Rock Island, Illinois, Part 1 ~ July 17th to 19th, 2011

by Elizabeth Guenzler

Train Festival 2011 was a celebration of railroading held in Rock Island, Illinois over four days from July 21st to 24th and organized by Jason Johnson, who had, with various partnerships, mounted a similar festival two years before in Michigan. The 2011 version was sponsored by the Quad Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau and the City of Rock Island.

Bob and I flew to Kansas City, Missouri and spent the weekend there, then took Amtrak to La Plata to meet up with Chris Guenzler, Nathan Chidester and Gene Holmerud, whom we would travel with to Rock Island.

The highlight of the visit to Kansas City was visiting Country Club Plaza and some of the many fountains, for which the city is famous.

Giralda Tower at Country Club Plaza. Opened in 1923 and covering fifty-five acres, it was the first planned suburban shopping center and the first regional shopping center to accommodate shoppers arriving by car. Planned in 1922 by J. C. Nichols and designed in Moorish Revival style echoing the architecture of Seville, Spain, the Plaza comprise high-end retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues, as well as offices.

The J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain in front of Country Club Plaza.

Statues in the J.C. Nichols Memorial Fountain.

A wide-angle view of the fountain.

The horses that represent the four rivers - Mississippi, Volga, Seine and Rhine.

Kansas City is known for its music and this display at Twelfth Street and Vine explains the history.

Kansas City's Destination In Song at the Goin' to Kansas City Plaza.

Information about the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller song.

The cleverly-done display complete with piano 'keys' at the corner of Twelfth and Vine. Other places visited were the Auditorium Theatre and Little Theatre, a tour of the Hallmark Visitors Center and an outdoor production of "Guys and Dolls" at the Starlight Theatre. The World War I Memorial would be visited on the way home.

July 19th

A taxi took us to Kansas City Union Station where we boarded a two-hour late Southwest Chief for La Plata.

It was wonderful to be back at the Depot Inn and Suites again. After checking into Suite D, I called Chris to let him know we had arrived. He and the others were finishing up their railfanning so I walked down to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point.

From one extreme to another -- 93 degrees on this day and during my previous visit in January 2010, it was -4!

This St. Louis Union Station poster beside the Pullman Suite caught my eye.

I did not have long to wait for a train as an eastbound BNSF freight came through soon after I arrived. It was wonderful to be back at the Lookout Point again. The hotel's minivan soon drove up with everyone else and we became 'extras' in the filming of Railfans Chasing Trains Volume 2 as all of us are filmed dashing out from inside to the balcony to take pictures.

BNSF 5460 West was the train we photographed.

The DPU of the freight train heading west into the late afternoon sun.

Myself enjoying the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point on a warm summer's day. After dinner at the Red Rooster, we went out to Gibbs and found a westbound BNSF freight in the evening light.

Sunset in northeast Missouri.

Eastbound BNSF stack train going through Gibbs.

Amtrak Southwest Chief passing through Gibbs with three private cars on the rear. We all returned to the hotel, watched Railfans Chasing Trains Volume 1 and were given souvenir T-shirts and a copy of the DVD.

I felt right at home being at the Depot Inn and Suites again and could have easily stayed here longer. But there were surprises in store for tomorrow and Train Festival to be visited and enjoyed, all of which are the subjects of the next few travelogues.