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SWChief Departure from La Plata, Missouri, February 22, 2013.

The Most Photographed Amtrak Train Leaving La Plata -

The Many Photo Spots at the Station

Text and Photos, except where noted, by Carl Morrison.  Comments welcomed at

Amtrak Arrivals and Departures in La Plata are a main attraction in town each day.

February 22, 2013, following the completion of our American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (APRHF) Conference, the first attendees to leave via Amtrak were Joyce and Bob Manning.  They would board the eastbound Amtrak Southwest Chief No. 4 in the morning heading to Chicago to continue their winter rail vacation eventually returning to their home in Palm Springs, California.

We loaded Bob and Joyce's luggage in the Hotel Van and made our way to the Amtrak Station.  In the Bon Voyage group were several photographers:  Bob Cox, President of APRHF and Amtrak Station Agent; Ben Myers from Pennsylvania; Nathan Chidester from Kansas City; Tom Anderson, and me from California.  We photographers in the group all wanted a different angle from which to photograph the same train, No. 4, as it arrived, loaded, and departed.  Here are photos from the different photo spots at the La Plata Amtrak Station:

The first sight of a train arriving from the west at the La Plata, Missouri, Amtrak Station is from west of the station, either from station's freight ramp or the siding tracks west of the station:

Photo Credit:  Nathan Chidester

To see an arriving train from the track side of the La Plata Station, go south of the tracks onto the BNSF property with the tall microwave towers and select a spot on the grass or snow to shoot toward the northwest. 

Check with Julie (1-800-USARAIL) or use the Amtrak App. for the exact arrival time giving yourself enough time to get into position.  From this position, you will not be able to board the train nor help anyone board because you are blocked from the station by the train, so say your Goodbyes before crossing the tracks at the Owensby St. Crossing.

As you can see below, you have choices as Amtrak arrives from the west.  You can shoot the locomotives west of the station (photo 1 below), the locomotives with a view of the public section of the station and the passenger's waiting (photo 2 below), and the final photo, the locomotives with the east end of the station.  This final photo shows the size comparison between the locomotive and the station and makes the locomotive look much bigger.

Photo Credit:  Carl Morrison

Photo Credit:  Carl Morrison

Photo Credit:  Carl Morrison

Another location, on the south side of the tracks, is in Owensby Street itself. 

Ben Myers shot these photos from a vehicle parked behind the signal arms that come down when a train is arriving.  From this location, you can shoot, at eye level, the station before the train arrives, the train approaching from the west, and the train as it leaves town past the Lookout and's building.  These photos were taken on at a later date than those above and below.

Since you cannot see the station when the long Amtrak train is making its stops - one for the sleepers and another for the coaches, another photo opportunity is of the best looking car on the train, the Sightseer/Lounge Car.  The following shot is at street level.  There will be no vehicles to worry about while you shoot from the street or the berm since the train is blocking the crossing.

La Plata Amtrak Station Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Wide shot of the Amtrak Station, new sign on the right, MFA buildings on the left.  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

While you are awaiting the Amtrak's arrival, you might see BNSF vehicles pass the station.  (That is me, Carl, in the red jacket.)  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Amtrak No. 4 arrives, taken with a telephoto lens  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

The entire No. 4 on the left, the station in the center, La Plata, MO, Station sign on the right   Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Amtrak No. 4 hiding the station   Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Amtrak No. 4 Stops at this position for passengers to load or unload.  A good opportunity for a shot of the Lookout with a telephoto lens, taken from  the south side of the tracks from Owensby St.
Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

The same shot as above, but with a wide angle lens (or zoomed out) showing the train on the left, the Lookout, the Brown St. Bridge, and on the right.

Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

From the same street location, look to the east and the Amtrak train stretches out toward the Lookout and Brown St. Bridge.

This location might provide a nice panoramic photograph for a cover photo on your Facebook page. This view does not start with the locomotive first, but with a passenger train the cars are important also so this is the view looking east:

Photo Credit:  Carl Morrison

With a zoom lens, from Owensby St. you can catch a closeup of the locomotives with the Lookout, Brown St. bridge, and Hwy. 63 bridge.  This train was unique in that it had 3 Genesis locomotives.  Bob Cox, the La Plata Station Caretaker, says they were probably taking a disabled locomotive somewhere else along the line.  In the consist on this day has to be the worst looking baggage car in the system.

Photo Credit:  Carl Morrison

On the north side of the track, during Southwest Chief's stop in La Plata, Nathan had moved to the east side of the station, to a snow drift next to Owensby St. 

He took the following photos from that snowdrift.  Here he has converted the digital color photograph to black and white for a nice photo.

Photo Credit:  Nathan Chidester

Another location, shown in the upper left corner of the photo above, is the Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout.  You can reach this lookout via a one-lane road from the Depot Inn & Suites.  The lookout is part of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation.  If you are staying at the Depot Inn & Suites, you can borrow their golf cart to reach the Lookout.  If not, you can drive there yourself or walk the short distance. 

Since there were not enough photographers to cover this train's arrival from the many locations around the La Plata Amtrak Station, I asked Nathan to give me a copy of a photograph he had taken earlier from the Lookout.  The previous day we had a blizzard and Nathan was brave enough to make it to the Lookout and take this photo:

Photo Credit:  Nathan Chidester.

Another Location for photos is on the platform at the La Plata Amtrak Station providing yet another view of trains plus passengers boarding or detraining.

From the platform at the La Plata Amtrak Station, Ben captured this Amtrak No. 4 arriving in a snow storm.  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Amtrak No. 3 arrived after dark, so Ben used a flash to capture Amy Cox managing the passengers at the station this evening.  A station platform is the closest a photographer can legally get to passing trains. 
Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

If you know passengers who are boarding, take a flash photo of them as well. 
Left to right:  Conductor, Chuck (0330 Sleeping Car Attendant) Yours truly, Amy Cox, Tom Anderson. 
This is evidence as to whether the car attendant or Conductor is helping passengers with their help in this case.

Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

Those sayng, "Goodbye," (Steve Grande, Depot Inn & Suites, and Shivam Surve, are also subjects for photos at the La Plata Amtrak Station.  

Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

A Final Location for photos at the Amtrak La Plata Station is the "First Class Lounge" (by permission only). 

Ben, on yet another day, got these photos from the office at the station...a good place to be when a second 6 inches of snow was falling in the same week's period.

Bob Cox, Station Caretaker, shovels snow before the arrival of an Amtrak Morning Train.  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers

In this shot, Ben backed up enough to include the window of the office as 3 Amish or Mennonites watch a freight approaching.

If you are inside the depot, you can also photograph celebrities who might be boarding the next Amtrak after their stay at the Depot Inn & Suites.  Here are Robert and Kandace Tabern, Trails & Rails Docents who announce sights along the way between Chicago and La Plata. 

Their newly published book, Outside The Rails - A Rail Route Guide From Chicago to La Plata, Missiouri,  is available at various locations along the route of the Southwest Chief and in La Plata.  Ask Station Caretakers, Bob or Amy Cox, where you can purchase a copy.  You can also contact,

Robert Tabern takes advantage of the platform view as a BNSF freight passes by.  Photo Credit:  Ben Myers