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Round Trip Fullerton, CA, to Silver Rails Country, La Plata, MO, on the Southwest Chief

"Trains to Planes 2010"

Taking the Southwest Chief to

for the Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville Regional Air Festival 

Text and Photography by Carl Morrison (

Round Trip Fullerton, CA, to Silver Rails Country, La Plata, MO, on the Southwest Chief

Soon after the 2009 Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville Regional Air Festival, I asked for this reporting assignment again for 2010.  It would include a round trip ride on the Amtrak Southwest Chief from Fullerton, CA, (the first stop of the Chief after leaving Los Angeles) to La Plata, MO, just short of a 2,000 mile ride.  We had Bedroom C, Car 430, (right next to the Diner!).    

I would stay at the Depot Inn & Suites, in La Plata, the center point of  Silver Rails Country.

Silver Rails Country encompasses La Plata and the surrounding area east to Hannibal and the Mississippi River, south to Moberly, west to Marceline, and north to Kirksville, MO.

(Please note that the Map is NOT to scale, especially the distance to Macon and Moberly, south of La Plata, which is much farther than the map shows)

The numbers on the map, above, correspond to the numbers of attractions and businesses below:

1. Depot Inn & Suites (Photos) [0 min], 1245 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549, 818-814-3669, 660-332-4669, Historic Railroad Displays Outside & Inside

2. Exhibition of Amtrak History (Photos) [0 min], in 2 railroad cars at 1245 N. Brown St., La Plata 63549, 660-332-4669, Collection of the Amtrak Historical Society, a professional railroad exhibit, and a display of railroad telegraphy (coming soon!)

3. Silver Rails Gallery & Memorial Library (Photos) [2 min], 109 S. Gex St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-956-4157, Works of Railroad Art & Photograph, a railroad gift shop, plus a collection of railroad books & journals

4. Chris Guenzler Millionth Rail Mile Lookout Point (Photos) [1 min], at the end of the road behind The Red Rooster Restaurant, Cabin & Deck overlooking the BNSF mainline

5. La Plata Santa Fe Depot / Amtrak Station (Photos) [2 min], 535 N. Owensby St., La Plata, MO 63549, Restored Historic Santa Fe Depot Click here for station info and history.

6. & (Photos) [2 min], 100 E. Benton St., La Plata, MO 63549, 800-761-4294, Home office of & - Take a tour of the warehouse of over 750 different railroad themed party supplies

7. Silver Rails Event Center (Photos) [2 min], 204 E. Moore St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-956-4157, A rail themed function hall for meetings, shows, weddings, etc.

8. Autumn Harvest Festival Train Maze (Photos) [10 min], 28496 Nature Lane, La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-7899, Walk the Steam Loco Corn Maze and more at the Jackson Country Connection (September & October)!

9. Chew Choo Cafe [2 min], located in the La Plata Pharmacy at 113 S. Gex Street, La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-4456, Eat in or have food delivered to your room at the Depot Inn & Suites

10. Santa Fe Lake [2 min], Built by the Santa Fe Railroad in 1907 and has been a swimming, fishing, and picnicking destination since the 1920's.

Note: Above Items Are All Railroad Related and In La Plata!

More Railroad Related Items Are Located Further Down The List In the Region:

11. The Red Rooster Restaurant (Photos) [0 min], 1155 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-7337, A great restaurant right next door to the Depot Inn & Suites

12. Grandma's Home Cookin (Photos) [2 min], 129 E. Moore St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-7939, Especially great for breakfast in Downtown La Plata

13. Smitty's Tavern (Photos) [2 min], 209 S. Gex St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-4232, Late night spot for beer, wine & spirits

14. Gilbreath-McLorn Victorian House (Photos) [2 min], 225 N. Owensby St., La Plata, MO 63549, Built in 1896, Added to National Registor of Historic Places in 1978. Tours by Appointment. (Photos taken on this trip below)

15. Doneghy Victorian House (Photos) [2 min], 301 N. Owensby St., La Plata, MO 63549, Built in 1895, Added to National Register of Historic Places in 1989.

16. Lester Dent House [2 min], 225 N. Church St., La Plata, MO 6349, Lester Dent was author of the "Doc Savage" pulp novels of the 1930's and 1940's. The house was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1990. Click here for further information.

17. Green Theatre [2 min], 217 S. Gex St., La Plata, MO 63549, Historic movie house built in 1935, closed in 1985, currently undergoing restoration. Click here for further information.

18. Amish Country Variety Store & Amish Country Baker [7 min], 25531 State Highway 156, La Plata, MO 63549, less than 4 miles out of town. A General Store to the Amish but also open and welcome to the public.

19. La Plata Municipal Golf Course [3 min], 301 S. Hastings, La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-4584, 18 Hole Golf Course.

20. La Plata City Reservoir [2 min], Leopard Ave., La Plata, MO 63549, Fishing, Hunting, Boat Ramp, Camping Available, Contact City Hall 660-332-7166.

21. Casey's General Store (Gas Station & Carry-Out Pizza) [0 min], 1107 N. Brown Street, La Plata, MO, 660-332-4449.

22. La Plata Short Stop (Gas Station & Store) [0 min], 1000 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-7744.

23. Bank of La Plata [0 min], 1200 N. Brown Street, La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-2265.

24. C&M Super Market [2 min], 109 E. Clark St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-332-4422.


25. Walt Disney Hometown Museum (Photos) [52 min], 120 E. Santa Fe St., Marceline, MO 64658, 660-376-3343, Walt first came to Marceline by train when he was five years old. The museum is housed in the historic restored Santa Fe Depot. Also see a steam locomotive and caboose in EP Ripley Park, the original street that "Main Street U.S.A." was modeled after in every Disney Magic Kingdom, Walt's Barn, The Dreaming Tree and the original Uptown Theater.


44. Moberly Historic Railway Museum & Depot Park [50 min], 101 Sturgeon St., Moberly, MO 65270, 660-263-9396.

45. The Magic City Line, Mini Train Ride at Rothwell Park, (Photos) [50 min], Rothwell Park Rd., Moberly, MO, 660-651-2409.

26. Bevier & Southern Railroad Co. No. 112 Steam Locomotive (Photos) [30 min], Bevier, MO

27. The Pear Tree Restaurant (Photos) [29 min], 222 N. Macon St., Bevier, MO, 660-773-6666, From its famous imported batter dipped lobster tail to its succulent prime rib, the Pear Tree Restaurant offers a tantalizing selection of gourmet food and drink. Open Tuesday through Saturday, 4:30pm - 9:30pm. Closed January and Major Holidays.

28. Maples Repertoire Theater [25 min], 102 N. Rubey St., Macon, MO 63552, 660-382-2924.


29. The Heartland (Photos), Newark, MO, 660-284-6212, 29A. Heartland Dairy [53 min], 14014 255th St, La Belle, MO, 660-213-5180, View the entire process of where milk comes from! You will see 360 cows per hour take their turn on the carousel milking machine! 29B. Ford Museum & Solid Rock 50's Cafe [50 min], 6512 Shelby 150, Bethel, MO 63434-2120, 660-284-6371, Visit the 50's cafe where you will see a lineup of antique cars -- from a 1906 Model S to the 2007 Shelby Cobra.

30. Mark Twain Boyhood Hometown & Museum (Photos) [90 min], 120 N. Main, Hannibal, MO 63401, 573-221-9010, A self-guided tour of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum properties gives you the chance to explore the Hannibal of Samuel Clemens' childhood and experience the beloved stories he created as Mark Twain through the power of his imagination. Come discover how a young boy growing up in the small village of Hannibal became one of the world's most beloved authors!

31. Big River Train Town (Photos) [90 min], 320 N. 3rd St., Hannibal, MO, 573-221-1966, Take a journey to a time where the Golden Age of railroading and toy trains was a part of most everyone's life.

The Wineries: ( Click Here for more about Silver Rails Wine Country!)

32A. West Winery at Jackson Stables, [20 min], 22694 Rainbow Basin Trail, Kirksville, MO, 660-665-4611, Wine Tasting, or 32B. West Winery [25 min], 107 Vine Street, Macon, MO 63552, 573-268-3424, Winery & Wine Tasting, Featuring Loco Vino railroad themed wine labels!

33. Jacob's Vineyard & Winery (Photos) [13 min], 26078 Eagle Lane, Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-627-2424, Wine Tasting. Notice the caboose on the front lawn on your right as you near the wine tasting room.

34. Cooper's Oak Winery and A & K Cooperage [63 min], 96-A West Jones Street, Higbee, MO 65257, 660-456-7507, Winery, Wine Tastin, &Factory Tour of Manufacturing Oak Wine Barrels!, or
Cooper's Oak Winery-Boonville [110 min], 327 Main Street, Boonville, MO 65233, 660-882-0111, Wine Tasting


35. Kirksville Downtown Cinema 8 [19 min], 115 N. Elson, Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-665-5683.

Additional Hunting, Fishing, Camping, etc.:
(Also see under La Plata above).

36. Long Branch Lake & State Park [34 min], 28615 Visitor Center Rd., Macon, MO 63552, 660-773-5229, Offers boating, camping, fishing, hiking, picnicking and swimming.

37. Thousand Hills State Park (Photos) [28 min], 20431 State Hwy 157, Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-665-6995, boating, camping, canoeing, dining, fishing, marina, picnicking, swimming, hiking, bicycling, mountain biking, backpacking trails.

38. Hidden Hollow Conservation Area [32 min], 7 miles west of La Plata on Hwy 156, then 1.5 miles south on Hwy 3, and 3 miles west on Fox Rd., 660-785-2420, Hundting of deer, rabbit, squirrel and turkey. Walk-in, float-in, backpack-in to Primitive Camping.

39. Atlanta Conservation Area [25 min], 5 miles north of Macon on Hwy 63, 2 miles west on Route AX, then 2.5 miles north on Jupiter Ave., Hunting: deer, dove, quail, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, waterfowl, Fishing: bass, catfish, and sunfish, firearms range and fishable ponds, individual campsites, walk-in, float-in, backpack-in camping, boat ramp, bird watching.

40. Thomas Hill Conservation Area [51 min], Main entrance is 5.25 miles west of Macon on Highway 36, then 10 miles south on Route C to College Mound, and 2.4 miles west on Route T, Campground, boat ramps, boat docks, picnic areas, a fishing jetty, and 4,950 acres of fishable water. The area also has a waterfowl refuge north of Route T and upland hunting on several thousand acres. A heated water discharge canal offers unique winter fishing opportunities. Individual campsites, Fishing: Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Other, Hunting: Deer, Dove, Quail, Rabbit, Squirrel, Turkey, Waterfowl, Bird Watching.

Colleges & Universities:

41. Truman State University [16 min], 100 E. Normal St., Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-785-4000.

42. A T Still University [16 min], Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine, 800 W. Jefferson St., Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-626-2121.
Special Events:

Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville Air Festival [9 min], Kirksville Regional Airport on MO-63, Kirksville, MO, Sunday, September 11 & 12, 2010.

APRHF Railroad Show & Swap Meet [2 min], 204 E. Moore St., La Plata, MO 63549, 660-956-4157.

Depot Inn & Suites New Years Party for Train Enthusiasts [0 min], 1245 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549, 818-814-3669, 660-332-4669.
Not On Map:

Napolis Italian Restaurant (Photos) [13 min], 2523 S. Franklin St., Kirksville, MO 63501, 660-665-3605.

More About The City of La Plata, Missouri

More To See & Do In Silver Rails Country

Not A Tourist Attraction:

White River Productions, 24632 Anchor Ave., Bucklin, MO 64631, 877-787-2467, Though not open to the public, White River Productions located in Bucklin in Silver Rails Country is home of one of the largest publishers of railroad related books, DVDs, and magazines including the subscription magazines Passenger Train Journal and Railroads Illustrated and the membership publications for the National Model Railroad Association (Scale Rails), the National Railway Historical Society (The Bulletin), plus the membership publications of more than 16 other Railroad Historical Societies.

Link to Map With Links to all Items, Click Here.

The Southwest Chief  starts it's eastward journey each day from Los Angeles Union Station at 6:55 PM.  We board in Fullerton, the first stop out of LA, about 35 minutes later.  We arrived at the Fullerton Amtrak Station plenty of time before the arrival, and put our luggage just east of the Pedestrian Bridge, where our Car 430 usually stops.  About 7 pm,  there was an announcement that the SWChief had not yet left the station, it was experiencing brake problems and would be about 30 minutes late arriving in Fullerton.  This prediction came true.

The temperature in Fullerton was 70 before 7 pm and fell to 59 by the time the train arrived, so we donned light jackets.  We put our luggage into Car 430 (neither La Plata, nor Naperville, where Sue would be going, handled luggage ... something that would make travel a lot easier for Amtrak Passengers).

Tenen was our car attendant.  He handed us our dinner reservation for 7:45, which had just been called, so we proceeded to the Diner, which was in the next car!  

Note to LSA:  If the PA is not working properly, be sure it is NOT on when you shout, "Shut Up, Shirley!" to the entire train.

We sat with a nice couple from Anaheim Hills, CA, Speed and Joan, who were on their way back to Kansas City for his 70th high school reunion.  He was soon to be 90 years old.  The last time he had been on a train on this route was when he came west to Camp Pendleton for basic training in 1942.  He said there were bunks on the train, 3 high.

For Dinner, which is included in the price of a room on Amtrak Trains, I had a New York strip steak, baked potato, lima beans and corn, with my choice of Pepsi products or coffee or tea.  Sue had Crab Cakes, baked potato, begetables and lemon sorbet for dessert and Sierra Mist to drink.  For dessert, I had apple pie and decaf coffee.  The steak was listed on the menu at $22.50, but was included in the cost of the room for us.  We enjoyed conversation with Speed and Joan and she said it was cheaper than flying.  Evidently she paid $119 for the train travel and only $280 for the roomette.  She remarked that, "You can't get a motel room for less than $100 a night, so train travel is cheaper than flying or driving," which she would have to do with Speed's poor eyesight.

We spent the evening in our Bedroom C and heard the breakfast call about 8 a.m.  

At breakfast we dined with a couple from Del Mar, Chris and Millie, who lived within walking distance of the old train station and were disappointed that they had closed the station.  They had boarded the Surfliner in Solana Beach and were headed for Wisconsin.  He recommended books about trains such as "Riding the Iron Rooster" by Paul Theroux " and "The Old Patagonian Express: By Train Through the Americas"by Paul Theroux.  Both of them had worked very hard at their careers and were now traveling the US by train while they are still able.  They had traveled abroad on trains as well.  For Breakfast, I had a cheese omelet and Sue had Spinach Quiche.

We were in Albuquerque from 11:45 to 12:45, Mountain Time.  In ABQ, Sue perused the Indian jewelry and I talked a bit with our car attendant, Tenen.  He had worked for Amtrak only 6 months and really liked it.  He had received 3 weeks classroom training in LA, followed by 3 weeks of onboard training.  He first worked the Surfliners between LA and Santa Barbara and LA and San Diego during the racing season in Del Mar.

Since the Southwest Chief leaves Fullerton at 7:30 p.m. and since the car attendant usually has a dinner reservation for you soon thereafter, there is not any time for daylight photographs until the next morning.  My first photographs are from Albuquerque, where the train stops for service and new crew after noon.

At lunch after leaving Albuquerque, we sat with two sisters who were returning to New York after attending an uncle's 90th birthday party in Santa Barbara.  Sue and I split a turkey and cheese sandwich and a Caesar Salad.

(Click any photo below to get a double-sized image; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Southwest Chief stopped at Albuquerque.

Quite a few Amish or Menonites detrained in Albuquerque.

There is an abundance of Indian Art available for purchase on the platform in Albuquerque.

Sue spotted this unique shell nechlace.

Tenen, our 430 Car Attendant.

We soon headed out of town northbound toward Lamy and Sante Fe, crossing Historic Route 66, and some creative graffitti north of downtown.

Scenes from a Superliner between Albuquerque and Lamy, NM.

Lunch, soon after we left Albuquerque, was with with sisters who were returning to the east coast after attending a 90th birthday celebration in Santa Barbara for an uncle.  Sue and I split a turkey and cheese sandwich and Caesar salad.

Keep an eye out for the "S" curve where you can see both the front ...

and back of the train.

I'm always impressed with the number of water-pumping wind mills in the highlands of Northeast New Mexico.  You can even see full water tanks, from which the range cattle can drink, by many of the windmills.  The same technology creates electrictiy in very large modern windmills.

I know that Montana has the nickname, Big Sky Country, but New Mexico could also claim that title.

You pretty much have the road to yourself out here, but on the other hand, how far do you have to drive for groceries?

Left, When you see a clump of trees, unusual on the prairie where the climax vegetation is grass, you can bet it is a former ranch house and out buildings ...with a windmill to provide water.

Roomette (large closet with a window).

Our car was the older model with this upstairs restroom-with-a-view.  I really enjoy this.  Sure beats looking at a toilet paper dispenser during your time here.  I don't think the range cattle mind, or even notice, that the curtain is pulled back.

When I need a break from sitting and watching the prairie slide by our window, I like to walk to the back of the train from our sleeping car in the front of the train.  

The dining car at a rare moment when no service is available.  A good time to take a closeup of the menu.  Dougle-click the menu photos for a larger image.

The observation car has tables, with plugs for computers, etc., in half of the car which increases seating capacity.  Downstairs is a Cafe.

The other half of the car is seating facing the large windows, also with electrical plugs.  In addition to the Dining Car, this is a good place to meet fellow travelers, or put on a headset and enjoy the scenery in solitude.

View of the Coach Car.

Right, View out the back coach car window of the tracks stretching to the horizon.  A Fast shutter speed stops the tracks and makes it look like we were stopped.

A slower shutter speed, below, gives the feeling of motion which we were actually experiencing here.

If some signals flash by, they might add interest to your photo, especially for rail fans.

One half of the lower level in the coach car is seating for those with impaired mobility and the other half is restrooms. The large restroom on the right, above, would be a shower in a sleeper car. Seems like a shower would be a good thing in a coach car on a cross country train.

The border of NM and CO is the Raton Pass which is a tunnel.  The Santa Fe Trail runs right through here, over the summit before the tunnel was built for trains.  Wooten Ranch on the Colorado side is still there.

This ends the photos I took eastbound.  We soon had dinner, then nightfall until Kansas City when we had breakfast.  From Kansas City to La Plata, we finished our breakfast conversation with a couple from Del Mar, CA, and I got my things together to detrain.  Sue would continue on to Naperville, IL.

Returning to California from Naperville, IL, I took the following photos from the Southwest Chief.  While waiting for the SWChief #3, so many trains passed, BNSF Freights, Metra commuter trains, and the Amtrak SWChief, I realized that this station might have as many or more trains as the Fullerton Station.  It was interesting that of the four leading locomotives on trains that I saw pass, three paint schemes were represented.

One disappointment on this train was Colver Jones, our 430 Car Attendant.  When we were ready to board, he just told us where to store our luggage, he did not help with the bags!  Since we cannot check luggage at the Naperville Station, we had to bring all our two-weeks worth of luggage into the sleeping car.  From my vantage point at an upper level window, I noticed at a later stop a family boarded the train with three small children, each with their own suitcase.  The father had his and the wife's large bags and THREE CAR SEATS.  Again, Colver just pointed to him where to put the luggage!  If Colver's excuse is that he cannot lift anything, then he should not be a sleeping car attendant.

What also disappoints me about arrival in Los Angeles on the Southwest Chief is the fact that they 'strip the rooms' before we arrive. Colver asked us to leave our room, even though we were detraining at Fullerton, before Los Angeles, so he could pull all the sheets and towels from the room.  Then when it was time for us to detrain in Fullerton, all those sheets and towels from the sleepers were in the hallway and we had to navigate around them to get downstairs to get our luggage off.  This last final inconvenience would cause many travelers to retract the tip they were ready to give the car attendant.  Why can't the 'stripping of the rooms' wait until the guests are gone in Los Angeles?

It was Sunday so all the school busses were at the bus yard.

A Model A Ford returns from a Sunday car show.

Mendota, IL, has a very nice restored steam locomotive, 4978.

I like the colorful store fronts near the station.

A very good waiter on #3 this trip was Ricky.  For dinner we had NY Strip Steak and Beef Brisket (BBQ).  We sat with a couple of Doctors from Mass.  He loves and rides the Ecela from Boston to NY City.  He says it is cheaper and faster than flying between these two destinations.

Stormy weather brewing.

During the night, we could hear rain on the roof of our sleeping car.

La Junta, CO, is a crew change stop.

Not many offices have 2 rear-view mirrors.

Right, the gentleman with a lower level room took the opportunity to clean his window in Ja Junta.

Something new being built at the Wootton Ranch.

The short curves winding up to the Raton Pass allow opportunities to photograph both the front and back of the train.

The foundations of an old ghost town.

The fork to the right goes over the pass, the fork to the left goes to the RR tunnel. Can you  imagine cattle being driven down these roads a century ago?

Just outside the tunnel, east entrance is the Colorado/New Mexico State Line, marked with this monument.

Albuquerque's Rail Runner commuter train ...

and coaches.

Crew change, train fueling and watering allows time for No. 3 passengers to check out the Indian Arts.

Following the stop in Albuquerque, we had dinner and watched the sun set on the Southwest Desert.  About the last town we saw during daylight was Gallup, NM, followed by the AZ/NM border.  I worked until Flagstaff, then had the attendant make up the beds.  We had a good night's sleep because the Arizona and California tracks are much, much smoother that the other states, especially Kansas where the maximum speed of the SWChief has been reduced from 79 to 60 because of the poor track quality.

Next Page:  America's Greatest Train Rides

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