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Depot Inn & Suites, La Plata, Missouri

Rail Travel Writing and Photography Workshop

by Henry Kisor and Carl Morrison

At the Depot Inn and Suites, La Plata, Missouri
By Carl Morrison,

October 16 - 20, 2011

Depot Inn and Suites, 1245 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549

"Joan, Joan!"  Bang, bang, bang.  "Joan, Joan!"  Bang, bang, bang.  "I can't get out of the bathroom!"   

 Response:  "I can't get the door open either!"

"Go get the girl!"   

Response:  "Ok, honey, I'll get her."  

A few moments pass as our sleeping car on the train continues eastward into the desert sunrise through northern Arizona.

"She's here and she's got a sledge hammer!"


"Boy, Thanks!  The handle just doesn't work from either side!"

"I'll put some duct tape over it for the rest of the trip."

Those were the sounds and conversations I heard through the wall of my Bedroom D, from Bedroom E, at 6:30 the first morning of my Amtrak Southwest Chief ride from Fullerton, CA, to La Plata, MO.

The "Rail Travel and Photography Workshop" was my destination on October 16 - 20, 2011.  I was a co-presenter assigned to present the photography portion of the program.

Since I live in California, the easiest, and most enjoyable way for me to get to the Workshop was to take the train, specifically the Amtrak Southwest Chief.  The rest of the trip was comfortable and scenic with freshly-prepared food for the five meals in the diner, the cost of which was included in the fare for the bedroom on the trip.

The Depot Inn and Suites, where the small conference was held in their Meeting Room, was an excellent venue for such a train-related event.  Some attendees and I detrained from the Southwest Chief at the La Plata Station, where we were met, first by "La Plata Bob" Cox, the part-time station manager, then by the Depot Inn hotel van driver who whisked us away only a few blocks north of the small-town station to the Inn.

The Depot Inn and Suites is located on Hwy. 63 north of La Plata, MO.   Some attendees arrived by personal car from points north and east.  Others could have taken a commercial flight to St. Louis, Missouri, then caught one of the 5 flights made by Cape Air from St. Louis, MO, for just $49 including tax, as of this writing.

The weather was sunny, dry and about 72 degrees, so I decided to explore in and around the Inn.

The Inn’s website says that on their property is an Overlook from which you can view passing BNSF freight, and Amtrak Passenger trains.  

Adjacent to the Inn are two former Amtrak Mail rail cars in which guests can find the Exhibition of Amtrak History in one car and a professionally prepared model train layout that guests can even operate.  They say the key to these cars is available at the Inn’s desk.

I took a walk around the property before the attendees of the conference arrived and took some photos.

The Depot Inn & Suites is an excellent place to hold a small Conference.  The single-story Inn, opened in 2006, has a lobby and hallway lined with railroad memorabilia and books.  There are two TVs in the lobby.  One is devoted to images of passing freight and passenger trains from a camera at the outlook, and the other has a schematic showing in real time where trains are located as they approach La Plata and pass the lookout.  These two TV channels take up Channels 15 and 16 in each room, so you can watch passing trains from your bed if you like.  You might be alerted by the air horns of trains passing just east of the Inn without the use of the schematic.  Channel 17 is for in-house use and you can post things you want your attendees to be able to view, such as the photos they have taken around Silver Rails Country, as we did.

Our meeting room, adjacent to the Lobby, had a pull-down screen, LED projector for presentations, a refrigerator, ample counter space and a small sink.  There are round meeting tables with comfortable, padded captain’s chairs and folding chairs for larger groups.  Conveniently located across the hall is a bathroom.

(Click any photo below to see a double-sized copy on your screen; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Railroad Memorabilia in front of the Depot Inn

The golf cart is available to drive to the Lookout.
The trackless train operates in late afternoon in summer months.

Just a few steps across the lawn are the two rail cars containing the "Exhibition of Amtrak History," and a professionally prepared model train layout.

The Depot wing containing rooms accessible by an interior hallway lined with railroad memorabilia.

The Reception Desk looks like a train ticket office, and continental breakfast is available each morning at the tall tables on the left..

The rest of the lobby has a pool table, fireplace, couches, and  bookshelves full of railroad books.  The 3 TVs have a live camera of the passing trains from the Lookout, a schematic of approaching trains, and  one with cable TV.

Just off the lobby, the left hallway has the guest rooms, the Media Center in the middle, and the Suites down the right hallway.

Off the Suites hallway is the indoor swimming pool, with an outdoor patio through the double doors for eating while having a pool party. 
The kids love it when the train whistle sounds and the steam-locomotive-looking water spout drops water into the pool.

As a presenter, I often leave handouts and other items in my room, or worse in the car, but here it is only steps away to both…no elevator ride needed.

Free Internet access is available throughout the Inn.  I found this helpful during my presentation when I needed to go to a live website.  I had brought my own laptop with my programs on it.  Printing of handouts is free and just across the hall from the meeting room.

The attendees took photographs and collected notes so they could complete a blog or web page report.  We visited the local Amtrak Station, The Lookout, and The Silver Rails Railroad Photography and Art Gallery in downtown, all part of Silver Rails Country.
  Attendees' photographs were critiqued by a Presenter.

The La Plata Amtrak Station

La Plata, Missouri, Amtrak Station
535 N. Owensby St.

The Amtrak Southwest Chief arrives at 9:55 a.m. eastbound, and 7:51 p.m. westbound (check current times at

Many BNSF freights pass the station as well.

Inside the station is a step back in time to the original colors and style of the station.

If the station is unlocked, "La Plata Bob" Cox will be in the office.  I think he's there now.

The restrooms are on the right, and down the hall.
The station is always spic and span.

The Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout

From the Depot Inn & Suites, you can take a short walk to the Lookout, or use the hotel's golf cart to get there without driving on public roads.

From the Lookout, you can take great photographs from above the many freight and passenger trains that pass each day.

Trains continue on west past the Amtrak Station.

Many types of freight consists pass the Overlook.  I like mixed freights like this.  In California, we see mostly double-stack ocean-going container trains.

This train had new cross ties in its open cars.  Without being at the Overlook, we would not have known what was inside these cars.

Keep your camera ready, many freight trains have distributed power on the back for nice photos as well.

While waiting for the next train, the resident Security  Cat appreciates the attention.  Free WiFi is available in the lookout cabin as well as the schematic so you know where the next train is located down the line.

Adjacent to the Lookout are some "Summer Houses."

"Some 're for women, some 're for men"

Grandma’s Home Cookin' was a favorite place for breakfast or lunch, located downtown. (Try No. 1 – 3 eggs, 3 strips of Bacon or 2 sausage patties, and Hash browns, Served with Toast and Jelly for only $4.99!  Add coffee for only 80 cents.)

Grandma's Home Cookin'

On the northeast corner of the town square.

Looks like Tom is a LaPlata Bulldog backer with the paw print out front (right).

Tom, owner and chief cook and bottle washer, will welcome you with, "Sit anywhere you like,"
with a half order of country humor on the side at no extra cost.

Some of the Workshop group enjoying breakfast.

The pool table makes this cafe unique to the county.

The Red Rooster was good for any meal of the day being only steps away from the Depot Inn.

Just walk out the south door of the Depot Inn & Suites, across the bank parking lot, and you'll find the Red Rooster.  A popular family style dining establishment open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

New to La Plata since my last visit was the
Santa Fe Espresso (blending the railroad history and coffee into their name).  We stopped there as a group for 1/2 sandwich and soup for less than $6.  I learned that Susan was also open for breakfast, so I returned one of the following days for a breakfast sandwich and another of her delicious caramel lattes.  I managed a third visit, this time for lunch with the daily soup special, and had more time to take photos inside and out, and talk with Susan.

Santa Fe Espresso

Santa Fe Espresso, two doors to the right of the bank.

Santa Fe Espresso

Order at the counter in back and have a seat at either comfortable booths or chairs and your food will be quickly and happily delivered.

A typical 1/2 sandwich and soup order at the Santa Fe Espresso.

Owners Susan and Paul Walker did an outstanding job of making the inside of the cafe look like a coffee house in Seattle, but with Midwest hospitality, home cooking, and small town prices.

Santa Fe Espresso

Best Coffee in town...the only latte in town. 

The breakfast sandwich (left) was enough for a farm hand and biscuits and gravy, another Midwest favorite, are also available.

The non-smoking cafe is a favorite for the ladies in town.  So, why not surround yourself with beautiful ladies and have some good food for breakfast or lunch at the Santa Fe Espresso?  While you are downtown, visit the Silver Rails Art and Photography Gallery on the same side of the square.

The hotel van is used to pick up and deliver passengers to the Amtrak Station in town, but will also pick up guests from the nearby Kirksville Regional Airport or even take or pick up guests from the Amtrak California Zephyr in Ottumwa, Iowa, about an hour’s drive north, with prior arrangements.

All Aboard for a train ride, drive, or flight and have your next conference at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, MO.

We plan to have a second such "Rail Travel Writing and Photography Workshop" in 2012.  Let us know of your interest by writing either: or

For a Slide Show of all images in this report, in large format, Click Here.


Depot Inn & Suites 1245 N. Brown St., La Plata, MO 63549  660-332-4669

Santa Fe Espresso  On the town square at:  121 S. Gex St., La Plata, MO. 
                               Open 7 a.m. - 3 p.m. Tues. - Fri.  Sat. 8 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Grandma's Home Cookin' - On the town square at:  129 East Moore Street, La Plata, MO 63549


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