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Southwest Chief LAX to LAP

Southwest Chief LAX to LAP

Los Angeles to La Plata, Missouri

A Photo Essay by Carl Morrison,

October 14 - 15, 2011

Since the Southwest Chief leaves about 7 pm, most often the first photo in a Rail Travelogue from Los Angeles eastward is of the Northern Arizona desert.

Half of the Observation/Sighseeing Lounge Car is tables for 4 allowing more spots for groups up to four.

Half of the obsevation car is seating facing the large side windows.

The lower level of the Sightseeing/Lounge car is a Cafe for those who do not want to dine in the diner.

The view out the back of the last coach car is always a "tracks to the horizon" shot in Arizona where I-40 parallels the SWChief Route for many miles.

We cross I-40 before the New Mexico Border.

Highways, roads, and creeks make interesting shots when the train is on an adjoining bridge.

After riding the Southwest Chief many times, one knows to look for familiar photo ops along the route.

Double tracks out in the desert can be separated by long distances and freight trains stretch across the desert landscape.

The location of the train station was controversial in Albuquerque as pointed out in murals near the Station.

A different  mural, with a live pedestrian crossing Route 66.

Arriving early on the Southwest Chief in Albuquerque provides time to walk downtown to the Route 66 Crossroads clock tower.

I like the reflection in the New Mexico Bank and Trust building and photograph it each time I walk by.

Quite a conglomeration of architectural styles downtown.

The recent improvements are finished in front of the Greyhound/Amtrak Station

Albuquerque is a good place to take a photo of your car attendant.

There are always local vendors with their items on tables at the station since both East and West bound Southwest Chiefs reach here about the same time each day.

Time also to wash the windows since we'll be in the daylight now from lunch through dinner and into the evening.

With room accommodations on a long distance train comes all meals in the Diner and on my ride from Fullerton to La Plata that means 5 meals.  The Menus follow:




I like the watermark graphic of the Amtrak Train.  Note the bottom right corner:  AMT SWC 0911 - looks like a new menu.

Breakfast is first-come-first-served.  Lunch and Dinner reservations are given by an attendant who comes to your room or seat.

Half of the Diner (above) with the service area in the center (below) with dumb waiter and stairs to the kitchen below.

Between Albuquerque and Lamy, I like this southwest style home at creekside with the golden cottonwood tree.

This bridge is said to date back to Civil War days.

This house looks like a desert lizard to me, but they have added the flat roof on the top taking away from the original design.

Cottonwood trees and their fall golden leaves dot the creeksides in northwest New Mexico.

There are many windmill pumps out on the high plains, but his one has all the elements:  windmill pumping water into a large tank, and cattle nearby to consume the water.

Here, the railroad parallels this two-lane, then one-lane road.  The sign announces a cattle guard at the curve which keeps cattle on open range beyond the guard from crossing onto the two-lane portion of the road.

Cottonwoods, in their fall colors, lined the route.

Son Matthew, on his first long-distance train trip as an adult, enjoyed the bedroom accommodations, in this case the single chair by the window.

In a bedroom, there is a single seat beside the window (beyond the sink above), and a couch the full width of the bedroom.  The couch makes into a good sized bed at night and a second bed hinges down as a bunk.

The hallway outside Bedrooms is along one side of the car, leaving 3/4 of the width of the car for the bedroom.

Opposite the beds in the Bedroom, is the combination sink/shower/toilet.

The roomette half of each sleeper has a hallway down the middle with closet-sized rooms without baths on each side.

Half of a roomette, as seen from the hallway.  Facing seats make into a bed for night and a bunk folds down from above for the second person.  This is the most economical sleeping accommodations on a long-distance train.  Shower is downstairs.  One bathroom is upstairs and 3 more downstairs.

Half of a handicapped room on the lower level looks like a roomette with space for a wheel chair and a toilet and sink (below).

The handicapped is the 2nd most economical accommodations, but it realistically is a roomette with a toilet and sink.

The Family Bedroom, not pictured, is on the lower level and is the full width of the sleeping car.  Sleeps 2 adults and 2 children.  No bathroom.  Also on the lower level are a number of roomettes.

Coach Seating.

To give you an idea of the cost of acommodations, I asked a Conductor on this trip, "What would be the cost of upgrading from a Coach Seat to various room types?"

He referred to his rate book and said: 

If you are on the train with a coach seat which you've already paid $145 for, from Riverside to La Plata, MO -- to upgrade to a Roomette you would pay $301 more, or a Bedroom $650 more.  That would be a room for two nights and all meals included for up to 3 people.

I asked if a coach passenger spent one night in coach and upgraded for one night at Albuquerque.  He said in addition to the $145 Coach Fare, to upgrade to a Roomette would cost $206 or for a Bedroom add $424. 

For a second person in a room, there is no charge other than their coach fare.

Crossing Raton Pass the train goes through a tunnel and enters Colorado, following the Santa Fe Trail.

The sun gets lower as we near Trinadad, CO, but the Cottonwood trees still show their fall colors.

La Junta, CO, is the next crew change station with time to walk into the station with Hwy. 50 running on the opposite side.

The following morning, we reach Kansas City, the next crew change spot.  A few more hours, time for breakfast and a shower, we reach La Plata, MO, around 10 a.m.

The nearly 2,000 mile journey averages about 53 mph, even while you are eating and sleeping.  The trip is very relaxing with plenty of time to work (as I do on my laptop computer), read, sightsee, eat and sleep.  Each crew change station gives announced time to step off the train for fresh air and exercise for the passengers, and time for the crew to pick up ice for the cars and kitchen, and newspapers for the passengers.

Enjoy your trip!

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Or, Click the Chapter below that you want to skip to.

0.    Table of Contents |
1.    Depot Inn & Suites, La Plata, MO |
2.    Amtrak Station, La Plata, MO |
3.    Silver Rails Gallery and Memorial Library |
4.    Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout at the Depot Inn & Suites |
5.    Amish Country west of La Plata on Hwy. 156 |
6.    Downtown La Plata, Missouri, Including Santa Fe Espresso, Grandma's Home Cookin', City Hall and other photo ops in town. |
7.    Silver Rails Event Center |
8.    Atlanta, Missouri |
9.    West Winery, Macon, Missouri |
10.  Columbia Star Dinner Train, Columbia, Missouri |
11.  Locust Creek Covered Bridge State Historic Site and Danube Dr. Barn  |
12.  La Plata, Missouri, Post Office   Built in 1937
13.  LAX to LAP on the Southwest Chief.

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