Silver Rails Gallery Opening, March 13, 2010 Photos by Carl and Sue Morrison, and Tom Anderson
Read from bottom to top.
Fullerton, CA, to LaPlata, MO
1,932 miles, 36 hrs. 31 min.
Traveling in an Amtrak Superliner Car.
Traveling to Silver Rails Country on Amtrak's Southwest Chief, from Fullerton, CA, to LaPlata, MO, is always a trip I look forward to for months. As you can see in the schedule at the left, we board at 7:20 pm and after settling into our Deluxe Room, we head for dinner in the diner.
Usually, the Car Attendant will have gotten us a dinner reservation for about 20 minutes after our departure time. I like this, not having to rush immediately to the diner after boarding. This gives me time to store our luggage downstairs, and take upstairs what we are going to need in our room for the two night, 1.5 day trip.
All Deluxe Rooms are upstairs, on the same level used to go between cars, and reach the diner. Therefore, there is no need to use the stairs until our arrival in La Plata, 1,932 miles later, unless you want to detrain at the crew change cities for fresh air and a bit of exercise. Usually Albuquerque, La Junta, CO, and sometimes Kansas City, MO.
There are Roomettes on both the lower and upper levels. There is an 'Accessible' room on the lower level, and a 'Family Bedroom' plus shower and bathrooms.
The Deluxe Rooms are only on the upper level. I've discussed the pros and cons of rooms on both levels before, but because of the height above the rails, the upper levels might have more swaying left to right. Lower windows usually are dirtier. Upper Level you are viewing the world from 15 feet above the rails. No one passes your room on the Lower Level. All through-train traffic goes by the Upper Level rooms. Basically, both levels are fine.
Below is an illustration from Amtrak.com of the Upper Level layout that shows the Deluxe Rooms as "Bedrooms," and the rooms without shower/toilet as "Roomettes."
The above illustration is interactive at: Amtrak.com/Sleeping Choices/Launch 3D Tour/Upper LevelAt the same website; Back up to "Exterior" to see the dimensions of the Superliner Cars.
Read from Top to Bottom.
LaPlata to Fullerton.
1,932 miles, 36 hrs. 20 min.
To the Left is the Southwest Chief schedule for La Plata to Fullerton.
Notice that you board the westbound Southwest Chief at about 8 pm, after dark in wintertime. After getting aboard, you can have dinner in the diner. (All meals are included in the price of the room.)
You arrive in Kansas City about 10 pm, where the Chicago crew changes out. During the night you travel through Kansas, which is why you seldom see photographs of Kansas from the Southwest Chief.
The next day you travel through Colorado, over Raton Pass and and through the Raton Tunnel, (and CO/NM state line) arriving in Albuquerque in the afternoon where you have time, during a crew change, to step off the train.
Around dinner time, the sun sets and you have a night ride to Riverside or San Bernardino. I have been on a late running westbound Southwest Chief, and saw the Cajon Pass in morning light. Breakfast, because of the time change is over before you get to Fullerton. It always bothers me, however, that the crew feels that they want to get all their work done before the trip ends rather than after. This seems to only be for the convenience of the crew, not the passengers because the trainset does not turn until 6:45 pm.
Superliner Sleeper Layout.
For this Trip, we had Deluxe Bedroom "D" to La Plata in Car 31, and Deluxe Bedroom "B" back to Fullerton in Car 30.
There is usually 2 or 3 sleepers on the Southwest Chief, configured just like the illustration to the left.
"H" room, on the lower level, is the old description for Accessible, "Handicapped". "F" on the lower level is for "Family."
As you can see, the Deluxe Bedrooms are about 3/4 the width of the car where the Roomettes are less than half the width of the car. Beds in the Deluxe rooms, A - E, are side-to-side (the same direction as the cross ties on the railroad) as you lie in them. Beds in the Roomettes, 1 - 14, are set up the same direction as the tracks, along the exterior wall.
All rooms have bunk beds. During the day the top bunk is locked up and is not in the way at all. The bottom bunk is wider and in the day setup, in Roomette you have two facing seats and a table between, while in the Bedroom, you have a couch plus a chair. If there are others on the same train that you want to visit with in a Bedroom, there is room for them to sit down. Of course, in a Bedroom, you have a sink, shower, and toilet. Bedroom "A" seems to be the last to be sold. Look at it, there is a small corner cut off to make more room for the hallway to turn toward the center of the car. Otherwise, no difference in rooms.
Monday, March 8, 2010 -- We boarded the Southwest Chief in Fullerton, the first stop after leaving Los Angeles. We prefer to board here for several reasons: It is closer to our home than Los Angeles. Someone can take us to the station, then return our car home since it is only 20 minutes away. The Fullerton Station is much smaller than Los Angeles Union Station and only a few steps from parking to the platform.
It was a bit chilly so we waited in the Santa Fe Cafe for the train to arrive. Sleeping Car passengers always board near the pedestrian elevator/overpass, so as the train pulled in, we made our way with our luggage to the expected boarding spot for Car 431. As the train pulled past us we saw the usual consist, 2 Genesis Locomotives, a single-level baggage car, a Transition Car, then Sleeper Car 430, and another Sleeper Car 430, then the Diner. Ok, Which 430 is actually 431? A Car Attendant stepped out of the first 430 and beckoned us to come to his open door (the second 430 Attendant did not open the door). We told our Attendant, Antonio, about the outside numbers and he seemed surprised (It was corrected sometime during the trip.)
We left our two large bags in the lower level baggage area, and took other small bags to our room. There is one shelf above the chair (shown below) and small bags can be stored under the chair and lower bed. There is a closet with 3 hangers. I plugged in my power bar, a necessity with any accommodations on a train, even coach, because of the computers, iPods, cell phones, etc. we like to keep charged.
Antonio got us a 7:45 pm dinner time and we settled into our room awaiting the dinner call. We had Bedroom "D" and we decided that its sliding door was a bit thinner than a regular wall between bedrooms, and thus we could hear our neighbors. Now we decided that the best Bedrooms would be "B" or "C". I looked on our return ticket and we had "B"! However, it also has the sliding door to make a suite out of "B" and "C" so there is only bedroom "A" that has two solid walls.
Annie, LSA, called us for dinner, and Sue chose BBQ pork ribs, mashed potatoes, and green beans. I chose salmon, baked potato, and green beans. It is nice that the meals are included in the price of the room, so you don't have to make your decision for meals based on the cash at hand. I did notice that the highest priced dinner meal was $22.50 for steak. Mike was our waiter and he was efficient and had the system down to a tee. For dessert Sue had the Brownie Mud Slide, and I had Carrot Cake (because my Dr. had said to eat more vegetables), and DeCaf.
We returned to our room, had Antonio make up our beds, and turned in, turning our time pieces back an hour for Arizona, Mtn. Time. This first night would be our smoothest ride, as I recall from earlier trips to La Plata. I would describe the ride as being much like a California earthquake ... gentle rolling with a few bumps now and then. Except it went on for 8 hrs. rather than the few seconds of a CA earthquake. I described my nights sleep as a series of naps. I usually wake up when we stop at stations.
Following are a few photos of our Amtrak Bedroom:(Click any photo below for a double-sized copy; Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)
Bedroom "D" Which can be made into a Suite with "E."
Looking into the bedroom from the hallway. Couch and bunk on right. Collapsible Table in the Center. Permanent chair on the left. Mirror on sliding door only used if combined with "E" for a Suite. Bathroom and sink out of photo to the left.
Bottom bunk made up as couch for day use. Upper bunk folded up.
Standing at the window, looking back at the room: Couch on left, small closet w/3 hangers, curtain and sliding door to hallway. Window is in the hallway. Sink on the right.
Bathroom unit: toilet/shower through white door, vanity on outside of unit.
Views from a Superliner
Amtrak Southwest Chief, New Mexico
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 -- The first sunlight on our trip was in Arizona. It was mostly overcast as we awakened. We had breakfast of vegetable omelet, sausage patties, croissant, orange juice, and coffee. Tom Anderson, also on this trip, traveling in coach, and we had decided to meet for breakfast at 8 a.m. Mountain Time in the Diner. (Train passengers can eat in the diner or in the Cafe on the lower level of the Lounge Car.) Sue did not sleep well, so she had Car Attendant, Antonio, bring her breakfast a little later.
Expect to meet fellow travelers at meals in the Diner. Amtrak practices community seating, so all 4 seats at each booth are usually filled. I met a nice couple on their first train ride from Iowa to Phoenix, AZ, at breakfast one day. They had a "small farm" of 400 acres. I remarked that 400 acres would be a very big family farm in my homw state of southern Indiana. He said it was small in his areas because farms were being bought up by corporations and now average thousands of acres. He had been a dairy farmer, like I was growing up, so we discussed the trails and tribulations of runing a dairy. He now grows grain only, and that is why they had time to go to Arizona on a vacation.
After returning to our room, which Antonio had made up for day use during breakfast, the clouds began to clear as we headed for Albuquerque (photo above).
Albuquerque, New Mexico
Signage on the Albuquerque platform for Amtrak and their new Rail Runner.
Our Southwest Chief in Albuquerque during a 50-minute layover for crew change and offloading some AmTrash and taking on some ice.
While our train was being serviced, this No. 22 Amtrak Locomotive came on the scene from the north, backing down the adjacent track. I thought it might be switched in for one of ours, but it continued to the shops south of the station.
A couple of Rail Runner Maps were conveniently placed on the platform near their loading platform.
Front of the Station from the Colonnade.
Adjacent to the Station, to the South, I spotted this Santa Fe sign. Since the Santa Fe RR has been consumed by Burlington Northern, and resulting in the current name BNSF, this was an historic sign.
On previous long stops in Albuquerque, I had walked downtown and photographed some historic Route 66 signs and landmarks. I had always known that when the SWChief pulls into the ABQ Station, it passes under one automobile bridge, and parks under a second auto bridge. With ample time, I thought I'd try to get up onto one or both of these bridges and get a different angled picture of the SWChief at the depot. So, I took off walking south and west to reach the bridges' entrance. Don't try this unless you have about 50 minutes because I calculated, because of street work, I had to walk about 8 blocks to accomplish my photo assignment.
I soon realized the "Santa Fe" sign that I had just shot was on the side of the "Santa Fe Freight House" Sign on this west side of the building was much more meaningful.
Then I saw Elvis, painted with a pink Cadillac convertible on the side of a bar.
Look west of the Station and there is a tall building with a thermometer on top: 52 F today.
This photo is 2 blocks south of the ABQ Station, on the overpass there.
Looking south from the same bridge, I saw where the Genesis #22 had gone, to the Amtrak Shops.
A second shot toward the Station, showing less of downtown.
I spotted Sue on the platform. She had come down to wave to me.
She had made some Indian Jewelry purchases from vendors under the canopy beside the SWChief.
At street level was this plaque describing the history of the overpass that I had just been on for the photographs.
Through an entry gate, I spotted this southwest mosaic.
Signage describing nearby Districts.
From the closer bridge to the station, this photo shows more of the station and the front of the Southwest Chief.
While on the bridge, I couldn't resist a photo looking northeast across Albuquerque to the snow-covered mountains and beautiful blue New Mexico sky.
Closer to the Station and the tracks leading toward Lamy, NM.
One final shot showing the platform, over the top of the old Sante Fe Freight Depot, and passengers taking a fresh air break and getting some leg stretching walks.
The old Sante Fe Freight Depot from the bridge.
I had walked around this building which sold large, wholesale antiques.
Each upper corner had 2 large metal sculptures.
In this same area of Albuquerque, one block west of the Station, new condominiums are being built, starting at $279,900.
I walked back through the colonnade to return to the train.
I saw the icemen delivering ice to the freezer for the Westbound SWChief (#3) which would arrive later this day.
Heading back to our Bedroom, I noticed this sign in our car, so I went to the Cafe to get one. Guess what, they didn't have any. Isn't that called, "Bait and Switch?"
Water flowing out of Apache Canyon, southward.
At this point in our 2,000-mile rail journey from Fullerton, CA, to La Plata, MO, we were about half way.
The old Route Guide says, "Leaving Lamy, the train winds through Apache Canyon and ascends Glorieta Pass at an elevation of 7,421 feet."
Streams were nearly full with snow runoff.
As we ascended Glorieta Pass, I began to see familiar homes.
On one trip, the Conductor announced that this bridge was built during civil war days, and the farthest west Civil War Battle took place near here.
Nearby is this house that looks like a lizard. They've added the triangular roof in the center.
Soon we enter the "S-Curve"
Where you can watch your tail coming around, from the Diner (right) through the Sightseer Lounge, and the three coaches.
Las Vegas, New Mexico -- The next stop of the Southwest Chief. The building to the left of the train, The Castaneda, is one of the few remaining Harvey Houses still standing on the Santa Fe route. The Castenada was the site of the annual reunion for Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders from the Spanish-American War. Other Harvey Houses on the Southwest Chief's Route still stand at Barstow, Needles, CA, and Winslow, AZ, and Dodge City, KS.
After another night on the train, we arrived in La Plata, MO, the following morning a few minutes before 10 a.m. Knowing that the weather forecast said this would be the best day of our stay, we continued to Hannibal, MO, on the Mississippi River, about 80 miles from the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata. More about Hannibal later.
Above the Southwest Chief
Back in La Plata the next day, I wanted to try a new angle for a photograph of the Southwest Chief leaving La Plata toward Chicago, since I could not get such a shot from on the train, nor during inclement weather.
To accomplish the new photographic angle, I got special permission from Steve Grande of TrainWeb.com to enter his private property. I climbed the grain elevator tower on his TrainWeb.com building and borrowed the equipment I needed to mount the tower from Bob Cox and Ray Burns at TrainParty.com. So, don't try this at home, as they say.
Views from Trackside
Silver Rails Country, La Plata, Missouri
http://railcams.net/dotcom/tw/To see the view from the webcams on the tower click:
Knowing the SWChief would block most of the station from this angle, I took a shot of the La Plata Station from the tower.
From the tower, I could get a better view of the original Wabash line over the Santa Fe line. The bridge has been removed. I could also see the rocks removed from below the lookout and placed to the left, and the steel plates that replaced them.
A one-horsepower Amish cart passed on Brown Street.
I liked the way the dark clouds in the west contrasted with the white, sunlit station. There are two full-time webcams at the Station: http://railcams.net/dotcom/lap/
http://railcams.net/dotcom/dis/If you haven't been to the lookout, it has heat, free WiFi, a new porch, and two webcams where you can see the tracks in both directions at:
The climbing effort paid off as the Southwest Chief arrived.
The full length of the Southwest Chief, with a private coach at the end, at La Plata, MO.
The power for this day's SWChief.
The revenue portion of the SWChief passes La Plata: Part of the single-level baggage car, Transition Car, two sleepers, diner, sightseer/lounge, three coaches, and a rare sighting of a private coach.
Tom Anderson, bottom right, was at 'Ground Zero' for his photographs (on private property) and could feel the power of the twin Genesis'. Those photos can be seen in his report at:
A few shots of the Lookout as the SWChief passed.
As the restored railcar passed the lookout, I thought this could have been a scene from 60 years ago. Taking my cue from Train-Friend, Tony Escarcega, and his neat black and whites on Facebook, and TrainWeb.com, I tried one at the right.
One final shot from this vantage point of the La Plata Station. You'll see Bob Cox's white minivan from Show-n-Off Photography and DJ Service. At this point, the Depot Inn & Suites van has already picked up arriving guests and taken them to the Inn. This N.E.MO (northeast Missouri) Hospitality at its best if you ask me.
I safely climbed down to Mother Earth, happy with my photo idea.
After the Grand Opening of the Silver Rails Gallery in La Plata, MO, we returned on the Southwest Chief to Fullerton, CA. During our stay, we did go once more to the station to watch the morning arrival of the Southwest Chief, this time from platform level. Since the conductor did not stop at the platform for sleeping car passengers on our arrival, and had to back up to the platform after unloading coach passengers, I thought this might have been an unusual occurrence. Take a look at what happened two days later:
The arrival started normal enough.
What do we see here (right)? They let the lone sleeping car passenger off ON THE STREET! The Conductor is walking along the ballast back to the platform - NOT helping the passenger with his luggage!
The car attendant is looking out the door.
Is this any way to treat a First Class Passenger?!
Then the SWChief went on its merry way toward Chicago.
The arriving Amish coach passengers made their way to the van they had called to take them home.
Views from a Superliner
Amtrak Southwest Chief back home to Fullerton, California
When you board the westbound Southwest Chief in La Plata, it is in the evening. Sue and I boarded Sleeping Car 330 and we had Bedroom "B". We've concluded that "B" is a perfect bedroom in the 30 car because it is 12 steps from the first booth in the Dining Car. Because Tom Anderson was in the Coaches for this trip, and had been given 24 blue wine bottles from Jacob's Winery, we took on the two cases of bottles into our Sleeping Car. I placed them on the floor of the luggage area, and pushed them way to the back, then put a suitcase in front of them. No one on the train except Car Attendant Joe and I knew they were there for the safe 2,000 miles to Fullerton, CA.
Even though we boarded a few minutes after 8 pm, we still had time for dinner in the diner. Because the "cook to order" steak was so good on the way out, I decided to try it again on the way back. It was a larger piece of Sirloin steak and still good. I had baked potato with it, and vegetables. They have Pepsi products to drink, so I selected Sierra Mist. For desert they did not have carrot cake, that I had each meal on the way out, but they did have pumpkin/cranberry cheesecake, which was surprisingly tasty, with coffee.
I did post-production work on my many photos taken in Silver Rails Country, and eventually made up our beds myself and we enjoyed a good night's sleep after Kansas City, MO.
Next morning, Sue stayed in the room as I met Tom for breakfast. I had a cheese omelet, sausage patties, and croissant with orange juice and coffee. When we were eastbound, I inquired about taking Sue a meal, but the Car Attendant said he would get it. On this westbound trip, they let me take breakfast to her (below). This chef did the cute thing with the cheese on the outside of the omelet (below). Sue said it was an Amtrak Symbol, and I guess she is right. I met the chef in the hallway later on the trip and mentioned his artwork. He said he used to make Indian symbols but that was too hard, so he just put the 3 pieces on, and someone said they were the Amtrak symbol. I told him we liked it as well as the omelet, and he appreciated the comment.
The noticeable difference on our return trip was new fallen snow. I call this shot:
"Steaks on Ice"
Another "S" leading-line photograph in the snow.
Entering Trinidad, CO.
How to unload a railcar when you don't have a place to pull a truck under the hopper car.
Downtown Trinidad, CO. It had been a wet, sticking snow. We liked the way the snow stuck to the sides of trees (right) and poles.
Snowcovered countryside, but the erosion control along the creek looks like the Maginot Line of WW2.
We soon started ascending to 7,000+ feet toward the Raton Tunnel.
Some curves along the old Santa Fe Trail are so sharp, you can see your tail.
Tunnel marker on the NM side, but with a Santa Fe shield on the crossbar. The legs are rails, which I had not noticed before.
Downtown Raton looks like an Old West town.
This looks like an Art Gallery to me. I wonder if it is railroad-related like the Silver Rails Gallery in La Plata, MO?
Can you imagine cattle going through town on a cattle drive along the Santa Fe Trail?
"Raton" sign on a hill over town, like Trinidad.
We continued to see trackside evidence of the recent heavy snowfall and swiftly running creeks from snow melt, as we descended through Lamy to Albuquerque.
Wire gate, sufficient to keep cattle inside the fence. "Arkansas Gap" my Dad used to call these inexpensive gates.
Snow, tracks and ties, a fence, and a muddy country road ... a photographer's delight.
This is a gate (above, left) (just wire, no wood or pipe structure) across a cattle trail that crosses the creek and the railroad. The engineer sounded the horn as we passed this crossing, just like any busy intersection in a town ... it's the law. Just goes to show you the attention to safety, and what knowledge an engineer has to have to 'qualify' on a route. He has to know a route and the crossings so well that he could sound the horn even if he couldn't see beyond the windshield in a blinding snowstorm or fog.
We took the siding at Canyoncito, NM, (below) awaiting the passage of the eastbound Southwest Chief (#4) to Chicago. There are always four SWChief's moving on this route, two eastbound, and two westbound. Therefore you will have two meets on a trip from LA to Chicago.
The rear window on the rear coach is a good spot to take photos of passing trains and tracks trailing to the horizon.
You can imagine the rumble and roar of these two Genesis' heading uphill within a few feet of me.
Sightseer/ Lounge car on the #3. Conductors usually announce the Chief's meets, so folks in the Lounge often wave at the passing train.
Don't you think these Superliners need an 'end car' like the trains of the old days? It would make Amtrak trains look more finished, and less like they'd lost some cars along the way.
The same end window on #4 from which I was photographing on #3.
I always look for this guy's Classic Chevys. The light blue sedan is a 1954, the dark blue is an early '50s panel truck, the tan pickup with stock racks is a 1956, and the station wagon in back is a 1955.
Late 1940s Chevy with an Airstream hiding in the back of the property.
Seeing these old Chevys brought back memories of our own '56 Chevy at home in the garage. Pictured here with a SWChief passing by at Fullerton, CA.
Snaking down through Apache Canyon.
Snow runoff below Apache Canyon.
Railcar Residence at Lamy in the shade of a Cottonwood Tree.
Santa Fe resident meeting someone at the train. Her hair about the color of the soil in this area.
Largest bldg. in Lamy.
The Sandia Mountains, east of the tracks between Lamy and Albuquerque, were particularly clear this day, with clouds forming above from melting snow.
A "two-lane blacktop" leading to the mountains.
A railroad line leading to the mountains.
Flat fields north of Albuquerque are irrigated and have Cottonwood Trees along the edges. No more snow now, and blue skies.
Signs on old Albuquerque buildings allude to former business types in the area.
In Downtown Albuquerque, adjacent to the Station, Historic Route 66 runs under the BNSF tracks.
Tom couldn't resist an Indian Jewelry gift for his Mom. Sue found some things of interest as well.
Of course a bicycle will get you around town as well.
Each departing train seems to have good ridership.
Caboose artwork leaving ABQ.
This shot of the large windows in Maintenance Shed in ABQ, took some artistic filtering in PhotoShop. I'll have to remember this location next trip and try for a better photo. I'll bet it is beautiful from inside.
Click Here to see: My Ferromex Copper Canyon trip
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so it was time for some vertical shots.
The later it got, the better the color of the bluffs.
The Great Southwest: Red, Green, Blue and white.