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Silver Rails Country Attractions: LaPlata; Kirksville: Macon: and Hannibal, Missouri

   logo_silverrails.jpg COUNTRY

Steaming Through the Past, Connecting to the Future:

Unique La Plata Art Gallery to Celebrate All Things Railroading

Silver Rails Country Attractions:

LaPlata; Kirksville; Macon; Higbee; and Hannibal, Missouri

Photos and Report by Carl Morrison,

As usual, when in Silver Rails Country (LaPlata, Missouri Area), I like to check out all the many attractions in the area.  I've been in LaPlata to report on:  The Depot Inn & Suites' Chris Guenzler Million Mile Overlook, Exhibition of Amtrak History, Silver Rails Event Center, Train Party, and now the Silver Rails Gallery of Railroad Art.  You can read my reports on all these earlier trips at:

Another Sweet, Suite Deal at the

Depot Inn & Suites, Western Suite

Upon our arrival in La Plata on the Southwest Chief:  First, Bob Cox was on the platform in La Plata welcoming us and helping passengers board #4.  Then Amy Cox grabbed our heavy suitcases and carted them to the Hotel Van and took us to the Depot Inn & Suites.  

As we walked in the door, Sally welcomed us by name and gave us our keys to the Western Suite (She must have noticed that I had cowboy boots on and knew there was a boot jack in that suite).  Later in our stay, Angie did a good job at the Manager's Reception, in addition to her housekeeping duties at the Inn. .

View of the Western Suite, as you walk in the door.  Note:  Designer color, crown molding, leather covered king sized sleigh bed, Leather couch, fireplace, giant screen TV, western art pieces, stool to step up and into the plush bed.
Looking back at the entry door from the center of the room.  Note the Jacuzzi tub, sink with marble counter, raised portion of the counter for ice bucket and 4 plugs for chargers, and nice molding.
View of the room from near the window.  Note:  leather couch (which makes into a bed), beyond the couch is a mirrored closet door, and entry into the bathroom/shower.
The boot jack in the Western Suite came in handy.

Channel 14 and 15 have the diagram of trains in the area and a live shot of the BNSF track from the Overlook, looking west toward the Depot. Keeping the TV tuned to this channel, when you hear a train, just look at the TV to see it pass!


Outside the suites, beside the back parking lot, is a patio area with grill and play area for children.
The front Desk and Andrea.  Looks like a Train Station ticket office.
Opposite side of the Lobby with pool table, sofas, fireplace, TV, other comfortable chairs, and bookshelves full of railroad books and artifacts.

Hallway from the lobby to the 4 Suites, again lined with railroad photographs.
Large, heated, indoor pool can be seen from the lobby, and hallway to the suites.  There's even railroad artifacts poolside and a steam engine water spout over the center of the pool and a train whistle!

Knowing that the weather forecast said the day we arrived in La Plata 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 Palta.  To get to Hannibal from the Depot Inn and Suites, simply drive south on Hwy. 63 to the Interstate-type Intersection with Hwy. 36 and drive east.  Take the "Downtown" exit and you'll be downtown in a few blocks.

First we had home-made root beer and tenderloin sandwiches at the Mark Twain Restaurant then Sue hit the Hickory Stick Quilt Shop as Tom and I railfanned the river route and watched the muddy Mississippi flow south with ice and fallen trees.  


The Hickory Stick Quilt Shop
Mark Twain's Home, and the fence that Tom Sawyer had kids pay him to paint.
It is rumored that Mark Twain's ghost can be seen in some second story windows.
This big museum and gift shop are across the street from the Mark Twain Restaurant.



Main Street, looking north toward the Lighthouse above the Mississippi River.

(Right) looking south down Main St.

We walked two blocks east, toward the river, and on the river side of the levy, Tom and I caught these BNSF locomotives delivering some freight cars.


Soon, the locomotives returned with the full train and headed south down the river toward St. Louis.


Tom and I continued on to the edge of the river, only a half block from the tracks.  The Mark Twain Riverboat's engines were running, but tied up.

North up river, is the new I-72 bridge, that replaced the Hwy. 36 bridge that used to cross into downtown Hannibal.
Tom and I followed all the rules, and just took photos of "Old Muddy."
Beyond the Interstate Bridge, is the RR lift bridge.  It is much lower, and I imaging during floods must be under water.
While watching the river, the Mark Twain Riverboat pulled out into the river, turned, and came back in bow first.

In the riverside park is this nice statue of Mark Twain during his Riverboat Captain days.

Modern day riverboats stop here so guests can visit Hannibal.
Tom got up close and personal as the BNSF train headed down the river route.

After our visit to Hannibal, we returned to the Depot Inn & Suites.  We walked to the Red Rooster Restaurant for dinner, then had an excellent night's sleep in those great king beds.  Next morning, we had a continental breakfast in the Lobby, and drove down the gravel path to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout (below).

Chris is a personal friend of ours, and we were here for the dedication of this train lookout.

Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout


(Above right) looking west from the Lookout.

(Right) Looking east, toward the Brown St. Bridge.
Brad has cut the weeds behind the Train Party Building, and you can now see the 'Short Line' behind the building.

(Right)  The abutment across the Santa Fe tracks for the old Wabash bridge.

Tom Anderson
Sue and Carl Morrison


It's fun to see our old signatures inside the Lookout,
and to add the date each time we're here.

It was time to start the portion of the visit that Tom was here for -- 

Missouri Wineries in Silver Rails Country:  

We drove south of the Depot Inn & Suites on Hwy. 63 to Macon, just past Hwy. 36.  Through town on 36, we found Vine Street and turned right.  A few blocks to the downtown section and on the right before the "T" downtown, was 107 Vine St., the new home of West Winery and Tasting Room.  Since my last visit, the address had been added above the roll-up glass door, and the West Winery Logo was on the entry door.

West Winery, Macon, MO



The winery used to be a Men's Store, but Chris and Jen have completely renovated the store, inside and out, into a functioning winery and Tasting Room.


Tasting Bar on the left, beyond the back counters is the winery.  The stained glass allows light light to enter from the back.


The south facing glass front to the Tasting Room provides light in all seasons.
To the right of the front entrance are stairs to the winery office.
I'm proud to say that Chris and Jen selected many of my train photographs for their tasting room walls.  These photos as well as photo note cards are for sale in the tasting room.

Additionally, they have used my train photographs on two of their Loco Vino wines as well.

On the back winery wall is somewhat of a history of the West Winery's production.
Chris (left) and Tom enjoyed discussing wine making.
In his winery, Chris uses Missouri White Oak barrels that were made just down the road at A & K Cooperage in Higbee, MO.  These barrels were used in Napa California when they were new, then brought back to Missouri for use in Chris' red wine making.
The oak wine barrels, stained glass windows and brick arch reminded me of an earlier visit to an Abbey Winery.



Chris gave us a rare treat - barrel sampling.



We also visited Cooper's Oak Winery in Higbee, MO.  Cooper's Oak Winery is about 55 miles south of the Depot Inn & Suites (58 minutes) on Hwy. 63.  


P.O. BOX 218
HIGBEE, MO 65257
Drive through Macon, and on south through Moberly to MO State Road M to the right for 1.1 miles. Turn LEFT onto S MORLEY ST/US-63 BR. for .5 miles.  Turn  RIGHT onto MO-A/TERRILL RD. Continue to follow MO-A, 7.4 mi. Turn LEFT onto W JONES ST. and you will see the Cooperage on the left.       



Half barrels are for sale on the porch of the tasting room.
Nice, large tasting room.


Winery Logo



Some of the wines for sale in the Gift Shop/Tasting Room
After tasting, I purchased a bottle of "My Sweet Dear" a sweet red wine.  They are big deer hunters, thus the theme and color.
Matt Kirby, Wine maker, after wine tasting, filled our glasses and asked, "Want to see the jail?" and proceeded to the cellar.

An actual jail cell, where they keep the most valuable wines.

Back upstairs, he showed us the bottler.
Many new wine barrels  headed for their California winery partner, Silver Oak.  Franciscan and Phelps also uses their barrels.

Tom had read that Cooper's Oak Winery was actually a cooperage first, then they began making wine.  They give wine barrel making tours, which I was very interested in since I had never seen how barrels were made.  From Matt, we learned that they had two nearby suppliers of Missouri White Oak.  They are the only Cooperage and Winery on the same property in the US and there are only 3 cooperages in all of Missouri.  They make 5 to 6,000 barrels a year.

A & K Cooperage has been producing white oak barrels since 1972.  Barrels from A & K are shipped to California, Texas, ad Missouri. plus several other states and foreign countries.  Each barrel involves over 22 steps and while most of the work is done by machinery, much hand work is required.  Tours of the Cooperage are available by appointment by calling 660-456-7227 or 660-456-7507.  Tour hours are Monday-Thursday 8 am to 3 pm.  Fridays 8 am to Noon.

The Cooper's Oak Winery is located in the small town of Higbee, in the gently rolling hills of north central Missouri.  The intertwining of cooperage and winery only enhances the winery offerings of Chambourcin, St. Vincent, Michelle's Sweek Red and White, My Sweet Dear, as well as a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

-- From their brochure.



The Cooperage makes 30, 48, 60 and 70 gallon American and French oak barrels.  Toasted over an oak fire with still much hand work involved in the process.

The galvanized steel on the barrels bands come from this roll.

wine-barrel.jpg Parts of a Wine Barrel

A wine barrel is made up of staves which have been shaped into a bulging cylinder, and flat heads or ends.  The staves are held in place by metal hoops, usually galvanized on wine barrels or steel on whiskey barrels.  The shape is designed so the barrel can easily be rolled.  The curve or Bilge allows the barrel to be spun easily to control direction.  Most barrels weigh between 125 to 140 lbs. when empty.  Six to eight hoops encircle the barrel spaced along the length.  Wineries can specify the placement of the end hoops for placement on their storage racks.

Most cooperages tend to make wine barrels from white oak.  White Oak meets the requirements of porosity, strength, resilience, workability, weight and character.  The large thick rays of the wood give white oak extra toughness and bend ability, while making it relatively stable during dry shrinkage and wet swelling.

Logs must be hand split to preserve wood grain without breaking veins, essential to making impermeable barrels.  The logs are quartered to obtain the wood used for the barrel staves.  After splitting and planing, the stave wood is stored in tiers, exposed to air and water as the wood is naturally aged by weather.  Through exposure to the elements, the wood is purged of impurities, undesirable odors and harsher tannins which might overpower the flavor of the wine.  This aging process takes several years.

After aging, the stave lumber is cut to proper length, tapered at each end, beveled, planed on the outside and slightly hollowed on the inside.  After being inspected, they are given to the cooper for assembly.

wine-barrel-stave.jpg Construction of a Wine Barrel

The cooper selects the best staves, assembling them inside a metal hoop that acts as a jig.  This operation is known as "mise en rose" or "raising the barrel".   Three metal hoops are forced into place, creating a solid hold on the staves, which are then dampened by the cooper.  At this point, the "rose" or partially constructed barrel is placed over a small wood fire.  During this step, the inside of the barrel is charred or "toasted".  The amount of char has an effect on the wine aged in the barrel.  Winemakers can select from Light, Medium or Heavy Toast.  The Toast decision is made based on the variety of grape and style of wine which will be aged in the barrel.

Wood fibers, rendered flexible by the heat and humidity, can now be bent using a winch to gradually arch the staves and tighten them to obtain the shape of the barrel.  The staves are held trussed until metal hoops are in place.  The ends of the staves must be trimmed and a "croze" or groove is cut in the staves to receive the barrel heads.  Barrel heads are custom cut to fit the "croze", and assembled using dowels and river reed to make a perfect seal.

To finish assembly, the cooper sets up his barrel, fits the heads into the "croze" and completes the final hooping with a large mallet.  The barrel is tested for impermeability and if passed, the cooper finishes the barrel with final planing and sand papering to enhance the quality of the oak and the perfection of workmanship.  It takes approximately eight man hours to produce a single wine barrel. 

Life of a Wine Barrel

The average wine barrel has a useful life expectancy of about five years.  After that time, the barrel has imparted the flavorings of the oak into the wine.  After the initial life cycle of the barrel, most wineries purge their old stock.  (Matt says the barrels he sends to California are shipped back for resale.)  Often these barrels are cut in half and sold as planters - not a very fitting end for a work of craftsmanship.  Some carvers create wine art for the wine collector and lover.

More photos from A & K Cooperage


The oak cures for 2 to 3 years before use.
Matt's Dad was inserting various width oak stays into a jig.
With a cable, he synched up the stay and put a temporary ring on the top.
New barrels ready for the rings.
Where the inside of the barrels are toasted.
Hammer and Hoop Driver used to drive the hoops down over the barrel by hand.
Two men circle the barrel, driving the hoops down the sides.


New barrel, ready for testing under pressure for leakage.

(Right) New barrel heads.
New barrels, tested, sanded, and ready for shipment.
Special order of 2 barrels to become drums for a school band.
French oak staves, very expensive.  Matt said he had received an order for barrels made from these.
Two generations of Kirby Coopers, the "K" of A&K Cooperage.  

We then visited Jacob's Vineyard & Winery, 26078 Eagle Lane, Kirksville, MO  63501.  660-627-2424.  E-mail:     Owners:  Sheila and Russell Pruett.

Jacob's Vineyard and Winery is conveniently located about 10 miles north of the Depot Inn via Hwy. 63, on the south side of Kirksville.  Drive to Eagle Lane (small road signs may make it hard to find, plus it is called Eagle TRAIL to the left).  If you get to the only stoplight north of the Depot Inn & Suites, you have gone too far.  Northbound, Turn right off Hwy 63 onto Eagle Lane and drive about 1.3 mile until you see, on your left, the 4' x 8' wine colored,  "Jacob's Vineyard & Winery" sign shown below.  During that drive of one mile of rock road, you will pass a restored Santa Fe Caboose on your right.

Once you turn onto the property, and up the incline, you will see the winery and tasting room (below, left).  As of this writing, they had only been open a few months.

Their hours are:  Thursday 11 am to 6 pm. (We arrived a little after 5 pm)  Friday and Saturdays 11 am to 7 pm, or "By Appointment" after hours by calling.

They also have Tasting Room Rental, Business Meetings, Showers, Class Reunions, Bachelorett parties, etc.  They will be ready for Weddings beginning Spring of 2010.

A handout they had on the tasting room counter said:  One Bottle of Wine contains 750 ml of liquid.  It takes 2.4 pounds of grapes to make a bottle.  There is 25.6 oz.. of wine in a bottle.  There are 4 glasses of wine in a bottle (6.4 oz. glass).  Therefore it takes 2.4 pounds of grapes to make 4 glasses of wine, or .6 pounds per glass.

While tasting his wines, Russell was very informative about his new wine business.  One term I didn't know is "Agri-Tourism" when an agricultural business brings in Tourists -- Like a winery.




Sheila and Russell Pruett, owners of Jacob's Vineyard and Winery.

Vineyard as seen through the double doors in the tasting room (left).

Our final winery visit was West Winery at Jackson Stables.  This is the same West Winery that I talked about above, in Macon, but they have another new tasting room at Jackson Stables, and plan to have a winery there as well.

Directions from the Depot Inn & Suites:  
        1.       Turn LEFT onto US-63 N.    10.7 mi  
        2.    Turn SLIGHT LEFT onto US-63 BR/E SHEPARD AVE.    (at the Only Stop Light north of the Inn)
        3.    Turn LEFT onto E SHEPARD AVE.    0.4 mi   
        4.    E SHEPARD AVE becomes W SHEPHERD AVE.    0.9 mi 
        5.    Turn RIGHT onto MO-H.    0.1 mi   
        6.    Turn LEFT onto RAINBOW BASIN TRL.    1.0 mi  
        7.    22694 RAINBOW BASIN TRL is on the RIGHT.

jackson-stables.jpg   IMG_0016.jpg

West Winery at Jackson Stables

22694 Rainbow Bison Trail, Kirksville, Missouri. Phone: 660.665.4611. Fax: 660.627.5180

Contact info: Robin Slaughter, General Operations Manager
E-mail: Contact Robin
Phone: 660-341-8519

When you arrive, drive around the right corner and park.  Entrance to the Tasting Room is there.
Entrance to Tasting Room, and entire facility.
Tasting Room
Tasting Room and Entrance.

From the Tasting Room, you can step into the center section of Jackson Stables.


A second tasting room with bottle prices is to the left of the center section.


The North end of the 'stables' (above).

(Right) Center Section, looking South.

The wine server suggested I go upstairs for photos.


And, I found a bedroom suite!


On the way back down the stairs, I noted the use of pegs rather than bolts, a technique used in my Dad's barn built about 1910.


Window from center section back into the Tasting Room.



(Right)  This is exactly what we have done with colored wine bottles at home.  Again, it was nice to see my photograph on one of their wines (the red caboose).


Whether you are South of the Depot Inn & Suites, in Macon, or North of the Depot Inn, near Kirksville, you can taste West Winery Wines.

They'll keep the light on for you.

Tom Anderson's Report on the Wineries:

Links to Wineries We Visited:  

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