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Photography and Report by
Carl Morrison Carl@TrainWeb.com
Like my new Silver Rails Vineyard hat?
La Plata, Missouri, Silver Rails
Country's center, was the location of the The Taste of Silver
Rails. Held on April 30, 2016, I decided to take the Amtrak
Southwest Chief from Fullerton, California ahead of time, April 26, to
La Plata. This would be about a 2,000 mile trip on my
favorite form of transportation - a passenger train. Arriving
on Thursday morning in La Plata for the Saturday afternoon event, this
would give me time to explore Silver Rails Country and visit some of my
long-time friends in the area. I would stay at the Depot Inn
& Suites in La Plata.
Come join us for the inaugural "A Taste of Silver Rails" event
celebrating the tastes and crafts of Silver Rails Country. On hand will
be local wineries tasting their finest wines, local eateries offering
up samples and arts/crafts produced locally showcasing what the region
has to offer. Admission is $2 for entrance or $5 which includes wine
tasting and a commemorative wine glass. Held at the beautiful Silver
Rails Event Center in La Plata, this showcase promises to be a hit.
Silver Rails Event Center
204 East Moore
La Plata, 63549 United States
(Vendors, Sponsors, Attendees: If
you would like a high resolution copy of any of these photos or ones
from the slide show, capture the image number by clicking the photo
below and copying the last of the image number (such as: _MG_5992.JPG),
or reading it in the slide show, and send it to Carl@TrainWeb.com
with your request.)
Chief, Fullerton, California to La Plata, Missouri 1,941 miles
First Station after we boarded in Fullerton was Riverside,
San Bernardino station is being remodeled.
Car Attendant, Danny with Bob, Joyce and AJ heading for "A Taste of
Silver Rails" in La Plata, Missouri.
This trip was first time that each
car attendant had a hotspot. There was a temporary-looking sign
up in each car with the Network name and 12-character Password. I
found the service to be intermittent and used my iPhone as a
hotspot. There are spots on the route of the Southwest Chief,
especially in the desert and deep canyons, where there is no service.
Danny handed us 6 who boarded the same dinner reservation time, 8
p.m. The first night was an "Express Menu" with an entreé choice
of Salisbury Steak, Mac and Cheese, or chicken breast,which I
chose. I chose not to sit with my friends, so I could meet new
people along the way and ask about their destinations. This first
supper, I sat with Linda who was returning to Topeka after visiting
Modesto. Kitty lived in Prescott Valley and was going to Crescent
Barstow, California Amtrak Station
I learned from a Conductor that there
would be crew changes, usually accompanied with permissible time off
the train: Kingman, AZ; Albuquerque, NM; La Junta, Colorado;
Dodge City, Kansas; Kansas City, Missouri; and Chicago.
Breakfast was with David Luz, who boarded in Lamy and was headed for
Galesburg, Illinois, to visit his 92 year-old uncle who was a train
About an hour early into Albuquerque allowed for a walk downtown.
Many murals between the Amtrak station and downtown.
Route 66 went through Albuquerque.
Along Route 66 as it went downtown.
Appropriate vehicle to be parked on Route 66, I thought.
Some folks just have a way with words.
Alliteration - (al·lit·er·a·tion) the occurrence of the same letter or
sound at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words.
I put some of the Rack Cards for my
eBook (on the far right in the photo) and they were still there when I
check when we went back through here a few days later. I
have an ad for my eBook under "SPONSORS" above.
In Albuquerque, a fueling truck
comes out to the platform to refuel the locomotives. There is
plenty of time to walk to the front of the train to get a full-length
shot of the Southwest Chief with locomotive, or even go south of the
station a couple of blocks and up on that far bridge for an "above"
shot of the Southwest Chief in from of the Albuquerque Station.
The Rail Runner symbol on the sign refers to the local
Rail Runner goes between Santa Fe and Belen through
New baggage cars are now in use on the Southwest Chief.
The stop in Albuquerque will always give you time for a friend to
take a photo of you or take a photo of your car attendant.
Cottonwood trees between Albuquerque and Lamy were just leafing out on
this late May day.
The Church was the center of New England towns as well as Indian
"The Most Interesting Spot in the Old West" does not look open.
Interesting rock formations adjacent to the track south of Lamy,
Church Work Day looks pretty much the same even in the Old West.
Graffiti over artwork on a vintage baggage car in Lamy.
Looks like Santa Fe Southern Railway had some money for a paint
job on No. 07.
I had not noticed this nice-looking Railroad Museum before in
Lamy, New Mexico.
Lamy with Observation reflecting skylights when I was in the
I like photographing windmills, which are aplenty along the route
of the Southwest Chief.
This property also has some solar panels.
This is the reason for windmills: to pump water from a well
into a tank for cattle.
The stereotypical Indian pickup "of many colors".
I would think this is not a residential tepee, except that it
does have it's own outhouse.
I-25 parallels the railroad north of Lamy with a Santa Fe turnoff
There was much damage along this creek from earlier heavy rains,
but his Civil War Era bridge still stands.
There was a young man from Korea,
who had recently gotten an architectural job in Chicago traveling the
country by rail, so I pointed out this house that looks to me like a
"S" curve allows a chance for photographing the front or back of
For Lunch, I was again seated with David Luz. He pointed out
Starvation Peak where troops or Indians were starved out and defeated.
Again on this trip there were a couple of herds of elk along the
western side in a meadow north of Raton Tunnel.
Wooton Ranch and Rocky Mountains with snow in the distance.
Our train about to pass the Dick Wooton Ranch sign.
Guess the repainter had no ladder.
On the west side of LaJunta, Colorado is a nicely refurbished Santa Fe
Mural on a building on the west side of La Junta, Colorado
I like this Elks sign within sight
of the train in La Junta showing mileage from coast to coast for both
Amtrak and Highway 50. I drove Highway 50 from Coast-to-Coast in
2004 in a 1956 Chevy and came right past this station.
I like the way towns along railroads re purpose RR equipment to fit
their local needs.
As the sun was setting, we had some time in La Junta. Dinner
and bedtime followed.
The following morning I had
breakfast during and after our stop in Kansas City. This morning
my seat mates in the Diner were a Priest from El Salvador and his
nephew who was going with him on the train to Boston. The nephew
lives in Riverside. All the creeks, rivers, ponds, and puddles
were bank full as we went east of Kansas City, over the Missouri River,
toward our destination of La Plata, Missouri. It was so green
from abundant rain that my friend AJ remarked that it looked just like
The next morning, we arrived in La Plata, Missouri, and checked
in at the Depot Inn and Suites.
You can contact Enterprise Rental
Car in Kirksville ahead of time at 660-665-3396
Ext. 4 and have them drop a car at the Depot Inn and Suites complete
with keys and contract. The desk at the Inn will hand you the
keys, have you sign the contract, and you can leave everything here
when you return the car. The white car above was my rental car at
$164 for 4 days. They are not open on weekends, so I had to rent
it Thurs. through Monday even though I left Sunday night. If you
are not staying at the Depot Inn and Suites, Enterprise can leave the
car at the La Plata Amtrak Depot.
Room "L" at the Inn with 2 queen
beds and a desk with chair for writing my reports and processing my
photos as well as a nice leather recliner. They also have 4
suites, but I chose this room since my friend joined me from Huntley,
Illinois for part of the weekend.
Jan at the Depot Inn seemed to be ever present. She was the
regular 11 pm to 8 am night clerk, but I also saw her throughout the
weekend doing housekeeping duties. She is a former Athletic
Director at a college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
My first adventure from La Plata, Missouri, was to drive west to
Marceline, the boyhood home of Walt Disney.
Walt loved trains and he is shown here with brother Roy at the restored
locomotive No. 2546 in the park in Marceline.
This diorama had a video of the opening day of Disneyland in 1955
running on the TV.
They had a blanket of the historic places in town like my home town
has, Hayden, Indiana.
He received 25 cents for drawing Rupert, his first art to sell.
Upstairs was a large map of the original Disneyland. As I
look at it, I wonder about the circus tent on the left side.
Close up of the Main Entrance and Main Street.
Note the Orange Mickey flags on the
train station in the map above. The museum has one and said Walt
showed that he was on the property when the orange Mickey was flying.
Another flag from Disneyland, given by Walt to Marceline.
Disneyland Main Street still looks exactly like this.
They had an Autopia in Marceline for a while.
They have a very nice 25-minute tour on the hour and the half-hour of a
room with some special items.
Original clock from when this was a Santa Fe Station.
Original Amtrak Marceline sign on a fence outside the former station
with active BNSF tracks.
A passing BNSF freight from an upstairs window in the museum.
You don't have to wait long to get a photo of a passing freight.
Tenderloin sandwich for lunch at Ma
Vic's and a piece of coconut cream pie with meringue made by Ma's
daughter for dessert.
A permanent book in the barn had some interesting information.
"Walt's Barn" is in Griffith Park, Travel Town, Los Angeles,
My college friend, Bob Williams,
arrived Thursday night and we got him settled in Room "L" at the Depot
Inn & Suites where I had reserved a room with two queen beds.
Bob is not only a good friend, he is an excellent wildlife
photographer. I had asked Chris West of West Winery where there
would be some birds to photograph and he suggested Swan Lake NWR.
The next day my friend, Bob
Williams, wildlife photographer, arrived from Huntley, Illinois, and we
went to Swan Lake to take photographs.
Bob pointed out some geese with the many Canada geese.
The visitor's center had a 1/2 mile trail and the attendant told
us where to see a bald eagle.
This one had a small insect in it's beak.
Amy Cox, La Plata Station
Caretaker, allowed us to watch freight and Amtrak from the
This former telegraph office allows the closest, safe observation
of trains that I know of.
I learned a couple of new terms from Amy as we watched freight trains
pass - TOF Trailer on Flatcar, and COF Container on Flatcar.
A little damp as No. 4 arrived from the west, but wet rails make a
How many station agents do you know that hold an umbrella for
passengers? They do in La Plata.
At this point in our adventure, the Taste of Silver Rails Country
The day of the "Taste of Silver Rails Country" in La Plata,
Missouri, it was cloudy, but not raining when No. 4 arrived.
Around La Plata, Missouri, the Station and Depot Inn &
Bob Cox was the Caretaker of the
station this day. He checked the tickets of all the departing
passengers and safely escorted them to the coaches. Since the
train was early, and cannot leave until the scheduled time, there were
some minutes when Bob and the Conductor chatted to pass the time.
Since I had not seen Bob for 3
years, we chatted for awhile in his office, then he showed me the
outstanding model railroad layout in the former freight room.
This is the first two-level layout I had ever seen.
Some big trains passed the station while I was in the "Metropolitan
Lounge" with Bob.
Before I left on the night train
westbound for California, I wanted to see the EV charging stations for
Tesla and others at the Depot Inn and Suites. EV owners who
stay at the Depot Inn and Suites can charge their cars for free.
The Silver Rails Vineyards are
right out the back door of the Depot Inn and Suites. The wooden
train is part of the Inn's play equipment.
The Exhibition of Amtrak History is
housed in two Amtrak Express Cars behind the Inn. Just ask for
the key from the Inn's desk and enjoy.
I visited Tom Anderson at the Silver Rails Vineyard to see what he
Some new grafted vines soon to be planted.
A robin has established a nest under an overhand of Tom's house
using some grape vine pruning materials.
Amtrak Southwest Chief, La Plata, Missouri, back to
Slide show of these and more photos of
the Southwest Chief trip at:
The Depot Inn and Suites was a good
place to work on my report with good Internet for fact checking.
To save time, I walked to Casey's a few steps south, and purchased a
turkey wrap and some chips to have for lunch. Our group of six
reassembled at the La Plata Amtrak Station about 7:30 pm to catch the
7:51 Southwest Chief No. 3 for California.
We enjoyed a few minutes in the "La Plata Metropolitan Lounge"
chatting and viewing the vintage photographs that Bob and Amy Cox,
Caretakers, have put up around the station.
Steve studying the photographs and model Amtrak layout.
Many small towns in America have made knitted blankets with historic
structures on them as has La Plata.
Upon boarding, Candice, our 311 car attendant said "Last Call" had been
announced, so we went directly to the Diner. Ignacio was
our Dining Car Server. I again selected the shrimp/crab cakes,
baked potato and salad. Since it was after dark, I did not take
any photos until the next crew change in Kansas City about 10:11 pm.
I had forgotten to take my camera so my platform walk includes
only photos from my iPhone 6+.
On the adjacent track was the single-level train, River Runner or
Mule, to St. Louis.
The pedestrian bridge was a former railroad bridge.
Since the Southwest Chief and the St. Louis train were headed in
opposite directions, I walked to the west end of the platform for this
photo of our Locomotive.
From the west end of the Kansas City platform, I could look back
at the KC Union Station and the vintage cars housed there.
Another crew change was made during
the night at Dodge City, Kansas, and another about 8:15 a.m. at La
At Breakfast in the Diner this morning, I sat with a couple going from
Kansas City to Lamy. He had been a computer programmer, but now
worked restoring steam engines. His wife had been a physical
therapist in the public schools working with cerebral palsy afflicted
With about 50 minutes before the train would leave La Junta, I took
about a 6-block walk in the brisk 50 degree morning, across Hwy. 50
into town. Stores were not open this early, but the morning light
was good for photography.
This must have been an opera house since all the nearby businesses
had "Opera House" in their name.
You only have to look down as you walk this town to see evidence of
railroad history here.
Even the Otero County logo has a train on it.
Some interesting yard art occupies a vacant lot.
This is the closest I've ever gotten to this Elks Club mileage
sign visible from the tracks. As I mentioned earlier in this
report, a car buddy and I drove all 3,073 miles of Highway 50 in my
1956 Chevy and his 1957 Chevy in 2004.
The walk provided for a closeup of this Santa Fe caboose and luggage
cart that is also visible from the tracks.
West of La Junta is this nicely restored No. 1024 Santa Fe steam
locomotive. It is far from the track, so a crisp photo of it is
hard to capture.
Lots of high desert, but as we approached Trinidad, Colorado, from the
east, a snow covered mountain range came into view.
About a foot and a half of snow had recently fallen and was still
evident as we entered Trinidad.
Downtown Trinidad, Colorado, from my upper-level Roomette as we crossed
the main street.
I-25 literally passes over the Trinidad, Colorado, station stop.
Snow and ice as we climbed the grade to the Raton Tunnel and State Line
with New Mexico.
Soon we reached the highest point on the Santa Fe Trail.
Nowadays I-25, a local highway, a river, and the Santa Fe Railroad all
compete for space up this former cattle trail.
Very slow going up this steep grade to Raton Summit, but the sharp
curves allow you to photograph the front or rear of the train out your
Through the tunnel, across the
state line, and down into Raton, New Mexico. Here each summer
40,000 Boy Scouts detrain and take buses to Filmont Boy Scout
Ranch. Other passengers detrain here and take an Ambus to Denver,
4 1/2 hours north of Raton. At Denver, passengers can board the
California Zephyr for returning to California, or continuing on east to
Philmont Scout Ranch is the Boy
Scouts of America's largest national High Adventure Base. It covers
137,000 acres - about 214 square miles - of rugged mountain wilderness
in the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) range of the Rocky Mountains
in northern New Mexico.
Philmont Scout Ranch operates 34
staffed camps and 55 trail camps. Philmont has high mountains with
rough terrain and elevations that range from 6,500 to 12,441 feet.
Philmont Scout Ranch provides an
unforgettable adventure in backpacking, with land along hundreds of
miles of rugged, rocky trails. Philmont Scout Ranch programs feature
the best of the Old West - horseback riding, burro packing, gold
panning, chuck wagon dinners and interpretive history - with exciting
challenges for today, such as rock climbing, burro racing, mountain
biking and .30-06 rifle shooting. It's an unbeatable recipe for
fast-moving fun and the outdoors.
I spoke with a Greyhound bus driver
here in Raton and he mentioned that there would be a new food court
currently being build on some vacant land between the tracks and the
old western store fronts.
"Cottonwoods and Cattle Crossings"
west of Raton, New Mexico. Cattle will not walk across a cattle
crossing like that, sometimes made with railroad rails. Perhaps
they fear of getting their hoves caught in the spaces between the
rails. The sign indicates to drivers that beyond this cattle
crossing, there are no fences and cattle could be on the roadway.
Further down the one-lane open
range road was another cattle crossing since there are fences beyond
this point. Also, the road goes from one to two lanes indicated
with a yellow line down the middle. Note the level tracks on the
right. I've photographed this area often on many earlier
River valleys provide a change of scenery in this high-elevation New
This trip, there was a Southwest
Chief Route Guide in each bedroom. It said these ruins were
"Clifton House Ruins" Built by
rancher Tom Stockton in 1867, it was also known as Red River Station
and Red River Hotel. This stagecoach stop was famous for its food
and lodging and was a highlight for travelers on the Mountain Route of
the Santa Fe Trail.
This Circle T Ranch barn interests
me since it has no sides for cold protection for cattle. Perhaps
hay is stored in the loft and dropped down into
feeders for winter range cattle. I like when ranches
put their brand on their out buildings. I found on the Internet
that the Circle T Ranch of Las Vegas, New Mexico raises bucking bulls
for the Professional Bull Riders.
I am fascinated by windmills on
cattle ranches out west since the farm I was raised on did not need
them since our range cattle had a pond to drink from or were close
enough to the barn that had electricity where an electric well pump
would take care of the watering needs.
I talked with an Oklahoma rancher on the train and he said some water
tanks, into which the windmill pumps well water, have a float and when
the tank is full, it will apply a brake on the windmill so it stops
West of Lamy, New Mexico, there is an "S" curve where you can
again photograph the lead engine.
The tracks are very close through Apache Canyon.
Back in Albuquerque, with a crew
change and over 1 hour layover, I decided to walk a few blocks north of
the station rather than down old Route 66. After skirting the bus
station, I found this new area to be much friendlier with a giant Hyatt
Hotel, Starbucks, and other shops at street level and below.
I found a giant mural of a railroad worker looking back at the
I found these photogenic bronze statues at the base of the Hyatt,
across the street from the Convention Center.
Back at the station, I was glad to
see a Rail Runner commuter train in the station and others parked on
the west side of the tracks as we left about 4:45 pm.
Rail Runner and its schedule kiosk in Albuquerque.
Idle engines at Albuquerque station.
Equipment to load Trailers on Flatcars (TOF) at Albuquerque.
Cars being loaded (or unloaded) from auto haulers in Albuquerque.
New Mexico state flowers in the left lane of I-40 heading west.
We move through "20% Chance of Rain" heading to Gallup.
View from my Superliner Diner window somewhere near Gallup, New
At dinner this last evening on the
Southwest Chief with Helen and Jose from Lake Elsinore, I had not yet
had a steak on this trip, so I ordered that with a baked potato.
The menu has wine for $16 a half-bottle. That would make a whole
bottle $32 which is Premium Wine price. I'm thinking that would
not be premium wine on an Amtrak train.
Another excellent trip on the Southwest Chief roundtrip Fullerton,
California to La Plata, Missouri.
Tips and Trick for Amtrak Travel
1. Roomette Restroom use on a bi-level Amtrak
Long Distance Train such as the Southwest Chief.
Roomettes have two seats facing each
other and a large window during the day. These seats fold down
and become a lower bed with a pull-down bed from above. There is
no toilet within the room. However, there is one restroom on the
upper level near the center of the car near the stairs, and three
bathrooms and a shower with dressing room on the lower level.
Lower level, one-half of a bi-level Amtrak Sleeper Car.
In the photo above, taken on a
Chief, you will see two bathrooms on the left, a shower/dressing room
and one bathroom on the right. A full-car-width Assessable Room
is at the end of the hall with a toilet, lock down for a wheel
and lower and upper beds like a roomette as well as a couch.
There is a sliding door between the Accessible Room and the public
Left of the door to the public bathrooms is a very small light that
will be lighted if the occupant has successfully locked the door while
in use. Older cars had this small light in the ceiling above the
The first restroom on the left is a favorite of mine because it
fold-down baby changing table over the toilet. This is excellent
for holding your toiletries while using the sink and mirror.
However the toilet cannot be used while the changing table is down.
The cleanest (least used) restroom is the one on the far right,
people naturally start down this hall looking for an open restroom and
seldom go as far as the last one. This is the restroom I use when
I need to use the toilet, but do not need counter space at the time.
In any restroom when you are using the small sink, I will invariably
have water splashed on the floor in front of the sink. Plan ahead
and put down paper towels or one of
the small towels from your
room. Leave the soiled towel in the large bag for towels
shower changing room and pick up another one for later use from the top
shelf of the luggage storage area across from the stairs.
2. Roomettes have only one outlet in the room.
The Roomette has one grounded
outlet, on the window side and above the shoulder of one of the
seats. Two set up my "command center" I used to take a power
bar. Considering that I need to plug in my laptop, iPhone,
iWatch, camera battery charger and iPad, I tend to fill up a power
Since only my laptop and camera battery charger need A/C outlets and
the other items are USB plugs, rather than have converters on all the
USB cords to plug into a traditional power bar, I have found a nice
item with two A/C outlets and 5 USB outlets (Iselector
40W 5-Port Universal USB Charger 2-Outlet Power Strip Surge with 5 Feet
Cord). It has an on/off switch on the side and an interior blue
light so can tell when it is on. The 5-foot cord may sound
excessive, but if you are alone and using the upper bunk as a desk,
there is plenty of cord, then using it at home on a desk, there is
plenty of cord to an outlet behind a desk.
The other switches in the console in your Roomette are for a
reading light, and temperature. One car attendant said it might change the temperature 1
degree. A better way to
control temperature in your room
is to adjust the large vent above the door, or with the curtains closed
during the night, open the door allowing air from your room's floor to
exchange with the air in the hallway.
Call Button and Ceiling Light
The controls on the opposite console
are: Top reading light; Center music control (and there is no
music); Yellow button to pull to call the Car Attendant to your room,
usually to set up or take down your bed; and white 323-way toggle
switch for blue night light, bright ceiling light, or off in the
The Call Button rings throughout the car so wherever the attendant
might be it will be heard. It will also be heard in your room
every time someone calls. This button is also good for passengers who
need meals brought to them from the diner by the Car Attendant.
4. A table pulls
out from the window side of the room, with wind flaps, to make a
convenient place for your laptop.
5. A two-hanger, full-length
next to the door, opposite the side with a step to get into the upper
bunk. There will be towels and a wash cloth on the top shelf of
the closet. Once things are placed in this closet, it is very
easy, after a long train trip to leave things in this closet, as well
as under the seats.
6. If you have a roomette to yourself, you can pull down the top
bunk and use it for storage of your suitcase, computer bag, etc. and as
a place to put large packages. Otherwise, there is a large
luggage area on the first floor near the entrance door. In the
two photos above of my roomette, the top
bunk is pulled down and you can see that I had room to still use
the seats and table as an office.
7. In the center of the car, on the top level, will be a pot of coffee that
is available at 6 a.m. I think they make only one pot per day.
Above and left of the coffee you will see cartons of orange juice and
clear cups. (Apple and cranberry juice and ice are no longer
available.) The car attendant's
location is in Room 1.
8. Tipping suggestions
for the Car Attendant. I've concluded that $10 a day per person
is what I tip for helping with my luggage and opening and closing my
bed. If meals are brought to you in your room I suggest
more. For dining car waiters and waitresses, perhaps $3 per meal
per person, even though meals are included with room accommodations,
you can still see the prices in the menu to make the calculations on
the tip. Wine and beer are available, but not included in the
9. Ticket purchases.
Many people ask me, "How much does it cost to go on
the train?" This trip, Fullerton, California round trip to La
Plata, Missouri, 1941 miles one way, costs:
fare for a Senior Coach Seat was $142.80 one way, plus 1 Superliner
Roomette $337.00 one way. In this case, it cost 2.35 times the
coach fare to add a Roomette, which includes all meals. A second
person could join you in the Roomette for another $142.80 one
way. Or, for 4,000 miles of rail travel round trip it would cost
one person 24 cents a mile for bed and food.
10. Rather than keeping a notebook to record location,
temperature, time, just take a photo of your iWatch if you have it set
up to keep track of these things. I took a photo of an
interesting set of bunkers on this trip and wanted to remember to look
up later what they were, so I took a photo of my iWatch to remember my
location and was surprised that we were at the Continental
Divide. Also, the correct local time is visible which is
different than what is on my camera and needs to be manually changed,
and I never do change it. If I were driving, there would have
been a highway sign saying so, but on the train there are no