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Amtrak's Southwest Chief round trip Fullerton, California, to the Depot Inn & Suites at La Plata, Missouri.

"Trains to Planes"

Amtrak's Southwest Chief round trip Fullerton, California, to the Depot Inn & Suites at La Plata, Missouri.

Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville, Missouri, Regional Air Festival

September 11 and 12, 2009


Report and Photos (except where noted) by


(Click any photo for a double-sized copy; Click BACK to return to this page.)

This report has a couple of new elements for me.  The title, Trains To Planes, is a move from Alliteration in my earlier reports, like:  Rails to RodeosRails to Riverboats, and Rails to the Rim to Rhyming as in Trains to Planes.

Aliteration.jpg   Rhyme.jpg
(My High School English Teacher, Mrs. Mitchell Dunker, would be proud!)

The second new element of this report is that it will include photographs of Airplanes.  I rode the Southwest Chief from Fullerton, CA, to La Plata, MO, for the Depot Inn & Suites Kirksville Regional Air Festival.  Thus the title, Trains to Planes.

Now let us get to the reason you clicked to read this report:

Depot Inn & Suites
Kirksville Regional Air Festival

How I Got There:


Amtrak Southwest Chief Train #4
Fullerton (FUL), CA 7:20 p.m. Tuesday


La Plata (LAP), MO   9:57 a.m.  Thursday

Of the 1777 mi. that I had my GPS running, we averaged 59.7 mph over 29 hrs. 47 minutes of 'driving time.'  Even with 3:18 stopped time for stations, etc. we averaged 53.7 mph night and day while I worked in my room, ate in the diner, and slept 2 nights - not bad!




Amtrak Southwest Chief Train #3
La Plata (LAP), MO  8:06 p.m.  Monday


Fullerton (FUL), CA, 6:34 a.m.  Wednesday


How I Traveled While There:

Enterprise Rental Car from Kirksville, MO.  They will pick you up at the Amtrak Depot in La Plata or at the Depot Inn & Suites.  660-665-3396.  I started my rental on Thursday and returned it on Monday.  That was 2 days at the regular rate of $35.99 and two days 'weekend rate' $17.99 for a total for the 4 days of $141.07.  I had heard they are closed on weekends, so if you arrive on a Saturday and/or want to return a car on Sunday, call Tom and make arrangements for them to leave the car and paperwork at the Depot Inn and Suites.


Telephones/Internet Access:

Personal cell phone and  Free wireless and Ethernet Internet in the room and lobby at  Depot Inn & Suites


Where I Stayed:

Depot Inn & Suites
1245 North Brown Street
La Plata, MO  63549
( )


Where I Dined:

Tuesday dinner through Thursday breakfast
Amtrak Southwest Chief Diner (meals included in accommodation price):

Tuesday Dinner:  8 pm  Trout w/vegetables, roll, salad, and dessert.  A 1/2 bottle of Pinot Gris ($13).

Wed. Breakfast:  7 am Omelet, cheese.  Croissant.  Hash browns or grits. Sausage patties  or bacon if you wish.

Wed. Lunch:  1:30 pm  Cheeseburger, chips, Sierra Mist, and dessert was offered.

Wed. Dinner:  7:30 pm  Roasted 1/2 chicken, baked potato, salad, and dessert was offered.  Decaf coffee.

Thursday Breakfast:  Omelet, cheese.  Croissant.  Hash browns. Sausage patties.  Juice and coffee.


Lunch:  Mc Donalds, Macon
Dinner:  Corner Cafe, La Plata, Tenderloin Sandwich.


Breakfast:  Grandma's Home Cookin' downtown La Plata.  Scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee.  $5.99
Dinner:  Hangar Dinner and Dance:  Pork sandwich, potato salad, cole slaw, brownie, lemonade.


Breakfast:  Grandma's Home Cookin' downtown La Plata.  Scrambled eggs, hash browns, toast, coffee.  $5.99
Lunch:   BBQ sausage at the air show.
Dinner:   Corn on the cob at Macon Fork and Cork, blush wine at the West Winery, Macon.


Breakfast:  Depot Inn & Suites, complimentary muffins, banana, coffee.
Lunch:   Grandmas Home Cookin', country fried steak.
Dinner:  Red Rooster. 


Breakfast:  Depot Inn & Suites comp. breakfast
Lunch:  McDonalds, Macon.
Dinner:  Pizza in Kirksville

Tuesday through Thursday

Breakfast,  Lunch,  Dinner:  Amtrak Southwest Chief  Diner  Dinners were salmon and broasted chicken.  Lunches were beef burgers.  Breakfasts omelets w/ sausage patties.  Coffee and juices available throughout the day in the sleeping car.


Expenses for One:

Amtrak Southwest Chief  Round Trip
Fullerton to La Plata to Fullerton
Full Faire, Round Trip: 
Coach:  $274 per person, plus
    $623 add-on for Superliner Roomette eastbound for 3 days and 2 nights for up to two people.
    $521 add-on for Superliner Roomette westbound.
    10% discount for AAA or
    15% discount for Age 62 and over

Complimentary coffee and juices in sleepers and all Meals in Diner included in price of sleeper on Amtrak.

Total:  $1,102.90

Note:  This fare varies greatly depending on how early you reserve (the rates above were only 16 days before departure).

To be sure to get the best rates and routes*, with current promotions, contact a Travel Agent knowledgeable in Amtrak Ticketing (not an Amtrak Agent). 

* I met a couple in their 90s traveling from Kansas to San Francisco.  Amtrak had routed them on the Southwest Chief (wrong - they should have gone on the California Zephyr) to Los Angeles.  Then a Pacific Surfliner to Santa Barbara (Wrong - they should have gone on the Coast Starlight to Emeryville).  This is the kicker - from Santa Barbara on a bus for 11 hrs. and a 'ferry' to San Francisco.  Why?!

I recommend:

Carole Walker, (562) 594-6771 or (714) 952-2719

Depot Inn & Suites: 
     Standard Room:  $94 per night (1 king or 2 queens)
     Themed Suites:  $139 per night (1 king)

Gas for rental Car:  $2.33 a gallon at Sinclair near Depot Inn.

For More Information:

( )

Carole Walker, (562) 594-6771 or (714) 952-2719

Your comments are welcome at:

Real-Time Western Amtrak Train Status Map

(click map above to see larger current online interactive map - click BACK in your browser to return to this page )

As of this report, there has been a link added at that makes following Real-Time Amtrak Train Status possible.'s Amtrak Train Status has a website:

   You can select any Amtrak train and get updates such as this sample of the Southwest Chief #3 westbound:

To see a live version of this same Eastbound Southwest Chief Train #4 above, click here, then click #4 on the active map.


Ad from


You actually do see scenes like the ad for the Southwest Chief above.  The windmill sunset photo above is mine, taken from the Southwest Chief, westbound just across the New Mexico, Arizona border in Arizona, August, 11, 2008.

My Destination


Helpful along the Route of the Southwest Chief  is Amtrak's Official Route Guide. 

This is a .pdf file that can be downloaded and printed to take along in case there are none available on the train:

Following 3 graphics are cuts from the Route Guide:


My departure station, in yellow above, was Fullerton, CA.

White dots are stations, dark dots are scenic spots along the way.  Pay close attention to the Schedule for the direction you are going, to know if you will see these spots at night or during the day.  Roughly speaking, westbound from Los Angeles on this September trip, you will board about Sunset on day 1.  Sunrise between Winslow, AZ, and Gallup, NM.  Sunset the 2nd day about Trinidad, CO.  Sunrise the 3rd day about Kansas City, Missouri.  You arrive in La Plata about 10 a.m. giving you most of the day for activities around the Depot Inn & Suites.

Travel Tip:  If you schedule a westbound Southwest Chief, and want to detrain in Fullerton, CA, realize that the Amtrak Computer will give you a choice of detraining in Fullerton, OR taking the Southwest Chief on into Los Angeles, then taking a Surfliner back to Fullerton - costing you more money and more time!  Even if you plan to go south of Los Angeles to San Diego, or intermediate stops, you can save time and money by ticketing and detraining in Fullerton, then catching a Surfliner to San Diego.  Trains from Los Angeles to San Diego go through Fullerton, but I'm not sure anyone, including the Amtrak Computer, knows that.  On the other hand, if you want to go eastbound and get close to Chicago, but avoid the hassle of Chicago Station, detrain in Naperville, IL, (see below, right) where there is free parking next to the track for folks who might be meeting your train.  Bottom line, make your Amtrak Reservations with a qualified, independent Travel Agent like Carole Walker, contact information above in red.


My arrival station, highlighted above, was La Plata, Missouri.

All Aboard!

Boarding at the Fullerton Station, the first stop once the train leaves Los Angeles, is very easy.  Parking is immediately adjacent to the small station.  You walk a few steps from your car to the platform.  Station attendants will tell you where to wait on the platform.  From experience I know where the sleepers stop, so I'm ready with my luggage to step right on the train.  There are two sleepers on the Southwest Chief and they follow the 2 Genesis Locomotives, a single-level baggage car, and the Transition (Crew) Sleeper when it pulls in.  Occasionally you may have a room in the Transition Sleeper.  The two sleepers will have the numbers 431 and 430 by the door.  My accommodations were in Car 431, Room 14.  Following the sleepers is the Diner, then the Sightseer/Lounge car, and finally two coaches.  Sometimes there will be single-level privately owned cars on the rear of the train.

Wife, Sue, had taken me to the Fullerton Station, and as the Southwest Chief pulled in, 431 stopped right in front of the bench where we were waiting.  It was about 7:10 pm.  The attendant opened the door and I announced my name as he looked at his manifest.  He repeated my room number and I put on my suitcase and camera bag.  I told him I had 3 other pieces of 'matched luggage' (3 cardboard boxes containing eighteen 16" x 20" framed train photographs).  I told the attendant, as I set on the 3 boxes, that I would put them in the upper bunk in my room.  When I set the last box on, and said Goodbye to Sue, I stepped into Car 431.  I went to my room and the attendant, Chris, had made up both beds and put the 3 heavy boxes on the top bunk!  This guy is going to get more than my regular $10 per day tip.

We pulled out at 7:20, the scheduled time.  I talked with Car Attendant, Chris, a moment and learned that this was his first trip as a Sleeper Attendant.  He had worked coaches the two months he had worked for Amtrak.  Conductor Angelica soon came by and collected my ticket and said she would be the Conductor to Kingman, AZ. 

Chris had gotten me an 8 pm dinner reservation, so I had time to set up my Command Center, as Rail Friend Andy Smith calls my on-board technology setup.  I bring a power bar on an extension cord since there is only one plug in a roomette.  I put the power bar between the seats, between the window and the folded up table.  I plugged in my:  GPS, MacBook computer, iPod Touch charger, and cell phone charger, then headed upstairs and through 1/2 of Car 431, all of Car 430, and into the Diner. 

As I passed Chris in the hallway on the way to the Diner, he used my first name - this kid is learning quickly.  At dinner, where I had trout, vegetables and salad (also offered were a dinner roll and dessert).  I sat with 3 other gentlemen.  One was heading for Albuquerque on a turn-around just for fun.  He is the sole proprietor of Jerry Meyer SB Wine of Santa Barbara. 

Another gentleman at our table was from San Diego headed for Albuquerque to play tennis and golf, then on to New York for a wedding.

The final gentleman at dinner was a Trails and Rails host on Amtrak along the Hudson River and a Tour Guide in New York City.  He was using Guest Rewards to take a 3 week trip around the USA.  He started by crossing Canada on The Canadian.  He came down the coast to LA, and was taking the SWChief to Chicago then the Capitol to Washington, DC, and finally on back to New York City.  His next train trip will be to Halifax, Nova Scotia by train.

We all had an enjoyable dinner and discussion about wine and train travel including the Copper Canyon and the Grand Luxe.

At dinner, and later from my window in my roomette, I watched the Half-Moon Rise.  We arrived at Victorville 10 minutes early, but soon after leaving, we traveled at 10 mph for 15 minutes before moving to track speed past what looked like a moonlit space station in the black California desert night.

Training Pants

Cargo pants/shorts have become my new train travel apparel...thus the Section title, TRAINing Pants.  It seems in the past that when I went for meals on the train, I seem to always need something I had left back in the room - my billfold for tip money, or to pay for wine, my small notebook for writing down things I learn from my seat mates, my business cards, my cell phone, my iPod Touch with photos, my GPS,  the schedule and route guide, so now I have it with me in one of my many pockets.  You may have noticed that I called them pants/shorts.   They have zip-off leg bottoms in case the A/C isn't working through the desert or at my destination.  Albuquerque is where I made the transition to cargo shorts on this trip.

The other part of my outfit is my shirt so my seat mates can ask, "What is TrainWeb?"  or better yet, "I've read your reports on TrainWeb."  Finally, since it is a rule that everyone wear shoes on Amtrak Trains, I like tennis/running/walking shoes.  At the risk of being called, "Old Baggy Britches," that's what I look like if you see me on the train.

10:20 pm, We're rolling eastbound at 80 mph by moonlight on smooth-as-it-gets ribbon rail somewhere in the California desert near Barstow.  This trip I have a lower-level room, #12, where I hope to find smoother riding when I have my second night on the roughest tracks on this nearly 2,000 mile ride -- Kansas!

Packing for a Train Trip

Through the many trips I've taken over the years in sleeping cars on trains, I've learned to pack more efficiently.  Since, many times I travel alone in a Roomette (closet with a window) without a toilet and shower, I pack a bag of night clothes, next-day clothes, toiletries inside my suitcase.  When I board, I pull out that smaller bag and take it to my Roomette.  I leave my suitcase in the luggage area on the lower level near the entrance/exit door and don't use it until replacing that night bag at my destination before detraining. 

Additionally, I like using the bathroom that has a baby changing table.  The sinks in these bathrooms have no room for by toiletries bag, so I pull down the changing table making a large area to lay out the articles I need.  I doubt that a baby has ever been changed on these tables, but I still cover it with paper towels just in case. 

In the narrow closet in your Roomette, on the top shelf, there are small towels and wash cloths - take them to the bathroom with you.  Larger towels are in the one shower/dressing room on the lower level.  There will be a laundry bag for the used towels in the shower/dressing room.  Take a small bar of soap and shampoo with you.  They may or may not be available so when you are stripped down ready to enter the shower, that is no time to realize you have no bar soap or shampoo!

Finally, I like to shower when the train is stable, such as at a stop where there is time for a 'smoke break' or 'crew change' or when we are on a siding.  I have fewer bruises because of this tactic for showering, and no serious falls in a slick shower from train movement.

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Albuquerque is a Crew Change Stop.  We arrived at 11:50 a.m. and it was announced that we would leave at 12:55 pm, so I had an hour to walk downtown and photograph the "Crossroads Clock Tower."  Many rail travelogues about the Southwest Chief #4 which leaves from Los Angeles in the evening, do not include any photographs until Albuquerque.  The train spends the night traveling through western California and Arizona, and except for desert photography, there is not much to photograph.  So, my first photographs on this trip are from Albuquerque.

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

From the platform at the Train Station.
The Inter modal Passenger Center
Chris, my Car Attendant on 431.
We had to skip around this ballast tamper, working at the station, to get through the station and downtown.

One block north of the Station is Historic Route 66 through downtown Albuquerque.  Once you walk west, this fully lighted mural catches your eye.
In the corner of that same mural (left) is this inscription.
Double-click for a larger image.

Lamp posts (right) all have a design of some description.

Didn't expect to see her here


First evidence of Historic Route 66.  Don't know how 66 can go off in 4 directions.  Maybe that's why they call this "The Crossroads."
Interesting reading (of the titles on the books.)

My destination (right) was the clock tower and the information on it.  Being a tourist destination, you'd think they might have the clock on the right time.  It was about 12:15.

We had come 790 miles on the train, and many passengers were headed for Chicago, another 1,345 miles.
The North-South destinations from this Crossroads were El Paso, 268 miles, and Denver, 446 miles.

Directly north, behind the clock tower, is a nice, shady pedestrian walkway w/benches.  An attempt to draw folks downtown, I suppose, but with the number of vacant restaurants and stores, I don't think it is working.

Next to the clock tower, they have Route 66 lamp post decorations.
Many businesses in this area play off Route 66.

I walked south 2 blocks, then east back to the station.  This Bank's large windows provide a nice photographic opportunity.
One block south of The Crossroads, the New Mexico Bank & Trust reflect downtown buildings in an interesting way.
I like the white puffy clouds and blue sky that are often visible in Albuquerque.

Look both ways.

I was impressed with this beautiful white tile building on the way back to the Station.
This building had a beautiful mural on both sides.  I then thought the city should have the nickname, City of Color.


This Route 66 mural was on the opposite side of the same building.

Take a close look at the propeller on this airplane.

Back to the Station.


Amtrak locomotive and the New Mexico sky.
A good place to get a photo of the entire consist.
IMG_9491.jpg IMG_9494.jpg
Time to say goodbye to Sunny New Mexico.

Crossing Colorado, there is a lot of rural area devoted to a few cattle per acre.  You can see from horizon to horizon and the clouds are beautiful, and become more than 50% of each photograph.

Heavy rain fall in some areas.

Maybe that rain cloud passed this way because of all the water still on the ground.

Creeks, usually dry, were running (right).

Returning to California

Going from La Plata, Missouri, to Fullerton, CA, on the Southwest Chief.

Boarding about 9:10 p.m., an hour after scheduled departure in La Plata, and since I had been treated to pizza by Grant, Shelly, and Tom Marshall, I skipped dinner on the train and began working on this report right away.  My car attendant was Jesse, a tall kid from Anaheim, CA.  I told him to make up the bed as late as he could, but as the evening progressed, and realizing I would be getting into Fullerton about 6:30 a.m. in two days, I decided to have him make up the bed about 9:30, and I enjoyed quite a good night's sleep.  It seemed to me that the tracks in Kansas were smoother.  Maybe they did track work during the summer, or maybe it was because I was on the lower level, but it seemed smoother.

The second day, I introduced myself to my neighbors in Rms. 13 and 14.  Daughter Janet K. Keeler, with husband Nobel Korell were taking Janet's folks on a Swan Song Trip to San Francisco on the train.  I enjoyed talking to 'Shorty' and Nellis Keeler.  Shorty was from New York and Nellis was from Los Angeles, CA, when they met in Missouri.  When I mentioned that I'd gotten on the train in La Plata, Shorty's eyes lit up and he said, "La Plata, Missouri!  I was a pipeline worker there for quite a few years."  (As it turned out it was at the current BP facility next to the Depot Inn!)  He and Nellis are 92 yrs. old and were headed west for Nellis' final trip west.  We joked until we cried.  He said he was glad he met me and I told him the same.  I gave them a discount card to stay at the Depot Inn, and I hope they can take advantage of it and see how La Plata has changed over the decades since he worked in town.

Nellis Keeler, 92,  in Amtrak Southwest Chief Rm. 13 headed for San Francisco
Husband, "Shorty" Keeler with her all the way.  What a fun fellow to talk with.  We were laughing so much, I had to take 4 photogaphs of him to get this one acceptable version.
Daughter, Janet, with her husband Noble, escorting her folks from the Midwest to San Francisco.

New Mexico, former store along our route.

"Lazy T Ranch" (maybe)
Rounding what the Conductor called, "The double-horseshoe," which I've always called the "S" curve.

In Albuquerque, Track 2 was being replaced, so we took track 3 and the Rail Runner backed in on track 1.
IMG_1232.jpg IMG_1235.jpg


New concrete ties and ballast have been installed, and they were working on tamping the ballast.  As you can see below,  concrete ties have replaced the need for spikes with clips.

At Gallup, NM, it was near sunset, but the Indian Jewelry stores along Historic Route 66 were still visible.

IMG_1244.jpg IMG_1245.jpg

With sunset taking place about the Arizona/New Mexico Border, I worked in my room on this report, had dinner of salmon, rice, and vegetables about 9, and a very good night's rest.  I awoke the next morning at the conductor's announcement, "Fullerton, 40 minutes."  That would make it on time at 6:34 a.m.  So I detrained for a nice breakfast quesadilla at the Santa Fe Cafe, worked more on my report in the Cafe, and finally called Sue to come get me after she had a little more time to sleep.

A Great Trip on the Southwest Chief from Fullerton, California, round trip, to La Plata, Missouri, and 4 great, restful nights at the

Depot Inn & Suites.

Next Page:  Schedule of Events of the Air Festival in La Plata, Missouri

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