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Amtrak 40th Anniversary Train by Bob Cox

A Weekend Working on the Amtrak 40th Anniversary Train

Galesburg, Illinois

September 24 - 25, 2011

Photos and Text by Bob Cox

Station phone rings….“La Plata Amtrak, this is Bob, may I help you?” Hey Bob, this is Brian (Brian is my area station manager). “Hello Brian, how are you today?” Doing good! I thought I would see if you are free on the weekend of September 24th and 25th to come and work in Galesburg on the 40th Anniversary Train? ………..Well, you all know the answer already; I hope you enjoy the story…

As many of you know, Amtrak started celebrating its 40th Anniversary this past year. It has been a rough year for Amtrak and all modes of transportation with the flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, and etc that have attacked from all sides. Never the less, Amtrak has boasted record breaking ridership and continues to enjoy its birthday. They first painted some units in Heritage paint featuring the main paint jobs of the last four decades.

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

40th Anniversary Unit#184 in Phase IV paint lends some muscle at the Southwest Chief leaves LaPlata, MO on its Way to Chicago.

40th Anniversary Unit#156 in Phase 1 paint leads #4 into LaPlata,MO on this beautiful summer day.

40th Anniversary Unit #66 in Phase 2 paint leads  #4 into LaPlata,MO on another fine day.

A view from above as #4 depart LaPlata and rolls pass the Railfan Lookout. Notice the big hand in the window waving at us. It is their automatic waver.

40th Anniversary unit #145 made only one appearance in LaPlata on this rainy early spring day.

This is #156’s first visit to LaPlata on the point of #4. It even brought a nice PVT car.

While these engines were out on the system, Amtrak was building it 40th anniversary exhibit train. It started touring the Eastern United States on National Train Day which is held in May of each year. September 24th and 25th would be as close as it would get to my hometown this year, so the thoughts were there about going up to see it. Well, on Friday, September 16, my boss from Amtrak called and asked if I would like to volunteer to work the Exhibit train while it is in Galesburg. I checked my schedule for any conflicts of other events and found it was clear, so I called him back and then said yes. I ordered my tickets for my travels to Galesburg via the Southwest Chief the next day.

Boy, it sure was nice to get to go for a ride on the train. I work the La Plata depot everyday as a caretaker, so I just get to see it come and go. It is nice working there, but when that traveling feeling hits and you just need to get your “train fix” it really doesn’t help.

The train arrived on time for my trip.  My favorite crew was on board with Michael as our conductor.  The car attendant, Sarah, was very nice and told me about the train layout and if I needed any help where she would be. Since it was such a short trip, coach was the fare today. As usual everything was nice and roomy. My seatmate, Connie, was enjoying some music on her I-phone and we chatted off and on throughout the trip; she was going to Naperville.  Before I knew it we were flying through Baring with the trees starting to show their fall turn. Beautiful fields of wildflowers and farms are racing by now as we continue to make quick work of our trip to our next stop, Ft. Madison. While I have a minute, let me remind everyone of something, the Southwest Chief schedule makes for a great opportunity to make day trips out of La Plata for a reasonable cost and it gives you plenty of time to enjoy the afternoons in Ft. Madison or Galesburg. If you are staying at the Depot Inn and Suites, the hotel staff will take you to the station the morning of your departure, so you may leave your car at the Hotel. Amtrak will do the duty to get you to Ft. Madison (1hour ride) or Galesburg (2 hour ride) and from there the hotels are quite close. Ft. Madison has the Kingsley Inn which is a historic hotel located near the tracks and Galesburg has a host of hotels and Bed and Breakfasts. You may do some Google searches on these two destinations or pick up some literature at the Silver Rails Country Tourist Information Center located in the lobby of the Depot Inn & Suites.

As is a tradition with me, I must go spend some time in the lounge car. It was packed but there was one seat left open for me.

The ever popular Lounge Car. A commons area where people can play games, enjoy a drink, or just enjoy the scenery. I was happy to find a seat.

I took my place and enjoyed a cold Pepsi while watching the trees and scenery fly by in a blur. How fast are we going?

Moving right along between LaPlata and Ft.Madison

It’s fun to make a game out of catching things through your window. I was lucky and caught a combine out in its field and then the Des Moines River,  I knew that was coming though. 

A combine taking a break out in its field of corn.

  view of the Des Moines River near Argyle Iowa

I love bridges with no side railing. Makes for a good view.

PHOTO TIP: If you want to get a photo out of the windows on the train, be sure and put your lens as close as you can to the window to prevent glare and reflections from showing up in your photo. There are a lot of beautiful things to see from a train that you will never see from a car. This holds true even in Rural Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.

As I made my way back to my seat, I see people watching movies, playing games, catching a few Z’s, and visiting. One couple that got on in La Plata was all cuddled up together as they were enjoying their time alone; Grandma is watching their little boy. It’s quite a peaceful world on the train. I took notice of a large tour group scattered about the train. They were easy to spot as they all had special pins and buttons displayed on their shirts. I asked a couple beside me what the group was and they said they were part of the friends of the Chicago and Alton Depot out of Independence , Missouri. They are on a convention trip out of KC heading to New Orleans in support of the historical depot. This depot is open for tours and you may find out more information about it at . We all should be thankful to groups like this who help save our treasures from the wrecking ball. There are a lot of non-profit groups out there that do this very thing daily. Join one and get in the action and fun of preserving our history. If we do not do this, no one else will. I, myself, am president of the American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation Our group is striving to preserve the rich passenger heritage this country has, including Amtrak.

We arrived at Ft. Madison on time and there was all kinds of railroads represented: NS, UP, CSX and of course BNSF and a Loram, Maintenance Of Way train.

A CSX SD80MAC staring me down while we do out station work in Ft. Madison.

This would be a good day to railfan the area.  This river was full of boats, which we found out were waiting on us to clear. Thanks for waiting boats!! I spotted a coal train coming in on the old BN line across the river.

A coal train northbound on the old Burlington line on the Iowa side of the Mississippi River. My train is on the bridge crossing the river heading toward Illinois.

Well we are in Illinois and I heard that unmistakable sound of the Emergency Brake being plugged. We didn’t see any cars or body parts fly by, so I guess we will wait and see what is going on. Now the power went off in the cars, with the air circulation fans not on, it is noisy in here; the silence is deafening you could say. Well, nothing too bad happened; some debris was kicked up off the tracks and got an air hose. The conductor went and fixed it and we were soon on our way. The on board crew did a nice job of fixing the train quickly and keeping us updated.  Thankful this was only an air hose and not the many other things that could have happened. Next stop, Galesburg, Illinois.

I stepped off the train in Galesburg to a wonderful sight.

40th Anniversary lead unit with train at Galesburg, Illinois

The 40th anniversary train was parked right next to the platform. Upon my arrival, I went and checked in and stowed my gear at the ticket counter and took my place at the entrance door, greeting guests and helping them get on the train.  I finally got to meet Christy and Shannon who are the two agents I talk to a lot during my duties at the Amtrak station in La Plata. There was a break area in the last car, which was an ex-Union Pacific heritage sleeper.

After I got done working the train, I went to my hotel and checked in; then, went to get some dinner. I found this nice place that was trackside called Hammers General Feed Store. The Food was good and the staff was friendly. is the website. After eating, it was time for a little railfanning and a walk back to the hotel for a relaxing night, channel surfing, and organizing photos.

This is some of the decorations in the hammers restaurant. It has a neat atmosphere.

Got done eating just in time to walk over to catch this NS and BN powered train. The restaurant is in the strip mall to the right of the engine.

No shortage of grade crossings here. I can see ten of them from where I am standing.

There is always some neat looking old buildings near the tracks in any town.

This would be a great photo backdrop.

The Transcon part of the BNSF route passed by the restaurant, which is quite a few blocks from the station and its tracks.

I woke up the next morning excited to get back to the train. It was raining so that kind of dampened the spirits a little, but when the train opened at 10:00am the rain stopped and the sun came out.  The train itself is made up of a P40 ,#822, and F40 Amfleet car (serving as a souvenir car), 3 ex-Santa Fe Baggage cars (which are older than the celebrated year of this train), and a crew car, Pacific Bend.

The 40th anniversary logo is just classy looking.

This is Pacific Bend which is an Ex-UP sleeper. It served as the crew and lunch car.

One of the three Ex- Santa Fe baggage cars setup to be display cars

The Amfleet souvenir car.

If you do not know what this is you do not follow Amtrak very well.

Yep you can still see where the letters used to be.

I turned up the Contrast a bit. Santa Fe “All the way”

A full view of the train.

All kids young and old had fun riding the trackless train around the station. The California Zephyr is at the platform.

A couple of boys enjoying the Chugginton depot play area.  If you have not seen it. Chugginton is a really good show on the Disney Channel

A couple of visitors checking out the Railroad Hall of Fame display.

The best booth to have at any railroad event is this one. Operation Lifesaver this was taken right before the event started after that this lady was quite busy talking to people about railroad crossing safety. Special thanks to all those that volunteer and promote Operation Lifesaver.

The rest of the day was great! Before the train opened, I took a personal tour by myself to get some photos of the displays. There is MUCH more to see than what is in these photos; this is an appetizer if you will. The displays were set up nicely and detailed well. They were also interactive and some had videos playing to show how it worked.

This is the first person you see when you start the exhibit. She is quite striking. A lot of people would walk in and say hi and realize she was not real and then start laughing. For a while we had an actual greeter that stood to the other side of the car opposite this girl. Doing that startled to many folks so we greeted from the vestibule.

A view showing an attendant with some folks sitting down at the dinner table.  To my right was one of those super cool model displays Walthers sponsored.

Some more uniforms and other memorabilia. Check out that seat upholstery in the lower right. Very bright.

Everyone loved this display. You could push the button to hear the different horns and no the real horns did not blow. It was sounds played over a speaker. I Love the five chime they use on the P40’s and 42’s.

More of the horn display. There is the best one the K5LA

A dwarf switchstand.

A control stand out of the engine in the photo behind it.

The end of the train. Nice looking drumhead. The folks operating the train always took it in at night to be sure no one “borrowed” it.

After my personal tour, I went to find out what I was to do today. My assigned duties: greeter and pamphlet distributor at the entrance door. I worked with a conductor who had only been on the road for 20 days, her name was Kim Beswick and she was quite excited to get to work the 40th Anniversary train. Kim was a greeter just inside the entrance of the train and we switched off duties during the day and had a good time visiting and taking photos as time permitted.

One of the Quincy trains making its stop in Galesburg.

A BNSF fake bonnet rolls by. Still a good looking paint job.

These days I watch the freight cars to catch some fallen flag railroad logos or lettering. This Milwaukee car is a fine example. This is my view from my work station for the day. It’s a hard job but someone had to do it.

Here is Kim on her first day of work after training. Congratulations on your new job.

Here comes another train with some nice looking NS power.

Big Boy toys.

The Southwest Chief #4 makes its noon time appearance. I like this scene with the vintage car to the side of the photo.

We had a break and Kim took this shot of me. Doing the classic pose out the dutch door.

Here is a view down the side of the car. No luck on a train coming in but it does let the imagination run wild.

  Kim will be working the Quincy train during her regular duties I discovered through our conversations. Lunch time came and we were all rotated out to go in the crew car. During lunch I got to visit with Marc Magliari, Anne McGinnis, and others. We all had fun sharing a few jokes and stories. Everyone was in a good mood and having a good time on the 40th anniversary train.  I would personally like to thank Amtrak and Steve Ostrowski for a job well done.

After a long day working and helping get the Anniversary train ready for departure to Chicago, I went for a walk and did a little railfaning. The California Zephyr provided some nice photos, as did a rebuilt SD40-2 (It was as pretty as the girl operating it.).

I always like to see the lettering on the buildings like this.

Here come the California Zephyr right on time.

A rebuilt SD40-2 now an SD39. Had a pretty operator too.

This engine is also remote control equipped.

I also took some time to look at the displays at the Galesburg Railroad Museum. 

Nice looking Burlington boxcar sits near the depot. It is part of the museum collection.

This is a good event to go to. Neat billboard with the Zephyr.

This is painted on the side of the Discovery Depot Childrens Museum. It is beautiful.

Some of the equipment at the railroad museum.

A nice looking Hudson  steam engine leads the train.

A BN caboose at the Discovery Depot.

After that, I walked across the street to the Packing House Dining Company ( ) and got a Bacon Cheese Burger to go. I then went back over to the depot, enjoyed my meal and visited with Brian Perkins and some other folks while I waited on #3 to make its appearance. I boarded the train in the Crew car and enjoyed a peaceful ride home.  When crossing the river into Ft. Madison , I had this wonderful view of the sunset from my window.

Lovely view from the Mississippi River Bridge at Ft.

Sunset at the boat dock.

The last view of a great weekend with Amtrak and the 40th Anniversary Train.

We arrived into La Plata on time, ending a great weekend, with some good people and a very neat train.  Next Time, Try The Train!

 For a slide show of all photos in this report, in large format, CLICK HERE.


Friends of the Chicago and Alton Depot | Hammers General Feed Store | Packing House Dining Company | American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation |

Other Reports by Bob Cox

Columbia Star Dinner Train | Southwest Chief - Mussouri to California

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