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La Plata, MO Silver Rails Event & AMTRAK Museum

La Plata, MO Silver Rails Event & AMTRAK Museum

Pennsylvania to La Plata, MO return via Washington, DC

Travelogue by Dutch Myers

Part 1


This travelogue includes a train trip from Lancaster, PA through Pittsburgh and Chicago to La Plata, MO with a return via Washington, DC.  The purpose was to attend the grand opening of the Amtrak Museum and Silver Rails Event Center in La Plata, Missouri on February 23, 2008.  Extra information on train route towns can be found in parts of my two previous travelogues if interested.

Members of the California based Train Travel Meetup Group,, Media, Amtrak and other officials gathered from many locations for this La Plata occasion.  There is no argument that the Depot Inn & Suites is the place to stay in La Plata.  It proved to be as outstanding as last year when I attended Chris Guenzler's Million-Mile Man celebration.  The Depot Inn and Suites is owned by Tom and Kelly Marshall and managed by Maria Snodgrass.  The nearby Red Rooster Restaurant compliments as another top-notch establishment.  Additionally, be sure to check out the photos of another local eatery, called Grandma's Home Cookin'.



Snow, sleet, rain, wind and ice dogged the trains in both directions.  Which proves that traveling in a cozy train, beats bouncy turbulence in a plane or sliding around the highways in an automobile.  However, the nasty weather during train travel produced train window photos of low light and lackluster color.  Apologies for those that look like poor imitations of Ansel Adams black & whites.  Warm sunshine did return to La Plata though, for a perfect event day and beautiful weekend. 

The tickets for the trip were purchased at the AMTRAK station in Lancaster, PA.  I was able to convince my wife to accompany me, as the price is the same for one or two people in a hotel and AMTRAK roomette.  The only extra cost is the fare of a coach seat and food.  In these cases, two can travel nearly as cheaply as one.  That's something to keep in mind for those planning to travel alone.

The Lancaster station is one of those pleasantly classic, old railroad buildings.  It was the third busiest Amtrak station in Pennsylvania for 2007.  Capitol Trailways and Red Rose buses stop in front.  The AMTRAK ticket personnel have always been most helpful and knowledgeable at this location.  In the Lancaster station photos below, notice the two plaques concerning the National Railway Historical Society.

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






The Pennsylvanian had maintained its schedule all the way from NYC, through Philadelphia, and was still on time when it arrived in Lancaster on Wednesday, February 20, 2008.  I was happy to see Conductor Gail boarding in Harrisburg for a change of crew.  She had been the conductor on my trip last year.  This was a repeat of good adherence to the schedule, and a smooth ride across Pennsylvania.  The first stop after Harrisburg is Lewistown, the section that is reportedly one of the earliest railroads in America in 1829.  Lewistown can also boast of Elizabeth Cogley as the first recorded female railroad telegrapher in 1855.  We continued through Huntingdon, Tyrone, around the Altoona Horseshoe Curve, Johnstown, Latrobe, Greensburg and into Pittsburgh, some six hours after leaving Lancaster.  Hats off to the crew of AMTRAK's Pennsylvanian for another good run.









We arrived in Pittsburgh Station on time at 8:05 PM, to await the arrival of the Capitol Limited (CAP) to take us to Chicago.  There is about a four-hour layover here before the CAP pulls out at 11:55 PM.  We took the opportunity to head out for one of those famous sandwiches at a Primanti's Restaurant.  However, you know what happens when you brag about a place.  I had told my wife the sandwiches were so large that we could each share a half.  Last year, I went to the one about four blocks from AMTRAK station at 2 Market Square.  Now that was a sandwich, loaded with meat plus French fries and cole slaw.  See my travelogue from last year for a photo of it.  This time, as we exited the station into low temperatures, we grabbed a taxi to take us to Primanti's. 


We didn't realize there was another location nearby, until the driver was dropping us off at the original Primanti's in the Strip District.   We ordered a cheese steak sandwich that turned out to be cheeseburger, and all portions in it were stingy.  We were both disappointed, but it was getting late, so we each had half and returned to the station.  Once at Amtrak Station, I talked to the woman behind the counter about ticket prices on various trains.  She was very knowledgeable and helpful.  I wish I had gotten her name, because Amtrak can be proud of her.  We met many people waiting for the same train to Chicago where they would go on to Utah, Minnesota, Denver, California, New Mexico and other destinations.

The Capitol Limited arrived right on time.  Since my wife and I each had a suitcase and a bag, we took the elevator upstairs to the station platforms.  Once aboard, our sleeping car attendant showed us to our room in the lower section of the sleeper.  He had the beds made up already and we were tired, so we hit the hay.  My wife decided to try the upper berth but wished she hadn't as she is a bit claustrophobic.  I took the upper birth on the return trip home.  However, the bunks were comfortable and we slept fairly well and were up the next morning for an early breakfast.  Joyce ordered the Belgian waffle and I ordered hot cakes.  No complaints.  Then we strolled to the observation car to have a look at the winter wonderland unfolding outside the train, with a quick peek at the snack café downstairs. 


We did a double take at one town's water tower, as we knew we hadn't gotten to La Plata yet -- it was La Porte, Indiana. 


In checking on the Internet, I found an interesting story.  Way back when French fur trappers passed through here, they took a wide Indian path through the forest to the prairies beyond.  They called it La Porte, meaning door, because it was a door through the forest from one prairie to the next.

Since we boarded the train very late at night and arrived into Chicago on time at 8:40 AM, there wasn't much opportunity for picture taking on the westbound CAP.  We had met a good number of people thus far, but allow me to mention a special one.  He boarded the train in Pittsburgh and was on his way west (San Diego I think), to attend a WWII veteran's association meeting.  He is 88-year-old Leon Carter of Philadelphia, PA. 


One would never guess his age, as he acts and talks like a man half of that.  He was in the roomette directly across from us and we had several friendly and interesting conversations.  He is part of that generation to whom we owe a debt of gratitude, for bringing our country through the Depression and World War II.

Crossing over the large highway marked Routes 90 & 94 West, it was time to get the bags together for Chicago Station.  



A historical plaque states that Union Station was built in 1925.


Look closely at the photo of station steps to notice the unevenly worn edges near the railings.  Long gone are millions of travelers, yet the impressions of their weary feet have remained. 


Outside of the station, we caught the bus to the Navy Pier.  During the bus ride,



we passed Trump Tower being built



and a building where the cars are backed into multi-level parking (don't back up too fast). 


We walked the length of the Navy Pier and marveled at the variety of shops and eateries. 



Arriving back at Union Station, we grabbed a quick sandwich before heading out on the 3:15 PM Southwest Chief.  On the way to La Plata, MO, we passed Mendota, IL and the Coffee Cup restaurant at Princeton, IL



plus plenty of snow on the prairies, as our train was overtaken by nightfall.

La Plata, MO Silver Rails Event & AMTRAK Museum

Pennsylvania to La Plata, MO return via Washington, DC
Travelogue by Dutch Myers

Links to other Parts of this Report:

[ Part 1 | Extra Photos Part 1 | Part 2 | Extra Photos Part 2 | Part 3 | Extra Photos Part 3 ]

[ Ben Myers' Travelogues | | Other Rail Travelogues ]