Travelogue by Dutch Myers
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. http://www.trainweb.com/travelogues/dutchmyers/.
Members of the California based Train Travel Meetup Group, TrainWeb.com, 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'.
IN LA PLATA FOR 02/23/08 EVENTS
Half an hour from La Plata, the Southwest
power and came to a stop. I called
the Depot Inn on my cell phone to let them know the train's
ordinary ETA of
8:06 PM would be delayed. Luckily,
about twenty minutes later the trouble was fixed and we were again on
way. While waiting in the train
vestibule to arrive in La Plata, my wife and I met Carl
Morrison's friend Bob
Williams from Illinois and the PR man for the La Plata Rail Resort. This SW Chief crew dropped us at the
far end of the station platform, where we had to pull our suitcases
about four inches of snow to get to the shoveled section in front. Kelly Marshall of the Depot Inn stepped
forward to help, and I saw Carl's smiling face there to pick up
friend. Within minutes, Kelly had
us at the Depot Inn & Suites.
It hadn't changed a bit since last year, still clean,
My wife was most impressed with the room's two huge queen beds and rocking chair for real comfort. (See my previous La Plata travelogue for room photos).
The next morning was Friday, February 22, 2008. I had arranged a car rental from Enterprise in Kirksville, MO. An employee came to the Depot Inn to transport us back to Kirksville for signing papers and obtaining the automobile. They no longer delivered the car to La Plata; however, the rental price was very reasonable and well worth the fifteen-minute drive. Additionally, it offered an opportunity to look around Kirksville. It is a good-sized community of some 20,000 people, with many restaurants, stores, a state university and osteopathic college. Although we would have liked to return and see more of Kirksville, La Plata kept us so busy the rest of our stay that we never did find our way back. Enterprise picked up our car at the Depot Inn Monday morning. We were very pleased with the car, price and service from Enterprise and highly recommend them.
Upon returning to La Plata from
stopped at the Red Rooster Restaurant for breakfast.
In addition to the good food, my wife admired their stained
glass lighting and rooster collection.
then had to hurry, as it was almost time for the westbound 9:57 AM
Chief. A group from Train Travel
Meetup would be arriving from California and I wanted to take photos. At La Plata station,
we found that the train was running about twenty minutes late, so I took my wife for a quick tour around the area including the Train Party building.
the Southwest Chief came roaring past the station on the outside track.
was astonished to see passengers discharged well
past the station on the outside track, where they had to climb down
rocks along the right of way and between tracks.
exactly the height of safety. I
noticed it was the same crew as our trip west the night before. My attention was on the arriving passengers,
but apparently those waiting to board had to walk out to the second
well. Harold from the Depot
Inn was there with the 24-passenger bus.
He drove as close as possible to where the passengers had been
the SW Chief. I was surprised that
Chris Guenzler was not on the Chief as planned, but it was learned
he was arriving by airplane.
However, it was good to see Tony, Anton and Jonathan plus
I did not recognize, such as Bob and Joyce.
I told them to get ready for some confusion, as my wife's name is Joyce also.
During the weekend, the Depot Inn was the
Parker showed up and I met Jess
and his family, Carole Walker and others.
I was able to grab a photo Sunday morning of the big four
Train Party and the Meetup, Shavam, Ray, Barbara, and Steve.
They are an energetic group who deserve much credit.
On Friday and Saturday, I gave my wife a
of the station area,
town of La Plata
lunch on Friday, I was driving up to the front of the Inn
off Joyce, as she wanted to relax and grab a nap in that big
Inn bed. I spotted Tony, Anton and
Jonathan standing in the driveway and asked if they wanted to drive to
lookout with me. I think they had
just returned from a trip to Amish country, but I didn't have to
ask twice. Tony jumped in the passenger
vacated with the other two in the back.
The snow was fairly deep up at the Lookout not a problem. We watched for trains, enjoyed the view
and snapped a few photos before heading back.
Saturday morning, Joyce and I decided to
go into La
Plata and try the local restaurant called Grandma's Home
Cookin'. It was a good breakfast,
talking to the owner and customers, we discovered that La Plata people
friendly and likable.
Unfortunately, Grandma's is not open on Sundays, thus
this was our only
by N. Brown Street on the
bridge over the tracks, I could see a group of Meetup members at the
watching the departing eastbound Southwest Chief.
drove over and found new people had arrived to take a few
Looking in the other direction, I could see approaching the bridge, that orange, 1941 Chevy pickup from the Depot Inn.
Sure enough, it was headed to the lookout, and Carl Morrison arrived within minutes.
had accumulated quite a group as you can see in the photo that Joyce
With event time approaching, we headed to
Inn to prepare for the day's activities, starting with the
ribbon cutting for
the Amtrak Museum display at 1:30 PM.
Attendees gathered in the Depot Inn lobby before venturing out
two former Amtrak U.S. Mail Freight Cars housing the museum.
one seemed to mind the snow on the ground as we
congregated for the speeches and presentations. The
ribbon cutting honors went to Chris Guenzler and
Amtrak's Anne McGinnis. It was a
beautiful day with plenty of warm sunshine arriving for the festivities. Previous days had been wintry and
blustery. The same thing happened
last year for Chris Guenzler's Million-Rail-Mile Man celebration. Days of miserable rain had been
replaced with sunshine for the special weekend. Tom
and Kelly Marshall must have a connection
somewhere. The following photos of
the gathering and Amtrak museum speak for themselves.
From what I understand, Steve Grande's sister Shelli had spent the whole previous week in the Amtrak mail cars before they were heated, preparing the artifacts. As we discovered later, Shelli and others involved, performed an outstanding feat. A large amount of memorabilia covering all the years of Amtrak had been sorted and displayed. It included everything from the Amtrak Historical Society and TrainWeb.com. The photos can't do justice to such a professionally done exhibit.
toward the Inn, I spotted a distant Carl Morrison taking extra photos
Amtrak mail cars.
Jonathan, Chris Parker and Anton
walked up for a pose.
Ah, but the day was just beginning. Next on the agenda at 3:30 PM, was the
grand opening of the Silver Rails Event Center in La Plata.
audience continued to swell outside the Event Center,
along with TV and newspaper media.
building is a converted vehicle garage and, once again, much
went into preparing it for the big day.
Well done to all involved!
Tom, Kelly, Mayor Herron and others made appropriate remarks and
Steve and Barbara cut the ribbon.
of people crowded through the doors for an inside
look at the new railroad themed Center.
It is not an understatement to say that all were impressed.
The Center, one of the steps of the Silver Rails Resort project, will facilitate weddings, conferences and other events. The Center held a party atmosphere Gala that night from 6 PM to midnight. Although I did not attend, I understand that well over 500 people in suits and elegant dresses had a very successful evening.
Chris Guenzler was in and out of La Plata quickly due to his work schedule. Luckily, we did get about a half hour to talk before he left on Saturday night's Southwest Chief. Not having gone to the Gala, I found him working on his travelogue in the Depot Inn's meeting room. I didn't want to disturb him and turned to leave. He told me to stay and talk while he worked. He went right along typing on his computer while having a conversation with me. Talk about multi-tasking! I don't know how he does it. Listen, when people call him the "Amazing" Chris Guenzler, it fits, he is indeed amazing.
Sunday arrived and I found Anton, Chris
Carole preparing to leave the Depot Inn.
They were driving to the airport to fly back to California.
Tony was to leave on Sunday night's Chief. That allowed Joyce and I to spend much of the day with him and we certainly enjoyed his company. Tony is one of those likable people for whom you feel an immediate friendship. After breakfast, Tony directed while I drove the three of us to a railroad crossing down the road from the Depot Inn.
He said Meetup member Larry Boerio had found the location last year. Next to the crossing was a place called Santa Fe Lake where people swim and boat in the summer.
had heard that steam engines used to get water there long ago. We waited quite a while for a
train. Finally, not able to wait
any longer, Tony was out of the car and willing a train to come.
have worked, because along came a Union
Intermodal container train.
later, we ended up back at the Lookout.
Then it was off to the Depot Inn so that Tony could get his bags packed for the train home.
As a side note, we had a lull during the
some fatigue hit us. Tony went to
his room and we went to ours for a rest.
After a while, I couldn't sit around and decided to go up
to the Event
Center to check out a show that was taking place and maybe snap some
photos along the way. I went
across the hall and listened outside Tony's room but all was
quiet, and I
didn't want to disturb him if he was napping.
Therefore, I jumped into the car and started for the Event
Center. I stopped along the road
to get a photo of the Lookout from a different angle.
Driving on Brown Street, I was just wondering who was standing on the bridge taking photos of trains when - yep - it was Tony! I stopped and picked him up. He said he couldn't sit around either and asked Harold to drop him off at the station on Owensby Street, then walked from there to the bridge. We went to the Event Center show and found it full of people who work weddings such as photographers, wedding dressmakers, jewelers, caterers, etc. The thing that amazed me was, after that late night Gala last night; some group had worked through the wee hours, to re-arrange all those tables and chairs for the show. Tom, Kelly and Maria must hire magic elves that work endlessly.
Tony and I made another stop at the
then continued to the Depot Inn for Joyce to go to the Red Rooster for
of the bridal show, the Red Rooster was slammed with
two large and unexpected groups of people. Although
the staff worked tirelessly, mealtime was delayed,
and we were running late for Tony's train. Fortunately,
he had decided to put his bags in our car and
we were down to the station with time to spare. In
fact, the SW Chief was a little late. While
waiting, a freight train came out
of the dark so fast; I was amazed that I was able to turn and grab a
its BNSF locomotive.
Southwest Chief arrived next,
was time to bid
Tony, Carl, Jess and others boarded the westbound passenger train.