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Part 2 La Plata, MO, Million Mile Man Celebration

La Plata, MO, Million Mile Man Celebration -- Part 2

By Dutch Myers

    Due to a large number of photos, the travelogue is in three parts for faster uploading. 

    PART 1 takes us from Harrisburg, PA, through Pittsburgh and Chicago, to La Plata, MO.

    PART 2 shares the celebration story of one million passenger rail miles attained by

              Chris Guenzler at the Depot Inn, La Plata, MO.

    PART 3 completes the trip from La Plata to Harrisburg via a partially different route.


     The background of this trip started on the west coast.  Although people would be coming from all directions, most were traveling from California.  Chris Guenzler is an active member of the Train Travel Meetup Group in Fullerton.  It is comprised of people interested in train travel.  Many members have connections to, which I understand is the largest railroad site in the world.  As you know, the travelogue you are reading is on  I had joined the Fullerton TT Meetup group in 2005, when traveling from Harrisburg to California and return by Amtrak.  If interested, you can find that travelogue on at  During the 2005 trip, I met members of the group at a monthly meeting in Fullerton.  I was so impressed by these people, that I wanted to get to know them better.  The La Plata weekend promised to be the perfect opportunity as we celebrated Chris's milestone. 

    At the end of the trip, I reflected that my initial insights had been correct.  Every member of this group was of genuine quality.  If you live in Southern California, the Fullerton Meetup group is highly recommended. Here is a link

   The westbound Southwest Chief arrived right on schedule in La Plata, Missouri, at 8:06 PM on April 26, 2007.  I had traveled by train from Harrisburg, PA, through Pittsburgh and Chicago to board the Chief (see Part I).  La Plata would host the festivities planned to celebrate Chris Guenzler's achievement of one million miles of passenger rail travel. 

(Click any picture in this report for a double-sized image, Click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)


    The owners of La Plata's Depot Inn are Tom and Kelly Marshall.  Tom's dad drove the hotel van to meet the SW Chief, providing a ride the short distance back.  Many apologies for the failure to get his name.   However, what a great first impression he gives the Depot Inn with his friendly conversation (Above).  He handed me a discount card with the advice, if I hurried, I could just make it to the Red Rooster restaurant before they closed.  After registering and dropping my luggage in my room,  I took a brisk walk across the parking lot to the Red Rooster (Below).  Although there is a bank between the two, the Red Rooster and the Depot Inn compliment each other well, since both proved to be top notch establishments.  The food was delicious and the waitresses professional. It was now time to head back to the Depot Inn to get a better look at my room (Below).

Red Rooster Restaurant
Red Rooster Restaurant
Depot Inn




    It was very clean, yet homey with a large comfortable bed.  Anyone not liking this room would have to be daft.  It had a large screen TV and a roomy shower with plenty of hot water.  Now take note that this was only a regular room and not one of the suites.  Allow me to take space here and tell you about the Depot Inn. 

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    This ground level hotel (I'm not even going to say motel, because it is so much more), was most impressive (Above).  There is a playground in the back and picturesque grounds surrounding.  I highly recommend it to anyone visiting La Plata, MO.  If you are anywhere near La Plata, go out of your way to stay here -- you will not regret it.  A hard-working staff is supervised by Manager Maria Snodgrass, and what an efficient job they do.  Everything was spotlessly clean, inside the hotel and out.  It is themed after an 1800s Railroad Depot with railroad antiques and related items abounding.  They even have an old handcar on a track out front.  There are four themed luxury suites --   Pullman with mahogany sleigh bed, Victorian with canopy bed, Western with huge leather covered sleigh bed and the Sportsman's theme.  The rooms include many amenities such as wireless Internet, hair dryer, refrigerator, 27" TV, desk, comfortable rocker recliner, and more.  There is a heated indoor pool (Below, Left) and a lobby filled with railroad objects and books (Below, right). 



    Even the hallways are loaded with railroad memorabilia (Above).  I cannot say enough good things about the Depot Inn and the folks who make it work.  Next to the Depot Inn is a storage facility for  I'm not sure how, but Train Party has connections to  Newly headquartered in La Plata, they provide party supplies with a train theme for customers.  Here is a link if you are interested -  I took a photo of the building (Below) next to the Depot Inn, and did you notice the bird's nest in the letter R (Below)?  Yes, apparently they are friendly to feathered friends too.



     Up early next morning, I headed over to the Red Rooster Restaurant for breakfast (Above).  Friendly service and delicious food, what more could one ask?  Then it was back to catch the Depot Inn's new 24-passenger bus, heading down to meet the 9:57 AM eastbound Southwest Chief containing Chris Guenzler and his "entourage".


     Expecting a handful of people, it was amazing to find a large crowd (Above), which continued to grow right up to the train's arrival.  In addition, present were two attractive television newswomen complete with TV cameras (Below), a local TV reporter and radio man, government and Amtrak officials, and well-wishers of all kinds along with the arrival of the high school band.   


    This was turning into quite the event.  Although La Plata was the main celebration, Chris had already had a nice send off in Fullerton.  Another celebration ensued on board the SW Chief, as it crossed the Missouri River Bridge east of Sibley where Chris Guenzler officially reached his one millionth mile at MP 425.5 of the BNSF Marceline Subdivision.

     As we waited for the arrival of the SW Chief, BNSF locomotive 7611 pulled a Trailvan freight past the station (Above).  Not far behind it though, we could hear the SWC blowing its horn on approach to La Plata.  Then suddenly it came into view (Below) in its silver, red and blue glory. 


    You have heard it said that a buzz of excitement can travel through a crowd, and at that point, it was happening here in La Plata.  On Friday, April 27, 2007, the engine of the Southwest Chief pulled the huge gleaming passenger and sleeping cars right up to the front of the La Plata station.  Everyone expected Chris to be the first one off, but he was on the following car.  Other train travel members hopped off (Below) along with a special filming crew. 


    Then the train edged forward to bring up the next car.  The door opened and the step was put in place on the platform.  Chris Guenzler strode off the Southwest Chief into a din of cheers, backed up by La Plata's high school percussion band (Below)! 


    Chris must have felt as if he was walking on air, as he had just achieved the status of "rail rock star"!  And just like Mick Jagger (OK, I'm an old geezer), he worked the crowd into frenzy as he raised his arms in a victory sign to display his new million-mile man shirt front and back (Below). 


    He then picked up his bag and began to walk; only to stop and take a photo of a scene he could barely believe (Below).   


    The media and filming crew captured the exciting event (Below). 

    Chris was met by hugs (Above), and then stood alongside Richard Hamilton (Let's Talk Trains) to view in awe, what was taking place (Below).   

    After being greeted by officials, friends and well-wishers (Below, Left), Chris was ushered into the Depot Inn passenger bus (Below, Right) for a breather and transport to Lookout Point. 



     The heavens were smiling sunshine, whereas previous days had been nothing but torrential rains.  Despite the tumultuous welcoming, the surprises were not yet over for Chris.  A caravan of autos, golf carts and TV vans followed the bus to the lookout.  The lookout has been a favorite spot for train watchers to snatch photos of passing freight and passenger units.  The Train Party Warehouse (Above, Left) and La Plata station (Above, Right) can be seen from this overlook, which sits across the tracks from a former Wabash bridge (Below, Left).  Thanks to the efforts of many good people, a gazebo had recently been built on the location.  A beautiful place to relax and have shelter from rain and sun. 


     Once guests had gathered in front of the gazebo and the TV cameras set up (Above, Right), the ceremonies began.  First on the agenda was Chris's big surprise, the naming of the lookout point in his honor.  He was placed in front of the gazebo so that he could see the unveiling of the sign.  You will notice in the following series of photos, Chris watched as a line was pulled, causing a cloth to fall away and slowly reveal the message beneath   Welcome to the Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout Point (Below).   

 Clearly moved (Below, Left) and true to his personality, Chris had to take a photo himself (Below, Right).

     Many speeches and awards honored Mr. Guenzler.  Forgive me if all the names are not right, however there was Missouri Senator Bill Stouffer, Tom and Kelly Marshall and Maria Snodgrass of Depot Inn, Marc Magliara of Amtrak, Representative Tom Shively, La Plata City Planner Larry Herron, and fellow rider Andy Smith (Below).   


    Tom Marshall's brother Ken had written a special song with its title being something to the effect of  The Ballad of Chris Guenzler - Million Mile Man.  Played over the speaker system, the crowd marveled in how very professional it was.  Ken has a real talent.

     After the speeches had been made and the plaques awarded, it was time for the million-mile man himself to utter a few words.  Now stop and think, this person is not a famous politician or orator.  He is a man who achieved a dream of traveling one million miles on passenger trains.  Such people often have to fight shyness.  When facing a crowd and asked to make a speech, many people freeze up and can hardly put two words together.  But not Chris Guenzler!  He wowed the audience with humorous stories of his first train trip, articulated his recovery from alcoholism and expressed his heartfelt gratitude for the many honors bestowed upon him this day (Below).  He truly WAS -a rail rock star.



     It was still not yet time for relaxing though.  Chris was wired up by the media (Above) for TV, radio and newspaper interviews (Below), some of which we watched later on TV. 




     Then as media and officials said their goodbyes (Above, Left), Chris was finally able to sit down for a well-earned rest (Above, Right).  But wait!  Where was Chris being shuffled to next?   Everyone headed for the rear of the Depot Inn where a picnic Bar-B-Q was in full swing (Below). 


    I'm sure Chris heaved a sigh of relief as this was a time for fun, food and friends.  There was a cake in his honor (Above, Left) and Tom Marshall's dad was running train rides for the kids, both young and old (Above, Right).  

    Chris presented a T-shirt to several others and me (Below).

--Photo by Carl Morrison 

    TrainWeb members Carl Morrison (Below, Left), Richard Hamilton (Below, Right), and Dutch Myers, author (Below, Center) were on hand to help Chris with those giant hot dogs.  Kids came up to get Chris to autograph their shirts.  "Hey mister, is this guy a movie star or something"?  Special T-shirts had been made for the million-mile occasion. 


    Out front, the filming crew was interviewing Tom Marshall (Below, left).  The Bar-B-Q was a perfect stress-free time to complete a morning of exciting events.  Leave it to the Depot Inn folks to get it just right.

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      Yours truly, (Above, right) had a chance to relax as well, in the confortable recliner in the Depot Inn & Suites lobby.

     That evening we enjoyed a train travel slide show by Chris.  It covered many of the rides that comprised his million miles of rail travel.  That man has been around, and it was amazing that he could remember so many facts of places visited over the years.  At news time, we went into the lobby where all crowded around the giant TV.  Sure enough, there on the news, was Chris and the million-mile celebration.  It made an appropriate end to a good day.

Saturday morning, everyone was "up and about" doing his or her own thing.  Well, most were up anyway. One or two groups rented cars and went train spotting.  I opted to take the Depot Inn passenger bus for the tour of Amish country.  Coming from Pennsylvania Amish country, I was curious to see the differences here.  The Missouri Amish buildings seemed closer to original pioneer style.  As we boarded the bus, Winston Walker was making good use of one of the Inn's rockers (Below, Left
).  It was one of the rare times he was without Mrs. Walker.  Up to that point, I only knew his first name and not his wife's at all, and thus called his wife "Mrs. Winston", which gave her a chuckle. 


    Tom Marshall drove the bus around Amish country as we passed by an old gas station (Above), other area sites (Below) and stopped at an Amish country store (Below). 



Amish Store (Above)

  Tom then took us back through the town of La Plata (Above) and the Train Party headquarters and warehouse (Below, Center).  Awards on the wall attest to the success of Train Party (Below, Left).  One can see the Lookout (Below, Right) from the Train Party building.

     It was time to get back to the Depot Inn, as we did not want to miss Richard Hamilton interviewing Chris Guenzler on his radio talk show Let's Talk Trains.  It was being broadcast live from the hotel (Below). 


    Later, many of us ended up at the Red Rooster for a light dinner (Below, Left).  Each ordered something different with Chris Parker opting for a little ice cream (Below, Right) that sure looked good. 


      Then, before we knew it, the clock had ticked away and it was time for the first group to head home to California.   Climbing aboard the Depot Inn bus (below), we went to the station to catch the 8:06 arrival of the westbound Southwest Chief.

    While we waited for the arrival of the Chief, I snapped a few photos (Below
) then handed someone the camera to obtain a photo of Chris and I (Below, Center).   

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    Chris and Dutch (Above, left).  TT Meetup organizer Steve Grande and wife Barbara (Above, Right), Tony Escarcega, Andy and the filming crew were headed west on the Southwest Chief.  Suddenly, the Southwest Chief was roaring into the station to pick up this part of our group (Below). 


Tony Escarcega
     As it departed, we saw on the rear of the train, a very cool Santa Fe passenger car (Above, Right).

     Sunday morning at the Red Rooster, I ran into Tom Anderson and Chris Guenzler (Above).  After breakfast, they were kind enough to invite me to ride on their golf cart (provided free by the Depot Inn) out to Chris Guenzler's Lookout Point. 


    These shots (Above), give you a good idea of the pleasantly serene lane to the overlook.  Once there, with all the pressure off, Chris humorously laid claim to his Lookout (Below, First Row) and seemed able to achieve real relaxation (Below, Second Row).



     But alas, the sad time for us to leave La Plata had arrived.  Back at the Depot Inn, we had our bags packed and ready.  Tom Marshall drove us to the train station to await the 9:57 AM arrival of the eastbound Southwest Chief.  Tom posed for a photo with me (Below, Left), and a couple with Chris (Below).   We gathered for a group shot at the station front (Below). 



    Just to get a few more photos, I snapped a quick one of the side of the station (Below, Left.) and the back (Below, Right). 

<>    Then I noticed that Tom had parked in front of a no parking sign (Below, Left), and had to get that shot just for yuks.  The old railroader in me came out when I noticed some needed track repair (Below, Right.) right in front of the station.
    Chris shouted that he could hear the SW Chief coming (Above, Left), and he was right (Above, Right).  I took a couple of images of him photographing the approaching Chief (Below, Left and Right).

    The next thing we knew, we were aboard (Above, Left) and waving goodbye (Above, Right).  All of us send our thanks to the folks of the Depot Inn and the town of La Plata for a wonderful visit.  Carl Morrison, Bob Williams and Richard Hamilton, were staying another day or two, but the rest of us headed east.  I would be taking the SW Chief to Chicago to pick up the eastbound Capitol Limited.  Larry, Chris Parker and Anton were also heading to Chicago.  Chris Guenzler, Tom Anderson and Mr. & Mrs. Walker were getting off in Galesburg, Illinois to catch the California Zephyr back to California.  If you are interested, find Part 3 of this travelogue to follow us east until we all went our separate ways.  Be sure to check the extra photos accompanying this Part 2 Million Mile Man Celebration.

END  Part 2

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