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Report and Photos By Ben "Dutch" Myers

Part 3

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Parts 2 & 3 of the travelogue took place in the La Plata, Missouri area.  Join me in this - PART 3 - for several visits to the train Lookout as well as La Plata’s Amtrak Station, with a stop at Santa Fe Lake to watch a string of passing locomotives.  Additionally, road trips took me to Marceline, Laclede, and Atlanta Missouri.  Part 4 takes me home to Pennsylvania.

On the afternoon of the second day in La Plata, the snow was cleared to the Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout Point.  Prior to that, I had been limited to taking photos of the Lookout from afar (meaning Owensby Street and the Train Party bulding).

Lookout from La Plata Station MP 312.67

Lookout (left) and Train Party (right)

Lookout with Brown St & Rt 63 bridges beyond

Chris Guenzler Millionth Mile Lookout Point

    I also turned my attention to La Plata’s Amtrak Station sitting just off the Owensby Street crossing.  It had been well plowed of snow, providing easy access around the building.  Although the following photo was taken later in the week, I placed it here to draw attention to the structures on the left and behind the depot.

La Plata MO Depot area

This is one of those scenes that would drive me to wonder what was beyond the station – that is - if I had just passed through on the Southwest Chief, and didn’t know already.  I’m always attracted to “beyond the rail” possibilities.  So - for those folks who get scarcely a peek at that area in one of the Internet webcams or merely a frontal view in station photos – here’s an unglamorous but interesting 360 degree quickie tour around the depot.  We start directly across the snowy field in front of the station, on the corner of W. Benton and N. Church.

Corner – W Benton & N Church

Front of AMTRAK station

Buildings to left of station

    A block to our right we meet Owensby Street, and then a left turn for another block takes us across the tracks to behind the depot.  Posted signs indentify those buildings as belonging to a company named Crop Production Services.  The farm equipment is a tipoff that CPS is involved in farming.  In fact, this is only one of numerous locations throughout the USA and Canada.  They provide farmers with precision strategies and products such as crop protection, fertilizer, and seed plus vegetation management and landscape products.

Station off Owensby Xing

Station from Owensby St

Crop Prod Services

Tractor & equipt

CPS buildings

Rear of AMTRAK station

    Coming around the back of the station on the way out, I was barely able to capture a blur of motion as a high-speed freight was flying past.

Union Pacific Locomotives

Double stacks

Crossbucks, gates & blinking lights

    La Plata has an abundance of railroad history dating back to 1867 when the Northern Missouri Railroad arrived.  It was followed twenty years later by the Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe when it connected Kansas City to Chicago.  La Plata itself dates to around 1827, eventually building a stage station, inn, blacksmith and even Pony Express service twenty miles south to the route following present day Route 36.  The ATSF ran its Super Chief “Train of the Stars” through La Plata with many famous people aboard such as Jimmy Cagney, Gary Cooper, Pearl Bailey, Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Liz Taylor, Martin & Lewis, Lucy & Desi, and Presidents Truman and Eisenhower to name a few.  Even the “Harvey Girl” herself, Judy Garland rode the Super Chief.

    Next morning at the front desk of the La Plata Inn, I met fellow guests Jerry and Kathy Staab.  I learned that, without transportation, they had trudged through the snow to the Lookout.  Now you have to understand that since I had arrived, temperatures had hovered between just below zero up to a balmy 28 with wind gusts blowing snow at 25 mph.  They explained that they had read about the Depot Inn and the Chris Guenzler Lookout on  With only a couple of days to spare for the trip, they were not about to let snow, bitter cold and winds keep them from train watching.  Immediately impressed, I invited the rugged pioneers to drive with me to La Plata station for the 9:57 AM arrival of the eastbound Southwest Chief.  We arrived in time to see the descendent of the Super Chief “chugging in” with two special cars on the rear end.

eastbound SW Chief

arriving Southwest Chief

Bob Cox meets SW Chief

Bob Cox & passengers

Coach 0412

Coach 0412 & crewman

SW Chief crewman

Passengers board SW Chief

Bob Cox assists psgrs

Passengers boarding

Superliners 34055 & 34046

Kathy & Jerry wave at webcam

The Staabs & Bob Cox

    The two large and shiny Federal Railroad Administration cars were impressive as they rolled past.

DOTX 221 FRA car

DOTX 221 Office of Safety

DOTX 221 Office of Safety


DOTX 220 Office of Safety

DOTX 220

DOTX 220 on rear

DOTX 220 Rear of train

    Thoroughly enjoying the Southwest Chief experience, Jerry and Kathy were then taken on a tour of the depot’s interior by Station Caretaker Bob Cox.

La Plata waiting room

LAP Depot interior

LAP Depot hallway

LAP Depot front wall

Kathy & Jerry & Bob Cox

Bob Cox Station Caretaker

LAP Station counter

Old time model trains

Misc model trains

LAP models & RR rat

LAP models & movies

LAP model locomotives

    Without a motor vehicle, Kathy and Jerry had not seen La Plata.  Therefore I drove them around the town for a free “fifty-cent” tour.  Back at the Depot Inn, Jerry and Kathy retired to their room for a rest.  I decided to make my planned road trip to Marceline and Laclede, Missouri – two towns made famous as the boyhood homes of two famous men.  Although of slightly different times, it’s an amazing thing that men of such renown grew up in towns only 17 miles apart – Walt Disney in Marceline and General John J. “Blackjack” Pershing in Laclede.

    Taking Route 63 (Pearl Harbor Memorial Hwy) south for 19 miles to Macon, then west on Route 36 for 25 miles, I turned off for Marceline.

West on Route 36

This way to Marceline

    It was only three miles south on MO-5 into Marceline.

Marceline 3 miles

Disney sign Marceline shops

Rt 5 into Marceline

Marceline water tower

Entering Marceline

    In the park square was a steam locomotive and caboose.  The AT&SF 2546 is a Class 2535 2-8-0 built in 1911.  I believe it has been in Marceline since 1955.

AT&SF 2546

Loco in park

ATSF Caboose

    Opposite the park was the Post Office with two plaques commemorating Walt Disney.

PO Stamp plaque

PO Stamp plaque

US Post Office

    Driving by the old Santa Fe depot that houses the Disney museum, it was clear that this was not tourist season.  Several local facilities are named after Walt Disney who returned with family members several times.  Thanks to a town that is grateful to Walt, Marceline holds a ToonFest in September that attracts many gifted artists.

    Like La Plata, Marceline has railroad connections as well.  In fact, one of the legends of the origin of Marceline’s naming is an ATSF director’s wife’s name of Marcelina.  During the building of the Kansas City to Chicago line, the first town lot sold in 1888 was at the division point later called Marceline.  Walt Disney’s family moved to Marceline in 1906 when he was about five years old and stayed four years.  However, those short years spent in Marceline had a profound effect on Walt’s young mind.  When he built Main Street USA in his Disneyland and Disney World, it was based on his memories of the turn-of-the-20th-Century Main Street of Marceline.  Trains influenced the young Walt Disney when he watched them as a young boy.  Notice that one of the first things one sees upon entering Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom is an early day train station and ride.

Marceline Museum

Walt Disney Museum

Museum at Crossing

Museum from park

Museum snow path

Museum closed for winter

Museum from bridge

    Once again on westbound Route 36, it was only another 17 miles to the turnoff for MO-5 north into Laclede.  Laclede was named after an old Missouri pioneer named Laclede Liqueste.  Nearby is 3500 acre Pershing State Park where prairies and wetlands can be enjoyed.  I’m a bit of a history nut and knew about General Pershing before setting out for this little town.  Laclede was the birthplace and boyhood home of future General John J. Pershing.  General Pershing is significant because he reached the very top of his profession in WWI, and holds the distinction of being the only person to be promoted in his own lifetime, to the highest rank in the United States Army – General of the Armies.  I believe that is equivalent to a five star general, although he only wore four stars.

Laclede population 415

Farm near Laclede

Pershing Historic Site


    I expected to find just a cabin or home where he lived.  It was quite surprising to drive into a regular compound of buildings with a statue and wall of honor with the names of veterans at the front.

Missouri State Historic Site

Pershing compound

Pershing buildings

    As I was stepping out of the vehicle, a man who appeared to be a park ranger approached.  I feared he was going to tell me that the Pershing home was closed due to the weather.  Instead, he greeted me warmly with an invitation into the Welcome Center.

Pershing parking lot

Pershing statue

Pershing Welcome Center

    The friendly gentleman was Administrator Denzil Heaney of the Missouri Division of State Parks.  He talked with enthusiasm about this State Historic Site that had opened in 1957.  There is a short movie available to learn more of General Pershing.  We then walked next door to the boyhood home of John J. Pershing.

Pershing Home front street

Pershing Home side street

Front walk into Pershing Home

    Mr. Heaney provided an interesting and thorough tour of the interior of the home.  Many original furnishings disappeared long ago, however, they’ve done a nice job obtaining numerous antique items as much as the budget allowed.  Notice in one of the below photos that historians are four layers deep on the wallpaper attempting to peel back to the original.

Pershing parlor


home interior

Bedroom stove
Bedroom stove

Central stairway

Dining room

Dining room

Demo boot remover

Four layers wallpaper

Stove & kindling

Pie safe

    We walked down the front sidewalk to the Prairie Mound School where Pershing was a teacher as a young man.

Front sidewalk

Side of school

Prairie Mound School

Pathway to Pershing school

    The school, reassembled here from its nearby location, is now an excellent museum of Pershing memorabilia.

Pershing Museum

London sword

    As a boy, he attended a school for students who were considered gifted.  Upon graduation, at about the age of eighteen, became a teacher of African American students.  That experience gave him special racial insights when he later commanded a unit of Buffalo Soldiers in the 10th Cavalry in 1895.  One of the 10th’s earlier duties had been to guard workers of the Kansas and Pacific Railroad in Indian Territory.  A railroad always slips in somewhere doesn’t it?  After his teaching stint, Pershing went to Kirksville normal school (now Truman State University just up the road from La Plata).  He then went on to graduate from West Point.

    Pershing took part in many historic events including fighting in American Indian campaigns as a cavalry officer, received the Silver Star fighting at San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine-American Revolution, the search for Pancho Villa into Mexico after his attack on a New Mexico town, and of course WWI when he was promoted to full General commanding the American Expeditionary Forces.
I thanked Mr. Heaney for a wonderful tour.  At the end of the driveway, a right turn took my car past the Post Office and town park.

Laclede Post Office

Laclede town park

Park memorial

Memorial plaque

    As a side note on railroad connections - after WWI, America named many things in honor of General Pershing including parks, streets, an army tank and missile plus much more.  However, let me point to the CB&Q naming its ninth Zephyr passenger streamliner the General Pershing Zephyr.  Built in 1939, it differed from its predecessors in that it was not articulated (cars connected by couplers rather than shared trucks).  The last I read was that its locomotive, the #9908 Silver Charger, was at the Museum of Transportation in greater St. Louis.

    Coming out of Laclede, I stopped a short distance down Rt 5 to take photos of an old Burlington Northern overpass.

Laclede Burlington Northern bridge

Burlington Northern RR overpass

BN bridge support

Burlington Route

BN support sign

Burlington Northern sign

    Four sections, each weighing 97,000 pounds, were removed in 2008 to clear the center span of the overhead bridge.  I have no way of knowing if this was part of the original Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad line.  However, the line did run through many towns between Hannibal and St. Joseph, including Laclede.  The plans for that railroad were started in the Hannibal office of Mark Twain’s father before construction began in 1851.  Interestingly, the experiment for the first post-office-on-wheels cars were carried out between Hannibal and St. Joseph in 1862.  The CB&Q took early ownership, then the Burlington Northern and BNSF.

    Driving back to La Plata, the realization came that one could tour both Marceline and Laclede with time to drive to Hannibal, Missouri to experience Mark Twain sites.  If one were staying in La Plata, it is an easy hour and a half drive to Hannibal to spend the day or as part of other stops like the Heartland Ford Museum or Solid Rock Café in Newark, MO.

    Returning to the Depot Inn, the good news awaited that a path had been plowed to the Chris Guenzler Lookout.  A quick visit before evening was mandatory.  Prior to this, I had withstood the urge to drive out there for a good reason.  Having had experience driving in snow, I knew that just the ten inches of new snow was enough to get stuck.  Trying to turn a vehicle around at the Lookout would definitely mean trouble.

Snowy path to Lookout

Roadway to Lookout

Burma Shave signs

    At the Lookout, a BNSF freight train emerged from under the Brown St. Bridge.  Notice the remains of the old Wabash Railroad bridge abutment across the tracks and the BNSF sign on the newer Lookout embankment. 

BNSF 7632 (ES44DC)

BNSF 7632 BNSF 4108 (Dash 9-44CW)

Wabash bridge ruins

BNSF Keep Off sign

Doublestack at Lookout

Train Party & Trailer cars

Lookout Cameras

    It was time to head to the Red Rooster Restaurant for dinner and the Depot Inn for the evening.  I put the vehicle in reverse and backed all the way out the snowy Lookout roadway.  Resisting thoughts of turning the van around, I did this on every trip to the Lookout and thereby avoided the old stuck in the snow routine.  The Red Rooster can be seen to the right in the photo at the end of the pathway.

Reversing out of Lookout pathway

    The next morning, my new friends Jerry and Kathy Staab were preparing to head home on the eastbound Southwest Chief.  I told Andrea at the front desk that I would drive them to the station.  When we arrived at the depot, Bob Cox said the train was running about an hour late.  The answer was “absolutely” when I asked the Staabs if they wanted to fill in the time with another trip to the Lookout.  Kathy was a little concerned about missing their train, but I assured her I would have them back in time.  In five minutes we all had our cameras out taking photos at the Lookout.

Kathy & Jerry at Lookout

Train Party from Lookout

Westbound to Station

Eastbound Freight arriving

EB autoracks

BNSF 4569 (Dash 9 44 CW)

BNSF 4569 & KCS 4619 AC4400CW

BNSF 4569 & autoracks

Autoracks at Brown St.

Lookout Cams & window reflections

Doublestacks at Lookout

Train Party & doublestacks

LAP Station reflection

Buggy on Brown St bridge

Amish horse & buggy

    Checking the time from the cell phone in my pocket (pocket watches have come full circle – only with a screen instead of a watch face), it was indicating a return to the station.  With a few minutes before the arrival of the Southwest Chief, I had Jerry and Kathy pose for a photo.

Jerry and Kathy Staab

    Three minutes later, the Southwest Chief could be seen over Bob Cox’s shoulder.

Bob Cox checks arrival time

    A series of photos caught the Southwest Chief making its approach.  Kathy and Jerry waved to the engineer as it slowed into La Plata station.  All eastbound passengers boarded, including the Staabs, and the Southwest Chief was on its way toward Ft. Madison, Iowa.  I was sorry to see the Staabs leave for home, but knew my turn was coming the next morning.  How lucky, or smart, Bob Cox was to have moved and made his home in this wonderful community.  Of course none of us know the future, but here’s an “atta-boy” to Bob for a great move.

Eastbound Southwest Chief

Southwest Chief at La Plata

Jerry & Kathy waving

Jerry & Kathy wave at engineer

EB SW Chief arrives

Jerry & Kathy board car 0430

EB SWC Conductor

    Pulling my car out of the station fifteen minutes later, a double stack train led by a set of BNSF locomotives came thundering through.

BNSF 4087 Dash 9-44CW

BNSF 7569 ES44DC

BNSF 7413 ES44DC

BNSF 7339 ES44DC

    The magnetic pull of the Lookout exerted its influence upon me, and thus, another visit was in order before lunch.  It has come a long way from its original bandstand gazebo type structure to the enclosed, heated viewing platform it is today.

Pathway to Lookout

LO outhouses snowed-in

Train Party reflections

Looking westward

TrainParty bldg

Lookout Cams

BNSF 4727 (Dash 9 44CW)

Doublestack at Lookout

BNSF 4727 & 962 (Dash 9 44CW)

BNSF 4006 & 5082 (Dash 9 44CWs)

    Someone at the Depot Inn had mentioned a great place for lunch about ten minutes down Route 63, in Atlanta, MO.  It is called the Olde Atlanta Locker Restaurant.  I believe it was formerly a meat locker, and thus the name.  As I drove up I noticed several trucks parked in front and that is always a good sign of great food.  Inside, tables were filled with locals – another good sign.  I ordered the Main Street burger (1/4 lb of Macon County Black Angus beef).  No way could I contemplate the 1/3 lb Atlanta Burger or the belt busting ½ pound Locker Burger with bacon – yikes!  The food was wonderful with the service prompt and friendly.  This restaurant receives a high recommendation if you are in the area.  They have breakfast and dinner menu items as well.

Rt 63 to Atlanta MO

Population 450

Atlanta – City Hall

First Baptist Church

Atlanta Locker Restaurant

Atterberry Park

Wabash 1908

Old Atlanta Photos

Atlanta Locker interior

Salad bar buffet

Locker interior

Olde Atlanta Locker Restaurant

    A call on my cell phone from Bob Cox tipped me to a draft of SD 40 locomotives passing Marceline and headed our way.  I didn’t want to miss the locomotives as they charged past La Plata.  Therefore, after a hurriedly eaten lunch, I raced back up Rt 63 without exceeding the speed limit – admittedly not by much.  The locomotives would be traveling eastbound past La Plata Amtrak Station, the Train Party building, Chris Guenzler’s Lookout, under the Brown St and Rte 63 overpasses, then by Santa Fe Lake.  Thinking it may take too long to the Lookout, I decided to go to Santa Fe Lake.  Turning opposite the Depot Inn and down Lantern Street, it was a relief to see the crossing gates still in the up position at Santa Fe Lake.  Snow was in abundant supply; however, the roads had been expertly plowed.  Once again, my snow driving experience served me well when I noticed that the Santa Fe Lake parking lot had not been plowed.  However, a four wheel drive vehicle had circled it leaving a trail.  It would be safe as long as my vehicle continued moving in its tracks until back on the downward sloping driveway.  The gravity would then keep the car moving when starting out again, rather than slipping on level ground.

Santa Fe Lake crossing

County Road

Parked safely on down-sloping driveway

    While circling Santa Fe Lake’s parking lot back to the driveway, two signs produced a chuckle since they were surrounded by ice and snow.

Swim at your own risk

No lifeguard today

    Santa Fe Lake had been built by the railroad of the same name in 1907, probably to water those wonderful old steam belchers.  Starting some time in the 1920s to the present, the public uses it for swimming, picnicking, and fishing.

    It was only five minutes until the locomotives came into view.  Led by BNSF 4469, the freight was suddenly roaring into the crossing with Dash 9s and SD40s.  Then as fast as the freight had arrived it was gone, with the crossing gates returning to the up position.

County Rd 298 Mile Post 311.66

Coming around the curve

Leading loco BNSF 4469

BNSF 4469 (Dash 9-44CW)

BNSF 5206 (Dash 9-44CW)

Locos at Santa Fe Lake

BNSF 6616 (ES44C4) & FURX 8108 (SD40-2)

FURX 8108 & 7274 (SD40-2)

FURX 7274 (SD40-2)

FURX 8100 & 7270 (SD40-2)

FURX 7270 & 7934 (SD40-2)

FURX 7934 & FURX 7256 (SD40-2)

FURX 7247 (SD40-2)

FURX 7247 & 7219 & 7227 (SD40-2)

FURX 7270 & 7934 & 7256 (SD40-2)

SD40-2s at Santa Fe Lake

Locos on the crossing

FURX 7227 (SD40-2)

Covered Hoppers

Train gone - gates going up

    Returning to my room at the Depot Inn, it was suitcase packing time for returning home.  Sadly, the next morning meant departure on the Southwest Chief.  I loved riding the train, but I hated leaving La Plata.  I washed my used clothes in the Depot Inn laundry room.  Everyone knows clean clothes take up less suitcase space than dirty, right?  As dusk was closing in, one more trip to the Lookout for the night became a necessity.  Arriving there about six o’clock, the rewards were three freight trains.

Chris Guenzler Lookout

Lookout interior

Area under surveillance

Lookout cameras

TrainParty & Station at dusk

BNSF 7322 (ES44DC)

BNSF 7322 Doublestack trn

Autoracks at Lookout


Autorack reflections

Another autorack coming

Autorack at dusk

    After leaving the Lookout roadway and driving past the Red Rooster Restaurant, I found myself turning right instead of left for the Depot Inn.  Hey, one more spin around town for the night.  I’m happy I did so because I caught another train at the station on the way back.  Slowly crossing the Brown Street bridge, I snapped a photo of the Lookout at dusk.

Chris Guenzler Lookout at dusk

    After driving around town just a bit, I turned on Owensby Street to take another trip past La Plata Station.

Owensby St to railroad

Crossing on Owensby

    The lights were flashing and the gates were coming down.  While waiting for the train, I captured a few photos of the locomotives and station building before returning to the hotel for the night.

Station & CPS bldgs

BNSF 5143 in setting sun

BNSF 5143 (Dash9 44CW)

BNSF 5143 (Dash9 44CW) & BNSF 7483 (ES44DC)

La Plata AMTRAK station

    Up early the next morning, I wanted to fit in just one more trip to the Lookout before my homeward train.  Although difficult to see in the photos, the early morning light gleamed off the snow covered trees and thickets like sunbeams on diamonds.

Morning sun on snow

Sunlit trees

Pathway to the Lookout

    Arrival at the Lookout was just in time to catch a passing Intermodal train.  Notice the critter tracks in the snow.  One set might be rabbit and the other something smaller.

Intermodal and tracks

Intermodal and critters

Intermodal at Lookout

    Westward photos provided a closer view of the Train Party building and the tall tower seen in the Lookout webcams.  A car was passing Owensby Street crossing at the station.

Train Party & Tower

Passing Car at depot

    Before leaving, I went inside the Lookout building for a few more photos.  You can see the signature of the Million Mile man himself, Chris Guenzler.  Also, my 2008 signature with wife plus rail fan friends Carl Morrison and Tony Escarcega on either side - now that’s good company!  Someone wrote that the Depot Inn and Suites is a great place to stay and I certainly agree with that.  The heater makes the Lookout a year round train watching site.  Notice the ATCS monitor which stands for Advanced Train Control System.  It allows the monitoring of train traffic so that one will know a train is approaching and be ready with the camera.  To prevent vandalism, the whole area is monitored by cameras.

ATCS Monitor

ATCS instructions

Chris Guenzler autograph

Depot Inn “great place to stay”

Carl Morrison, Dutch Myers & Tony Escarcega

Lookout heater

    Leaving the Lookout, I returned to the Depot Inn for a ride to the station.  Once there, I talked with Bob Cox while waiting for the eastbound Southwest Chief.  We heard the diesel horn just before it was curving the track west of Amtrak station.  Bob and I shook hands and I thanked him for his kindly help during my stay.  One more photo of the train and I had to climb aboard.

La Plata Station

Eastbound view

Southwest Chief coming

Eastbound SW Chief

SW Chief at La Plata

Bob Cox & SW Chief

Engine 117

AMTK 161

Transition Sleeper 39043

    As the Southwest Chief pulled out of La Plata and under the Brown Street bridge, I thought of a couple of photographs taken the evening before.  Indeed, scenes of my favorite place in La Plata along with the Depot Inn, Amtrak Station and the Train Party building – the Chris Guenzler Lookout Point.  It is a most wondrous place for any rail fan.

The Lookout at dusk

Chris Guenzler Lookout



Report and Photos By Ben "Dutch" Myers

[ Part I |  Extra Photos for Part I | Part 2 | Extra Photos for Part 2Part 3 | Extra Photos for Part 3 ]

Part 4

Other Reports by Ben "Dutch" Myers | Other Rail Travelogues at | Silver Rails Country ]