Steve's June 2010
Amtrak Southwest Chief
Silver Rails Country
in La Plata, Missouri
Jun 3-9, 2010
Everyone involved in the Silver Rails Ventures (see:
decided it would be good if we all got together for three days of strategy meetings.
With most of those involved with this venture all living in La Plata, Missouri, except for
(Executive Director), my wife (Barbara Cepinko) and myself, it made more sense for
the three of us to head from California to Missouri than to bring everyone here. Besides, it would
also give my wife and I a chance to see the status of everything and visit the new
Silver Rails Gallery which we would be
seeing for the first time. We hadn't been to La Plata since the
First Annual New Years Celebration for Train Enthusiasts at the start of this year. (
Plus, by going to La Plata we'd also be able to have some strategy meetings with our partners
Ray Burns and Shivam Surve
TrainParty.com also located in La Plata.
The airfare was so expensive to book this last minute trip that my wife and I instead decided to
see if a room would be available on the train so that we could use Amtrak Guest Rewards points.
Also, it is almost as convenient for us to go by train as it is to fly! To fly from California
to the airport we have to leave in the morning since there are no workable flights or connections
heading east to our destination at night. We'd have to drive to the airport, be there early for
security screening, and then either fly to Kansas City or St. Louis, rent a car, and then drive
for three hours, or take a connecting flight from St. Louis to Kirksville, Missouri. Basically,
flying from California eats up a whole day of travel and requires the extra expense of either
renting a car in Missouri or paying for the extra connecting flight. On the other hand, when we
take the train, the eastbound Amtrak Southwest Chief departs from Fullerton that is pretty close
to our home and arrives right into La Plata, Missouri, practically at the doorstep of the hotel!
The actual Silver Rails property begins across the street from the La Plata Amtrak Station, but
since the hotel is on the opposite end of the property, the
Depot Inn & Suites provides free shuttle service.
We depart from Fullerton in the evening, sleep the night on the train, spend one full day on the
train (the day we would have spent traveling all day by plane and car!), spend another night on
the train and get off the next morning in La Plata. Thus, we get to relax or work for a full day
on the train each way instead of spending the whole day flying or driving. Going by Amtrak is
definitely the better way to go! With free hotel shuttle service provided not just from the
Amtrak Station in La Plata, Missouri, on the Amtrak Southwest Chief route but also from the
Amtrak Station in Ottumwa, Iowa, on the Amtrak California Zephyr route, and from the
Amtrak Station in Quincy, Illinois,
Silver Rails Country
is really convenient to reach by Amtrak! But for those of you that want to fly into the
Kirksville Airport 5 miles from the hotel, free hotel shuttle service is provided there too!
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
We arrived at the Fullerton Amtrak Station a bit early so we purchased a couple of beers and sat
outside on the patio of the
Santa Fe Express Cafe
that is right at the platform. You can see my wife, Barbara, relaxing and reading the newspaper
below the Santa Fe Express Cafe sign.
While we were waiting for our eastbound Amtrak Southwest Chief train a set of BNSF locomotives
came through the station pulling a trainset of tanker cars. Below you can see that train going
under the pedestrian bridge at the Fullerton Amtrak Station.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
It has been quite some time since my last full rail travelogue. Things have gotten so busy with
the ventures that I'm involved with that I haven't had much time to ride the rails. And the few
times that I have had a chance to ride the rails, I've been pretty busy just working while I rode.
The ventures that I'm involved with include
TrainParty.com, and the
Depot Inn & Suites,
now all located in La Plata, Missouri. Plus I'm involved with many affiliated ventures that have
sprung up as part of our effort to eventually expand the hotel into the
Those affiliated ventures include
Silver Rails Country, the
Silver Rails Gallery, and the
American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation (
APRHF.com), a 501(c)(3) non-profit
All of the above will soon be reachable via one central directory page that we'll soon be
so that we don't have to keep promoting and remembering so many different web addresses!
After TrainWeb.com / TrainParty.com and my partners Ray Burns and Shivam Surve moved to La Plata,
Missouri, in 2006, my wife and I continued to remain living in Southern California. My wife
and I were both were born, grew up, and lived in the Northeast until 1980 until moving to
Southern California. We have no current plans of moving out of sunny Southern California.
Hence, we've had to make many round-trips from Fullerton for short stays in La Plata by either
train or plane over the last few years and will probably have to continue to make these trips.
Those of you that have read my travelogues from prior years know that I like to give a blow by
blow description of my rail travel and what my thoughts are while I travel. If that is why you
enjoyed reading my prior travelogues, I'll try to stick to that format. I guess I've sort of
been writting in the style of a "blog" since maybe before "blogs" were invented. If you are new
to my writings and want to read some of my prior rail travelogues dating as far back as 1995,
many with photos, they are ALL posted at:
By the way, if while looking through those travelogues you see photos of me where I look a bit
chunky, please disregard those photos. Between 2001 and 2004 I lost more than 50 pounds and have
kept that weight off for more than 6 years. See the photos below. Since my weight loss I've
remained within the "normal" range for my height. If you want to know what motivated me to lose
weight, it was the onset of various health problems associated with excess weight. If you want to
know my secret to losing weight and keeping it off, it was "vegan". I knew that I needed to have a
lot more vegetables in my diet to be more healthy. But I also knew that I would never get enough
vegetables in my diet as long as meat made up the majority of the calories in my diet. So, I
figured if I completely gave up meat, it wouldn't take long before I was eating a lot more
vegetables to make up for the meat missing from my diet. I was pure vegan for 3 years during most
of my weight loss, but could never have kept with the vegan diet if I had not discovered that
Indian vegan dishes are quite flavorful! Indian spices can modify rather bland vegies into a
gourmet treat! No wonder Columbus searched for a shorter route to India for the spices! (Too bad
he never reached the right continent for all the spices!). However, you have to stay away from
Indian dishes with cream, butter (ghee), cheese (paneer) and anything that is deep fried (pakora).
Those dishes can be extremely caloric! But the pure vegetable Indian dishes are very flavorful and
low in fat and calories. South Indian Cuisine tends to have more healthy vegan offerings than
North Indian Cuisine and recipes from other parts of India, but just about all Indian Restaurants
have an extensive selection of vegetarian dishes. I'm not purely vegan any more, but I still
rarely ever eat any red meat and eat very limited quantities of white meat. I do try to eat Salmon
twice each week for its healthful properties. Indian food is still my favorite cuisine. I don't eat
it every day like I did when losing weight, but seldom does a week go by that I don't go out to an
Indian Restaurant. Just be careful if you eat Indian. You have to choose wisely or you will be
eating very caloric food and be gaining instead of losing weight!
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
Left: May 1999 - Right: April 2007 - Bottom: June 2010
11 years later and 50 pounds lighter!
Sorry about going off topic, but I want to stick to my writing style of jotting down whatever
is on my mind as it comes up. It seems to be what has in the past attracted people to me writing
2010-Jun-03 Thursday 7:07 PM PT
So here is where my "as it happens" travelogue begins! Our friend, Randy, gave us a ride to the
Fullerton Depot. Normally when my wife and I make this trip to La Plata we arrive early and stop
by The Slidebar Cafe in Fullerton for a snack and a drink. Today, however, we decided to forgo
the customary stop at The Slidebar Cafe. Every time we leave from Fullerton we can't help but
remember our very first train trip to La Plata that set everything in motion. That was the ONLY
time in my life that I have EVER missed a train! It is an interesting story. If you want to read
about it and see the photos from that trip in 2006
On that trip we saw the new TrainWeb.com / TrainParty.com building for the first time and stayed
at the Depot Inn & Suites for the first time.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
Above you can see some photos of the Fullerton Depot Building, especially of the windows to the
office above the Amtrak Ticket Agents where TrainWeb.com had its own office for more than eight
years from 1996 to 2004. Right now that space is again "FOR RENT". So if anyone is interested,
it is available as of this writing! It has a wonderful view of the many dozens of BNSF, Amtrak,
and Metrolink trains that pass through the station every day. If you decide to rent out the office,
let me know so you can help TrainWeb restore the
service we used to provide from Fullerton!
now provides five different views of rail traffic through La Plata, Missouri: two from the
RailLookout.com, two from the
Amtrak La Plata Station, and one from the
There is also one view from the Amtrak Olympia / Lacey Station in Washington, but that camera
seems to have serious problems. It belongs to the Washington State Department of Transportation
(WSDOT) who seem to have neither the funding nor the interest to fix that camera.
However, we'll soon be restoring two views from Santa Ana, California. We also soon hope to have
two views of rail traffic up and running from San Juan Capistrano thanks to the cooperation of
The Vintage Steak House.
The eastbound Amtrak Southwest Chief arrived right on time. We had to go way to the eastern most
part of the platform since our roomette was in the Crew / Dorm Transition Sleeper which is almost
always near the front of the train right after the locomotives and baggage car. The Conductor
popped out of the door of that car knowing that some passengers would be boarding into that car.
He didn't have to walk far down the platform as my wife and I were the only passengers heading in
his direction. My wife and I boarded the car and placed three of our items of luggage on the racks.
Being the Crew / Dorm car with no other passengers yet in the car, the downstairs racks were
totally empty leaving plenty of room for our luggage. We then headed up the stairs with a pretty
good idea of where we would find our roomette. We know it would be in the direction of the other
Sleeping Cars and not toward the front of the train. Towards the front of the train are the rooms
for the crew.
As soon as the train started pulling out of the station I took a few photographs of the
constuction work being done to install a new Metrolink siding in Fullerton. The tracks branch
just off the east side of the platform at Fullerton Junction. The new siding will start on the
south side of the junction such that Metrolink trains will not have to go through the junction
to pull into the siding. This will avoid any traffic delays between Metrolink trains arriving
from and departing to the south with the east / west rail traffic on the BNSF mainline.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
Above you can see the contruction of rails and siding at Fullerton Station for new more frequent
Metrolink service through Orange County, California, that will have the north end of that service
terminate in Fullerton and have trainsets parked overnight on these tracks.
This train is quite booked up. My wife and I wanted to travel in a Deluxe Room, but they were
sold out. Even the roomettes were quite full and we are booked into the Crew Dorm car,
Roomette 22 in Car Number 0440. I've never traveled in the Crew Dorm car before. Many years ago I
did travel on an Amtrak Southwest Chief train from Fullerton when they were just using the
downstairs lounge as an extra lounge for Sleeping Car Passengers and none of the crew were
using this car. For that purpose the Transition Sleeper Car was at the end of the train rather
than its usual position of right next to the baggage car.
to read that travelogue from 1996.
Click here to read
some additional comments I made about the Amtrak Superliner Transition Sleeper Car in 1996
along with some photos. But please remember that page is saved for archival purposes only.
My knowledge about Amtrak travel and Amtrak trainsets was far more limited back then than it is
today. Please ignore requests for information that you will find in that report. Amtrak policies
and use of the Transition Sleeper Car have changed quite a bit, especially in recent years, so
much of the information in that report is now obsolete.
if you'd like to view quite an extensive collection of exterior photos of
Amtrak Superliner II Transition Sleeper Cars courtesy of Geno Dailey.
If you see an Amtrak Superliner trainset, you can tell which is the Crew Dorm Transition Sleeper
Car as it is the first double level car directly behind the baggage car. Unlike the other
Amtrak Sleeping Cars that say "Sleeping Car" right on the outside of each car, this one says
The reason it is called a "Transition Sleeper" is because the door between train cars on one end
of the railcar is at the same level as all single level passenger trains. This allows the crew to
access the baggage car while the train is in motion since the baggage car has its door at the
same level as other single level passenger trains. The other end of the Transition Sleeper has
the door to the other train cars on the second level, which is where all Amtrak Superliner Cars
have the passage way from one car to another. There is possibly another reason why these
Transition Sleepers were designed. When Amtrak first started producing the double level Superliner
cars, all prior passenger trainsets were single level. Amtrak may have been thinking that many of
their trainsets would be a mix of single and double level passenger cars and some method would
need to exist to allow crew to access both the doulbe and the single level cars. I don't know if
such trainsets were ever operated, but the Transition Sleeper would have provided for that need.
There have been cases, however, where an Amtrak Superliner train will have single level
private cars and those cars have been positioned next to the Transition Sleeper or the Baggage Car
just so the crew, and / or passenger of the private cars could have access to other parts of the
train. This is not usually done. Usually when private cars are on an Amtrak Superliner trainset
they are placed at the rear of the train after a regular Amtrak Superliner car and the passengers
in the private cars have no access to the rest of the Superliner trainset. That also means the
crew of the Amtrak train also has no access to the private cars except when the train stops and
the crew access the car by walking outside the train.
The Transition Sleeper was designed to be occupied half by the crew and half by passengers.
However, for many years, passengers were not booked into roomettes in the Transition Sleeper.
It was totally occupied by the crew. After many years of operation in this manner, this
policy was changed in just the few recent years. When Amtrak Sleeping Cars are totally booked,
Amtrak was losing quite a bit of revenue by not being able to book passenger into the
Transition Sleeper. But that situation has been resolved and Amtrak does now book passengers
into the roomettes on one side of the Transition Sleeper when all of the other roomettes of
the train have been booked. If you make a reservation for a roomette and get a room number
higher than 17, then you are in the Transition Sleeper! There are no Deluxe Rooms in the
Transition Sleeper, so if you have a Sleeping Room on the train with a letter instead of a
number, you are in one of the regular Sleeping Cars.
I did tour the Amtrak Transition Sleeper Car back in 1996 while traveling on the
Amtrak Southwest Chief. Amtrak also allowed a group of us to use the crew lounge in the
Amtrak Southwest Chief to celebrate the exact moment that Chris Guenzler achieved his
One Millionth Rail Travel Mile on his way to La Plata. A photo of that celebration in the
Amtrak Superliner Transition Sleeper Crew Lounge can be seen above. However, I had never
previously traveled as a passenger in the Transition Sleeper. So I was a bit
apprehensive before boarding. I wasn't sure if there would be room for my luggage in the
racks downstairs (there was!) or if there are any downstairs restrooms for passengers in
addition to the upstairs restrooms (I don't think there are). There were only a couple of
other roomettes in the Transition Sleeper on this trip taken up by other passenger. They were both
Amish who kept pretty much to themselves. Thus we sort of had the run of this car to ourselves,
besides the crew going through to get to and from their rooms that is!
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
Above you can see photos of one of the two restrooms for passengers located upstairs in the
Transition Sleeper. One restroom was near the end of the car closest to the next passenger car.
The other restroom was past the stairway just before getting to the "Crew Only" half of the car.
Both restrooms also had showers in them. In regular Amtrak Superliner Sleeping Cars there is
just one shower for all the people who have roomettes and it is located downstairs. The five
Deluxe Bedrooms in regular Amtrak Superliner Sleeping Cars also each have their own shower.
I wasn't sure if there are any additional restrooms / showers in the Transition Sleeper Car that
are for the crew or if they use the same restrooms / showers as the passengers in this car.
When Amtrak has booked passengers into the Crew Dorm Car, they have the Sleeping Car Attendant
from the adjacent Sleeping Car take care of this car as sort of additional duty for him. That
does put a bit more work on him. Right now it isn't too much of a problem as that car is still
pretty empty. Evidently there is a huge tour group getting on at 5:30 AM in Flagstaff which is
why this train is so booked up. After they get on, our Car Attendant will have his hands full!
The closest Sleeping Car to the Dining Room, the 0330 Car, tends to get booked up first and that
car is already pretty full with the Sleeping Car Attendant in that car already pretty busy.
When we got on the train and our tickets collected our Sleeping Car Attendant told us that
we had dinner reservations already set up for 8:15 PM. He apologized in advance if we thought
that might be too late in the evening, but we told him that would be fine. It was less than
45 minutes from when we saw him.
We were pleasantly surprised when we did enter the Dining Car as we saw it was
that would be our Dining Car Attendant. Richard and I go pretty far back to the earlier days of
TrainWeb.com and we have even coordinated some things wine and rail related outside of Amtrak
for Amtrak travelogues and photos from prior rail trips written both by me and by others with
Richard Talmy on board.) So, after the Dining Car had emptied out, we got a chance to catch up a
bit on things that had transpired since the last time that we got to talk.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
Dinner was very good! I think the selection and quality of food on the Amtrak Southwest Chief
has improved in recent times. They now seem to always have at least one vegetarian selection.
I had the pasta with vegetables. My wife had the chicken. I still find it odd that if you have
only one chicken offering that it would be a chicken that comes on the bone. As I've mentioned
previously, just about anyone that likes chicken on the bone will also eat a boneless chicken
breast but the reverse is not true at all. If you go to a steakhouse or a seafood restaurant
and they only offer one chicken alternative you will find that it is always a boneless chicken
option. I think Amtrak could take a lesson from what other restaurants understand and make their
one chicken offering one that is boneless.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
My wife and I don't usually eat desert, but the selections sounded so good that we just had to
try them. We ordered one Apple Crumble Pie a la mode and one Cheesecake covered in blueberries.
Both were wonderful! We didn't finish them and probably won't have any more desert for the rest
of this trip on the train, but we were happy to have tasted them! Sorry about the above photos
not showing the deserts in perfect presentation, but I forgot to photograph them before we
delved into them!
It is an interesting experience in the Crew Dorm Car. When I went down and took a few minutes to
get things out of my suitcase in the racks, some crew memebers were talking about their
interactions they have had with the Amish. I couldn't help but overhear their conversation. It
was interesting as it touched on some familiar topics considering that La Plata, my
destination, has a large Amish community.
From the layout of the Crew Dorm Car I can see why they objected to having passengers share the
car with them. Our luggage is in the racks at the bottom of the stairs, just like where we would
place it in a Superliner Sleeping Car. The crew break room is right next to the luggage rack. As
I head down the stairs to get some things out from my luggage, I often hear the crew talking about
their experiences with passengers. As they hear my footsteps coming down the stairs, there is
often a sudden silence in the conversation. I really can't blame them for feeling their
space is being invaded. This is sort of the "behind the scenes" area where the crew should be
able to let their hair hang down and discuss any frustrations of the trip with other crew members.
They shouldn't have to worry about passengers overhearing their private conversations. However,
the economics of the situation really do mandate that this car needs to remain shared between
crew and rooms booked to paying passengers. Possibly if a sliding door was installed between the
luggage racks and the crew break area that would resolve the problem. I'm pretty sure I've seen
doors dividing the downstairs level of some of the other Superliner Coach Car configurations. In
any case, when the next generation of passenger cars is built for Amtrak, it would probably be
worth considering how to separate the crew area from the passenger area, especially where the
crew can gather during their breaks and not be within earshot of passenger areas.
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
2010-Jun-03 Thursday 10:20 PM PT
I'm about to get ready to turn in for the evening. I've let my wife take the lower bed and I'll
be climbing into the upper bed shortly. Pretty much the last several paragraphs have been
typed by me standing up in our roomette with my computer on the upper bed while my wife was
sleeping on the lower bed. You can see a photo of that arrangement above.
2010-Jun-04 Friday 09:32 AM MT
It is extremely rare that I have ever slept in the upper bed on an Amtrak train. I know I've done
it before, but it is pretty rare. I can remember climbing the ladder in the Deluxe Room to reach
the upper bed, and climbing the built in steps in the roomette. I especially remember what seems
like a long step down when coming back down from the upper bed. For the most part, most of my
Amtrak travel has either been alone where I've slept in the lower bed, or with my wife where we
both slept in the lower bed, or with a travel companion where my companion slept in the upper bed.
It must be because I'm getting older that the top bed area seems more cramped than ever. I'm sure
the space hasn't gotten any smaller. Plus, I know I personally take up less space now than I did
a decade ago. Back in 1996 before I gained all the weight that I later lost, my wife and I took
a trip from Fullerton to Chicago, then to Seattle, and then back to Fullerton all by Amtrak in
a roomette and we BOTH slept on the bottom bed! For the life of me I can't figure out why we
don't both fit on the bottom bed. Maybe as one gets older one just needs more room.
It is also a mystery to me how many of the elderly couples you will see on a train manage. I can't
imagine either partner climbing up to the upper bed. Maybe they manage to both sleep in the bottom
bed like my wife and I used to do. I have seen a number of times that elderly couples will get
two roomettes and sleep across from each other so they could each have a lower bed. I guess that
is sometimes less expensive than booking one Deluxe Room. On trains that aren't full I've even
seen Car Attendants allow each partner of an elderly couple have their own roomette even though
they only paid for one. Though, with trains getting so booked up today, it is getting more
difficult to find trains with spare roomettes.
2010-Jun-04 Friday 06:51 PM PT
If you plan to do a lot of travel by Amtrak and would like your cell phone to work much of the
time, and maybe even use a WWAN card to have internet access from your computer, then go with
Verizon rather than any other service provider.
When you see those TV ads that show that Verizon has much greater geographic coverage in the
United States, they are true! AT&T is also true when they say that more than 97% of people in
the U.S. live in an area covered by their plan. The difference is that 97% of Americans live
in cities and towns that have AT&T coverage. But Amtrak goes across a lot of desolate area that
isn't anywhere near any cities or towns. Thus, a lot of the Amtrak routes are not covered by
AT&T. For some reason, Verizon seems to cover quite a bit more of those desolate areas.
When I used to have Verizon cell and WWAN service, I was able to travel from California to
Missouri and had access for most of the entire route. I recently switched to AT&T and have ONLY
been able to use my cell phone and access the internet when the train was near towns and cities,
not when it was traveling the long stretches between them. Thus, for Amtrak travel, Verizon is
a far better service than AT&T.
So why did I switch from Verizon to AT&T? In my own home Verizon service was very bad. I could
change from a sitting position to a standing position and lose the signal and my call. I could
even switch my cell phone from one ear to the other and a call would be dropped! I eliminated
all those problems by switching from Verizon to AT&T. I often ride the trains in Southern
California between Fullerton and San Diego. In that area there doesn't seem to be much difference
between Verizon and AT&T. Both work pretty good while riding the Amtrak Pacific Surfliners or
Metrolink. If anything, AT&T seems to drop the connection less often than Verizon.
2010-Jun-04 Friday 08:03 PM PT
Sometimes you need to improvise! Many Amtrak restrooms doors are notorious at unlocking themselves
which can lead to embarrasing circumstances both for the person in the restroom and the person
attempting to enter. The shaking of the moving train tends to jog sliding locks to unlock
themselves. The doors to the bedrooms in the Sleeping Cars have a latching mechanism that is VERY
effective in not unlocking themselves. I don't know why they didn't put the same mechanism in the
restrooms where an effective latch may be even more essential.
Click on the below photo for a larger image:
In any case, the latch on one of the restroom on this trip set a new world's record. As soon as I
would tightly latch the door, it would manage to unlatch itself within 3 seconds of pulling my hand
away! At least there would be no surprises. This latch just wasn't going to stay put! An easy fix
is to just jam something into the latch so that it can't budge. As further insurance, it is a good
idea to jam something between the door and the frame to stop the shaking of the door and the latch.
Both measures make it very unlikely the latch will manage to unlock itself. If you didn't bring
anything with you to do the jamming, just crunch up some empty paper cups that are available by
the sink in every restroom. See the above photo.
2010-Jun-05 Saturday 08:04 AM CT
The Dining Car had a major technical failure on Saturday morning. It lost all electrical power.
The crew had to end all dining car service for the rest of this trip. Instead, the Car Attendant
and Dining Car staff went to each room proving hot breakfast items that they picked up from
McDonald's in Kansas City, and Orange Juice. They will also be picking up sandwiches when the
train arrives in Galesburg to provide Sleeping Car Passengers with lunch.
2010-Jun-05 Saturday 11:30 AM CT
The train had to stop in Marceline for about 20 minutes or so. It had started to rain and there
were flash flood warnings somewhere east of La Plata. They had to stop the train so the Conductor
and Engineer could mark down the slow orders of where the train would have to proceed with
Click on a below photo for a larger image:
The train got to La Plata about 30 minutes late. Normally the train has to make a double stop in
La Plata since the platform is so short. It stops once for the Sleeping Cars and once for the
Coach Cars. But since my wife and I were in the Transition Sleeper, the train had to make three
stops this time! With the Transition Sleeper being closest to the front of the train, the first
stop would be for us. As our car came to the platform I saw a minivan parked right on the platform
which I thought was odd. It turned out it was Bob Cox with a van full of pastries and juices to
be loaded onto the train to make up for the lack of food service from the Dining Car. The staff
on our train had called ahead and asked for food to be brought to the train. Bob Cox is one of
the Amtrak Station Caretakers as well as Currator for the
Silver Rails Gallery and as well as
wearing a lot of other hats in
Silver Rails Country!
one of my partners in
TrainParty.com was there to greet us and drive
us to the hotel. The original plan was for everyone to gather for lunch at the Red Rooster next
Depot Inn & Suites at about noon. However,
the Executive Director of
Silver Rails and the
American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundations
(APRHF.com) was arriving into Ottumwa, Iowa, on
the Amtrak California Zephyr and that train was running almost four hours late! Thus we
postponed gathering at The Red Rooster to around 2:00 PM.
By the time Bob Cox drove up to Ottumwa and back to pick Matt up from his late arriving train
it was around 2:30 PM. That was sort of the "kick off" meeting and social for the three full
Silver Rails /
strategy meetings that were to take place.
Some of the people at this "kick off" meeting included Ray Burns, Shivam Surve, Matt Melzer,
Bob & Amy Cox, my sister Shelli Tucker, my wife Barbara Cepinko, and myself.
Below: A visit to the
warehouse in the
A photo of me in one photo and a photo of Ray Burns in the next photo. The next two photos show
boxes piling up that are the outgoing purchases / shipments of TrainParty.com for that day.
In the next photo, Shivam Surve and Bob Cox discussing some TrainParty issue. The following
photo is shot out the open dock door at TrainParty.com where you can see the
La Plata Amtrak Station in the background. The last of the set shows the American Flag flying
above the Missouri State Flag in the TrainWeb / TrainParty yard.
Click on any photo below for a larger image:
Below are just four photos that I took in the new
Silver Rails Gallery. You can
click here to see
more in the full set of photographs from this rail travelogue. Or you can
for many more photographs in the report by
Carl Morrison of the Grand Opening of the
Silver Rails Gallery
on Saturday, March 13, 2010.
Below are two photos from the new
Silver Rails Shop,
the gift shop affiliated with the gallery where you can purchase many of the items on display in
the gallery as well as a number of other items of interest to train enthusiasts. You can also
purchase many of these items at the new online store at
SilverRailsShop.com including Silver Rails,
TrainWeb.com, and Depot Inn & Suites logo merchandise. The Silver Rails Gallery and the
Silver Rails Shop are part of the 501(c)(3) non-profit American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation
(APRHF.com). Revenues from the gallery and shop help
towards our goal of building a museum devoted to the heritage of American passenger rail in
Silver Rails Country
as well as maintain the venues already open including: the
Silver Rails Gallery, the
Exhibition of Amtrak History,
the model railroad display and the soon to open Railroad Telegraphy Display.
to view more photos of the new Silver Rails Shop.
Below are two photos of Downtown La Plata. The
Silver Rails Gallery is right in
Downtown La Plata and the
Silver Rails Event Center is just
across the town square from the gallery. The
Depot Inn & Suites, the
Exhibition of Amtrak History, the
Rail Lookout, the Model Railroad Display, the
Red Rooster Restaurant and the soon to open Railroad Telegraphy Display are just as short drive
down North Brown Street in La Plata. Most places to visit in
Silver Rails Country
are less than an hour drive from the
Depot Inn & Suites.
You can either rent a car or inquire with the hotel about escorted tours.
for further details.
2010-June-08 Tuesday 10:25 PM CT
Silver Rails /
strategy meetings were so non-stop over the three days that I think it was a first time in many
years that I didn't get a chance to even check my email for three days straight! Not even when
I went on a 2 week cruise did I let a day pass without checking my email! But these meetings
started in the morning and went into the evening. By the time I'd return to my hotel room in the
evening I just wouldn't have any energy left to deal with my emails. So, I didn't really start
to catch up on the email from those days until we departed on Monday evening, June 7, 2010. Even
then I had to wait until we were getting close to Kansas City before I had a good WWAN internet
connection. The stop in Kansas City is fairly long and then the train stops again just outside
of Kansas City at the fuel terminal to load fuel for the next segment of the trip. All during
that time I was able to stay online and get through most of the email that had piled up. The
train didn't leave from the Kansas City fuel terminal until almost midnight. I think I still had
a workable internet connection even after our departure for about another 20 minutes before the
train headed out of the suburbs of Kansas City into territory without AT&T WWAN coverage.
Anyway, not having much time to work on my email over the three days, I also didn't have time
to add anything to this rail travelogue. So, there is pretty much a gap from that "kick off"
meeting until I got back on the train on Monday.
We did have some of our meetings at the new
My wife and I weren't able to come out for the Grand Opening of the gallery, so this was the
first time we had seen it since the opening! We'd seen photos of it from the reports that
covered the grand opening, but it was more impressive seeing it in person. I took a few photos
of the gallery myself to include in this report as you can see above.
Some of our other meetings were held at the home office of
Shivam had done quite a bit of organizing of the warehouse space and has already added a number
of new products to
TrainParty.com now sells well over 700
different railroad theme party related items, which also includes things like gifts, whistles,
costumes, puzzles, books, videos, etc., in addition to the railroad theme paper party supplies.
Just as a reminder, keep in mind that
does sell Amtrak theme railroad party supplies, as well as our own Little Chug design
for children and even the Whistle Stop theme that is good for all ages, even for adult
birthday parties, retirement parties, etc.!
Barbara and I went to dinner as soon as we boarded the train. They were making last call.
Boarding at La Plata is always a little "iffy" about whether you'll board in time for dinner
or not. I think the official cut off for last reservations in the Dining Car is 8:00 PM. With
the departure from La Plata scheduled for 8:06 PM, they will usually accommodate passengers
boarding in La Plata as long as the train isn't running too late. But if the train is 30 minutes
or later arriving into La Plata, that will often be well past last call and they will already
be in the process of starting to close down the galley. There would usually still be people in
the Dining Car finishing up their meals, having desert and coffee, but no new meal orders being
submitted to the galley. If the train is so full that they are still calling people in for
dinner reservations even at 8:30 PM, then they will usually accommodate those boarding in
La Plata even if the train is running 30 minutes late.
We had dinner with a nice woman and her daughter that were traveling in the coach cars. She
often travels by Amtrak between Albuquerque and Galesburg. Sometimes she'll travel in the
Sleeping Cars when traveling alone, but this time she had two of her children traveling with
her. She said she'd often upgrade onboard when roomettes are available and that has cost her
as little as $115 for a whole day and night of travel. That works out pretty good as she gets
much of her $115 back as just a savings with the free meals provided to Sleeping Car Passengers,
especially if she goes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She very much enjoys Amtrak travel and
tries to go by train rather than flying as much as she can. She was quite familiar with
Kirksville and had even played golf before at the La Plata Municiple Golf Course!
She had never heard of the
Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata, but it was
probably built after her last visit. Being a train enthusiast, she got quite excited about
the hotel and all the other train related things there are to see in
Silver Rails Country near the hotel.
She seemed particularly interested that the
Exhibition of Amtrak History
is located in one of the ex-Amtrak Mail Handling Cars next to the hotel and the
Disney Hometown Museum in Marceline that is not far from La Plata. She even talked about times
that she had chased trains and done train watching, so she got a kick out of hearing about the
Rail Lookout Cabin near the hotel and that
hotel guests could watch the trains through La Plata 24/7 right from a special channel on the TV
of every room in the hotel. I did forget to mention that she can see the trains through La Plata
from anywhere at
RailCams.com, though those don't provide streaming
video and audio like what is available on the TVs in the hotel rooms.
After dinner my wife and I were pretty tired. That was pretty close to 10 PM Central Time. The
bed wasn't made yet so rather than push the button to wait for the Car Attendant, I decided to
just go ahead and make the bed myself. It is easy enough once you've done it a number of times.
Also, since my wife and I had our two backpacks and 3 items of luggage in the room, I knew the
car attendant would have to be playing musical chairs with everything to try to open the bed.
So, I went ahead and did it myself and had the room all set up the way I liked it in less than
5 minutes. Again I noticed that the mattresses were set up to place the head of the mattress
under the window. I never like that. I rather have the head of the mattress by the door so that
I can look out the window while lying down. I don't find staring at the door very interesting
and would rather have the bed oriented toward looking out the window. Rarely do I ever see
the Car Attendants set the bed up that way. I guess it is because the pillows tend to fall of
the bed when the head of the bed is near the door. Also, if there is strong air flow from the
A/C vent that isn't completely stopped by shutting the vent, then having that blow in your
face could be annoying. I didn't mind the possibility of the pillows falling off the end of the
bed and the breeze rarely bothers me. So, for the trade off, I'd rather be able to see out the
window whenever I have my eyes open rather than have a view of the door or sink. Also, my wife
and I seem to fit just fine sharing the lower bed together. It is a little tight as I don't
think the width of the bed is even that of a double mattress. It is probably more the width of
what one would consider a single bed today, but that was wide enough.
About an hour later the Car Attendant came by to see if we needed our beds made. I told him that
we had been pretty tired when we got to the room and had just made them ourselves. He seemed
somewhat annoyed and said something like: "That is my job and I'm here to do that for you. All
you had to do was call me." Sometimes Car Attendants react that way when passengers do their
own beds. In my trip out here a number of passengers had made their own beds without calling
the Car Attendant and he just took it in stride even making a few jokes about it. It wasn't for
lack of any dilligence on the part of the Car Attendant. Some people just like to make up their
own beds without calling and waiting for the Car Attendant. It doesn't reflect on their service
to keep the passengers happy. I only get annoyed when I push the button and nobody comes for
20 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or ever! That is when I feel the Car Attendant is not doing his
job. But I never hold it against them if I rush ahead of them and do things myself. The tip that
I provide is never reduced because they didn't provide services that I didn't request. It is
only reduced when they fail to provide services that I did request. But I'm sure there are many
others that will reduce the tip even when the Car Attendants service is minimal only because they
didn't use any of their services.
2010-June-08 Tuesday 10:40 AM CT
At 10:40 AM we have come to a dead stop. The Conductor announced that this is due to some
signal issues and that we will continue as soon as the train receives a clear signal.
Hopefully this will clear up soon. Personally I don't mind if we get delayed an hour or two
on our westward journey. This train is scheduled into Fullerton at around 6:30 AM PT so I
really don't mind if we come in at 7:30 AM or 8:30 AM. I'm sure that would also make it easier
on Randy who'll be coming to pick us up. I sometimes pick people up from the Fullerton Station
getting off the westbound Amtrak Southwest Chief. I always check the train status before I go
to bed the night before. But unless it is many hours late, I set my alarm as if the train will
catch up and arrive on time. Then when I get up, I'll check the train status again. If it is
still running late I'll leasurly go about my normal morning tasks before heading out to the
station. But if the train is on time, I'll rush out the door and leave most of my morning tasks
for after I return from the station. So, picking up from a late train is always a less hectic
At 10:47 AM we started slowly rolling again! A 7 minute delay is not too bad. That is something
that can be made up from all the padding in the schedule.
2010-June-09 Wednesday 10:30 AM PT
Our train arrived into the Amtrak San Bernardino Station in California right on schedule. But
that is when a few delays began! There was a Metrolink Comuter train boarding that the
Dispatcher wanted to make sure got out in the tracks ahead of us. So we had to wait about ten
minutes for that train to leave. Then, further down the tracks we had another ten minute wait
for another Metrolink train to pass us going in the opposite direction. Continuing with a few
delays here and there like that we finally ended up in Fullerton a bit more than an hour late.
We had told Randy that we would call him from San Bernardino to let him know if our train was
running on time and if he should be at the station to pick us up at the 6:30 AM scheduled
arrival time. We did call him from San Bernardino to let him know our train was running on time.
Thus Randy was down at the Fullerton Amtrak Station waiting for us by 6:30 AM! We did call him
as soon as we started experiencing delays, but he was already on his way to Fullerton and there
was no point in turning back. Thus he just waiting for us at the station until our train arrived.
Almost forgot! I didn't take many photos of the scenery or the train. But, I've taken this
Amtrak route so many times that you can find tons of photos and other travelogues by
clicking here or just visit
Overall it was a great journey. We enjoyed much of the train ride and were happy to have a
chance to see everything in
Silver Rails Country again.
Unfortunately, we didn't get too much time to relax and enjoy ourselves while in La Plata
with all the strategy meetings going on. Hopefully on our next visit we'll have a bit more
down time! Even after our many visits over the last four years, there is still plenty that
we have not yet seen in
Silver Rails Country and a lot of
things that are certainly worth visiting again!
If you are a train enthusiast, regardless of
whether or not you consider yourself a "railfan", there is plenty for both you and your family
to see and do in
Silver Rails Country right in
La Plata and within about an hour drive of La Plata. I hope you'll check out
SilverRailsCountry.com and personally
be able to visit the area and let me know your impressions from your visit. If you go to the
SilverRailsCountry.com web page you
will see there is a toll-free phone number near the top of the page where you can call to make
all your travel arrangements including booking your Amtrak travel, flights, rental car, hotel,
tours, etc. We try our best to make it convenient for you to make your travel arrangements to
visit and for there to be lots of things for you and your family to see and do year round during
your visit! Plus, we are certain that you will greatly enjoy your stay at the
Depot Inn & Suites with all its ammenities and
which is really a small train museum in and of itself with all the rail artifacts throughout the
hotel. Your feedback is always welcome!
for the full set of photos from this rail trip along with some additional comments.
for additional rail travelogues and photos from several others who have visited Silver Rails Country.
for other rail travelogues and photos from me.
for a lot of other travelogues, photos and info of travel on this Amtrak route!
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