Saturday, November 22, 2008

Two days in a railfan's heaven

Here's a selection of photos from last week's visit to the rail buff's shrine at La Plata, Mo. Click on each photo for a slightly larger version. (See the Nov. 20 blogpost below for the story of my trip.)

A handcar and other railroad implements greet guests at the front door of the Depot Inn. Train stuff of all kinds is scattered around the property.

Inside, the check-in desk looks like a railroad station ticket office.

There's enough reading material in the lobby to please the most dedicated railfan, and an old-fashioned pool table as well.

The wall separating the breakfast area from the pool features a huge, detailed model train that bears close study.

This stained glass Super Chief in one window gives the place almost a religious ambience for rail buffs.

There's no dearth of rail memorabilia, even in the hotel's swimming pool.

The pool is refilled from a replica of an old steam locomotive water spout at upper left.

The amenities of the Pullman Suite, where I stayed, include a fireplace and a big flat-screen television . . .

. . . and a jacuzzi big enough for two.

The long corridor to the standard bedrooms features rail memorabilia . . .

. . . including dozens of signal lanterns from a variety of railroads . . .

. . . and, of course, model trains of all makes and sizes.

The old Santa Fe Ry. station at La Plata is a photographer's paradise.

Art Deco ambience marks the station's interior.

Where's the train? When is it going to get here?

A remarkably large contingent of passengers from a small town greets the eastbound Southwest Chief.

The polite and patient Amish were the last to board the train.

Above the tracks near the station lies an enclosed, heated railfan's lookout, complete with His and Hers outhouses to the left.

On the short path from the hotel to the lookout lies an old roadside memory for railfans of a certain age.

The lookout itself is modest but snug and warm, with tables and chairs inside. The antenna beams continuous video of passing trains to all the TV sets at the Depot Inn.

During two and a half hours at the lookout, only one freight train came by, appearing so quickly that I was able to get only one photograph. That was the only disappointment of the trip. (The building across the tracks hosts and its sister operation,


  1. It has been pointed out that there ARE touristy things to do in La Plata and environs, especially Kirksville, a college town 11 miles north, and that there is a more upscale restaurant about 30 minutes from the Depot Inn. All this is true, but it will be necessary to rent a car (the hotel will help with that) to experience these things.

  2. I liked the travelog, pictures, and especially the Burma Shave signs. I remember them along the highways....

  3. PS: for all the complainers about the content here, I view it as learning something I didn't know before; be it aircraft essentials or details about railroads. May even make that trip someday.

  4. Glad to have met you at the Depot Inn & Suites, Henry. Love the story and photos, you set a new standard at Obviously, you're a writer whereby many of us who post rail travelogues are most interested in the facts of railroading or photographing trains, seldom do we tend to have both writing and photography skills. I suppose I'd put myself on the photography side.

    Enjoyed your several stories about La Plata as well as your photogaphs. I too have been to the Izaak Walton Inn: and agree with your comparison. Luckily the 2 days and one night I was there, I experienced two seasons. A rental car was a definite advantage. Keep up the good work!

    Carl Morrison, Placentia, CA,

  5. The Lookout Point is called "The Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point". Nice blog and nice

  6. Nice to see you here, Chris. I hope to have ridden one-tenth the million miles you have racked up on trains before I hang up my ticket punch.

  7. It has been pointed out that those "Amish" in the photographs taken at the station may not be Amish at all, but Mennonites, a close offshoot. It's not easy to identify a Plain Person just by his or her dress.