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Besides having questions about the scenery passing by out their windows, passengers often want to know about the historic railcar they are traveling on. One of the most enjoyable aspects of a private rail excursion is riding on a train car that might have been built back in the 1940's and 1950's. Some of the rail cars that we have presented onboard educational programs on have been ridden by celebrities such as Frank Sinatra. Over the few years, the APRHF Rail Rangers have compiled a short history on some of the rail cars that we have presented programs aboard. We recently decided to share some of this history exclusively on our website, complete with pictures of some of our Interpretive Guides with the cars. We hope to see you onboard some of these rail cars in the future on one of our partner's excursions. It's an experience you won't soon forget!


Amfleet is a fleet of single-level intercity railroad passenger cars built by the Budd Company for Amtrak in the late 1970's and early 1980's. Budd based the Amfleet design on its earlier Metroliner electric multiple unit. They were the first new locomotive-hauled cars ordered by Amtrak. Currently, Amfleet cars are used extensively in the eastern and Midwestern United States, forming the backbone of Amtrak's single-level fleet.

An Amfleet car is 12 feet 8 inches tall (relative to the rail head), 10 feet 6 inches wide, and 85 feet 4 inches in length over the vestibule diaphragm face plates. The car body itself is built up from spot-welded stainless steel sections, resulting in an exceptionally strong structure that is resistant to corrosion. Due to the length of the car, a noticeable arch is built into the car body to prevent sagging when carrying a full passenger load.

While the APRHF Rail Rangers are not affiliated with Amtrak and do not perform any Interpretive Programs on any regularly scheduled Amtrak trains, we can provide our services for groups who charter an Amfleet car or buy tickets for a large portion of one car.

"Caritas" was built by Pullman Standard as a 14 roomette-4 bedroom sleeper for the Frisco Railroad Texas Special, a passenger train operated jointly by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (also known as the MKT or the Katy) and the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (the Frisco). It was the flagship of both these lines, operating between St. Louis, Missouri, and San Antonio, Texas, from 1915 until 1959, after which time the Katy changed the northern destination from St. Louis to Kansas City after the Frisco discontinued service from St. Louis.

In 1965, "Caritas" was sold to the Canadian National and was used in regular service on the Super Continental between Montreal and Vancouver. After being retired in 1982, it was purchased by High Iron Travel Corporation (a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific) and was completely rebuilt in art-deco style and modernized. Today, "Caritas" is one of the most widely traveled privately-owned cars in the country. It has the capacity for 16 passengers for day travel and 8 passengers for overnight travel.

"Caritas" is perfect for small group APRHF Rail Rangers programs for day passengers presented in the lounge or dining table area.

Designed by famed industrial designer Brook Stevens and built by the Milwaukee Road in 1948 in its own Milwaukee Shops, the "Cedar Rapids" Skytop observation car saw service on the Chicago-Minneapolis Hiawatha. The rear of the Skytop Lounge is made of about 90 percent glass, with multiple rows of windows reaching up to form the ceiling. In the four parlor-lounges this "solarium" contains 12 seats, with an additional 24 seats in the interior of the car. At the front of the car is a four-seat drawing room. The interior features wood paneling, characteristic of Milwaukee Road designs.

"Cedar Rapids" was retired from regular service in 1970 and was donated to Brook Stevens. It was rebuilt in 1984 and operated on various rail lines until 1990. It was acquired by its current owner, Friends of the 261, in 1998. It has a daytime capacity for 36 passengers and a night capacity for two.

APRHF Rail Rangers present Interpretive Programs on this car in conjunction with the Friends of the 261. This often takes place during the group's steam excursions and charters between the Twin Cities and Chicago on the back of Amtrak's Empire Builder.

What is now named "DuQuoin" was built in 1950 by Budd as a 44-seat passenger coach; it was originally named "Golden Sand". This car was owned by the Southern Pacific and mainly saw service on the Golden State, a train that was operated between Chicago and Los Angeles in conjunction with the Rock Island Railroad. "Golden Sand" became Coach #4010 when it joined Amtrak’s fleet in 1971. For 24 years this car was used on various passenger train lines that used single-level equipment. This included frequent trips between Chicago and New York on such trains as Amtrak’s Broadway Limited and the Lake Shore Limited.

Since 1995, this rail car has had several private owners, including the Illinois Transit Assembly Corporation and Wisconsin Southern Railroad. The original "Golden Sand" name was briefly restored after it was purchased by Mid-America Railcar Leasing.

The car is still owned by Mid-America, who was leasing it to Iowa Pacific for use on the Hoosier State between Indianapolis and Chicago through February 28, 2017. This car was used during the Rail Rangers' 'Riding the Hoosier Rail' program in 2016 and 2017.

The rail car that is now known as "Durant" was built as a 48-seat passenger leg-rest coach by the Budd Company in 1953. It operated on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway as Coach #2826. This rail car spent a lot of its early life operating from Chicago to Los Angeles on the famed El Capitan. In 1971, this rail car became part of Amtrak’s single-level coach pool, and was used on many eastern train routes. Amtrak numbered what is now known as the "Durant" as Coach #4819, and then Coach #4725 when it renovated in 1980. It remained in Amtrak service until 1995.

After passing through the hands of several private rail car operators, this rail car became part of Mid-America Railcar Leasing. It was used as a coach and table/lounge car known as the "Mohave". It was made available for private charters and saw mileage on many different routes. The car is still owned by Mid-America, who was leasing it to Iowa Pacific for use on the Hoosier State between Indianapolis and Chicago through February 28, 2017. This car was used during the Rail Rangers' 'Riding the Hoosier Rail' program in 2016 and 2017.

The newest railcar on the Hoosier train today is known as "Dyersburg", however this coach is still over 55 years old. It was built in 1960 by the St. Louis Car Company as a 44-seat coach. It was used on various Union Pacific passenger trains in the central and western United States. The Union Pacific ended up leasing this coach car to Amtrak when it took over the country’s passenger rail service in 1971. Union Pacific sold this car to Amtrak outright the following year. This rail car was re-numbered by Amtrak as Coach #4554 and Coach #4618 (following a 1979 refurbishment). This rail car remained in active passenger service through January 1995 and was stored by Amtrak until 2001, when it was sold to a private rail car owner.

Today, the coach is owned by Mid-America Railcar Leasing. It has operated in charter service under the names "Bryce Canyon" and "Reveler". It is currently in a long-term lease to Iowa Pacific Holdings, who has repainted it and named it after Dyersburg, Tennessee, a city north of Memphis on the old Illinois Central.

The car is still owned by Mid-America, who was leasing it to Iowa Pacific for use on the Hoosier State between Indianapolis and Chicago through February 28, 2017. This car was used during the Rail Rangers' 'Riding the Hoosier Rail' program in 2016 and 2017.

What is now known as "Lake Pepin" was built by the Budd Company in 1952 for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a 60-seat coach and 14-seat lounge. It saw service on the Senator, a train that ran though the busy corridor between Boston, New York City, and Washington, D.C. This car was later converted into a straight coach and used on the Pennsylvania’s Clocker service between New York and Philadelphia (although PRR never used the name, it was unofficial until Amtrak formally adopted it in 1981).

When the Pennsylvania and New York Central merged in 1968 it came under the ownership of the new Penn Central. In 1971 Amtrak acquired the car, when it was converted to head end electrical power in May 1981 and renumbered #7426. It was later renumbered #7615 and in the summer of 1996 was named "Glen Falls" for use on Amtrak’s New York-Montreal Adirondack.

After being retired by Amtrak in 2003, it was acquired by the Friends of the 261 and named "Lake Pepin". APRHF Rail Rangers frequently present Interpretive Programs for coach passengers on this car during steam excursions.

"Lamberts Point" was built in 1918 by Pullman as business car #200 for the Norfolk & Western Railway. It features cherry woodwork with brass fixtures throughout the car, which includes two large bedrooms, a dining room and lounge. It was named after a point of land on the eastern shore of the Elizabeth River, near the downtown area of Norfolk, Virginia. That area of land, in turn, got its name from Thomas Lambert, who founded a plantation on about 100 acres of land in the 1630’s, when the territory was still part of the Elizabeth River Shire in colonial Virginia.

During the 1980's this car was based in Norfolk, Virginia and used in various excursions featuring Norfolk & Western steam locomotive #611. In 1985, it was even used on a special six-day trip between Virginia and Kansas City, Missouri. It was later acquired by its current owner, the Friends of the 261. Today, tickets on "Lamberts Point" are sold to groups during various steam excursions.

The APRHF Rail Rangers have presented several Interpretive Programs aboard "Lamberts Point" during Friends of the 261 steam excursions out of Minneapolis Junction, Minnesota.

Business/observation car "Montana" was built in 1948 for the Milwaukee Road. With its open-platform, it was often placed at the rear of trains and used by railroad management on inspection trips. In the 1970's, the car was sold to Gene Love, a wealthy oilman. He renamed it "Silurian" and made only one major change - he replaced the Nystrom trucks with something more conventional to allow access to the New York City railroad tunnels (apparently there was not enough clearance for a third rail?). Mr. Love died shortly after the car was ready for his use and the estate donated it to the Museum of Transport in St. Louis.

The group who ran the Frisco #1522 out of St. Louis rehabbed the car and used it as part of 1522's train set. They painted it in their Frisco blue and cream colors and renamed it the "Bluebonnet." The 1522 quit running in 2002.

In 2010, the "Milwaukee" name was restored when the car was purchased by the Friends of the 261. Rehabilitation work continues on the car, although it has been repainted in the famed Milwaukee Road maroon and orange. The APRHF Rail Rangers often present their Interpretive Programs aboard this car on steam excursions.

The "Montana" was designed and built by the Milwaukee Road shops as a Tap Lounge for the streamlined 1947 Olympian Hiawatha. It was retired from regular service in 1955 when the railroad began to use Super Dome cars instead on trains running between Chicago, Milwaukee, the Twin Cities, and the Pacific Northwest. The car was converted to a business car in the late 1950's, with the open platform being added sometime later in the 1960's.

"Montana" was transferred from the Milwaukee Road to private ownership in the late 1970's, leased to the Wisconsin Central, then operated on steam excursions with the Friends of the 261. It is currently owned by Sean Breen and Arlene Post, a family with strong Milwaukee Road heritage.

The car is currently kept in Los Angeles and is frequently used for private charters around Southern California. "Montana" is sometimes chartered out for cross-country excursions sponsored by the Friends of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad. Look out for APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard when it's passing through the Upper Midwest!

"Prairie View" was one of six streamlined dome lounge cars built by Budd for the Great Northern and CB&Q in 1955. The cars were used exclusively on the Empire Builder from their introduction in 1955 until the end of private passenger service in 1971. Amtrak retained all six cars and they continued to run on the Empire Builder before new Superliners displaced them in 1979, after which they saw service elsewhere in the system, including the Auto Train.

In 1993, Amtrak sold the shell of the car to the Burlington Northern, who put it in storage in Springfield, Missouri. The following year, it was bought by Holland America Westours and shipped up to Alaska. After undergoing a one million dollar restoration that took three years of work, it entered service as "Deshka" in 1997. It often operated between Fairbanks, Denali National Park, and Anchorage for cruise ship passengers. It returned to the mainland in 2009 when it was purchased by its current owner, Iowa Pacific.

The APRHF Rail Rangers have frequently presented Interpretive Programs on "Prairie View", as it is often charted by "Zephyr Route" for Chicago-based private rail excursions.

"Royal Street" is a five double bedroom-buffet-lounge observation car that was built by Pullman-Standard in 1950 for the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. It was operated on the Crescent, a passenger train that was jointly-operated between New York and New Orleans via Washington and Atlanta by the Pennsylvania Railroad, Southern Railway, Atlanta & West Point, Western Railway of Alabama, and the Louisville & Nashville (L&N).

After 20 years working for the L&N, the "Royal Street" was sold to its first private owner in 1970. By the time current owner Dr. Jim Giganti of St. Louis rescued the car and began the lengthy restoration process in 1992, the car was pretty far gone, to say the least. The completely restored "Royal Street" has a gleaming new interior and stunning “Lookout Observation Lounge”, a full 10 inches above the floor level of the rest of the car that features oversized picture windows.

"Royal Street" is often used on excursions organized by American Rail Excursions and occasionally features APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides aboard to educate passengers about the areas being traveled through.

"Scenic View" was built in 1954 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and were used on many fine trains including the San Francisco Chief, the El Capitan, the Chief, the Texas Chief and the Chicagoan/Kansas Cityan. It was one of 14 Big Domes built for the Santa Fe; contemporary advertisements touted the Big Domes as "the world's most beautiful railroad car."

Sold in 1971 to the Auto Train Corporation, "Scenic View" began a second life as part of a train that carried people and their automobiles from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. After the Auto Train ceased operating, "Scenic View" was sold to private owners in 1981, and ended up in Alaska as part of a Holland America Steamship Lines land cruise program as "Nenan". The dome car was purchased by Iowa Pacific in 2007, and has operated on its excursion trains since then.

The car seats 66 upstairs in the dome, and feature a full kitchen and dining room seating 22 on the lower level. The APRHF Rail Rangers have presented numerous Interpretive Programs on "Scenic View" during charters organized by Zephyr Route and Friends of the 261.

"Sky View" was built in 1954 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and were used on many fine trains including the San Francisco Chief, the El Capitan, the Chief, the Texas Chief and the Chicagoan/Kansas Cityan. It was one of 14 Big Domes built for the Santa Fe; contemporary advertisements touted the Big Domes as "the world's most beautiful railroad car."

Sold in 1971 to the Auto Train Corporation, "Sky View" began a second life as part of a train that carried people and their automobiles from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. After the Auto Train ceased operating, "Sky View" was sold to Curtis Porter of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1981, and subsequently leased to Golden Arrow Excursions. It ended up in Alaska as part of a Holland America Steamship Lines land cruise program as "Kobuk". The dome car was purchased by Iowa Pacific in 2007; it has operated on their excursion trains ever since then.

The car seats 66 upstairs in the dome, and feature a full kitchen and dining room seating 22 on the lower level. The APRHF Rail Rangers have presented numerous Interpretive Programs on "Sky View" during charters organized by Zephyr Route and Friends of the 261.

What is now called "Stampede Pass" was built by the Budd Company in 1954 for the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad as coach-dome #558. It was operated on the Northern Pacific's premier train, the Chicago-to-Seattle North Coast Limited, which the Northern Pacific operated in partnership with the CB&Q. In 1971, the rail car became part of Amtrak and was operated on various routes around the country through 1995. After the Superliner fleet was introduced, what is now "Stampeded Pass" was primarily operated on trains in the eastern United States.

Amtrak sold the dome car off into private service in 1995. It was briefly leased to the Grand Canyon Railway, where it bore the name "Kokopelli". In the late 1990's, the car was converted from a dome-coach to a dome-sleeper, with the addition of three bedrooms, a galley, and a lounge seating area. After the expiration of the Grand Canyon Railway lease, it operated in excursion and charter service out of Cincinnati for over a decade under the name "Observatory".

Paxrail acquired the car in 2015 and named it "Stampede Pass". APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides present programs during select public Paxrail excursions.

"Summit View" was built in 1954 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and were used on many fine trains including the San Francisco Chief, the El Capitan, the Chief, the Texas Chief and the Chicagoan/Kansas Cityan. It was one of 14 Big Domes built for the Santa Fe; contemporary advertisements touted the Big Domes as "the world's most beautiful railroad car."

Sold in 1971 to the Auto Train Corporation, "Summit View" began a second life as part of a train that carried people and their automobiles from Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida. After the Auto Train ceased operating, "Summit View" was sold to Delaware Otsego/NYS&W division in 1981. It ended up in Alaska as part of a Holland America Steamship Lines land cruise program in 1985 as "Eklutna". The dome car were purchased by Iowa Pacific in 2007, and has operated on various excursions trips, but has most recently been assigned to business class service the Hoosier train since August 2015.

The car seats 66 upstairs in the dome, and feature a full kitchen and dining room seating 22 on the lower level. This car was used on the Hoosier State from August 2015 to February 2017, including for presentations by the Rail Rangers' 'Riding the Hoosier Rails' program in 2016 and 2017.

"Super Dome #53" was built by Pullman Standard for the Milwaukee Road. The ten Super Domes were the first full-length domes in revenue service, first operating on the Olympian Hiawatha and Twin Cities Hiawatha in late 1952. The full-length glass roof necessitated a new, powerful air-conditioning system from a dedicated diesel motor. The massive weight of the car, 224,000 pounds, required reinforced three-axle trucks. Much of this weight was concentrated in the glass dome, which meant new framing techniques. The result was an 80-foot-long dome level which could seat 68, nearly three times that of the Vista Dome.

"Super Dome #53" was acquired by Canadian National in 1964 and named "Athabaska". It was sold to the Chicago & North Western Railway for business service in 1986 and renamed "Powder River". It was acquired by the North Carolina DOT in 1996 and received over $1.8 million in mechanical upgrades. Most recently, it was purchased on Ebay by the Friends of the 261.

APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides are often on the car during Friends of the 261 steam excursions and select Chicago to St. Paul, MN trips on the back of Amtrak's Empire Builder.

The Superliner is a bi-level passenger car used on long-haul Amtrak trains outside the Northeast Corridor. The Superliner fleet currently includes Transition Sleepers, Sleeping Cars, Coach Cars, Coach-Baggage Cars, Dining Cars, Sightseer Lounge Cars, and converted Cross Country Cafe cars. The initial cars were built by Pullman-Standard in the late 1970's and a second order was built in the mid-1990's by Pullman's successor, Bombardier Transportation.

The name "Superliner" was chosen by Needham, Harper & Steers (then Amtrak's advertising agency) and announced in 1977. Prior to the announcement Amtrak had run an employee contest to determine the name but the winning entry, "Vistaliner" (harkening back to the "Vista-Domes" of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad), was already under copyright by another company.

While the APRHF Rail Rangers are not affiliated with Amtrak and do not perform any Interpretive Programs on any regularly scheduled Amtrak trains, we can provide our services for groups who charter a Superliner car or buy tickets for a large portion of one car.

The coach cars that are now known as "Wenona" and "Nokomis" were built by American Car & Foundry in 1947 for the Central of Georgia Railway as segregated coaches (white and black passengers had separate seating sections) No. 541 & 542. These cars were used on the Nancy Hanks II streamliners that operated between Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia. They were later renumbered 671 & 672, then sold to the Algoma Central Railway and used on its famous Agawa Canyon Tour Train between Sault Ste. Marie and Agawa Canyon in Ontario as cars No. 442 & 443.

The Friends of the 261 acquired these cars in 1998 and upgraded it them to Amtrak specifications; each containing 52 coach seats. APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guides will often answer questions for coach passengers in there cars during the Friends of the 261 steam excursions.

In 1935 the Milwaukee Road named its streamlined passenger trains Hiawathas after Longfellow’s poem. The "Nokomis", named after Hiawatha’s grandmother and the "Wenonah", named after the mother of Hiawatha and after the city in southeast Minnesota on the Milwaukee Road main line.

What is now called "Wisconsin Valley" was built by the St. Louis Car Company for the United States Army as an Army hospital car for use during the Korean War. It was acquired by Amtrak in 1973 and reconfigured in May 1974 to a "Le Pub" cafeteria and lounge car. In promotional material, Amtrak described Le Pub as a place "where you can gather with new friends and old acquaintances…dimly-lit, [this] romantic cocktail lounge car has cozy, comfortable chairs, intimate tables...". Le Pub cars were often used on the Montrealer train which operated between Washington, D.C. and Montreal, Canada. The car was rebuilt again by Amtrak in 1980.

In 2001, the Friends of the 261 acquired the car. It's interior was renovated in 2002 and again in 2011. It is named in the "Valley" series after the Milwaukee Road’s series of eight "straight" parlor cars built for Hiawatha and Varsity (Chicago-Madison) service in 1948.

APRHF Rail Rangers Interpretive Guide can often be found talking with First Class passengers on this car during Friends of the 261 steam excursions.
The information above was compiled from a number of sources, including interviews with current car owners and from a variety of websites. If you have updated information or corrections, please e-mail APRHF Vice-President Robert Tabern at railrangers@aprhf.org, or write to: APRHF Rail Rangers, P.O. Box 175, La Plata, MO 63549.