Private Varnish on the Southwest Chief

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#1
[video=youtube_share;dsprZ5A71gw]https://youtu.be/dsprZ5A71gw[/video]

I love private rail cars, also known as Private Varnish. I’ve always thought this would be the best way to travel and see the country if time was no factor. During the summer months, PV’s are fairly common on all the transcontinental trains as private owners vacation or the public charter cars for their own once in a life time experience.
This video features PV’s on the Southwest Chief. During the summer and fall of 2017, we were fortunate to catch twelve cars as they made their way through New Mexico. Complete descriptions of these cars are available on our website.
Cimarron River: http://www.cimriver.com/
Colonial Crafts: http://colonialcraftsrailcar.com/
Cyrus K. Holliday: It is now owned by the Kennebec Financial Corporation, the family corporation of the Sefton family, wealthy San Diego pioneers. They founded San Diego Trust and Savings Bank and were major players in San Diego development and history
Overland Trail: http://www.overlandtrail.com/index.html
Pacific Sands: PACIFIC SANDS was delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad in April of 1950. Part of a total of 50 Pacific Series sleeper cars delivered by the Budd Company that year, the Pullman Company and Union Pacific had high hopes for the future expansion of rail travel by re-equipping the “City” trains with sleek, modern stainless steel cars.
Tioga Pass: Built in 1959 by the Canadian National Shops in Point St. Charles, Quebec, the car was part of an order for 12 similar cars designed for railroad executives. Originally number 23, and later number 93, Tioga Pass spent most of its life in Edmonton, Alberta.
Warren R. Henry and Evelyn A. Henry: This dome car and sleeper car are owned by Patrick Henry Promotions. Based out of Houston, TX, this company specializes in marketing and promotions for the restaurant and beverage industry. http://phcp.com/the-train/
Promontory Point: Built by Pullman in 1953 as a six-roomette, four double-bedroom and six-section sleeping car named the Loblolly Pine for the Chicago & Eastern Illinois Railroad. The C & EI sold the car to the Louisville & Nashville Railroad in 1969. In 1974, it was converted to a business car. Missouri Pacific acquired the car in 1976 as MP #2. After the merger of the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific in 1985, the car was renamed by Union Pacific and ultimately renumbered as UP #105. Union Pacific sold the car in 1997 to its current owner Michael Margrave, an attorney based out of Scottsdale, AZ. He renamed it Promontory Point.
St. James Place and Charter Club: These cars are owned by Charter Wire, a manufacturing company based in Wisconsin. The Charter Club is the ACF Dome/Coach car, previously identified as the AT-703 and UP7003. Prior to being known as the St. James Place, it was called the "Belleville" and was owned by the Illinois Central Railroad. https://www.scribd.com/document/260370194/Charter-Manufacturing-On-the-Rails
Sierra Hotel: This is probably my favorite car that I’ve seen and I was fortunate enough to catch it twice this last year. The Sierra Hotel, originally Silver Lounge, was built in 1948 as a mid-train lounge and dormitory car for use on the California Zephyr by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q), and later with the Burlington Northern (BN). It was taken over by Amtrak at its inception and saw service on both the North Coast Hiawatha and Texas Chief. The car began private charter operation in 1980 after being acquired from Amtrak. It then began the transformation into its current configuration as a business car after changing private ownership in 1989. It has been in private and charter use ever since.
The Sierra Hotel has four bedrooms with sleeping accommodations for eight guests. This is the limit for overnight charters. With another sleeping car, like the Puget Sound, the overnight capacity is 16.
For daytime use not requiring sleeping arrangements, the maximum number of guests is 20. The basic staffing is an Attendant and a Chef for eight people or fewer. If 24 hour service is required or the passenger number exceeds 12, an extra attendant will be required.
The upper level Vista Dome is designed for a normal maximum of 12 diners. By advance special arrangement, up to 16 may dine upstairs. All meals are prepared in the galley under the dome. Also on the lower level is a stand up bar and a small table for 4. The spacious main lounge has seating for 12. Up to 16 people may comfortably occupy the dome when not in meal service.
Luggage space aboard the car is limited and there is no space for very large suitcases. Towels, soap and hair dryer are provided. http://www.sierrahotel.com
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#2
I love private rail cars, also known as Private Varnish. I’ve always thought this would be the best way to travel and see the country if time was no factor.
If time and $$$$$ were no factor. That is only way I would travel if I were Bill Gates rich. My son is a fan of the old Wild Wild West TV series, which I watched when I was in high school. I often tell him how cool it would be to have your own private train.

I have seen many of those same cars pass through Edmonds on the Empire Builder. If the Builder has two units on the front, then I look for private varnish on the rear. Like you, the Sierra Hotel is my favorite, as it has both a vista dome and an open "rear porch." I vaguely remember eating dinner in a Union Pacific vista dome car on a cross country trip when I was young.

Any interesting stories behind the double-headed Rail Runners and the lone Amtrak diesel parked on a siding?
 
#3
Thanks Bill! I agree, the Sierra Hotel is the perfect car!
If the Railrunner has at least four cars, I think it needs the extra engine to get up the grade into Santa Fe. I'm not sure how steep it is, but I know it's steeper than a normal grade would be. The engine at ABQ is used for protect power if there are mechanical issues with one of the engines on the SW Chief. Along Raton Pass, two engines are needed for the 3.5% grade.
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#4
Thanks Bill! I agree, the Sierra Hotel is the perfect car!
It's a bit of an odd car as they never built any dome cars that also had open observation platforms on the back. (Unless you count the modern double decker cars used in Alaska and on the Rocky Mountain Express.) The owner modified the car to add the back platform, giving him the best of both worlds. It really is nice that way. I always found it ironic that the most famous dome cars, the "boat tail obs" cars with the rounded ends had all the chairs facing inwards on the bottom portion. Great for socializing, and obviously that was the intent, but it really limited your view out the back. Then again, I suppose the theory was that if you want a view, you head upstairs to the dome.
 



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