Posts Tagged ‘Great dome cars’

Last Amtrak Dome Car Sold

August 19, 2020

Amtrak’s Ocean View is shown in Oakland, California, in the consist of a National Railway Historical Society excursion.

Amtrak’s last dome car has been acquired by a private operator who plans to return it to service in excursion service in 2021.

Paxrail said it bought full-length dome Ocean View, a 92-seat passenger car built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle.

In recent years the car ran sporadically, most recently assigned to the Adirondack and Downeaster during the fall.

Amtrak retired the car in 2018 and offered it for sale last year. At the time the intercity passenger carrier said the car had become too expensive to maintain.

“We’re excited to now be a chapter in this wonderful car’s history,” said Paxrail President James Evenson.

“The Ocean View is a beautiful art-deco car offering a spectacular panorama for over 70 passengers in the dome. We’re looking forward to welcoming guests back aboard in 2021.”

Paxrail maintains a fleet of more than 20 historic passenger cars and provides the cars for excursions, day trips and corporate events.

Full-length domes, also known as great domes, also operated on the Santa Fe and Milwaukee Road.

At one time Amtrak owned all six full-length domes once used by the Empire Builder. Those cars were replaced in 1979 by Superliner equipment.

A few of the cars operated on Amtrak’s Auto Train in the 1980s and 1990s.

Passenger Cars such as Ocean View Was the Difference Between a Train Ride and a Bus Ride on Rails

September 4, 2019

Trains magazine passenger writer Bob Johnston had a valid point when he argued on the magazine’s website on Tuesday that Amtrak’s retirement of its last dome car means the carrier is losing a valuable promotional tool.

But how valuable? Amtrak management might argue that whatever the value of the Ocean View was as a promotional tool was no longer worth the cost to maintain it.

The news broke last week that Amtrak has retired its last dome car, former Great Northern Great Dome Ocean View, which had been built in the 1950s for the Empire Builder.

Ocean View had in recent years appeared on special occasions, including operating on the Adirondack in upstate New York during the fall foliage season.

It operated on the Hoosier State when Amtrak took back control of that train from Iowa Pacific, it ran on the Cardinal, and it ran on the Downeaster during a marketing promotion.

Ocean View also made appearances on special Amtrak moves.

The official line from Amtrak is that Ocean View is old and the cost of keeping it going had become too much.

That same reasoning was given for the retirement of the Pacific Parlour Cars, which had been built as Hi-Level cars for the Santa Fe.

Amtrak has all but been out of the dome car business since retiring its Heritage Fleet of short domes that once operated on such trains as the Capitol Limited, Lake Shore Limited and City of New Orleans more than a decade ago.

Some of those domes are having third or fourth lives as private varnish or on tourist railroads.

Johnston noted that some Class 1 railroads have done cars in their executive fleet, including Union Pacific, BNSF and Norfolk Southern.

“Current Amtrak management’s current intense focus on cost cutting, however, dictates retiring the type of equipment its host carriers continue to value,” Johnston wrote.

And what value do dome cars have? Johnston argues they help make a good impression when a railroad hosts movers and shakers to show them the property.

That’s probably true but the value of a dome car in that context is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify.

The cost of maintaining the Ocean View can be demonstrated in hard numbers, but not so much the public relations value of the car.

You could argue that Ocean View is worth X number of passengers on a train such as the Adirondack who might not have ridden had the Ocean View been absent from the consist.

But can you prove that? Amtrak management believes that if it wants to stimulate ridership on a given route at a given time it can do so with a flash discount fare sale.

The carrier has other equipment it can use to show off its routes to VIPs, including office car Beech Grove. It’s not a theater car per se, but does have full length windows on the rear.

Amtrak could lease a dome car from a private owner if it desired.

The lamenting by some of the retirement of Ocean View has less to do with its role as a “promotional tool” than it does the belief that dome coaches, full-service dining cars and Pacific Parlour cars are what distinguish riding a train from riding a bus.

Passenger train supporters have convinced themselves that these feature cars are necessary to entice ordinary people to ride trains.

Otherwise, the Amtrak experience would be rather mundane.

At a time when Amtrak management has professed its desire to do away with long-distance trains generally and transform those left into experiential services, whatever that means, the retirement of Ocean View and, for that matter, the Pacific Parlor Cars, is a loss, but imagine what it would be like if there were fewer trains intercity trains operating across America.

Which is the greater loss that you’d like to have back?

Amtrak Dome Ocean View Has Been Retired

September 2, 2019

The great dome car that was used in recent years for special duty on Amtrak trains has been retired.

The carrier’s last dome car is thought to be in storage at Amtrak’s Beech Grove shops near Indianapolis.

In recent years the car had been assigned to the Adirondack between Albany, New York, and Montreal during the fall foliage season.

Known as the Ocean View, the dome was built in 1955 for the Great Northern for use on its Empire Builder.

It was acquired by Amtrak from the Burlington Northern and given roster number 9361.

After being rebuilt in March 1985 to head end power, the car was renumbered to 9300(2) and assigned to the Auto Train.

It was renovated in 1999 and given roster number 10031 at which time it was assigned to Amtrak’s corporate services unit.

Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams told the Times Union newspaper of Albany that the Ocean View was retired “due to the age and expense of maintaining this vintage car.”

Gary Prophet, president of the Empire State Passengers Association, told the newspaper he was “very sad and disappointed” that Amtrak decided to retire the car rather than repair it.

He described the Ocean View as “a huge benefit for passengers riding through the Adirondacks.”

All That is Left

February 16, 2019

Amtrak once had a few dozen dome cars, but only great dome Ocean View is left.

The car is in storage most of the year, only being brought out for special occasions and revenue service in the fall.

It is shown here at Jack London Square in Oakland, California, in the consist of a chartered train that operated during the 1999 National Railway Historical Society convention.

That was built by Budd in 1955 for the Great Northern Railway.

I did not ride in Ocean View on this trip and I probably have never ridden in it. My only memory of riding in a full-width dome dates to February 1976 when I rode in one aboard the Empire Builder from Milwaukee to Chicago.

Amtrak Dome Car running on Downeaster Route

August 24, 2017

Amtrak has assigned its dome car Ocean View to the Downeaster route through late September.

The car, a former Great Northern Railway full-length dome car, ran on the route in August and September 2016.

The car will make four daily trips on the route between Boston and Brunswick, Maine.

Seats in the dome section are available to all passengers at no extra charge on a first-come, first-served basis.

Among the view passengers will see are the coastline, marshes and streams. The dome car will operate on the Downeaster route through Sept. 24.

Great Dome to Operate on Adirondack

September 27, 2016

amtrak-dome

Amtrak is bringing back its Great Dome car for the fall foliage season aboard the Adirondack in update New York.

The car will operate on the New York-Montreal train between Sept. 29 and Nov. 1.

The dome will operate northbound on Train 69 from Albany-Rensselaer, New York, to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays.

It will return south on Train 68 on Fridays, Sundays and Tuesdays. The dome will not operate on Wednesdays.

There is no additional charge to ride in the dome section. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

On some trips, National Park Service Trails and Rails volunteers will offer historical commentary between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Among the scenic features of the route are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Passengers can take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2017. Reservations are required.

Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

Great Dome Car Returns to Adirondack

September 21, 2015

Amtrak’s only remaining dome car will begin six-week seasonal service on the New York-Montreal Adirondack.

The “Great Dome” will operate between Sept. 24 and Nov. 3.

The car has upper level windows on all sides. Among the sights to see are Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The dome car will operate northbound from Albany to Montreal on Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays and returns south from Montreal on Fridays, Sundays, and Tuesdays. The dome car will not operate on Wednesdays.

Passengers are welcome to ride in the car at no extra cost. Seats are unreserved and available on a first-come, first-served basis.

When available, Trails and Rails volunteers will be aboard select dome car trips offering historical commentary between Saratoga Springs and Westport, New York.

Passengers can also take advantage of the I Love NY 15 percent discount off the regular (full) adult rail fare, valid for sale through May 2016. Reservations are required. Up to two children ages 2-12 may accompany each adult at half the discounted rail fare.

Amtrak Great Dome to see Additional Service

November 12, 2013

The Midwest tour of Amtrak’s great dome car has been extended through the Thanksgiving travel period.

Amtrak said on Monday that the car will operate on some Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service trains and on select Chicago-St. Louis Lincoln Service trains.

The car will be assigned to the Milwaukee route Nov. 25-28 on Numbers 329, 332, 333, 336, 337, 340 and 341; and Dec. 1 on trains 331, 334, 335, 338, 339 and 342.

On Nov. 29 and 30 the car will operate on Lincoln Service Nos. 303 and 306.

The dome car has been running this month between Chicago and Quincy, Ill.

The car’s upper level is equipped with windows on all sides, including the entire length of the roof, to provide panoramic views. It was built in 1955.

Dome Car to Operate on Illinois Zephyr

October 26, 2013

Amtrak’s great dome car will operate on the Illinois Zephyr  from Nov. 5-22.

No. 10031 is the only dome car left in Amtrak’s fleet. It will operate eastbound from Quincy on No. 380, which departs at 6:12 a.m., and westbound on No. 383, which departs Chicago at 5:55 p.m.
There will be no additional charge to ride in the car and seating is unreserved.

The great dome was built by the Budd Co. in 1955 as Great Northern No. 1391, one of six full-length domes used on the Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder operated by GN in partnership with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway.

This November the car will traverse the original route of the Empire Builder from Chicago to Aurora.

“The car features an upper level with windows on all sides to provide passengers with panoramic views of the changing colors of the trees, farmers in their fields and the picturesque communities along the route, including LaGrange, Naperville, Plano, Mendota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg and Macomb,” Amtrak said in a news release.

Acquired by Amtrak in 1971, the car once carried the name Ocean View.

Amtrak said the Illinois Zephyr and its counterpart, the Carl Sandburg (Nos. 381 & 382) carried more than 261,000 passengers in fiscal year 2013, which ended on Sept. 30.