These high-level dome-lounge cars are two of six built by the Budd Company for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s El Capitan luxury coach train in 1956. This was a unique train that composed of two-level passenger cars with most accommodation on an upper level, and entrances and some seating on a lower story at ground level. The cars offered more efficient use of space and quieter interiors than conventional single-level cars.
The 1956 El Capitan cars were the first two-level coaches on intercity trains, and the design was revived by Amtrak in the 1980s for its “Superliner” cars that are still in use today. The El Capitan was the coach counterpart to the prestigious Super Chief all-sleeper train connecting Chicago and Los Angeles.
In the 1960s, the two trains were combined with special cars providing a connection between the high-level coaches and the single-level sleepers. The Hi-Level cars were continued in use by Amtrak after 1971 and were used interchangeably with Amtrak’s Superliners. Eventually the coaches and diners were withdrawn from use, leaving only the dome-lounges in service. The last use of these cars was in 2018 as “Pacific Parlour” cars on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight between Seattle and Los Angeles, both of our cars having traveled over 8,400,000 miles! The interiors were redesigned for this service with a movie theater in the lower level, interiors have been retained today.
Purchased in 2019 by the Steam Railroading Institute, cars 575 and 580 serve a first-class ambiance, including high-end seating, panoramic views, specialized food and beverage service at the cash bar, and more.
All 8 cars were part of 2 orders in 1952 and 1953 for 218 80-seat coaches for modernization of the Canadian National Railway’s passenger service. They were built to designs of the Pullman Standard Car and Manufacturing Company and delivered from the Canadian Car Foundry in early 1954. The cars were used on the Canadian National’s premier trains of the 1950s. They were delivered in the distinguished green-and-black “maple leaf” paint scheme and later changed to the grey-and-black scheme in CN’s 1966 image makeover. The cars operated across Canada, and presumably operated through Michigan on the International, Maple Leaf, and other through passenger trains between Toronto and Chicago. They were converted to 76-seat coaches in the 1960s with the addition of end luggage racks and later redecorated by VIA sometime after 1977.
In February of 2005, the Steam Railroading Institute purchased cars 5576, 5581, and 5646 from the Tuscola and Saginaw Bay Railway Company, which previously modernized them with Head End Power (HEP), new heating and air-conditioning. Car 5447 was retained by the Great Lakes Central Railroad until 2019 when it was purchased by SRI. Cars 5482, 5485, 5600 (3037) and 5610 served the Adirondack Scenic Railroad from 1996 until being purchased by SRI between 2022 and 2023. Car 3037 was originally coach 5600 and was converted to coach-café car 3037 in 1965. It will be rebuilt into an open-air car and return to its original number of 5600.
This coach has an interesting history. Built in 1950 by the Budd Company as a 21-roomette sleeping car, the “Norristown Inn” served the Pennsylvania Railroad, named after one of the colonial-era taverns. With the shrinkage of Pullman service, this order of stainless-steel sleeping cars was returned to the Budd Company for conversion to commuter coaches in the 1960s and were commonly used between New York and Washington in Clocker service.
12 cars were purchased using Urban Mass Transit Administration funds by the Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority (SEMTA) in the 1970s where this car was renumbered 107 “Troy.” At the end of Detroit’s commuter service in 1984, the cars were transferred to the New York MTA and ultimately Maryland’s MARC (Maryland Rail Commuter) Train Service. They were completely rebuilt by MARC in the early 1990s, and later donated to several museums upon retirement.
MARC 147 was given to the B&O Railroad Museum in 2001, which generously made the car available for purchase by the Steam Railroading Institute after a long-term lease in 2017.
This unique car was a part of 12 68-seat coaches built by the Budd Company for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s El Capitan luxury coach train in 1964. This was a unique train that composed of two-level passenger cars with most accommodation on an upper level, and entrances and some seating on a lower story at ground level. The cars offered more efficient use of space and quieter interiors than conventional single-level cars.
The 1956 El Capitan was the first two-level intercity train, and the design was revived by Amtrak in the 1980s for its “Superliner” cars that are still in use today. The El Capitan was the coach counterpart to the prestigious Super Chief all-sleeper train connecting Chicago and Los Angeles.
In the 1960’s, the two trains were combined with special cars-one of them being the 736-providing a connection between the high-level coaches and the single-level sleepers. After Amtrak took over passenger service in 1971, the Hi-Level cars remained in service and were used interchangeably with the Superliners. Eventually the coaches and diners were withdrawn from use, leaving only the dome-lounges in service until 2018.
At some point in its career, 736 had half of its upper-level seating removed and replaced with 8 bedrooms (each with a bunkbed) for use by crew members of its respective train. A crew bathroom with a shower was also added on the lower level.
Retired by Amtrak between 1994 and 2000, with a mileage of 4,163,957, the car was sold into private ownership and stored before being purchased by the Steam Railroading Institute in 2019 and returned to service later in the year. Passenger service in the coach section returned in late 2021.
In addition to serving as Coach Deluxe Class on excursions, 736 also provides a connection between all single-level equipment and our hi-level Pere Marquette Parlours while also providing crew quarters in the dormitory section of the car.
Built in 1956 by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, this car’s lifespan began as a 50-seat coach known as “Silver Halter” and numbered 4739. Primary service included the Denver Zephyr between Chicago and Denver.
When Amtrak took over most of the nation’s passenger service in 1971, 4739 was renumbered to 5016. In 1985, the coach was reconfigured to a diner-cafeteria and numbered 8716. Rebuilt and reconfigured yet again in 2009, it was finally numbered 8532. The last use of this car was in 2018, being retired with 6,250,217 miles. This car has a seating capacity of 40 people.
Acquired in 2019 by the Steam Railroading Institute, 8532 returned to service in late 2021.
This diner was built in 1958 by the Budd Company with a smooth-sided body, stark contrast to the stainless-steel design of the manufacturer’s fame, as part of an order of 6 identical diners for use on the North Coast Limited: between Chicago and Seattle. Originally built to the number of 462 with a seating capacity of 48, at some point it was reduced to 40. The diner was briefly renumbered to 1296 when the Burlington Northern Railroad took over the Northern Pacific in 1970. 1296 was sold to Amtrak in 1971 when Amtrak took over the nation’s passenger service and renumbered the car to 8048.
In 1980, Amtrak remodeled the diner while also renumbering it to 8506. 6 years later in 1986, the diner was reconfigured to a griddle-diner. Bringing the seating capacity back up to the original 48 and renumbered it to 8550 which it would be retired as in 2019 with a final tally of 6,801,750 miles!
Acquired in 2019 by the Steam Railroading Institute, 8550 returned to service in late 2021 as 462 once again.
In late 1943, the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation contracted with the Pullman Company to build 2,400 troop sleepers due to a shortage of sleeping cars brought about by World War II. These cars carried soldiers in a cheap, noisy, rough-riding alternative to passenger-type sleeping cars, but with the services of a Pullman porter. The soldiers slept in 24 three-high bunks. Troop cars saw service though 1947, after which many were sold by the U.S. Army Transportation Corp. Many railroads subsequently converted them into mail cars, express boxcars, box or refrigerator cars, cabooses or camp cars.
Pere Marquette 361 was purchased as war surplus by the Pere Marquette Railway in 1949, who converted it to a baggage car by plating over the windows and adding a baggage door. It was used by the Pere Marquette’s successors, Chesapeake and Ohio Railway and Chessie System, in maintenance-of-way service (renumbered to 1701) until 1985 when it was donated to the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation. It’s currently used as the tool car both at the Steam Railroading Institute and out on the road with Pere Marquette 1225.
Detroit & Mackinac 7 was purchased as war surplus by the Detroit & Mackinac Railway in 1948, who converted it to a baggage car by plating over several windows and adding a baggage door and vestibules. After passenger service ended on the D&M in 1951, the car was made into a caboose, allowing D&M to retire several aging wooden cabooses. In the 1970s, a Detroit Diesel generator was added to the car, to serve as a power car for D&M’s business-car fleet. In 2004 the Steam Railroading Institute purchased the car for use as an auxiliary power car. A second Diesel generator set was added in 2018.
Sleeping cars provided overnight transportation in the era before intercity auto and air travel. Built by the Pullman Standard Car and Manufacturing Company in 1950, this car is one of the last generations of railroad sleeping cars. Unlike the open-berth cars of the 1920s, these streamlined cars had all enclosed rooms. This is the most common style of lightweight sleeper, known as a “10 6” because it has 10 small roomettes with a single bed each, and 6 double bedrooms with two beds, that can be combined into suites. Normal occupancy would have been 22 passengers, assisted by a Pullman porter who slept on a short bunk at one end of the car.
The “City of Ashland” is one of a large order of 56 10-6’s for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, intended for service between Washington, Newport News, White Sulphur Springs, Cincinnati, Chicago and Detroit. These 56 cars were named for cities on the C&O line; including several in Michigan that did not have sleeping-car service or even passenger service. Sleepers built in the early 1950’s went out of use quickly due to being obsoleted by highways and airlines.
This car was sold to a private collector in 1971 and was stored for many years along with sister car “City of Ludington” in Lima, Ohio until the early 1990s. Steve Zuiderveen, John Baldwin and Max Smith became owners of the car until 2003 when it was donated to the Steam Railroading Institute. “City of Ashland” retains its original interior and is operable, but presently used only for crew accommodation.
Northern Pacific 372 was built in 1954 as an 8-6-4 (8 Duplex Roomettes, 6 Roomettes and 4 Bedrooms) sleeping car by the Pullman Company for use on the famous North Coast Limited. 372 was sold to Amtrak in 1970 when Amtrak took over the nations passenger service and renumbered the car to 2420. Later sold to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1994 and renumbered to 42111, it was used for 3 years before being sold into private ownership in 2001. While owned by Ringling Bros., one standard roomette was converted to a bathroom while a second was converted to a shower.
Acquired in 2019 by the Steam Railroading Institute, the car is currently listed for sale.
Built in 1950 by the St. Louis Car Company, USAX 89646 was used as a kitchen car for the U.S. Army hospital and troop trains. It was sold in the 1970s to several different entities, including Amtrak. Amtrak converted this car to baggage car 1367 and used it until the mid-1990s, when it was sold to the Steam Railroading Institute. It is currently stored awaiting re-use.
Built in 1934 by the Pressed Steel Car Company for the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, this car was used in branch-line service but sold shortly thereafter to the Chicago Great Western (CGW) Railway. The CGW modernized the car with engine-powered air-conditioning and reclining seats until the railroad’s successor, the Chicago & North Western Railroad, converted it to a camp car for track crews. It was eventually donated to the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Il. The car was sold by the Illinois Railway Museum to Steam Railroading Institute member Gary Knudsen, who donated it to SRI.
462 was one of the very last “heavyweight” (80 tons) passenger cars to be built, of the type that was standard between 1914 and 1934. It has a non-structural riveted steel car body on a steel girder frame. All other passenger cars at SRI are “lightweight” (70 tons) streamlined cars with load-bearing car bodies.
It’s currently used as the concession and merchandise car for the Steam Railroading Institute’s excursions.