Copyright 1997-2015 Pacific Railroad Society, Inc.
The Pacific Railroad Society began early in 1936 when six railfans in the Los Angeles area banded together as the "Railroad Boosters." Excursions were an important part of the group from its beginning, and included visits to such now-legendary places as Pacific Electric's Torrance Shops, the Mount Lowe Railway, and San Luis Obispo's narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway.
In 1949 a new name was adopted, Pacific Railroad Society. Incorporation took place in 1957, and in 1980 PRS became a charitable public-benefit corporation, to facilitate raising funds and soliciting tax-deductible donations to establish the Pacific Railroad Museum. Am establishment of a museum was an important long-term goal of the Society.
THE PRS ROLLING STOCK, OUR MAINLINE PRIVATE CARS
by MARTI ANN DRAPER
The most significant physical asset of PRS, as well as the part of our historical collection which consumes the greatest part of
our efforts and resources, is the PRS mainline private car fleet.
In a way, the term "private cars" is misleading, in that the cars were never used as the private cars of individuals during their lives
as active cars on the railroads. Now belonging to PRS, they are irrevocably dedicated to educational purposes, and their
preservation and operation are clearly meant to be for the good of the public. Nonetheless, their legal status is that of "private
cars" which are operated on common carrier railroads, including Amtrak, under contract. This is so although they are examples
of the types of revenue cars commonly used by the major railroads on their long-distance trains in the 1940's and 1950's. The
PRS fleet includes no business cars, nor any richly-appointed luxury cars such as were used by wealthy and influential persons
in the past. It is a rare PRS member, however, who does not feel that he or she has some personal stake in these cars.
In 1969 passenger service in the United States was being curtailed as quickly as the ICC would allow. Failing revenues in all
aspects of passenger operations meant cutbacks, notably on Southern Pacific, which experimented with providing the most
basic services possible. PRS, however, was enjoying considerable success with excursions, offering 14 excursions during the
calendar year of 1969. During this period the excursion department was managed by Rolland Graham, a young, inventive, and
hard-driving personality who also had been editing Wheel Clicks. Rolland foresaw that the excursion effort would be greatly
curtailed in the future as sleeping cars became less and less available for charter. He also could tell that the curtailment of dining
car services would mean future one-day trips would be dependent on automat cars or box lunches. With these ideas in mind,
Rolland began to consider seriously the acquisition of railroad cars by PRS.
The first PRS private car, Imperial Bird, was purchased after Rolland, on the advice of Dick Reynolds, looked into the availability
of the car and did some preliminary negotiations with the representative of the Autoliner Company, which was in the process of
qualifying as the agent for the sale of all UP passenger cars to be freed for sale. Each member of the PRS Board of Directors, with
the exception of Leroy Donat, voted for the purchase of the Imperial Bird. Director Donat explained that he thought the
maintenance costs would be too high, and that the cars would be a financial liability. History has proved that Director Donat
correctly predicted high maintenance costs, but the revenue generated by the cars during their active years was more than
enough to offset their purchase prices and maintenance during the years they operated.
Among supporters of private car purchases, Director Nolan Black led the way. He gave support and encouragement to Rolland
in the search for appropriate cars. Private car purchases were thought to be important to ensure continuing excursions, to
preserve representative examples of railroad equipment, and as an investment of surplus capital which the IRS would
presumably rather see tied up in a historical collection than accumulating interest in a bank. Many members still remember being
asked informally at the 1969 Christmas Banquet what they thought of PRS getting private cars. Most looked forward to being
able to operate and work on cars under PRS control, although the scale of the enterprise had yet to be envisioned. The Board of
Directors sent out an opinion poll in December, 1969, which asked the members' opinion on the subject, and upon the return of
the ballots ratified their purchase of the Imperial Bird.
The Imperial Bird was purchased directly from the Union Pacific. It appeared at the former United States government supply
depot at Mira Loma, where UP stored its surplus passenger cars, during December of 1969. PRS volunteers, including Rolland,
John Petros, Chris Ditlefsen, Herb Johnson, and Owen Knapp, lost no time setting about in the fog to ready the car for its first
PRS adventure. The Imperial Bird was a Union Pacific sleeper with four double bedrooms, four compartments, and two drawing
rooms. It was built in 1942, making it PRS' oldest mainline car. The Bird was constructed with steel frame and siding. It had a
Waukesha-powered air conditioner and a Waukesha propane engine to generate electricity. The car had a reputation for a
comfortable ride, as well as for its first-class accommodations. PRS replaced some well-worn walls and carpeting in some of the
compartments with new carpeting and wood grain paneling. The Bird was used extensively on the long-distance excursions.
The Association of American Railroads required each car in interchange to bear reporting marks to bill repairs to the owner, and
to ensure unique identification of all cars. At the time the Imperial Bird was acquired, the initials PRS were already used by the
Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines, so PAR was adopted as the reporting marks for Pacific Railroad Society. Cars which had
no numbers in railroad service were thereafter given sequential PAR numbers, while others kept their original railroad numbers
and simply had the PAR substituted for the railroad's reporting symbol.
Once we had taken possession of the Imperial Bird, Dick Reynolds, who was also purchasing cars for use with his travel
business, alerted Rolland to the availability of the Timothy B. Blackstone. The Blackstone was a sister car to one Dick was then
negotiating to acquire, the Samuel King Tigrett. Intrigued, Rolland got the details, the Board approved the sale, and PRS found
itself the owner, sight unseen, of an American Car and Foundry-built, four-section, eight-roomette, three-double bedroom, one-
compartment sleeper, built in 1950 and bearing the name of the president of Gulf Mobile and Ohio R.R. from 1860 to 1890. GM&O
shipped the red and maroon car to Kansas City, Missouri, where Union Pacific put it on the Portland Rose. The car sustained
slid-flat wheels on that leg of the journey, so UP repaired it, and the car completed the trip by freight train. The car "popped" into
the East Los Angeles Yard one Saturday where amazed PRS members were working on the Imperial Bird.
Both the Imperial Bird, now bearing reporting marks PAR 1, and the Timothy B. Blackstone, bearing reporting marks PAR 2, were
used on the Snowflake Special trip to Williams, Arizona, with return over Santa Fe's Parker District. A northern section,
sponsored by Dick Reynolds' Great Western Tours, which joined the excursion at Barstow included the Blackstone's sister,
Samuel King Tigrett, as well as Pullman heavyweight Clover Plot and other unusual equipment.
To distinguish the PRS cars, a paint scheme utilizing Armour yellow and green was devised. The Armour yellow was chosen
because the PRS had been able to rent space in UP's East Los Angeles Yard for car maintenance, and many of the UP
employees helped out with maintenance, including those who did the first paint job for PRS. Green was used to distinguish the
PRS cars from UP's own cars. Later in the history of PRS, a broad green stripe, such as Chicago and North Western used on its
passenger cars, was adopted, with a distinctive running script in the letter board. This script was among several proposals
designed by the Truxign Company, and John Petros, with Rolland's ratification, chose this style which became a PRS trademark.
Rolland bore the early responsibility for managing private car maintenance and operation, but the heavy workload soon resulted
in the appointment of the first Private Car Committee co-chairmen, John Petros and Herbert Johnson. Private car workers in the
early days included Jim Atkins, Dingle Baskerville, B. Alan Black, Chris Ditlefsen, Jim Erdman, Bill Farmer, Jim Futterer, Jim
Grupp, Bill Hilbert, Larry Jennings, Paul Jennings, Gary Kapic, Owen Knapp, Bill Miller, Brian Norden, Al Novak, Don Schmidt,
Chuck Schnaars, Ed Sinclair and Reid Washbon. Many others showed up to work for one or two weekends or even for a season
or two, drifted away, and then returned to work again. Careful guidance was given by railroad professionals. These including Bill
Kennedy at GATX, who drove all the way from Mira Loma, and John Schwartz and Ted Wallin, the electrician and pipe fitter,
respectively, who brought their working knowledge of the UP cars to the PRS enterprise.
Besides paint, the Timothy B. Blackstone received a change of name to distinguish it as a member of the PRS fleet. In March of
1970, a car-naming contest was held. The names Cajon Pass, Golden Sunset, Mission Arch, Paraiso, and Rubio Canyon were
proposed, with Golden Sunset being the winner. The car therefore ran as the Golden Sunset for several years. At the time of the
next repainting, it was confirmed that there was at least one other car which had operated in interchange as the Golden Sunset,
thus violating AAR policy. A majority of the PRS Board of Directors therefore voted to restore the less lyrical, but more historically
accurate, name, Timothy B. Blackstone.
Also in March of 1970, PRS bought a coffee shop/lounge from UP, its 5001, which became PAR 5001. Since this car never had a
name, Rolland christened it the Starlight Cafe. The Starlight proved to be one of PRS' most dependable workhorses. PRS used it
on heavily-patronized long excursions and one-day trips, where buffet meals for 350 or more passengers were prepared and
served in comfort and a dignified style. It was the first PRS car equipped with disc brakes and boasted a counter for buffet meals.
The existing layout of the car dated from 1959 when Union Pacific rebuilt the 1949 ACF product as a coffee shop/lounge for use
on such trains as the Portland Rose. Indeed, the car was in service on the Portland Rose at the time PRS bought it. UP completed
the run and shipped it south to PRS. The PRS volunteers, including Owen, Rolland, and John and his family, climbed aboard the
car at SP's Dayton Tower just before the Mountain Outin' excursion to Tehachapi and gave it its first PRS cleaning. John reports
that UP had sold us the car without batteries, so, in his words, "The PRS Private Car Committee learned the purpose of train-line
cables" during that trip.
John and Rolland actively searched for cars for PRS to buy during 1970 and 1971. They wanted, for historical as well as
operating reasons, to get a variety of accommodations. Coaches were thought to be unnecessary, since the railroads
presumably would have lots of them to charter, to us, but food service cars and Pullmans would have future value. A trip to the
Penn Central Beech Grove facility proved fruitless, but while on that trip, Rolland and John encountered the Bloomington in
Illinois Central Railroad's Chicago 12th Street Yard. The Bloomington was an 11-bedroom car, built in 1953 by Pullman-Standard
Just before UP closed its East Los Angeles Coach Yard, its dormitory/lounge 6101 was spotted by PRS volunteers as it rested in
the East Los Angeles Freight House located behind UP's 5500 Ferguson General Office Building. PRS offered to buy the car, and
UP agreed. This 1949 ACF product had its original configuration and the original furnishings, including a modified streamline-
moderne door window and mirror in the lounge section. The colors of the furnishings were lime green, yellow, light lavender, and
aqua, putting the lounge-car passenger into a frame of mind that is rarely encountered in more modern surroundings. This car
bore heavy service on one-day excursions.
Riding with Dick Reynolds on the Panama Limited, during a PRS excursion, PRS representatives made a deal to purchase Illinois
Central diner 4110. The original name of this car was the Shadrach Bond, another tongue-twister that caused renaming to be
considered. But historical considerations prevailed, and the 48-seat full diner, built in 1948 by Pullman-Standard, kept its name.
The car was long rumored to have an "all-electric kitchen," but the PRS crews who dug out years of accumulated grease from
the walls and ducts of the kitchen reported that the stove burns logs, just like the stove on PAR 5001. The Shadrach Bond has
not been restored to service, although major work was begun to clean and repaint its interior.
On the same trip that brought PRS the Shadrach Bond, John and Rolland dealt for the purchase of either the Council Bluffs or its
sister, the Cairo. By the toss of a coin, Dick Reynolds won the rights to purchase the Cairo, while the PRS representatives won
the right to purchase the Council Bluffs. The Council Bluffs was originally built by Pullman-Standard in 1950 for the Nickel Plate
Road (The New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad Co.) as the City of Findlay. However, its partial fluting was removed when
sold to IC and the car was renamed. It has an unusual five-roomette, six-bedroom, five-roomette arrangement. It has only been
used one time, on a lease to Dick Reynolds, and because it needed extensive mechanical rebuilding plus interior refurbishing,
along with the procurement of authentic folding chairs, it has not been used since.
With the advent of Amtrak, the national corporation for the conduct of railroad passenger service, in 1971, UP had quite a few
cars available for sale. PRS bid on, and won, the National Embassy and National Forum. Both cars were sister six-roomette, four-
double bedroom, six-open section cars, built by the Pullman-Standard Company, the Embassy in 1955 and the Forum in 1956.
Due to needed work on the trucks, the Embassy was held in reserve while the Forum earned its way as an overnight car and on
one-day trips, where the open sections held a large number of passengers, and the rooms were desired for parlor-car service.
The National Forum had Budd disc brakes, outside swing hanger trucks, aluminum outer skin, and an authentic 1956 interior.
Due to these features, and the fact that it was the last built of any PRS car, the Forum would eventually acquire the highest
mileage of any car in PRS service.
There have been some periods during PRS' private car ownership when the cars have not been able to be used at all, and these
are the times that most discourage the Mechanical Department and the PRS membership in general. The first of these periods
occurred, ironically, shortly after the advent of the newly-formed National Railroad Passenger Corporation, for a year beginning
in 1972. During this period there was a complete embargo on private car moves on Amtrak due to insurance concerns. The
Amtrak officials had enough troubles just getting their own equipment, a hodgepodge of technologies from most of the
passenger-hauling railroads in the country, to run, let alone dealing with private owners.
After the year was over, however, Amtrak allowed private cars to run, but only if painted in "platinum mist" paint with an Amtrak-
matching red, white, and blue striped band across the area between the windows. PRS grudgingly adopted this scheme,
personalizing it with the running script "Pacific Railroad Society" on the letter boards. This unstable metal-flake paint was
applied to the Imperial Bird, National Forum, Bloomington, Blackstone, and half of the newly-acquired Chippewa Creek, with a
quick overspray job being done to the other side of the car just to be able to run it.
Private Car workers were interested in the unique Creek series sleepers, with their 12-single room, four-double-bedroom
accommodations. The two-up, two-down window arrangement made them distinctive at a glance, and the individual rooms
would be quite comfortable for single travelers. In January of 1972, Rolland saw the chance to purchase the Pullman-Standard-
built, ex-Pennsylvania Chippewa Creek from the Penn Central. This car featured PRS' only 110-volt electrical system, a system
which has been complicated by some uninformed repairs by Penn Central electricians that left electrical irregularities in the car.
In spite of its quirks, the Chippewa Creek was used on several excursions. PRS member number one, Dick Fleming, was the
AT&SF engineer on the crew that spotted the Chippewa for PRS at Percival Steel.
The closing of the East Los Angeles Coach Yard meant that a new work site would have to be found. Chris Ditlefsen arranged for
storage space on spur tracks at the Dart Warehouse Corporation in East Los Angeles. This area was sufficient for the storage of
a large number of cars. Space was also leased in the Union Pacific East Los Angeles Freight House, but access to the Freight
House was restricted and it was thought that extensive mechanical work could not be performed on the active tracks at Dart. A
suitable site was found for three cars inside the Percival Steel Company building on South Santa Fe Avenue in Los Angeles.
While the inside facilities were good for preserving the cars, the cars themselves were over silty dirt next to a dock which
prevented the performance of some types of heavy repairs. PRS workers were content with it, however, until changing market
conditions once again prompted Percival Steel to ship by rail, and a notice was given that PRS had to get its cars out by the end
of the 30-day lease period.
Some of the cars were then stored on tracks subleased from the Overland Rail Travel Corporation at Republic Machinery Movers.
This was an outside spot, suitable for all types of heavy repairs, and situated next to the Los Angeles Junction Railway engine
house, which made it popular with PRS crews. Other cars were stored on Overland-leased tracks next to Peachtree Street in the
City of Commerce, a site which again was complicated by its proximity to a dock. The subleased sites, moreover, were
An intensive effort to find track space for storage and repairs, including trackwalking by chairmen Jim Erdman and Al Novak,
among others, resulted in the discovery of an unused siding in the yard of the Kirsch Company on Malt Avenue in Commerce. A
lease with Kirsch resulted in a nearly ideal site. Stand-by power was installed, a water line was run to the car maintenance area,
and the entire yard was fenced. PRS moved into "The Malt Shop" on March 31, 1975. The area under the tracks was paved, and a
miniature "pit" was dug out. At the "Malt Shop," up to five cars could be kept, trucks could be removed and replaced, and there
was plenty of space for the storage of equipment.
PRS cars have made many appearances in television and movies. In 1975, he Starlight was the star of a widely-seen Sanka
coffee commercial, while PRS Pullmans were featured in the small independent film, Tracks. When used for filming, PRS
volunteers always had to be on hand to safeguard their charges.
HIGH POINT FOR THE PRS FLEET
After 1976 Amtrak began to appreciate the potential income it could receive from the private car business and abandoned the
standard paint policy. PRS cars were then repainted in PRS Armour yellow and 1948 Ford green.
The initial PRS run of the Chippewa Creek was as a crew car for the first Oregon Caper trip in 1976. When the steam was turned
on prematurely in the 8th Street Coach Yard, a leak in the car's interior resulted in it being totally steamed inside, and the crew
had to deal with peeling paint, wet walls, and wet bedding on the first night out of Los Angeles. The car had some of its carpets
replaced and was repainted inside. Al Novak and crew spear headed rebuilding of part of the vestibule and body work, and the
Chippewa emerged with a beautiful new PRS yellow and green paint scheme -- on one side of the car only. On the trip to Mexico
in 1977, the car proved popular, but unequal suspension on the trucks resulted in a discernable list to one side. This was fixed
later by PRS mechanics who replaced 12 truck springs. The low passenger capacity, coupled with body rust and its electrical
idiosyncrasies, put the Chippewa Creek at the very bottom of the list of PRS cars which could economically be returned to
With a dependable site for a home base, the mid 1970's were was the high point of PRS private car excursions. The cars ran in
Amtrak consists, on special excursion trains chartered and staffed by PRS, and even in mixed train service for the enjoyment of
PRS travelers. PRS hired porters from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters to professionally pamper the sleeper passengers,
and professional caterers to cook the meals on the wood-burning stove of the Starlight Cafe. Mechanics, waiters, and car hosts
were PRS volunteers. This gave the people who made the cars run a chance to ride on them, although the opportunities
constituted "work as a reward for work." The efforts of the workers culminated in "Corazon de Mexico" trips in 1975 and again in
1977 which each included seven of our own cars in one train; Chippewa Creek, Imperial Bird, Bloomington, PAR 6101 (Cajon
Pass), National Forum, Timothy B. Blackstone, and Starlight Cafe. Bill Farmer was chairman of the Private Car Committee at that
high water mark. He was also the on-board electrician for these ambitious trips, keeping all those cars running.
The American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) was founded in 1977 and has proved to be enormously
helpful to private car operation. Despite some misgivings that the organization would serve only the interests of well-to-do
people who wanted to run their "toys," AAPRCO has become a source of affordable liability insurance, a storehouse of technical
data, and, most importantly, a voice for all private car owners that can be heard by Amtrak. Without AAPRCO, individual private
car owners would have little voice with Amtrak. PRS representatives, including Bill Farmer and Karl Strauss, were active in
helping AAPRCO stage conventions and disseminate technical information.
Immediately after the 1977 Mexico trip returned, Rolland proposed that PRS accept the offer of Bill Gawzner, a rail fan who owned
the Miramar Hotel, to trade the National Embassy to him in exchange for ex-Amtrak chair car 7512. The Board accepted, based
upon the changing conditions which made a coach seem like a more usable car. PRS did not have a coach. The Embassy was, in
effect, a "duplicate" of the Forum. PRS did not have any ex-Southern Pacific equipment, and a number of the Mechanical
Department crew wanted to acquire this ex-SP Shasta Daylight chair car. The trade was effected, and Bill Gawzner got the
National Embassy, which has since been on static display in Santa Barbara.
PRS got ex-SP chair car 2397 in the trade. This car seated 48 passengers, was equipped with Waukesha air conditioning and
power generation, and had the unusually tall windows which were a unique feature on the Shasta Daylight. It was built in 1949 by
the Pullman-Standard Company and had been sold to Amtrak in 1972.
An unexpected notice at the end of 1977 that we would have to move from the "Malt Shop" was greeted with sadness and
discouragement. The reason for the notice was that Kirsch's neighbor, Merchant's Pet Supply, had surveyed the property and
found their boundary line went go directly down the middle of our leased track. Negotiations to lease the half from Merchant's
proved futile, so PRS had to move its cars. Kirsch, however, kindly let PRS store heavy equipment in the yard, rent-free, for a
number of years. Our crews set out on a frantic search for a new shop. Unknown to us at the time, the Imperial Bird, Chippewa
Creek, and Timothy B. Blackstone would not be used after 1977 on PRS excursions.
Fortunately, Dart Warehouse Corporation allowed PRS crews to work at the Eastman warehouse facility starting when the cars
moved from the "Malt Shop" in December of 1977. As of this writing, the entire PRS fleet calls Dart home. Dart has been a fair
landlord, and we are truly grateful for the work site.
The Bloomington ran on the Barstow Limited trip in 1978. The Starlight was leased for a trip through Mexico in 1979. The last, to
the time of this writing, PRS special train over Tehachapi ran on March 31-April 1 and April 28-29, 1979, and consisted of hi-level
coaches, plus private cars 6101, Overland 6102, Starlight Cafe, National Border and Regal Inn. Soon thereafter, the Starlight and
6101 were included on the Fiesta Rail '79 train which ran the circle from Los Angeles to San Bernardino on Saturday, May 5, 1979.
In November 1979, a contest was held to name the chair car, which in its Southern Pacific days had been known simply as 2397.
Steve Holman suggested Shasta Springs which won the balloting. At the same time, the 6101 was designated the Cajon Pass, a
name suggested by famed Cajon Pass chronicler Chard Walker.
NEW EQUIPMENT MAKES JOB HARDER
In March of 1980, Rolland Graham finished his 15-year stint as Excursion Director. For the next six years, PRS private car use was
curtailed. High costs of private car use, mainly switching charges, and the eagerness of Amtrak to providing passenger space in
Amtrak cars, were cited as reasons. The biggest problem, however, were the technological changes brought on by the
introduction of new passenger cars built to Amtrak specifications.
All of the PRS private cars were steam heated. With the advent of Amfleet and Superliners, all Amtrak passenger trains were
equipped with a 480-volt three-phase electrical feed system which provides all power needed for lights, air conditioning, and
heating from an auxiliary generating plant in the locomotive (HEP). Steam was no longer available, and because Amtrak's new
cars needed to be supplied with power and wired for communications, private cars without HEP could not be run at any point
between the locomotive and the other HEP-equipped cars. Although the 32 volt D.C. electrical and air conditioning systems were
self-contained in each PRS car, our cars were not supplied with steam and so were unheated. This made operation in the winter
impossible, and during other periods of the year operation would be at the whim of the weather.
Amfleet cars had a smaller-size diaphragm that did not match the top striker plate of conventional diaphragms. PRS crews altered
the existing diaphragms on the National Forum and lounge 6101 to make them usable with Amfleet cars. But Superliner cars were
built with the passageways at a completely different level, meaning that PRS passengers could not pass through between the
PRS cars and the Superliners. This restricted PRS car usage on Superliner-equipped trains to trips where the PRS car was next
to a bi-level "step down" car, or to trips where the entire excursion could be adequately served in the PRS cars. On top of the
heavy burden of owning and operating passenger cars, PRS became obliged to find inventive ways to utilize the cars within the
narrow parameters of Amtrak requirements and technical restrictions.
The modern Amtrak equipment did heighten interest in the PRS cars by underscoring their historical significance and their
comfort. In spite of the curtailment of private car use, car volunteers kept working on them. The Timothy B. Blackstone, Starlight
Cafe, National Forum, Bloomington, Cajon Pass, and Chippewa Creek were taken to Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal in
October, 1980, to film a Hollywood feature, Under the Rainbow.
Faced with eventually having to move out of the Kirsch facility, and not having any indoor storage space at Dart, in 1980 Chief
Mechanical Officer Karl Strauss proposed the acquisition of a boxcar to use as a tool car. Since no railroad was interested in
donating one, PRS purchased PAR 55198, a 50-foot insulated box car, from the Santa Fe and had it shipped to us from Nebo
siding. It was instantly pressed into service. A crew headed by Larry Jennings equipped it with heavy-duty shelving. In March of
1981, chairman Strauss picked up our new Fairmont flat car on a custom-built highway trailer. PRS began voluntarily covering
private car workers under workers' compensation insurance coverage in 1981, simultaneously providing workers with personal
protective equipment including gloves, eyewear and hard hats. In November, 1982, an open house at Dart was held for the
enjoyment and education of PRS members and friends. Hope that diner Shadrach Bond could be brought on line motivated a
concerted effort to clean and refurbish the interior. Charlie Wilbur lead a major cleaning of the stainless steel kitchen.
One of our treasures from early private car days was a Pyle National rear end marker light with a small green light and a huge red
oscillating light, originally used on UP's own passenger trains. In the early 1980's, it was stolen, along with many other valuable
and irreplaceable objects. In 1984, we replaced our marker with a brand new one which was still being used as of this writing.
On a happier note, we were approached with a prospective adventure for our as yet unused chair car, Shasta Springs. The car
sat idle until 1984, when it was leased for a nominal sum for use on the Louisiana World's Fair Daylight which ran from Portland,
Oregon, to New Orleans, Louisiana, and return. We concentrated efforts on mechanical refurbishing of the car, including truck
work done by crews headed by Al Novak, and patching around the roof hatch. Mike Malone led a team of PRS workers who
replaced the glazing of all the tall windows in the car. The car was then sent out on Southern Pacific freight trains. It arrived in
Portland, Oregon, sporting a new Dupont Imron Daylight paint scheme. PRS members were thrilled to see their car whiz by with
its sisters as part of the World's Fair Daylight re-creation, car 8 behind steam engine 4449. PRS individual members rode or
followed the train as it made its was from Portland to the World's Fair in New Orleans, and staffed official excursions that were
planned for the Los Angeles to Phoenix and Phoenix to Los Angeles segments. The names Shasta Springs, Cajon Pass, and
Starlight Cafe, have never been painted onto the cars with those names. This reflects the intent to keep them as historically
accurate as possible in outside appearance. The lack of a name led to a small controversy when PAR 2397 appeared in the
Louisiana World's Fair Daylight train with only its number, a concession to historical appearance. It took the editor of Wheel
Clicks off guard and prompted him to wonder in print why PAR 2397 was the only car in the train without a name.
On August 1, 1984, the Board of Directors adopted the following policy, which had been proposed by the Mechanical
"It shall be the policy of Pacific Railroad Society to maintain its private mainline railroad cars in operable condition to the extent
feasible within te constraints of budget, maintenance facility and personnel. As repainting of exteriors becomes necessary or
desirable, the cars shall be returned to former railroad owners' color schemes. The former railroad owners' or Pullman markings
(lettering and/or numbering) all be duplicated, unless deemed by PRS not to be prudent or prohibited by the former railroad
owner. Present PRS car names shall be retained but not painted on car exteriors, unless the name is identical to that designated,
and displayed on the car, bu the former railroad owner. An exception to the foregoing shall be that the exterior of one of the ex-
Union Pacific cars shall be retained in the yellow and green livery of PRS with appropriate PRS lettering, including car name."
Also on August 1, 1984, PRS was given a deadline to move all of its spare parts and equipment which had been left at the Malt
Shop. The decision by Kirsch Company to sell their property in 1984, leaving PRS with the job of locating a suitable storage site
and to move over 50 tons of unwieldy equipment on 30 days' notice, was another big setback for the Mechanical Department. In
our hour of need, Dave Riggle found a tiny, rocky lot was available for lease from the Army Corps of Engineers in Irwindale. The
private car workers cleared the site, spread gravel, and planted oleanders surrounding the property. The move was completed by
August 30, 1984.
The tough challenges faced by the workers in this department have seldom been realized by the passengers who enjoyed riding
on a taste of history. Only the joy of actually riding one of the cars could in any way begin to compensate for the incredibly long
hours, heavy labor, and often filthy jobs needed to keep the private cars running.
On November 3, 1984, the Desert Scout trip to Barstow used lounge Cajon Pass followed by the Starlight Cafe, newly repainted in
an authentic UP paint scheme. Larry Jennings headed the paint crew, which worked day and night to apply the primer and bright
In 1985 the San Angelo Tank Car Line retired SANX 8200, a tank car which was used for wine service. Jim Green, President of the
company, offered it to PRS as a donation, which we could scrap if desired. After viewing the car on the Giumarra Vinyard spur at
Edison, however, the unique character of the car, and the likelihood of its having future historical significance, were apparent.
PRS accepted the donation February 11, 1985. Some minor repairs were authorized, and the car was shipped, with transportation
donated by Santa Fe and Union Pacific, to PRS. It remained as part of the collection at Dart until 1996, when it was sold to the
Santa Clara Valley Historical Society as a water car for use with their Mogul, 1765.
Russell Homan, as Excursion Director from 1985 to 1990, spurred the renewed use of PRS cars on trips, including one-day jaunts
to San Diego and a lease move of the National Forum to Vancouver, British Columbia; a one-day trip to Indio using the National
Forum, PAR 2397, PAR 6101, and the Starlight Cafe; and a special excursion train to Mojave using PAR 2397, the Starlight Cafe,
Lounge 6101, the National Forum, and the leased private dome observation car, Native Son. Food service was provided by our
own volunteers, spearheaded by Russell and Patty Homan.
The dormitory Lounge, Cajon Pass, went to San Diego as part of our 50th anniversary trip on April 11 &12, 1986. It ran at the end
of the San Diegan with a bright yellow and green drumhead sporting the Railroad Boosters symbol and the number "50." Charter
member Roy Fleming and his wife Wealthy occupied the steward's bedroom for the trip.
The National Forum, after nine years of inactivity, emerged from the PRS paint shop with Armour yellow paint and red Scotchlite
striping and lettering. Leased to Dave Rohr, the Forum went to Vancouver, Canada, for Expo '86. Instead of a professional porter,
however, PRS volunteer Marti Ann Draper attended the Pullman passengers.
Still newly glossy, the Forum went to San Diego on May 31, 1986, with John Anderson in full uniform as attendant. Paint crew
chief Larry Jennings completed the Scotchlite lettering by hand painting borders around each letter.
The private car workers were referred to in the 1980's as the Mechanical Department, and fittingly, during Al Novak's tenure as
head of the Private Car Committee, his job was officially designated Chief Mechanical Officer by the Board of Directors. The
Mechanical Department held an Open house on September 30, 1986, allowing all members and guests to walk through the cars at
On October 13, 1986, the Starlight Cafe followed the National Forum to Oakland on the "Rails North to Roaring Camp" excursion.
The Italian-style luncheon and hot turkey dinner was cooked enroute not by contractors, but by PRS volunteers Tom and Carol
Peterson, who did a professional job.
On February 21, 1987, PRS presented the Indio Date Festival Limited. This was a special train run under contract with Amtrak
which included 2397 in its first run on a PRS special. Also in the consist were the Starlight, the Cajon Pass, National Forum and
Dave Rohr's Native Son. From September 18 to 21, 1987, the National Forum ran to Albuquerque on Amtrak's Southwest Chief.
Mike Gormican and Marti Ann Draper served as porters. This delightful trip was followed by a September 27 trip to San Diego and
In November of 1987, a team of vandals and thieves broke into eight of our cars standing at the Dart Facility. They smashed in the
window in the end door of the National Forum and used its fire tools to break into the Starlight, Bloomington, Council Bluffs, and
Chippewa Creek. Glass and fixtures were shattered, carpets had burned spots, and dozens of blankets were stolen. We sent the
Forum to the Trammell Crow siding on Peachtree Street in the City of Commerce for safe keeping and weighed our options. We
decided upon repairing and rebuilding the chain link fence around the perimeter, topping the fences with razor wire, and
installing motion detectors which would set off an audible alarm and alert a private security company. PRS volunteers installed
the conduit for the alarm.
On March 16, 1988, PRS received PAR 7199, a 45-ton General Electric switch engine. PAR 7199, powered by two Cummings 150-
hp diesel prime movers, was delivered on a low-boy truck trailer on the far side of Dart. UP crews, who dubbed it "the Mule,"
switched it around the building and onto our leased tracks at Dart. The locomotive was donated to PRS through the United
States Government's surplus property program, but substantial contributions by Ted Creveling and Rolland Graham effected its
delivery from El Toro Marine Air Station to us. The 7199 would be used to move the cars around inside the Dart plant and to
supply air for brake tests and sandblasting.
The Mojave Circle special train of April 17, 1988, used a remarkable array of private cars; Shasta Springs, Regina Wendt, Starlight
Cafe, National Forum, Amber Trail, Native Son, Belle McKee, Silver Patio and three ex-Santa Fe high level coaches.
The Forum made another trip to Albuquerque with Mike Gormican and Barbara Sibert changing the linens.
The National Forum was displayed from October 4-8, 1989, at the San Diego AAPRCO convention. This was the first time any PRS
car had actually attended an AAPRCO convention. We were surprised and delighted by the reception our "museum on wheels"
received from the public, which was given the chance to tour all the AAPRCO cars at the Wright Street Yard.
In December of 1989, our lease ran out on the lot in Irwindale. Most of the equipment was loaded onto commercial trucks and
transferred to Dart. Things which we could not use were sold as surplus and cleaned off the property. On February 14, 1990,
through the efforts of new Chairman Ted Creveling, PRS acquired a flatcar as a donation from the Trailer Train corporation. As
much of the large equipment as we could fit was placed upon it.
The National Forum took another trip to San Diego on October 27, 1990, and the week after left on a two-week odyssey. This trip
included being shown off at the AAPRCO convention in Galveston, Texas, followed by a quick trip to New Orleans and back. The
trip took place from November 4 through November 14, 1990, and included Randy Schlothauer's dome diner, the Columbia River
, to provide food service to the National Forum's passengers. Attendants were combination porter/mechanics Larry Jennings,
Marti Ann Draper, and Steve Ablonzki. Also aiding the passengers was PRS's new Excursion Director, Barbara Sibert.
On November 23, 1990, the National Forum went to Oakland and returned on the Coast Starlight. Passengers, lacking any steam
heat from the engine, noted that "it's cold."
AMTRAK IMPOSES HEP DEADLINE
On January 1, 1991, Amtrak imposed the requirement that all cars handled in its trains had to be equipped with HEP. In addition,
cars 40 years or older had to undergo a detailed rebuilding which required removal and inspection of trucks, couplers, drawbars,
and other major components.
2397 was rented and used for the filming of the pilot of a television series, Home Front, at LA Union Station during March of 1991.
It was then leased and sent to Portland to operate behind 4449 in May of 1991 for Sacramento's 10th anniversary Rail fair.
Following this duty, the chair car stayed in Portland under a lease agreement and was used on a number of trips behind 4449,
including a series from Portland to San Jose July 18 through 20, 1992. Vince Cammerano went along as mechanic. Over the
Labor Day weekend in 1992, chair car 2397 operated up and down the Sacramento River Canyon behind 4449, passing its
namesake Shasta Springs each time. This series of special train trips was operated by SP as a peace offering to the people in the
region surrounding Dunsmuir who had been effected by a metam sodium spill at Cantara the previous year.
As of the writing of this article, only one car, the National Forum, has been modified to meet Amtrak's requirements. The
considerable cost of meeting Amtrak's HEP and related requirements was met in part by a trust fund which had been set up
using the proceeds from the 1979 Tehachapi excursions, and part by a $10,000 grant from an anonymous donor. The work was
contracted to Southern California Rail Services, a company set up by Marti Ann Draper and Will Walters, whose efforts were
augmented by long hours contributed by Dave Abbott. Towards the end of 1991, the car was moved to a siding in Anaheim.
Before the major part of the work could be commenced, however, a call came in from the San Bernardino Railroad Historical
Society. It had completed the renovation of Santa Fe steam engine 3751 and had received permission from Santa Fe to run a four-
day excursion using the engine. Was our car available for use?
On December 25, 1991, before they could sit down to a holiday dinner, Will Walters and his family finished the lubrication and
stenciling of the National Forum. The car was switched to Kaiser and became a part of the California Limited, the 3751's train for
the historic four day trip to Bakersfield over Cajon and Tehachapi Passes.
Once it had been returned to Anaheim, the Forum was equipped with 480 volt HEP train lines, communication train lines, a high-
pressure main reservoir line, and a multiple unit train line. Both ends received rubber diaphragms which were compatible with all
types of Amtrak cars. In addition to the contract services, the Forum had periodic air brake work done and various repairs to the
buffers and underpinnings. The new HEP installation was first energized when the Forum was added to the AAPRCO special
train to Sacramento in October, 1993. It continued on a special train which crossed the Rockies through Tennessee Pass and the
Royal Gorge. Barbara Sibert and Larry Jennings were the attendants, and Will Walters went along as mechanic and electrician.
From May 6 through 8, 1994, our chair car 2397 came to San Luis Obispo behind former Southern Pacific steam engine 2397. A
PRS excursion was operated to San Luis Obispo to ride on special trains using our car. 2397 was also used as part of special
Peninsula trains between San Francisco and Palo Alto during the soccer World cup semi-finals in 1994. Wheel wear caused it to
be withdrawn from that service; the worn wheelset was then replaced with a spare from our flat car, and the car sat with Golden
Gate Railway Museum's fleet at Hunter's Point, San Francisco, until it was prepared for shipment back south for use on the
Fillmore & Western movie and excursion service.
On September 7, 1994, we sold our insulated box car and it was shortly taken away by highway to Parkview, California. We could
function without it because in the spring of 1994, we received ex-SP baggage car 6617 in exchange for a set of Union Pacific disc
brake trucks. The baggage car was painted inside and out and became the mechanical department's enclosed storage, shop,
and lunch room.
In June of 1995, the National Forum carried us to Lamy, New Mexico, where it was pulled as a special movement over the length
of the Santa Fe Southern to Santa Fe, New Mexico. When it arrived home, extensive work to install transformers and an electric
water heater was engineered and supervised by Will Walters, and the installation of electric space heaters was overseen by Stan
Ames and John Stahlkamp. These improvements returned the car to a level of comfort which had been impossible to achieve
since Amtrak discontinued the use of steam boilers.
For thirteen days in September, 1995, the Forum was both lodging and showplace for PRS members attending the AAPRCO
convention that year. On the trip up, it became uncomfortable when a high pressure hose to the air conditioner failed. A cell
phone call to Mario Ibanez enabled him to search for a replacement part at Dart, which he expressed to the Forum enroute. This
trip took the Forum through breathtaking scenery over Rogers Pass, through the spiral tunnels, and to Banff, Alberta.
The Forum rang in the New Year of 1996 by traveling on a lease all the way to Miami, Florida. On the way back, at Benson, it
picked up a carload of PRS excursionists who had spent the weekend riding streetcars and trains.
Those who chaired the Private Car committee after Rolland Graham were John Petros and Herb Johnson, jointly; followed by
John Petros; Jim Erdman and Al Novak, jointly; Art Townsend; Bill Farmer; Don Crow and Karl Strauss, jointly; then Karl
Strauss; Al Novak; Marti Ann Draper; and Ted Creveling.
Some of the workers who put in many hours have been Dennis Gilkey, Russell Homan, Roy Idlof, Fred Knox, Mike Malone,
MarkReyes, Rick Reyes, Peggie Riggle, Dave Riggle, Stuart Spencer, Charlie Wilbur, Dave Mecklem, Bob Large, John Anderson,
Tim Johnson, Bobby Johnson, Gordon Nunnally, Tom Wood, Paul Hampton, Tom Pearson, George Christy, Brian Norden, Jim
Minor, B. Alan Black, Mike Malone, Paul Jennings, Herb Johnson, Bill Novak, Charlie Wilbur, Dana Parker, Jon Clark, Ron Beach,
Bob Large, Owen Knapp, David Sanchez, Bobby Gallegos, Brad Graber, Fred Knox, Robert Markowitz, Richard Rempi, John
Gonzales, Jim Van Leersum, Vernon Cook, Steve Ablonzki, and Scott Mayer.
Uncounted hundreds and hundreds of hours have been provided by Jim Erdman, Bill Farmer, Rolland Graham, Larry Jennings,
Al Novak, Marti Ann Draper, Karl Strauss, Mike Gormican, Dingle Baskerville, Vincent Cammerano, Jr., A.T. (Ted) Campbell,
Wayne Saunders, John Stallkamp, Stanley Ames, Stuart Spencer, Ted Shackelford, Mario Ibanez, Reynold Blight, Dan Dalke,
Barbara Sibert, Will Walters, Ted Creveling, and Dave Abbott. This list is far from being all-inclusive, and each contribution has its
The PRS private cars offered a chance for current generations to experience a living version of what rail travel was like decades
ago. The opportunity to work on them provided great frustration, as well as great satisfaction, and educated all participants in the
practical technology needed to run cars on actual mainline common carriers. The cars gave PRS members a chance to interact
with the railroad industry as customers and co-workers. And they have forced PRS members to work committedly together to
preserve the actual "stuff" of railroad history, the railroad equipment itself. We hope the future will afford more people the chance
to work and ride on the Imperial Bird, Timothy B. Blackstone, Starlight Cafe, lounge 6101, Bloomington, Council Bluffs, Shadrach
Bond, Chippewa Creek, National Forum, and chair car 2397.
Pacific Railroad Society, Inc., 210 W. Bonita Ave., San Dimas, CA 91773