Have you ever wanted to be a rail baron and travel in luxury in your own private rail car?
Do you know that it’s possible to do just that?
Travel by Private Rail Car
Travel by private rail car used to be the preferred method of travel for Presidents, wealthy business men and movie stars. Not anymore. There are over 60 privately owned rail cars that are available for charter in the United States. Private rail cars are sometimes referred to as “rolling palaces” because they reflect the sometimes opulent but always magnificent interests of the owner. Amtrak permits privately owned passenger cars to be connected to their trains on almost all of their routes. Normally such cars are attached to the end of the train so that private cars remain just that – private. There is a saying in the private car world: “Private rail car travel is not an acquired taste – one takes to it immediately!”
There are five privately owned cars here in the Phoenix area. The adventures we are planning will feature our car, the “Silver Star”, and one of the remaining four cars to make a two-car train limited to 14 guests.
The railroad equipment we plan to use on our adventures was made in the 1950’s. Amtrak requires each car to be fully mechanically certified and that we maintain our equipment to the latest Amtrak and Federal passenger car operating regulations and practices. Our cars are carefully inspected once a year by an Amtrak inspector and each car is examined by a qualified Amtrak maintenance person every 1000 miles.
Our cars are safe but they are not ADA compliant. Thus handicapped persons, unfortunately, cannot be accommodated on our trips. Handicapped includes those persons in wheelchairs, crutches, requiring canes or any device required for safe physical movement.
Guests must be able to move about a train that has motion that can be disruptive to stability. We are the last car on the train which always has a rougher ride that the other cars because there is nothing to stabilize the rear of the last car. It’s safe but you need to know about it.
The Amtrak station stop that services our area is in Maricopa. For the foreseeable future, our trips will depart from and return to Maricopa behind the Sunset Limited. Our fares are all-inclusive – there are no additional charges except for “shore excursions”. There is never a requirement to leave the train unless you want to. Your bedroom is yours for the trip no matter if the wheels are turning or not. Our trips feature a chef and an attendant to look after your every need. Representatives of each car’s owner will also be available to monitor the performance of the equipment and to be able to correct any deficiencies that might come up.
Fares are per person, double occupancy. For the most part, each room has two berths (an upper and a lower) and a private bathroom with a toilet and sink. We have four drawing rooms that have two lower berth beds. There will be two showers. There will be sufficient space to permit each guest to have three places to sit: the lounge, dining room, and their private room. Our chef will prepare a delightful full breakfast every day. On those days when we are parked waiting for the next train lunches and dinners will be very light and informal. On the days that we are moving at meal time, a full lunch will be served and dinners will be “Railroad Formal”: a little fancier dress than normal.
Our Amtrak fees are per-car based. That is, we are charged so much for a car regardless of how many people are in it. Our guest capacity is very low and we must be prepared to meet our guest’s needs when traveling. There is no such thing as asking the conductor to stop the train while we pop into the grocery store for some milk or bread. In order to keep the fares as low as possible we must plan on every trip being sold out. There will be a “drop dead” date for every trip. By that date, all space must be booked and paid for and after that date there will be no refunds. The trips run sold-out or they do not run.
Safety is paramount on the railroad. There are safety rules by which everyone must abide. Our ability to operate these trips is contingent upon all of us (crew and guests alike) observing all of the safety rules. When we are parked on railroad property, ingress and egress to the railroads facility is closely monitored and controlled. We are expected to enter and exit the property on marked paths only and with an escort if possible. There is a slogan in the railroad industry that you must be aware of: “Always expect a train at any time, moving in any direction, on any track”.
We expect our guests to have a marvelous and memorable adventure traveling in the private rail car world.
The Silver Star has 4 double bedrooms that accommodate 2 persons each. Each double bedroom has its own bathroom. In addition, the Silver Star has two roomettes that accommodate one person each. The roomettes share a neighboring bathroom. The Silver Star is shown on the Home Page of this site and in more detail here.
The companion car, the Vista Canyon, has 4 double bedrooms and a crew room. It was built in 1947 by the Pullman Company for the Santa Fe Railroad - and was used on the “Super Chief” - the extra fare streamlined train serving Chicago, Los Angeles and points between.
Private Car Sleeping Car Accommodations
The rail cars used on our rail adventures feature the type of sleeping accommodations offered to our parents in the 1950’s thru the 1970’s.
There are three types of private sleeping rooms available:
Roomette – this is a room intended for one person. The bed is stored in the wall ala a Murphy bed. During the night the bed fills the room. During the day there is a spacious seat designed for one person. A roomette includes a sink with running water. Toilet facilities are available immediately adjacent to the rooms. There are two roomettes and they are generally assigned to crew.
Double Bedroom – this room is designed for two people. Each room includes an upper berth and a lower berth for nighttime use and ample seating for two people during the day. Access to the upper berth is via a ladder. Each double bedroom has a private bathroom with a toilet and a sink. The partition between adjoining bedrooms may be opened to make a bedroom suite.
Drawing Room – this room is larger than a double bedroom and is designed for three people. On our rail adventures we only use two of the beds assuring that the occupants each have a lower berth. There is a private bathroom with a toilet and a sink.
It should be noted that your crew will be available to assist in making up your room the way you desire.
Private Car Dining
Dining on our rail adventures is a rare treat. If you have traveled by train before you will agree that dining on a moving rail car is a genuinely wonderful experience. Our rail adventures dining service is a throwback to the truly magnificent dining cars of old. We feature a genuine onboard chef that is experienced in preparing delicious meals that meet our guest’s expectations. An attendant will be available to assist in providing you the very best in dining service. Our guests will be asked to provide dining preference information to our chef so that menus will be custom developed.
Past experience has taught us that when the train is parked, many guests prefer to see the local sights including restaurants. During your trip, breakfast will be served every day. On those days that the rail cars are moving, we will provide lunch and dinner. On those days that the cars are parked, a light lunch and dinner will be served for those guests that would rather remain on board. Snacks and beverages are always available. The bar is also always open. All meals, including beverage service, are included in your fare.
Private Car Fares
The cost of a private car trip depends upon where we go and how many cars we have with us. Our fares are always per person, double occupancy and include rail travel, all meals, full beverage service including wines and spirits, and all Amtrak charges for full hotel service. What is not included are “shore excursions”. You may expect fares to be in the range of $450 to $550 per day per person.