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Post-NRHS Private Car Trip from Fullerton to Chicago 5/21/2022

by Chris Guenzler

Our next trip would be aboard private cars on the Southwest Chief to Chicago. Carl Jensen invited us to ride to Chicago because there was open space on the cars that had come out from New York and Chicago for the NRHS convention. We jumped at the opportunity to ride not just one, but three private cars, two of which were new to us. On the morning of the trip, which was the day after the convention ended, I did our laundry and we both packed. I worked on the Southern California Railway Museum story during the day while Elizabeth organized herself and prepared for being away. At 5:00 PM Greg and Marty Smith arrived and drove us to Fullerton, dropping us off at Track 3 on the south side and we waited for the rest of our passengers to join us. Shortly they arrived and good conversations were had until the train arrived.

Pacific Home Information

The Pacific Home was built in December 1949 as a 10-6 sleeper (10 roomettes, 6 bedrooms) by the Budd Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvnia for the Union Pacific. It was built with no car number and named the Pacific Home, and although it was a stainless steel car, it was painted in solid UP Armour Yellow with red striping and lettering, a light grey roof and silver trucks. The car entered normal Union Pacific passenger car service, and was used on the famous UP train City of Los Angeles on at least one occasion (March 31, 1950). The car was originally heated with steam from a boiler in the locomotive, as was the normal practice in railroad passenger service at that time. In August of 1969, the car was numbered 1418. From its delivery, the Pacific Home was lettered "Pullman" in its letterboard until the discontinuance of Pullman sleeper service in 1970, when the lettering was removed entirely, leaving only the small "Union Pacific" lettering in the upper corner of the car's letterboard.

Amtrak took over all national interstate passenger service in May 1971. With much of its passenger equipment now surplus, the Union Pacific sold the Pacific Home to Amtrak in December 1971. The car became Amtrak 2616 but retained its name. The Pacific Home had its yellow paint stripped off in favor of its natural stainless steel finish, and a simple Amtrak red, white and blue windowband was applied. The Pacific Home ran on the first Amtrak train from New York to Montreal on September 30, 1972 and was a run-through car on the famous Southern Crescent on at least three occasions (October 30, 1975, March 9, 1977, and April 15, 1977). In December 1979, Amtrak completely rebuilt the Pacific Home, re-upholstering and re-carpeting much of the interior, carpeting the walls, and removing the steam heat, replacing it with head-end power and electric heat. The car was repainted with the newer-style Amtrak windowband and renumbered 2885 at this time, and it kept this number until it was stored in September 1995 and finally retired by Amtrak in 2001.

The car was acquired by Mercer County, New Jersey and moved to a disconnected piece of track at the Dempster Fire Training Center of the Mercer County Fire Academy in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. It was used to support fire training exercises.

Private car owner and mechanic Chuck Jensen purchased the car in 2009. The car was trucked over the road to the shop of the Morristown & Erie Railway in Morristown, New Jersey, and Jensen began restoring the car with the help of other mechanics. The Amtrak-applied wall carpeting was removed from the interior and the electronics were fully upgraded. A new shower was installed and a bathroom replaced one of the roomettes. The car now sleeps 21 people in 6 bedrooms and 9 roomettes. A generator was added so the car could power itself without power from a locomotive. The Amtrak red, white and blue window band was removed, leaving the whole exterior in its shiny stainless steel finish with its "Pullman" lettering re-applied. The trucks and running gear were completely rebuilt to current Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak standards. After over three years of work, the Pacific Home was fully equipped to ride the rails again!

Northern Pacific 549 information

Built in December 1957 by the Budd Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Northern Pacific dome/coach 549 was originally a "protect car", used for coverage when one of the other dome/coach cars was out of service. In 1970, the car was transferred to Burlington Northern, and was intended to become BN 4616. However, the new number was never applied, as the car was transferred to Amtrak 9476 in 1971. In 1992, the car was sold to Inland Pacific Rail in Spokane, Washington as INPX 549 Gold Creek. It was purchased by Webb Rail in 2018, and underwent an extensive restoration in New Orleans, LA. It rolled out of the shop in October 2019.

Kitchi Gammi Club information

Pullman originally built this car at Calumet City, Illinois in June and July 1923. The car was originally named the Mountain View and was built to Pullman plan 2521C, lot 4690. There were twenty cars built to this plan, known as the Mountain series (all of the car names start with the word "Mountain"). The cars were assigned as follows: five to the Monon Railroad, four to the Pennsylvania Railroad, three to the Santa Fe Railroad, six to the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and two to general service. The cars were built as 10-section observation lounge cars with an open observation platform.

In 1937, the Mountain View returned to Calumet for rebuilding into a solarium observation car, as were many Pullman open platform cars at that time. In Calumet shops, the car was given a complete overhaul, which included the addition of air conditioning. Major interior changes were the addition of a buffet kitchen area in the center of the car, a porter's room, and the reduction of the sections from ten to eight. All carpet and upholstery was updated and the car rolled out of the shop with a new plan designation of 4025H, an 8-section buffet lounge observation named Kitchi Gammi Club. Only one other car in Pullman history had the same 4025H designation, the Carlton Club (formerly the Mountain City), which was soon to become Nickel Plate Road business car 6. After the Kitchi Gammi Club rolled out of Calumet shops in 1937, it was assigned to service with the Nickel Plate Railroad. The Nickel Plate assigned it to trains 9 and 10, operating between Cleveland and St. Louis. It ran on these trains throughout the 1940s and the early 1950s. Normally, it served as the only Pullman space available on these trains. In 1953, the Nickel Plate purchased the car from the Pullman Company and sent it to Nickel Plate's Calumet shop for conversion into business car 7 (the second Nickel Plate business car with this number). This conversion saw the removal of section 8 and the installation of a closet housing a hot water boiler so the car would have heat when operated on freight trains for inspection purposes. It remained in office car service until the merger with the Norfolk & Western Railway on October 16, 1964. After the merger, it was used on the old Nickel Plate system for a few official occasions, but not to the extent as when the Nickel Plate had it as a company business car.

In 1967, the car was sent to Chicago to replace the Chicago wreck derrick outfit's wooden dining car. The Kitchi Gammi Club lost it name and simply became known as N&W 521417, a wreck diner-bunk car. In derrick service it was once again "remodeled." This time, section 2 was removed and a small foreman's office was installed in its place. Section 7 was also removed and three wash sinks were installed. The original men's bathroom and lounge was converted to a shower. Last but not least, the observation lounge was converted to an eating area with the addition of wooden booths and tabletops. It was a sad finish to a truly historical piece of equipment.

The car remained in Chicago until 1988 when it was retired as surplus and shipped to Roanoke, VA for disposition. This is usually when cars are sold to scrap dealers. However, the scrap dealers would never get to use their torches on this car. In 1989, Virginia Rail Investment Corp. purchased the Kitchi Gammi Club and moved it to Lynchburg, VA for work to determine the soundness and probability of restoration. After complete removal of all the old and outdated equipment underneath and inside the car, it was sandblasted and primed. After careful inspection, the car was found to be in excellent condition, and restoration was started. The car moved from Lynchburg to Roanoke, then on to Evansville, IN where the majority of the work was accomplished.

In 2007, the Kitchi Gammi Club was shopped once again for some upgrades in Morristown, New Jersey. The original 1923 trucks were replaced with smoother-riding trucks from a New Haven heavyweight streamlined coach, and a brand new, state-of-the-art stainless steel kitchen was installed.

Our trip

We all boarded Northern Pacific 529 and sat facing forward as the crew took our luggage to our rooms or left the larger bags in the lower level of this car. The train took off and Elizabeth was in "Heaven" as she really was enjoying the forward view of the dome. The train went east through Santa Ana Camyon giving Elizabeth and I a view we had never experienced. The trip was fantastic from the start and it was now dinner time, so we just sat at the table and Elizabeth enjoyed her salad. Salmon with asparagus and potatoes was the entree and a lemon sorbet with lemon cake was our dessert. The meal lasted through the stops at Riverside and San Bernardino and we started the trip up the grade to Cajon Pass. Elizabeh was able to enjoy her first trip around Sullivan's Curve and the trip to Summit. Before arriving in Victorville, we went into the Kitchi Gammi Club and took seats. The long and busy past few days were catching up to Elizabeh so before we arrived in Barstow, she excused herself and went back to the room and at Barstow, I did the same thing. It had been a great day of train riding and I was looking forward to our next two days of riding private cars.

5/22/2002 I arose and after dressing I started back toward the Kitchi Gammi Club. We were east of Winslow by about sixty miles.

Artwork on my way back to the next car.

The interior of Northern Pacific 549 and I went and took the rear seat in Kitchi Gammi Club.

View of a BNSF stack train we passed on my way to this car.

A view of the Kitchi Gammi Club.

Wide-open double track railroad in this view.

Another rear end of a BNSF stack train.

The train ran through Chambers, Arizona.

The train ran through this rather large cut.

Trains seemed to be everywhere along our routing this morning.

Chief Yellowhead welcomes us to New Mexico.

More of Chief Yellowhead property. Elizabeth then joined me for breakfast in the dome car and we had souffle with bacon and orange wedges as we sat with Roger Meyer. After a great breakast we returned to the room and I took my computer to the lower level of the Dome Car while Elizabeth went to the Kitchi Gammi Club.

Three BNSF freights were run by west of Gallup. Now one of my favorite parts of the trip, passing all of the red mesas of New Mexico.

The red mesas of New Mexico.

Later the train crossed the Rio Grande River and went into Albuquerque.

Southwest Chief 4 resting in Albuquerque.

New Mexico Railrunner MP36 103 on the train to Belen.

The station at Albuquerque. I returned to the train and continued working on the story which I finished a short time later. The train departed on time.

More artwork and pictures in Dome 549. I joined Elizabeth in the Kitchi Gammi Club.

Four views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

Elizabeth was rolling east towards her 100,000.0 rail mile.

Here is the spot where she passed her 100,000th rail mile at Domingo siding on the Santa Fe Glorieta Sub. She had wanted to pass the milestone on the private cars and needed 894.02 when we departed Fullerton.

Pictures in the Kitchi Gammi Club. The train stopped in Lamy.

The train would next head to Apache Canyon.

The train went through Apache Canyon and on to Las Vegas.

Three views of the La Castaneda Hotel after the train departed Las Vegas. I finished the story I had been working on then started the Knott's Berry Farm behind-the-scenes tour story. The train arrived into Raton and I detrained for pictures of our three cars.

Nickel Plate "Kitchi Gammi Club".

Northern Pacific dome car 549.

Union Pacific "Pacific Home". After Raton I finished the Knott's Berry Farm story and started the Nethercutt one which I worked on until dinner. Elizabeth was seated with Charlie and Patti Webb and I kept working and just had garlic bread, but two servings of it, and they gave me two chocalate chip cookies. Elizabeth had Caesar Salad and pasta with meatballs with a Raspberry Sorbet and a chocolate biscuit for dessert which was delicious. I continued working until Garden City, Kansas where we called it a night. This time Elizabeth took the lower bed and I the upper. I did not sleep too well in the upper bunk but Elizabeth did sleep well, which was a reverse of the previous night.

5/23/2002 I woke up and climbed down to cuddle with Elizabeth. After that we dressed and went to the Dome Car for a breakfast of steak, eggs, potatoes and a piece of cantaloupe, and sat with John Goodman.

Norfok Southern 9929 West at Camden, Missouri. The train was routed onto the Norfolk Southern mainline so Elizabeth was on the old Wabash Railroad. I continued working after breakfast and took a break as we approached La Plata where I showed everyone the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point. The train ran on to Fort Madison where I chose to stay on.

The old Burlington station in Fort Madison.

Santa Fe caboose 999235 on display. The train then reversed 1.5 miles to the old Fort Madison station then crossed over to mainline 2. We took this route all the way to Cameron. We were both in the dome for this part of the trip and Elizabeth and a few others got onto the Virtual Railfan camera and watched our train pass through Fort Madison.

The joint Mississippi River Railroad and Highway Toll Bridge. Toll is westbound only.

Two views of our crossing of the Mississippi River from the north side of the train.

Two views of our crossing of the Mississippi River from the south side of the train. There was track missing on the mainline one which was the reason for reversing in Fort Madison.

Later we crossed over the Media Trestle. We ran to Cameron and I will show you the connection from the old Santa Fe to the old Burlington Northern mainlines.

The final section of mainline.

We took the switch at CP 1850.

This took our train to Cameron Junction.

A straight track after Cameron Junction.

A full coal train waiting to enter Galesburg Yard.

Entering the old Burlington Northern mainline.

BNSF DPU 9053 on rear of a westbound coal train.

Our route became single track at CP Graham.

Our train pulled into Galesburg and we stopped right in front of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy station.

Burlington Sleeping Car 2645 "Meath" built by Pullman Company in 1947.

Burlington Railway Post Office car 1945 built by American Car and Foundry in 1924.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy 4-8-4 3006 built by Baldwin in 1930. Lunch was then served which was either plain hamburgers or cheeseburgers with potato chips, or as Elizabeth calls them, crisps, which is the English name. Dessert was a hot fudge sundae. We then continued on to Mendota.

Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Mendota station and museum site. The two of us will be visting this museum in a few days.

BNSF 6192 East along the mainline east of Mendota.

These is also Nickel Plate Map in the Kitchi Gammi Club. I finished the Nethercutt Museum story.

Kansas City Southern 4716 the the Enola Yard.

I crossed this mat so many times I had to take a picture of it. After packing up our room and everyone putting their luggage in the lower level of the dome car, Elizabeth and I decided to ride in the dome for the final miles into Chicago. Carl Jensen came by before Elizabeth arrived and thanked me for coming. It had been a fantastic trip in these three private cars to Chicago. The train arrived at Chicago Union Station 40 minutes late and it was time to say our goodbyes to everyone. Elizabeth and I would like to thank the entire crew of the private cars for all their hard work and dedication to the passengers, in my case ensuring I had enough to eat. The chef and servers were all excellent and really looked after all the passengers. The great staff made for a fantastic private car trip. Thank you also to Carl Jensen and his son Chuck for making this possible.

Elizabeth and I led the way into the station where we went to the Metra ticket office and bought one way tickets to Aurora. We then walked down the platform to the front of the train.

Metra 1231 to Aurora. We boarded the second car.

Amtrak Midwest Venture Coach 4120 built by Siemens.

Amtrak Midwest Venture Coach 4120 built by Siemens.

Amtrak Midwest Venture Coach 4015 built by Siemens.

Amtrak Midwest Venture Coach 4018 built by Siemens. Our Metra BNSF Line train ran as an express to Downers Grove then made all the stops en route Aurora where Elizabeth and I detrained. We walked over to the Holiday Inn Express for two nights stay and received Room 3030 overlooking the BNSF mainline.

BNSF 6192 East ran by the hotel.

BNSF 7109 East came through Aurora. We checked e-mail and the Internet then relaxed the rest of the evening watching the season finale of "NCIS" before calling it a night.