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Silver Splendor Luncheon by the Sea Trip 11/12/2011

by Chris Guenzler

Winston Walker told me about a Silver Splendor trip to San Diego and asked me at our Orange County Railway Historical Society Meeting if I wanted to go it would be half price. I told him that yes I would go and meet him and Christy in the parking structure at the Santa Ana Train Station Saturday morning at 8:40 AM. We met up and then went up and over via the pedestrian bridge to Track 1 to wait for our train to Los Angeles.

Surfliner 565 pulled into Santa Ana and we boarded the lower level of the Surfliner cab car for the quick trip to LAUPT. Once there we walked over to see the Southwest Chief on Track 12.

The Southwest Chief at rest.

Amtrak P40dcu 815.

Left to right, the Coast Starlight 14, Surfliner 565 and the Southwest Chief Train 3. We walked over to Track 8 to wait for Surfliner 572 to back into LAUPT.

The Silver Splendor leads Surfliner 572 backing into LAUPT.

The stylishly appointed Vista Dome Lounge-Dining Car is the ultimate in land cruising excellence. The graceful glass-enclosed rooftop observation room provides unparalleled views in all directions.

With day trip and dining capacity for up to 74 guests you travel elegantly while gliding along immersed in breath-taking landscapes. Attentive onboard staff will pamper you with respectful and lavish personal service of a long gone era in railway history.

You are invited to please come join us on the Silver Splendor and enjoy the sumptuousness of gourmet travel. Built by the Budd Co. in 1956 as Chicago, Burlington & Quincy No. 4735, this stainless steel Vista-Dome coach raced between Chicago and Denver on a daily basis until 1980, the latter 9 years under Amtrak ownership. Originally named Silver Buckle, she was part of the last 2 complete conventional train sets to be ordered new in the pre-Amtrak era and traveled over 4.5 million miles.

With standard coach seating for 50 and 24 seats up in the dome, the Silver Buckle provided fast and comfortable service for budget-minded patrons till Amtrak's bi-level Superliners arrived. Officially retired in 1981, the car spent time in storage at Oakland, California and Beech Grove, Indiana before being auctioned off by Amtrak to a railcar shop owner in 1993.

In 1997 the current owners, Heidi and John Caestecker, purchased the car in the Midwest and moved it out to Fullerton, California with the intent of restoring it to operating condition as a luxurious Dome-Diner-Lounge. Dining capacity will be 24 at tables upstairs and another 24 in the long end of the lower level. A cocktail lounge seating 10-12 will be featured in the short end, with kitchen and restrooms under the dome. With the luxury appointments now installed for the car's rebirth, Silver Splendor is now in active Amtrak service and is available for private charter or public excursion. For more information about our next public trips, please visit the trips page on the Silver Splendor page of For more information about chartering the car for private ventures, please visit our Private Charter Page of

With that said, I walked back over to Track 9 and waited to board the Silver Splendor. We were allowed to board and I paid John for my ticket for today's trip. We took a seat up in the Dome and I will give you a tour of the Silver Splendor.

The Dome of the Silver Splendor.

The passenger lounge at the "A" end of the car.

The beverage serving area in the "A" end of the car.

Seats in the "A" lounge.

The kitchen area of the Silver Splendor.

The "B" end table area of the Silver Splendor.

The plates to be used during our Luncheon by the Sea Trip.

A model of the Silver Splendor. That concludes our tour of the Silver Splendor. I returned to the Dome.

Winston and Christy Walker in the Dome of the Silver Splendor.

Me aboard the Silver Splendor. Two other familes and a couple boarded the Silver Splendor and right on time the Surfliner 572 left Los Angeles.

Metrolink 661 at rest at LAUPT.

We have left the train sheds of LAUPT.

The former Terminal Tower.

We turn to start our run south along the Los Angeles River leaving the former Mission Tower behind.

The Southwest Chief and Sunset Limited at the Amtrak 8th Street Yard.

Surfliner 572 on the Los Angeles River Flyover.

Downtown Los Angeles. I enjoyed Hobart Tower, BNSF Hobart Yard and the BNSF Commerce Engine Facility as we headed out of Los Angeles. I went down to the rear door to get a series of pictures of the Passons Ave grade separation project as we took the shoo-fly around it.

The trip across the Passons Ave grade separation project shoo-fly. Then I saw the bad news of the trip.

The last of the former old Santa Fe Railroad Signal Bridges on the San Bernardino Sub are now all out of service. This first old one was the west DT Junction bridge.

The westbound DT Junction old signal bridge has already been taken down replaced by these two searchlight signals.

The last old one at Los Nietos has also been replaced. A neat piece of railroading history has been replaced. I returned to the Dome and enjoyed the trip through Buena Park, Fullerton and Anaheim.

A few minutes later we passed the former Orange Santa Fe Station now a Ruby's Restaurant. The train ran onto Santa Ana.

We left Santa Ana and the train headed to Irvine.

Lunch was started with this bowl of Creamy Tomato Soup With Pesto Garnish for the First Course. The Second Course was Mixed Green Salad With Dijon Champagne Vinaigrette and the Third Course was Penne Pasta With Chicken and Artichokes in Garlic Chardonnay sauce. The Fourth Course the New York Cheesecake With Raspberry Rum Sauce would be served on the return trip tonight out of San Diego.


The base of Saddleback Mountain as we neared Irvine.

The train left the Irvine Station behind.

We passed Surfliner 571 that would be the train set that would bring us home tonight. I returned to the rear door for some more pictures.

CP Solow.

The end of the new siding from CP Solow.

CP Crown.

The Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo Metrolink Station.

CP Avery.

The end of the stub track at CP Avery. I returned to my table up in the Dome. We ran to San Juan Capistrano where the rest of our group would board. Every seat but the one next to me was taken up on this trip in the Silver Splendor Dome.

The train crossed San Juan Creek.

At CP Serra we turned south to start our run along the Pacific Ocean.

The storm is just to our south at this point.

There is a surfer enjoying this wave.

The tree/flag memory has been moved away from the surf's pounding. I went to the rear door for our run along the surf.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!