A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Finding a railroad relic at the Albany yard

Written February 4th, 2024 by Hasso Hering

Symbol of a bygone era, a derelict dome car sits in the Albany rail yard on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2023.

I had heard about an interesting artifact in railroad history at the Albany yard of the Portland & Western. Looking for it Saturday, I found it on a track near where Ferry Street runs into the east side of the yard.

The item is numbered RPCX 3602. It’s what people in the know call  a “3/4 dome,” essentially a luxury cocktail lounge and observation car used on Southern Pacific passenger trains back in the day.

You can learn much about rail cars online, which is where I went for information on the car in the Albany yard.

No. 3602, according to an entry on Trainweb.org, is one of seven three-quarter-length domes the Southern Pacific built in its own shops during 1954 and ’55.

The cars were intended for service on trains such as the Shasta Daylight, between Oakland and Portland, and a segment of the Overland Service between Oakland and the Midwest.

From the cocktail lounge at one end of the car, stairs led up to the dome. “Stairway to the stars,” the Southern Pacific called them.

The Southern Pacific started 3602 on the Overland route. First it was painted yellow, gray and red, and later silver and red.

Amtrak used the car in the 1970s. On Trainweb.org, someone remembered it from their honeymoon train trip from Denver to Oakland in 1975.

The car had other owners since. Now it is owned by David Cautley, of Portland, a member of the Northwest chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

In 2022 Cautley formed a limited liability company, Small Fortune Railcar LLC, whose purpose is to “own and operate a passenger rail car.”

On March 31, 2023, Cautley wrote on Trainweb.org that the car was on its way to Oregon to be rebuilt and restored.

At the time he wrote, the car had been sitting for a day on a bridge over the Los Angeles River. Its presumed route north, he wrote, was through Barstow to Pasco, Wash., then west to Vancouver and south to Albany.

“We have requested rear end only,” Cautley wrote. “On a big train you don’t want the buff/draft forces running through your precious car.”

On April 18, 2023, someone spotted the car going through Fresno and wrote, “It seems as if some taggers have vandalized the car while it was still in LA.”

As usual, the graffiti are hard to read. One word looks like “RERUN.”

The planned restoration will be a massive undertaking. I’m trying to reach the owner, hoping to learn more. (hh)


Here’s a better view of RPCX 3602, showing the “hump” warning against pushing the aging car
in switching yards where cars roll down an incline on their own.


Vandals had their way with the car, perhaps while it was stored in Southern California. Amtrak used the car in the 1970s.

12 responses to “Finding a railroad relic at the Albany yard”

  1. Lise Grato says:

    Thank you for the fun train history!

  2. Peg says:

    I enjoy trains in motion and I’m as a rule pleased when I’m stopped in my car at a crossing waiting for a train to pass. All the best to the owners of this car and its successful restoration.

  3. William says:

    I saw this train car sitting on the track 2 miles West of Lebanon last week. I had to stop my car just to look at it.

  4. Cap B. says:

    So, did the ”train guy” mean by all the buff/draft talk that he wanted the old dome car always attached at the end of trains that brought the car to Albany, eventually?

  5. David Sims says:

    30 years ago we were in Tillamook when both Hangers were still standing and there were over 20 old passenger cars parked on a siding next the them, we spent the afternoon going in and out of Bar cars , sleepers, dome and regular passengers, nothing was locked and everything was open, They were in pretty good condition still and it gave you the feel of what train travel would have been like back then.

  6. Marilee Frazier says:

    I have always enjoyed your commentaries, through the years. My Hackleman ancestors donated the land for the train station, so I am always interested in what happens there. Thank you for your stories.

  7. Ken Briers says:

    I can share photos of one of these cars that I took in August 1971.

  8. H.R. Richner says:

    Sometime back in the ‘fifties I had a wonderful time taking pictures from the dome cars serving the train from the east coast. The most spectacular views were on the Western Pacific portion of the ride. Alas, the colors of the shots were ruined by the tinted glass or plastic used for the dome windows. Thank you, Hasso, for what looks like a beautiful, sad story.

  9. Fred says:

    Enjoy your interesting stories.
    Especially anything RR related

  10. CHEZZ says:

    Thank you, Hasso for getting out there for this great shot of this dome like car. I was looking at it from under the overpass 9th, and knew it was quite grand. I hope there is more information coming as it is restored. Love those trains!

  11. Wynn Nelson says:

    I belive I saw this car being moved from Lebenon to Albany on the daily train from Lebanon to the Albany yard, about a week ago. Thanks for the history of this unit.


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