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)