Sierra Hotel Private car experience

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Jun 21, 2003
Redlands, CA
Well I decided to write about one of the coolest experiences of my life.

About three years ago I was taking the Crescent from ATL to New Orleans. I had noticed a private car on the rear of the train when we departed Atlanta. It was a beautiful red and silver dome/porch car. You can visit their website here. About half way through the trip, I was invited into the private car at the rear of the train. I was so excited about this experience that I even left my scanner on in the lounge car. I later found out that it turned into a pain, and was turned off by an elder women :p .

Standing on the back, with the wind through your hair, and the occasional piece of sand in your eye B) , is an experience I will never forget. After having some chips and salsa, and crossing the lake ponchatrain bridge, we arrived into New Orleans about 11pm that night. As I was getting off the train, I was talking to one of the people in the private car about where they planned on heading next. He informed me that they would be going up to Chicago on the next City Of New Orleans. I was amazed, because ironicly, I was also headed up to Chicago the next day. He then asked me if I wanted to join them for dinner in the private car the next day. I have to admit, the facial expression I had, closley resembled that of a very hyper four year old. I was sooo thrilled.

The next day I had a nice dinner on the rear of the train, while watching the sunset across the flatlands of Miss. and Tenn.
Aug 27, 2002
I can identify with that experience! That must have been cool.

I rode the private car, Caritas, from Chicago to New York on the back of the Lake Shore Limited. It was operating on a positioning move, and it cost about 300 dollars for that trip. I saw this advertised someplace, like in Trains maagazine, called and booked it. I never even had a ticket. I walked out onto the platform at Union Station, gave them my name and boarded.

The car had an open platform on the back, then a seating area, two dining tables, a kitchen, and three or for bedrooms. When I booked it, they told me not to expect any special food. However, when passed the kitchen to put my bag in my room, I saw the cook making roles from scratch.

We departed Chicago through the south side of Chicago with all of us standing on the platform (2 railfans, and 3 crew members). At one point as we negotiated a slow order, I watcheda pick-up basketball game on a court that was next to the tracks. After we passed, Englewood, we accellerated ont the 4 track mainline. What a sensation. Rocking back in forth, rattling through switches and over the draw bridges.

The Dinner as we passed South Bend. Steak, roles, salad, wine, and key lime pie that was exquisite. The crew traded war stories about working with different railraods to ensure efficient operation of the private car.

After dinner, another ride on the platform out of Toledo. After overtaking a Freight on the lefthand track, we crossed back over. We could see the headling of thie freight for the next 15 minutes until we rounded a curve. As the train crossed the caueeway at Sandusky, the temperature dropped, and a light fog enveloped the train. At the other end of the causeway, the fog disappeared and the temperature increased.

After Elyria, time for bed. I dropped off to sleep while reading Sports Illustrated pro-footballl issue.

About 5 the next morning, I woke up. Initially I hesitated about taking a shower and waking the other up, but the platform called. I showered, and a few minutes later was on the platform. Moments later, the other railfan joined me, greatful that I had gotten up. We stayed on the platform as the sun rose near Buffalo. We were offered coffee, but declined because we had been told that no conainers were allowed on the platform. We were not quite rady to come in, even thought we were both shivering. We got some coffee served to us on the platform. What a life!

Breakfast, Blueberry pancakes that were so light, that they had more hang time than Jordan. The bacon was cooked in the oven. Seconds, and thirds were served.

The rest of the morning was spent on the platform, with views of the Mohawk valley. After Albany, we were served lunch as the train followed the shores of the Hudson. The home stretch in to New York Penn was highlighed by sing sing prison, and suburban stations with passengers taking a second look as the Caritas flashed by on the tail end of 48. I made sure to wave at any foxy chicks that were on the platform.

The trip ended to quickly, but it was certainly one of my best train rding experiences.


Aug 23, 2002
My closest private car experience is climbing aboard three private cars in Washington on my way home from the NRHS convention last month. There were three private cars on the bottom of the Capitol Ltd, Colonial Crafts (ex Pennsey Sleeper), a UP Sleeper, and Silver Lariat (ex Cal Zephyr Dome). Well I had gotten to know one of its occupants while at the convention, so I was invited to take a look around while they were awaiting their departure. All the cars were in immaculate condition, and it was amazing to just walk through these pieces of history. Ironically their train was parked on Track 25, well my SB Silver Star came in on Track 24, so I got to be first on the platform for the Star, ahead of even the Club Acela announcement. I would have loved to ride cross country in those cars, on the bottom of the Capitol, Cal Zephyr, and Coast Starlight. Oh well.


Train Attendant
Mar 29, 2003
nice route to take on that private car for just 300.00 $$sounds great!! i'll sign up for that ride.... :lol: