CVSR Acquires 4 Ex-California Zephyr Cars

The CVSR dome car fleet will soon expand to three. Shown is Silver Bronco, the current dome car in the fleet.

The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad announced this week that it has acquired four former California Zephyr cars for $1.5 million.

The acquisition includes two dome cars, including a dome-observation car.

All four rail cars are now currently located in Los Angeles and will be ferried to Chicago by Amtrak.

They include dome cars Silver Lariat and Silver Solarium, sleeping car Silver Rapids, and baggage car Silver Peak.

Both dome cars have full kitchens that the CVSR plans to use to expand special dinning excursions.

Also included on the dome cars is a supply of linens and china.

The cars were owned by a private collector and have been used for excursions through the country.

They are expected to arrive on the CVSR in September in time for the visit of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765, which is slated to pull excursions over two weekends between Sept. 21 and 30.

CVSR purchased the cars with a $700,000 loan that it is financing through an overall capital campaign that began in 2016 and is seeking donations from individual, corporations and foundations.

“The acquisition of the Zephyr railcars was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” CVSR CEO Joe Mazur said in a statement. “We not only are preserving history, but giving hundreds of thousands of people the opportunity to have one more way to travel through and experience Cuyahoga Valley National Park.”

The CVSR already owns another former CZ dome car, the Silver Bronco.

The four cars will arrive on the CVSR in a ferry move of NKP 765 from Chicago.

Mazur said the cars are in good condition and that he will be riding in them during the Amtrak ferry move, which begins Sept. 10.

He noted that the cars were being offered for sale on the open market and the CVSR didn’t want to lose out to another buyer.

“We’re in the preservation business. We’re preserving a fleet of cars that were in service in the 1940s and 1950s,” Mazur said.

The Silver Lariat has a full bar and lounge area while the Silver Solarium has five suites and a full bar.

Each car can accommodate 24 diners in the dome sections. CVSR plans to invite chefs aboard for custom dinners.

The Silver Rapids car has six double bedrooms and eight roomettes. CVSR won’t be operating any overnight excursions, but plans to maintain the rooms as a museum piece.

Aside from being assigned to steam in the valley excursions, the new cars also will be used for Fall Flyer fall foliage events in October and Polar Express outings in November and December.

CVSR said that aside from buying the ex-CZ cars, it is also using money raised in its capital campaign to create an Edu-trainment Car that will provide interactive exhibits, programming, and activities for children ages birth to 12 years of age, and upgrade to an existing dining car to ensure ADA accessibility.

Silver Lariat was built in 1948 by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy.

It came with a dining and lounge area seating 42 passengers (36 at tables) and is equipped with a full bar with a freezer capable of storing 200 pounds of ice.

From this room, passengers can access the Vista Dome above, which includes an 24 passenger seats at tables.

A unique feature of this car is The Pony Express, a restored mural created by Mary Louise Lawser that was commissioned by the Burlington when the car was built.

The kitchen includes two ranges and two half-size convection ovens; registered monogrammed china service; original white damask California Zephyr table linens; and a full sound system with CD, iPod, and PA.

Silver Solarium also was built in 1948 by Budd for the Burlington. Ownership of the car was conveyed by Burlington Northern to Amtrak, which gave the car roster number 9251.

The car was retired by Amtrak in October 1981. More recently, the dome-sleeper-observation  car was operated by California Zephyr Railcar Charters.

The Silver Solarium has been fully renovated and features three double bedrooms, a drawing room, and a stateroom.

The observation lounge seats 11 in chairs upholstered in frieze fabric while the Vista Dome car seats 24 in booth seating at tables.

The car also features a full commercial kitchen with a range that includes a half-size convection oven, an original bar with a carved linoleum façade, and a sound system with CD and iPod.

Silver Peak was built in 1940 by Budd the Burlington and and assigned to the Denver‐Ft. Worth Texas Zephyr.

Originally built as a coach/dormitory/baggage car, the coach area was used as the Jim Crow section of the train.  It was later converted to a full baggage car.

The car comes with a workshop section that has an 8‐foot work bench with a drill press, bench grinder, band‐type cutoff saw, table saw, and a variety of power and hand tools; and a commercial refrigerator and chest freezer.

Silver Rapids was built by Budd in 1948 for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which intended to use it

as an interchange car to the California Zephyr as part of a short-lived transcontinental sleeping car service.

It was conveyed by Penn Central to Amtrak, which retired it in October 1983.

The car was built as a 10-6 sleeper, but now has eight roomettes and six double bedrooms.

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