Posts Tagged ‘Silver Solarium’

CVSR’s Silver Solarium May be Running Uncovered Today

February 20, 2021
CVSR’s Silver Solarium ran uncovered for steam train photo runbys on Sept. 30, 2018, at Boston Mill.

Normal operating procedures on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is to place a locomotive on each end of the train.

That means the railroad’s two round-ended observations cars, the Silver Solarium and Saint Lucie Sound, have their ends “covered” as they roll along.

If the CVSR follows the same practice that is used last week, photographers today and each Saturday through April will have the opportunity to photograph the Silver Solarium as it operated on the fabled California Zephyr decades ago.

CVSR is operating winter excursions for its members every Saturday on a one hour, 15 minute trip from Peninsula to Independence and return.

Last week the three-car train had FPA-4 No. 6777 facing south and the Silver Solarium facing north.

The Silver Solarium, a dome observation car, has a whistle and ditch lights and its Mars Light was operating for protection at grade crossings.

Trains are scheduled to depart from Peninsula at 11 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.

This is not the first time the Silver Solarium has run uncovered on the CVSR.

The car ran uncovered for a CVSR members and volunteers special pulled by Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 in September 2018.

That same year on the last day that the 765 pulled steam excursions, the north-facing locomotive was uncoupled from the Silver Solarium at Boston Mill and the dome-observation car ran uncovered during the photo runbys.

Hot Summer But Plenty of Steam to be Seen

August 5, 2020

Cotton Belt No. 819 at Wolf Lake, Illinois, on June 13, 1990.

The 1990 NRHS convention in St. Louis was steaming with 4 steam locomotives and with 90 plus degrees heat. We all probably lost a few pounds but it was worth it. A sample of some highlights.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

Union Pacific No. 844 at Carpenter, Illinois, on June 14, 1990.

The Burlington’s Silver Solarium being pulled by UP 844. The car is now owned by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Norfolk & Western No. 1218 on display at St Louis Union Station on June 15, 1990.

Frisco No. 1522 at Cuba, Missouri, on June 16, 1990.

Frisco No. 1501 on display in Rolla, Missouri., No. 1501 and 1522 are two of the six Frisco 4-8-2’s that still exist.

Cotton Belt No. 819 at Fountain, Illinois, on June 17, 1990.

Union Pacific No. 844 and Frisco No. 1522 at Webster, Missouri, on June 18, 1990.

Silver Solarium seen in Chicago from Amtrak’s Southwest Chief on our return home.

Silver Solarium in Akron

November 22, 2019

The Silver Solarium is, arguably, the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s premier feature car.

Built by Budd in 1948 for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the dome-observation car operated on the original California Zephyr and joined the CVSR fleet in late summer 2018.

It features lounge seating in its observation section, three private compartments with sleeping accommodations and table seating in the dome.

CVSR charges premium prices for the experience of riding in the car. It has appeared on the steam trains pulled by Nickel Plate Road No. 765 and the Fall Flyer among others.

You can enjoy dinner in the dome section of the Silver Solarium on one of the CVSR’s weekly dinner trains.

The Silver Solarium is shown here beneath the Y bridge in Akron in the consist of the National Park Scenic during the train’s station stop.

The equipment assigned to the Scenic is doubling in November as the section of the Polar Express that departs from Rockside Road station in Independence.

It is notable that for Polar Express service the Silver Solarium is operating with its observation end pointed southward. Normally it is pointed northward.

In case you were wondering, each section of the Polar Express this season has 11 cars. Both similar consists including a concession car.

The Rockside Road section of the Polar Express is operating with dome car Silver Bronco, six coaches, dining car A.A. Augustus, lounge car Cuyahoga Inn, and the Silver Solarium.

The Akron section of the Polar Express is operating with dome car Silver Lariat, five coaches, parlor car Paul Revere, ADA-compliant car Fort Mitchell, Table car 161 and the Saint Lucie Sound.

The photographer reports that he recently realized that he has been photographing the CVSR and its predecessor the Cuyahoga Valley Line for 44 years.

Photograph by Robert Farkas

Exploring CVSR’s Silver Fleet: Part 3

October 17, 2018

A view from the dome section of Silver Solarium as the Fall Flyer of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad cruises northward along Riverview Road south of Peninsula.

The Fall Flyer of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad had many hallmarks of the late, great California Zephyr.

It carried three cars lettered “California Zephyr” along with a dome coach that once operated on the CZ. The latter, the Silver Bronco, today wears CVSR markings and colors.

Like the CZ, the Fall Flyer had sleeping car accommodations and a dining car serving breakfast.

But the similarities ended there. The three-course breakfast was prepared off the train by a caterer.

There was no overnight travel and no porters to make up the beds in the sleeping accommodations.

It was merely a two-hour trip from Rockside Road station to Howe Meadow and return.

Those not purchasing a meal car ticket could buy popcorn, candy bars, beverages and, what a CVSR crewman described as “the best hot dogs in the world” in the concession car.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Edward Ribinskas had purchased four tickets for the dome section of Silver Solarium and our travel party also included his brother Steven and Ed’s former J.C. Penney co-worker and railfan Shawn Novak.

The CVSR did its best Amtrak imitation by leaving Rockside Road station nearly 15 minutes late. We still got our two hours of travel time.

For the most part, the trip was like riding the CVSR’s National Park Scenic.

A CVSR trainman provided occasional commentary as the train rolled through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

He also made a pitch to join the CVSR as a volunteer, noting the railroad is currently short 22 trainmen.

It had rained earlier in the day and water droplets clung to the windows of the dome section for most of our trip thereby making photography a challenge.

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 was sitting outside the shop at Fitzwater Yard along with two Charter Steel cars that it brought to Cleveland last month and will reportedly move when the Berkshire-type locomotive returns to Fort Wayne.

As I expected, there was scant fall foliage to view. The warm summer and relatively warm autumn have delayed the process of leaves transforming into their autumn colors.

The CVSR trainman said the Silver Lariat has a full kitchen and plans are in the works to hire some top chefs from Cleveland to prepare meals for a dinner train operation.

Those dinners will be pricey. The CVSR website indicates that an adult breakfast ticket is $37 per person whereas adult lunch tickets are $40 per person. A child breakfast or lunch ticket is less.

Tickets for the beer and wine trains range from $85 for a seat in the dome section to $65 for a table car.

This is not to be critical of the fares. It is to say the dinner trains won’t be like dining at Bob Evans or Eat ‘n Park.

The CVSR has always described its mission in part as preserving rolling stock from the streamliner era even if it doesn’t use that term very often.

It pays lip service to the heritage and history of this equipment, but most who ride the trains are not interested in railroad history in any depth.

They probably know little to nothing about the original California Zephyr and have no more than  a passing interest in it.

They see the CVSR as providing transportation within the CVNP or presenting a pleasant sightseeing experience.

I don’t know how much repeat business the CVSR gets from the sightseers, but it strikes me as the sort of thing you do once or, maybe, occasionally.

Hence the railroad must continually offer new programming and gimmicks to continue to draw passengers.

It remains to be seen how much longer the new silver cars will retain their current California Zephyr look.

Chances are the interiors will remain the same even if the exteriors might receive CVSR colors.

Then again when the Saint Lucie Sound was overhauled a couple years ago it was stripped of its CVSR colors and those have yet to be reinstated.

It also remains to be seen if the Silver Solarium will operate in the manner that it was designed to operate as the last car on the train and with an unobstructed view of the scenery as the train rolls down the rails.

CVSR operating practice is to have diesel locomotives at each end of a train. That is done for practical and safety reasons.

I can’t imagine the Silver Solarium operating routinely uncovered by a locomotive.

Perhaps it will operate in that manner on special occasions. CVSR was willing to detach the FPA-4 behind the Silver Solarium during the photo runbys of the last NKP 765 excursions on Sept. 30.

Perhaps that was a trial run to determine how easily and efficiently a locomotive can be detached and attached to a train on the road.

What I would not expect is for a train to back up from Akron to Rockside using only the tiny whistle on the rear of the Silver Solarium to warn vehicular traffic at grade crossings.

All of these are matters to play out in the future. For now the Silver Solarium, Silver Lariat and Silver Rapids have that new out of the box feel even if they have been around for several decades and are entering yet another phase of their service lives.

But at least they are still in revenue service rather than sitting static in a museum or, worse, being cut up in a scrap yard.

Looking toward the rest of the train from the dome section of the Silver Solarium. The dome car ahead is the Silver Lariat.

Edward Ribinskas (left) and his brother Steven repose in the lounge section of the Silver Solarium.

An overhead view of the dome section of Silver Solarium as seen from the East Pleasant Valley Road bridge.

For the time being the CVSR’s dome car trio have been operating in tandem.

Exploring CVSR’s Silver Fleet: Part 1

October 15, 2018

The Fall Flyer with the Silver Solarium on the north end arrives in the station at Rockside Road.

Three-fifths of the CVSR’s Silver fleet is visible in this image made at Jaite. Shown (right to left) are Silver Bronco, Silver Lariat and Silver Solarium.

Sleeper Silver Rapids made its CVSR debut this month on the Fall Flyer. Passengers could book rooms, but only traveled for two hours and not overnight.

An air of mystery surrounds the world of private railroad cars. The phrase “private varnish” conjures images of opulent surroundings; gourmet dining on fine china; and all of the trappings of wealth, power and authority.

Traveling in a private car is far from the experience of a journey in an Amtrak Amfleet coach.

I was expecting to get a glimpse into that world as I boarded dome-observation car Silver Solarium on Saturday at the Rockside Road station of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.

Fellow Akron Railroad Club member Edward Ribinskas had purchased four tickets for the dome section of the Silver Solarium, which this month is operating on CVSR Fall Flyer.

I wasn’t expecting so much to travel like a king as I was seeking to see how kings traveled at one time.

Of course Silver Solarium wasn’t built to transport royalty. It began life in 1948 on the assembly line at Budd, which built it as Chicago, Burlington & Quincy No. 377.

The Q assigned the car to the fabled California Zephyr, where it was one of six dome-observation-sleepers used on the CZ.

The three railroads that hosted the CZ, the CB&Q, Denver & Rio Grande Western, and Western Pacific, described it as “the most talked about train in America.”

It traversed the heart of the Colorado Rocky Mountains and California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains, offering some of the best scenery in the West.

In short, it personified the best that the streamliner era had to offer along with such other headliners as Santa Fe’s Super Chief, Union Pacific’s City of Los Angeles, Northern Pacific’s North Coast Limited, and Great Northern’s Empire Builder.

Today the mere mention of those trains prompts a longing for a paradise lost.

The CZ also was known for its Zephyrettes, the young women who provided a variety of tasks ranging from welcoming passengers to providing first aid to serving as a liaison between passengers and crew members.

The CZ began its final trips on March 20, 1970, but the story of the Silver Solarium didn’t end there.

Until the coming of Amtrak in 1971, the successor of the Q, the Burlington Northern, operated a tri-weekly “California Service” that involved making a transfer at Ogden, Utah, to the City of San Francisco, which Southern Pacific operated between Ogden and Oakland, California.

The Silver Solarium joined the Amtrak fleet as No. 9252 where it operated until April 1978. Amtrak retired the car in October 1981 and sold it more than four years later.

After its retirement by Amtrak, the Silver Solarium transitioned to the private varnish world, most recently in the fleet of Rail Journeys West where it joined fellow CZ alumni Silver Lariat (a dome coach) and sleeper Silver Rapids in charter service on the back of scheduled Amtrak trains.

That often found the trio on the Amtrak version of the California Zephyr, which uses the route of the original CZ between Chicago and Salt Lake City.

For four months in 2002 the Silver Solarium brought up the rear of an American Orient Express train.

Rail Journeys West decided recently to sell its CZ class and the CVSR was a willing buyer.

The three cars along with baggage car Silver Peak made their final trips on Amtrak to Chicago where Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 picked them up to transport them to Cleveland and the CVSR.

Silver Solarium and Silver Lariat debuted on the CVSR last month in the consist of excursion trains pulled by NKP 765.

Silver Rapids made its CVSR debut on Oct. 6 in the consist of the Fall Flyer. Silver Peak has yet to operate in CVSR revenue service.

There was a lot of history to ponder as I boarded the Fall Flyer at Rockside Road station for trip that would be part nostalgia, part exploration of another world, and part consideration of the state of contemporary train travel.

Next: Inside the Silver Solarium

That’s The Way I’ve Always Heard it Should Be

October 2, 2018

For the Boston Mill photo runbys of the last excursion of Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 during its two-week visit to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, the photographers were given a treat.

FPA-4 No. 6777, which was coupled on the north end of the train to the Silver Solarium dome-observation car, was dropped off and the train ran past the crowd with the observation car uncovered.

It was the first time to my knowledge that the CVSR did that during the 765’s visit since the first excursion a week earlier for CVSR volunteers and members.

CVSR trains operate in pull-pull fashion with motive power on both ends of the train. Thus sightings of the Silver Solarium operating uncovered are bound to be rare.

Images From Friday’s NKP 765 Excursion

September 24, 2018

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 passes spectators on the platform of the Canal Exploration Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Nickel Plate Road 2-8-4 No. 765 is visiting the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad this month to pull a series of excursions.

The first of those ran last Friday and was limited to CVSR volunteers and members. Public excursions ran over the weekend and three more public excursions are set for the weekend of Sept. 28, 29 and 30.

I almost didn’t get down to the Valley for last Friday’s trip. Rain moved in about the time I was about to leave home and a glance at the radar showed that a relatively small, but intense, area of rain was moving into the region where I wanted to photograph.

I made the trip anyway and was glad that I did for an unexpected reason.

As I stood on the platform at the CVSR’s Canal Exploration Center station I saw Dave Beach and he told me that dome-observation car Silver Solarium had been uncovered on  the rear of the train as it backed up to Rockside Road station from the Fitzwater maintenance facility.

That raised the prospect that when the excursion train left Rockside, the Silver Solarium would be operating the way it was designed to run.

Sure enough that was the case, which made getting photographs of the NKP Berkshire feel of secondary importance.

I had not intended to chase the train after it passed CEC station, but I couldn’t resist getting more images of an uncovered Silver Solarium.

I figured — correctly as it turned out — that a diesel would be on the north end of the excursion train during the Saturday and Sunday trips.

This was a rare opportunity to make photographs of the fabled California Zephyr tail car.

CVSR had placed all three of its dome cars in consecutive order on the rear of the train. That might not necessarily be a common sight after next weekend’s steam excursions.

I caught up with the excursion train again along Riverview Road south of Peninsula near the Valley Picnic area.

It didn’t rain during my time photographing and chasing the train but it was cloudy. So photography conditions were less than ideal.

But so often with photography you need to work with what you have and do what you can with it.

Operating conditions on the CVSR being what they are, views such as of the Silver Solarium are likely to be rare.

The 765 puts on a show as it cruises along Riverview Road south of Peninsula.

All three CVSR dome cars were assigned to the steam excursion train. They are (left to right) Silver Solarium, Silver Lariat and Silver Bronco.

That California Zephyr Look

September 21, 2018

Nickel Plate Road No. 765 made its 2018 debut on Friday evening on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad by pulling an excursion for CVSR volunteers and members.

But the star the show wasn’t the 2-8-4 Berkshire but the two newest additions to the CVSR passenger cars fleet, a pair of dome cars that once operated on  the fabled California Zephyr.

The Silver Solarium and Silver Lariat were making their inaugural trip through the Cuyahoga Valley and the railroad did it up in style.

All three CVSR dome cars were placed end to end at the rear of the train. For the southbound run to Indigo Lake, the Silver Solarium operated uncovered just as it did when it carried the markers for the CZ.

NKP 765 and the dome cars will be back in action on Saturday and Sunday with four public trips, but it remains to be seen if the Silver Solarium will operate on those days as it did Friday night or if a diesel locomotive will be attached to it.

The train is seen departing from the Canal Exploration Center station.

CVSR Acquires 4 Ex-California Zephyr Cars

August 16, 2018

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.