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How Did Privately-Owned Rail Cars Work?

There are currently about 150 private railcars in the United States. Depending on the condition, you can acquire a railcar for $25,000 to $800,000. But where can you drive them when you get one? 

Amtrak allows owners of privately-owned cars to attach to their trains and enjoy privacy while traveling via railroad. Amtrak provides amenities such as power, water, ice, septic, and parking. Owners are charged per mile.

Privately-Owned Rail Cars

The Chicago-based Pullman Company was founded in 1867, specializing in catering to wealthy individuals and offering a wide selection of rail cars. The company wanted to rival five-star hotels in terms of accommodations, but they wanted it on the go. (Source: Forbes)

Today, the Golden Age of railway travel is resurging. Many are already taking an interest in traveling and exploring the country in the lap of luxury. Amtrak now offers private rail car owners to attach to their many trains in specific locations, offering these individuals to travel and see many places.

Amtrak also provides many services when an owner decides to tag along with their trains.

  • 480V standby power
  • Water
  • Ice
  • Septic systems
  • Car wash
  • Parking
  • Switching

(Source: Amtrak)

Rail Car Expenses

About a handful of railroad enthusiasts see their rail cars as a hobby, a costly one, in fact. One of the country’s last railroad enthusiasts, Bob Lowe, discusses that this hobby’s costs are never-ending.

Lowe owns two pre-Amtrak era cars: a 1949 Old Colonial Crafts and a 1954 Salisbury beach sleeper car. The Crafts has three bedrooms, a drawing-room, a sizeable buffet-style kitchen, and a lounge. At the same time, the Salisbury beach rail car can hold as many as 26 people.

Rail cars are enormous, heavy, and extremely expensive to buy, maintain, and store, therefore limiting this sort of hobby for the wealthier classes who have a thing for railroad travel. Rail cars cost anywhere from $25,000 for used, unpowered cars to upwards of $500,000 for more premium ones. The Lowe’s cars each cost $150,000 and an additional $50,000 for the Salisbury beach to be retrofitted and modernized to make it Amtrak certified.

Lowe pays an average of $1,800 for his cars’ storage with Amtrak and pays $3.67 per mile traveled, on top of other costs along the way. In 2017, Lowe organized a trip for the solar eclipse for nine people. They traveled from Washington D.C. to Charlotte, North Carolina, to watch the eclipse. It cost Lowe $12,000 to organize. (Source: Bloomberg)

Private Companies

The resurgence of America’s Golden Age has resurfaced in today’s wealthy individuals. If you want to experience traveling in luxury without buying your rail car, you can charter trips with the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners or AAPRCO. (Source: Forbes)

The association offers luxurious travel experiences that connect to Amtrak and other trains. You can choose from over 150 rail cars, depending on your taste and budget. AAPRCO provides the ultimate experience of rail traveling luxury. A typical charter would usually cost $20,000, including a chef, a steward, food and beverage to last you on your trip. It also includes alcohol.

Some one-day trips are cheaper, like the Pony Express. It costs about $4,500 for a one-day excursion between Los Angeles and San Diego. The 1941 baggage car turned party car can hold up to 30 people. It was retrofitted with panel walls, an antique bar, and a parquet dance floor. (Source: Today)

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