Is A Business Car?
Much Does It Cost?
From Past Trips
What Is A Business Car?
The railroad business car was, in its heyday, the equivalent
of today’s corporate jet. When a railroad executive needed to travel,
the business car was the means of choice. It was quite simple to
add the car to the end of an existing passenger train and head off
for the farthest corners of the railroad to inspect operations,
entertain shippers, and woo politicians.
Railroads often spared no expense in building and decorating their
business cars to make them quite literally rolling works of art.
Skilled craftsmen sometimes spent years installing interiors of
the finest imported woods. Brazilian mahogany, rosewood, zebrawood
and many other exotic woods found their way inside. Polished brass,
gold leaf, and fine silver adorned the interiors outfitted with
luxurious linens. Sometimes the decor was limited only by the imaginations
of the designers. Some cars were even equipped with bathtubs and
fireplaces, a real rarity since the cars must travel down the track
Most business cars traveled with a crew consisting of a cook, one
or more servants, and a secretary. Given the need to do business
wherever the car might find itself, a fully-equipped secretary’s
office was usually part of the plan. The secretary could type up
messages and toss them off at any station, where the agent would
telegraph the information ahead.
The cook would be in charge of preparing sumptuous meals for the
passengers to enjoy in the dining room. A shopping list of hundreds
of gourmet items would have to be stored in the limited space in
the kitchen. The cook had to do his job even when the car was moving
down the tracks at up to 90 miles an hour, a true feat of coordination
if ever there was one.
Attentive waiters catered to every need of the passengers, from
serving drinks to making beds for the evening. There were a number
of tricks an experienced waiter could use to make serving on a speeding
train easier. For example, leaving a spoon in a cup of coffee can
help prevent it from sloshing out.
Although most railroad business cars have long since been scrapped,
a number still serve the railroads today. Major railroads often
have a whole fleet of cars that fulfill the same tasks as the cars
of yesteryear. Aboard Tioga Pass, you can still travel in the style
of rail barons of yore as you inspect the railroad and entertain
Tioga Pass History
Built in 1959 by the Canadian National Shops in Point St.
Charles, Quebec, the car was part of an order for 12 similar cars
designed for railroad executives. Originally number 23, and later
number 93, Tioga Pass spent most of its life in Edmonton, Alberta.
There it served the Vice President of the Mountain Region. Records
show the car traveled all over Canada, providing some 30 years of
faithful service. By the early 1990s, though, the car was largely
redundant and seldom used. Like the passenger trains on which it
used to hitch a ride, the automobile and airplane offered quicker
and more convenient transportation in today’s fast-paced corporate
In 1992 Canadian National decided to sell the car, and a local businessman
in Barstow, California named Rutherford P. “Rudy” Hayes bought it
sight unseen because, as he put it, “I always just wanted one.”
In an epic trip, the car traveled from Edmonton to Barstow in January,
1993. Through fierce cold and driving blizzards, the passengers
stayed warm inside. Its new owner was like a proud father, pronouncing
the car was all he ever thought it would be. Unfortunately, Rudy
never got the chance to travel on his new car. He died of a heart
attack only months after it was delivered. The car sat, forlorn
and neglected in front of the Harvey House train station in Barstow
for several years.
Aronco Leasing Company purchased the car in 1997 from the Hayes
estate. A victim of benign neglect, numerous repairs and upgrades
were needed before the car could be used again. Vandals had also
taken their toll. Most of the windows were broken, and several interior
fixtures had been stolen. At times, transients broke into the car
and even slept inside.
Starting in 2002, the Tioga Pass has undergone the most extensive
restoration since its construction. An exhaustive examination of
all of the major mechanical components of the car was undertaken,
including the wheels, suspension, couplers, and airbrakes. This
thorough examination allows the car to be considered as good as
new. At the same time, a number of upgrades were made to allow the
car to operate behind Amtrak trains, such as installation of heavy-duty
power cabling and signal and communications wiring.
From 2003 through 2005, the car operated throughout the United States
on a number of trips. It quickly became evident, though, that the
antiquated electrical, heating, and air conditioning systems already
on the car were not very reliable. Finding replacement parts was
a real challenge, as most are no longer made. Because the original
electrical system worked at 64 volts (somewhat standard for railroad
cars in the 1950s), even light bulbs had to be specially ordered.
During the off-season in winter 2005, Tioga Pass saw its first significant
redecorating in more than 20 years. The living room was completely
redone in oak paneling and new furniture was installed. New carpeting
and flooring was accompanied by fresh paint and a host of other
interior decor changes.
Resplendent in its new interior, Tioga Pass set off on a marathon
series of trips over the summer of 2005 that saw it travel over
15,000 miles. From Albuquerque to Minneapolis to Seattle, the car
crisscrossed the country with dozens of satisfied passengers. The
miles and the antiquated systems on the car were really taking their
toll, though, and Tioga Pass limped home in need of serious repairs.
Tioga Pass returned to the shop in late 2005 for extensive work,
this time centered on making the car reliable and comfortable for
a new generation of passengers. Few things on the car went untouched.
A new high-capacity diesel generator was installed, along with miles
of new wiring. Almost every trace of the original electrical system
was removed in preparation for new equipment. A completely new air
conditioning system, and upgrades to the heating, ventilation, lighting,
and plumbing rounded out the vast array of improvements.
Tioga Pass continues to be a “work in progress.” A number of improvements
and changes are always in the works, so that a new generation of
passengers can experience travel aboard Tioga Pass. The car is fully
certified by Amtrak and can move behind almost any train over almost
any track in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Where can we
How Much Does It Cost?
Traveling by private railroad car can be much more affordable
that you might think. The easiest way is to board one of our public
trips. You simply pay the fare, and we provide the deluxe service.
We offer trips ranging from one day to a whole week or more. Because
you share the cost with your fellow passengers, the fare is actually
quite reasonable. Plus, when you visit a new city, you can often
stay aboard the car, thus saving the cost of a hotel. Take a look
at the Schedule & Reservations page
for information on upcoming public trips.
We can also arrange private charters for you or a group of your
friends. From weddings to birthday parties, business meetings to
movie premiers, we have created a number of fabulous trips for our
guests. Our gourmet chefs can prepare gastronomic delights to enjoy
in the dining room as the scenery passes you by. Attentive waiters
cater to your every need as you relax in the living room. Dozens
of destinations await you aboard Tioga Pass.
Tioga Pass is operated by LARail.com,
an association of private railroad cars, so we even have access
to other types of cars to accommodate larger groups and longer overnight
trips. Prices vary, depending on your needs, but can still be reasonable
when you think about taking along 40, 50, or even 100 of your friends
to split the bill. Call or e-mail us today
for more information.
Highlights From Past Trips
Pacific Northwest Adventure
In May, a group of 30 passengers embarked on a weeklong
trip from Los Angeles to the Pacific Northwest. The trip included
stopovers in Portland, Spokane and Seattle, along with complete
meal and beverage service. A staff of three waiters plus Chef Vic
made it a memorable experience for all. The three cars involved,
business car Tioga Pass, lounge Overland Trail, and sleeping car
Pacific Sands show the variety of equipment we have available.
In March, a group of railroad enthusiasts joined together
to travel from Los Angeles to visit the Bay Area for the annual
Winter Rail railroad photography exhibition. Several of the passengers
stayed aboard the car in Oakland, while others slept in hotels.
Diego Movie Premier
A major Hollywood studio chartered two cars for a press introduction to the movie, City of Ember. The interiors of both cars were decorated using actual props from the movie. A giant-screen TV was set up in the lounge space aboard Tioga Pass to show portions of the film. Drinks and a gourmet lunch were prepared aboard Tioga Pass and served in 1949 Pullman lounge car Overland Trail.
For his 60th birthday, a man chartered two cars and had
a rolling party on the way to San Diego. We even made a customized
“drumhead” sign (the lighted round signs historically seen on the
end of passenger trains) for his “60th Birthday Limited” train.
Over 50 friends joined him while he blew out candles at 90 miles
An extended family of 12 chartered the car for a month-long
adventure all over the country. Starting in Oakland, the family
made stopovers in Portland; Seattle; Whitefish, Montana; Minneapolis;
Chicago; and Denver. They brought along their housekeeper, who took
care of cooking for the family. What an experience to have as a
Tioga Pass traveled to Seattle for use on a special train
operating from there to Cle Elum, Washington. Railroad enthusiasts
enjoyed the open platform over a line that hadn’t hosted a passenger
train in almost 40 years. During the trip up, several passengers
were able to enjoy the California Coast, Oregon's Cascade Mountains,
and a beautiful trip along Puget Sound near Seattle at Dusk. Because
it was a positioning move, we were able to offer significant discounts.
Whenever we have positioning moves, your can travel cheaply. Take
a look at our upcoming trips page for
more information on other positioning moves.