What Is A Business Car?
Tioga Pass History
How Much Does It Cost?
Highlights 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 safely.

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 your guests.

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 world.

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 take you?

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.

Oakland Round Trip
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.

San 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.

Birthday Express
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 hour.

Cross-Country Excursion
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 family!

Seattle Adventures
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.


Norm OrfallAronco Leasing CompanyTel.: (760) 955-6079 Cell: (760) 953-9620
Tioga Pass is operated by LARail.com1-877-4LA-RAIL