The Underground Brewery Stories about brewing beer and train traveling from Tom Coughlin

July 24, 2012

Sleeping in the RR yard: Niagara Falls and Boston aboard the PV Mount Vernon (August 2011)

Filed under: — Tom @ 11:30 am

Albany Station (actually across the river in Rensselaer) viewed from the dutch door of the Mount Vernon.

Heading out of Princeton Junction early Saturday morning, Meg and I rode in the upper level of a nearly empty NJTransit Bi-Level car. At NY Penn station (NYP) we ran into fellow passengers Marie and Bob over at the Amtrak waiting room–they had just arrived from Philadelphia on an Amtrak regional train. At 9:30 am our train to Niagara Falls was announced, and we walked down the back way to the track level and quickly spotted the private rail road car Mount Vernon, along with car owner Jack Deasy, and car attendant Dan Hayes. The Mount Vernon was clean inside and out, and the windows were spotless. Once inside, we deposited our luggage in our rooms. For the first part of our trip (the trip to Niagara Falls), Marie and Bob, Meg and I would be the only passengers, so Jack had set up the room assignments so that the two couples were assigned to bedrooms that adjoined empty rooms and we could open the in-suite doors and enjoy spacious double rooms for a few days. The car was going to be fully occupied only for the last three days of the trip (the Boston segment), but for the first part (the trip to Niagara Falls, NY) there would only be six passengers. With the partition doors folded up, two standard Pullman bedrooms can be combined into a larger room, which also permits two occupants to use lower beds and doubles the space, which is always nice on a railroad trip.

One aspect of this trip is kind of unusual. This is a self-catered trip–passengers are expected to supply and prepare their own meals. In most private car travel situations, a chef would be hired to work the entire trip, however as we are going to be in transit for only four out of the eight days, a chef would have expected to be paid and given board for days when not working–a significant expense, and the loss of a marketable bedroom. Fortunately, the passengers had been put in touch with each other beforehand and had come up with a menu for travel days. I’ve cooked on the Mount Vernon a few times before, so I  volunteered to work in the galley for two of the days while the train was in motion, with other passengers taking turns on the other days. A few days ago, Jack, an owner of The Mount Vernon, asked me for a list of food items that we needed, and he and the steward had gone out shopping for us while the car was being readied in the railroad yard in New York.

On Saturday, I was charged with cooking lunch and dinner. A chicken pot pie and sauteed spinach would be served for lunch. Dinner featured a roast duck breast with orange sauce, sauteed squash and zuchini and boiled new potatoes. I settled in for a day of kitchen duty as the train passed Poughkeepsie. Up in Rhinebeck, Chelsea Clinton was getting married, and there were many people wandering around stations hoping to see famous people coming up to the wedding by train. One rumor had it that Joe Biden was traveling with us and would be getting off at Rhinecliff, If that was the case, I didn’t see him.

The pot pie lunch was pretty simple to cook–It was already prepared and frozen, and I just had to be put in the convection oven for an hour and a half and it’s ready to go. Dinner on the other hand required a some work. I started cooking around Syracuse, served when we were stopped in Buffalo. We were pretty much still eating by the time we arrived in Niagara Falls. Our dinner items for the day were all from Griggstown Market Farms, a small farm near where we live in New Jersey that raises boutique poultry and vegetables mostly for the restaurant trade. Besides being unusual items of exquisite quality, they come well-packaged and frozen. Given the complications of stocking a railroad car for a trip, going this route on the first day solved a lot of logistical issues. Meg and I are about 75 percent vegetarian, so coming up with fresh vegetables and salads at each meal pretty much took up my last minute attention as we headed into the trip.

I made a really big mess in the kitchen. primarily around sauteing squash on the griddle–there were onion and vegetable bits everywhere. Thankfully Dan Hayes came in and cleaned up for me, and I could sit down and have dinner with Meg. The ginger marinated duck breast cooked perfectly in the convection oven, and the small potatoes were dry, dense and slightly crisp. Not bad for the first day on the job. Selections of wine for dinner included: Peter Lehman Clancy’s Sharaz, Cabernet Merlot blend, and Concha y Toro Explorador Chardonnay. Beer selections included River Horse Unfiltered Lager and Southern Tier IPA. After dinner I dressed up our Harry and David Chocolate Decadence cake with candles in honor of Dan’s birthday. We sipped our coffees as the Amtrak crew turned the train, and backed us up to the bumper post at the Niagara Falls, NY station.

That night in Niagara Falls we surveyed the station in the darkness– it’s not close to to downtown. There’s about 20 employees there who mostly work at night  getting Amtrak trains ready for morning departures. There’s no train shed or service building, so they have to do much of their work outdoors. They’re all a friendly and helpful group of people, who are professional and enthusiastic about their work, and do an excellent job when it comes to inspections and car repair. I can’t think of any other Amtrak terminal where employees are so concerned about doing their best work. In the mornings, a contingent of customs agents drives over from their office at the Rainbow Bridge, and meets the train from Canada.

Sunday (Visiting the Shaw Festival and Niagara on the Lake):

On Sunday morning, I took a 10 minutes cab ride over to the airport to pick up a rental car. Got my ride from Sam, the Indian cab driver. A rental car is kind of a necessity here– much of the attractions are over on the Canada side of the falls, and it’s not practical to go back and forth by taxi or bus. I picked up the car at 8 AM and drove straight back to the Mount Vernon to meet up with Meg. By that time, there was a small group of passengers waiting to hitch a ride with us. We dropped Jack off downtown, We crossed over the bridge into Canada with about 10 minutes delay for the border checks, and dropped Bob and Marie off at the VIARail station in Niagara Falls, Ontario–they were heading out by train to Toronto for an overnight stay.  After this, we headed up to the Shaw Festival in Niagara on-the-Lake.

Meg and I are big fans of the Shaw Festival, and we’ve been there many times. The Shaw Festival is the second largest repertory theatre company in North America. (The Stratford, Ontario Shakespeare Company is the largest), It’s occupies two theaters and two additional performance spaces in the picturesque Edwardian town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Founded in 1962, the company focuses on performing the works of George Bernard Shaw as well as  playwrights who were his contemporaries. At 11 AM, we caught the daily tour of the 869-seat Festival Theatre. Built in 1973 specifically for presenting plays in repertory format (the Festival has twelve performances each week, of three different plays, each one being performed four times), Their other large theater, the Royal George is slightly smaller and presents two shows and eight performances a week. Nearly all of the Shaw Fest actors are in two shows at the same time.  It’s real old-fashioned rep theater, and it’s season runs for about six months every year.

At 2 PM we caught the matinee performance of One Touch of Venus at the Royal George. See it if you can. This seldom-produced 1940s era Kurt Weil Musical (Lyrics: Ogden Nash, Book: S.J. Perlman) gets a spirited and inspired production by this ambitious and very talented crew. The singing and musical direction is excellent–there’s some very difficult music here, and the very accomplished pit orchestra did a masterly reading of the Weil score. The show doesn’t get produced much–it comes from the era of vaudeville and there’s a lot of shtick in the book, which has gotten a little dated. There’s something a little off with the music too: Ogden Nash’s lyrics take off in glib, jokey directions at the very same moments that Weil’s music makes an emotional play. There is no denying the beauty and lyrical wit of the score. This is probably Kurt Weil’s most commercially successful play, and it’s performed reverently by a group of people who are up to the job.

After the show, I waited in the lobby after the patrons had left (Meg was in the restroom). The bass violin player was leaving and was having a conversation with the the theater manager, a woman who looked to be about 30 years of age. He was telling her a story about his friend, a well-known musician who spends his summers at Niagara on the Lake, who had just seen the show. The woman was impressed, but had never heard of the musician. The fellow tried to explain the friend’s fame by pointing out that the friend had played with Paul Anka for many years. The woman replied, “who’s he?” I had to bite my tongue not to laugh.

After the show we were pretty tired out,  so we crossed back to NY and drove down to the railroad yard. Went back to the car and made some coffee (I discovered that I had accidently served decaf to everyone that morning). I had the best turkey sanwich I ever had, using some Harry and David smoked turkey ham and fresh garden tomatos. After the caffeine kicked in, we took a short visit to a local supermarket, and then drove down to the Falls district and walked around Goat Island. In the sunset, we wandered around the park and marveled at the natural rustic grandeur of the American and Horseshoe Falls. Many people were wandering around the park that evening–I was surprised to see so many people visiting, obviously from other countries.

Monday (drive out to Toronto):

We had a real sleep-in day down at the railroad yard Monday morning. There was just Jack, Dan. Meg and me staying on the car, and we had a later start than usual; sipping our coffee and watching the yard crews run a pair of remotely controlled switch engines in a freight classification yard right next to where we were parked. Around 11 AM, Jack, Meg and I cleaned up after breakfast, grabbed our overnight bags and hopped in the rental car bound for Toronto, Arriving downtown around 2 PM, we checked into the Hilton. quickly freshened up, and met up again in the lobby to head out to a late lunch at Beerbistro on King street (fabulous food and beer, great prices, great looking restaurant–you need to try the duck burger).

After lunch, Jack wanted to ride the transit system, but Meg and I were more interested in visiting the huge anchor store of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO),  Ontario’s province-run liquor retail operation and do some beer and wine shopping. We made some interesting finds: a forty-year-old Harvieston Beer “Ola Dubh special reserve 40” (an English oak-barrel aged beer), and some Gouden Carolis dubbel that had been specially packaged for the Ontario market and was very inexpensive. After returning our beer haul to the hotel, we headed out again walking toward the Distillery District. The district once was home to the world largest whisky distillery which had closed down around 1980, and sat abandoned for a few years. In 2003, Cityscape Holdings took over management of the site, and has been slowly rebuilding the distillery as a mixed residential, retail project. It’s very close to Toronto’s busy film production district, and many of the commercial tenants are production companies, rehearsal stages, talent agencies, and entertainment craftspeople. There’s also some theaters and two theater companies, some retail stores, and restaurants. Citiscape is an unusual landlord–not only did they give non-profit theaters a break on their rents, they have refused to rent retail space to chain stores and franchises. Every store there is a one-off venture, which makes for some interesting shopping and strolling. We ended the evening by stopping by the Mii Street Brewpub–people there were gleefully watching the Jays overpower the Yanks. Later, Meg and I walked back to the Hilton by way of King Street. The whole street was dug up for a new water main and new trolley tracks, and there was a work crew installing a streetcar turnout at the corner of King and Parliament.

Tuesday (back to Niagara on the Lake for another show):

The following morning (Tuesday), we were in a little bit of a hurry to get back to Niagara-on-the-Lake (we had tickets for the matinee of “Harvey”) but we managed to get in a quick visit to St. Lawrence Market for coffee and breakfast, and was also able to call on an antique show on the way out of town. We wound up making it to Harvey at the last minute.After the show, we met up with Jack down at the falls and the three of us drove back to New York together. That evening, I telephoned Sam, the cab driver and arranged to have him pick me up at the Budget office over by the airport after I returned the car.

Wednesday (Niagara Falls to Boston):

That evening, The Amtrak crew inspected the Mount Vernon, and attached it to a train bound for New York City for for a scheduled 3:30 AM departure. I held the flashlight for an Amtrak crewman as he pumped the sewage out of the car. What a nice guy–I shook his hand. In the wee hours of the morning as we were sleeping, our train pulled out. I woke around 4 AM but rolled over, and didn’t wake again until 8. Holy cow, we were sitting in Utica, and I needed to get breakfast started. Breakfast consisted of eggs any style, bacon, chicken sausage, hash brown potatos and sauteed squash. Breakfast was winding down as we rolled into Rensselaer, where we would be parked for about five hours before being added to the Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited for our trip to Boston.

In Rensselaer, my Mom and Dad drove out to meet us, and we did a quick run to the store for provisions for the second part of the trip at a local Hanniford market– six pounds of salmon, bread cold cuts. bottled water, etc. Back at the station, Mom and Dad passed the food over the fence to us as we carried things back to the car, which had been parked temporarily just north of the station. At 5 PM, the late Shore Limited arrived, and was promptly cut into two sections, one bound for Boston and the other for New York. Dad wished Mom bon voyage–Mom was joining us for the second part of the trip. We were switched on the rear of the Boston section and the train was sent on it’s way. That evening, as we rolled through the Berkshires, we dined on green salad, salmon fillet, asperagus and new potatoes. For dessert we had another birthday cake, this time for John, one of two Boston passengers. I’m out of practice for cooking for 9 people, but the commercial convection oven in the Mount Vernon holds a lot. Things kind of worked out.

The train arrived into Boston South Station at 9:45 PM. we hung out on the car while they backed the trainset out of the station so the Mount Vernon could removed from the train, wyed (car turned around) and watered. As it turned out, there was a big delay in the yard, so at around 10:30 we all just went to bed. It was kind of noisy that night and some passengers complained of being woken up by crew people attaching HEP cables and watering hoses. All I know is that I wandered out into the Mount Vernon’s lounge Thursday morning to find that we were parked by the bumper post in the station. Rush hour had started and people were staring in through the windows as they ran into the station from their commuter trains.

Thursday (our first day in Boston):

Overnight, the weather had gone from hot (in the 90s) and sunny, to rainy and overcast. Meg, Mom and I reviewed our plans and the weather forecasts that the morning in the lounge and decided that our anticipated day trip to Portland, Maine on Amtrak’s Downeaster would have to wait for another trip. Bob had been up for a couple of hours before me, and was uploading a bunch of pictures from his camera to an internet web site. In Boston, the commuter trains had recently been fitted with free WIFI service by AT&T Wireless, and Bob was able to connect to the internet at times in the day when the commuter cars were parked alongside us. As we sipped our decaf coffees (it happened again), Meg and Mom came up with an alternate plan, and decided to get day passes and tour around Boston using public transit. Heading off to the T station in the basement, we picked up our passes from the vending machine, and decided to take a joy ride on the new Silver Line Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. There’s been a lot of discussion back home in Princeton, NJ about replacing the venerable Dinky shuttle between Princeton Junction and Princeton with BRT, and Meg and I were curious to see what it was like.

A BRT system is a bus line that operates on a reserved right-of-way, using buses fitted with OptiCom transmitters that can switch traffic lights green as they approach. The Silver Line buses use a long bus-only tunnel to connect to South Station, and run as trackless trolleys (drawing propulsion power from overhead trolley wires) while inside the tunnel. At the mouth of the tunnel, a diesel generator starts up and trolley poles are retracted automatically. Just for fun, we decide to ride the line that runs down to the waterfront. There used to be blocks of warehouses and support buildings serving the docks, but much of this has been redeveloped into small commercial sites. There’s a large Granger Supply Store (source for nearly everything you’d need to fix a railroad car), along with the new Harpoon Brewery and tasting room. Looks like I may be coming back, it’s too early in the day to visit a brewery. Meg pointed out that she read that they give tours and tastings.

The Silver Line bus line that I really wanted to ride (the line to City Point, a slowly developing new mixed-use residential neighborhood in South Boston) had been discontinued after only a couple of years of service. The signs were still up for the service in many locations on the system–I hope they decide to start running it again. It does point out the main weakness of BRT. BRT systems can be very successful mass transit modalities when used to provide the “last mile” service, that is, moving people from train stations to their places of business. They can provide more intensive coverage of a commercial neighborhood dropping people off more closely to their office, and at more frequent intervals than your average city subway line. On the other hand–they’re not so adept when it come with providing commuters with the “first mile”–the connection from a person’s home to the train station. They’re frequently not good at staying on schedule when stuck lumbering along in rush hour traffic, and will miss connections with commuter trains. Also they have nowhere near the charisma of a light rail or heavy rail system–no warm waiting areas. None of that sense of speed and of unstoppability that makes people want to trust them to get them to work on time. Basically, they’re just a bus.

After test-driving the Silver Line, we arrive back at South Station and transfer to the Red Line. At Park Street Under, we transfer to a Green Line trolley for the ride up to Lechmere. Much of this line now runs through newly built tunnels that replaced the old elevated line that used to ride past Boston Garden and North Station. At Lechmere, we browse Meg’s favorite Boston antique market, but emerge emptyhanded. From the Lechmere station, we catch an MBTA bus to Davis Station, an old urban square in front of the main gate of Tuffs University, and the three of us pay a visit to Redbones, Somerville’s premiere barbeque restaurant (and a great spot for inexpensive local microbrew beers). After lunch, we catch the Red Line at Davis for a short ride to Harvard Square to visit the Harvard COOP, one of the best academic bookstores around. While browsing for books, the sky outside darkened, and a massive rainstorm set in. Mom and Meg decided to wait out the storm at the COOP’s coffee shop, while I browse cooking books in the basement. (I’d been reading textbooks for two weeks straight running up to the trip, and was on break from serious reading for a few days).

The rain was starting to abate, so the tree of us made a run for it across the street to the Harvard T station and the Red Line. The trip back to south station was unusually slow, but we got there eventually. Coming up through the basement of the station and out to the end of Track 10 where the Mount Vernon was parked, we managed to avoid the rain. We dried off and made a pot of coffee, and by mid afternoon, the rain was passing and the day was turning sunny and mild. Meg and I felt like going out again for a walk around Coolidge Corner, one of our favorite walking neighborhoods in Boston. Mom decided to sit this one out and let Meg and I do this by ourselves (We’re known around our family for our knack of walking for miles through unusual and possibly unsafe neighborhoods while on vacation, so I understand her hesitation.)

Heading out on the Red line, we transferred to the Green Line C Route for the ride  to Cooledge corners, From there we walked northwestward on Harvard Street, until we came to Commonwealth Avenue, where we caught the Green Line B Route, which we rode up to to Sutherland Road, were we walked back to Cleveland Circle, the terminal end of the C Route. From there, we caught the C Line and rode back to Park Street. Trolley fans trying to quickly tour the entire Green Line system of the MBTA can save hours by taking advantage the fact that the B Line, the C line, and the D line all pass within four blocks of each other in the vicinity of Cleveland Circle  (In addition, Brookline Village (D line) station and Riverway Station (E line) are a few blocks apart from each other.)

We made it back to the car well after rush hour. Mom and the other passengers were having a great chat and enjoying large pieces of peach and raspberry pie that Bob and Marie had purchased at a bakery in the station. That night, as we were chatting, eating and enjoying our free internet access, I spied electricians inside the station taking down the 13 old Solari boards, one for each track, that hung over the passageways between the waiting room and the station tracks. As I stared at them working, I started imagining that they were going right out the door into the dumpster–this got me upset, and I pulled on my sneakers and walked out to talk to the guys. As it turns out, the MBTA replaced their old main Solari (flip panel) board a few years ago, and successfully sold it to railroad memorabilia collectors at auction. The MBTA was planning on auctioning these ones off too, and they were getting carefully boxed up. Sadly, they had been out of service for more than 15 years, but everyone seemed to be getting along fine without them. I was happy to learn that they weren’t going to be tossed, but kind of sad that I couldn’t put my dibs in for one. On the other hand, what are Meg and I going to do with a Solari board at home? Hang it over the piano.

Friday (our last full day in Boston):

We lingered in the car in the morning and munched on continental breakfast items and coffee. Around 10:30 AM we headed downstairs to the T Station and got our day passes. Our first ride of the day–the Silver LIne. We stopped by Granger and picked up a hardware catalog to leave on the car, and then crossed the street to make an early visit to Harpoon brewery–the guidebook said that they gave tours on weekdays, but this turned out to be erroneous information, tours are on weekends only. I was disappointed to say the least. We browsed the shop, and Meg (who is my creative director when it comes to brewing beer) and I sampled the a flight of their beers. Finally, one of the people in the brew shop felt bad for us and said, we’re not doing tours today, but is there one thing here you’d like to see? I had a very fast answer for him–of course, the microbiology lab. With that, I was whisked backstage at Harpoon and got to spend a few minutes talking with the two microbiologists who manage the yeast farm and supervise the fermentation and aging tanks. (This is a really big deal for a homebrewer. The microbiologists are the chief scientists at a brewery and know all the trade secrets) I had a wonderful time in there, and learned a few things about the yeasts they use. No, I’m not talking, and no, they didn’t give me any yeast samples.

Between the beers and the Granger catalog, our canvas totebags were overflowing. We went immediately back to South Station, dropped off our haul, and headed out for a visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, one of those eccentric museums that was put together by a wealthy family at the turn of the twentieth century, which kind of reminded me of the Barnes Foundation (my favorite Philly museum). In 1990, this museum was the site of an art heist where a couple of Rembrandts, a Manet, a Vermeer and a Degas etching were stolen–$500 million worth of paintings, the largest art theft ever. Somewhere in the museum, my mom lost her Ray-Bans. I think they were stolen. Meg and I sat and admired the beautiful garden in the atrium of the building for a while while the security staff hunted fruitless for the misplaced sunglasses. I told Mom not to worry, and gave her mine. After that, the three of us rode the E line back to Arlington and changed to the D line, and rode it to the end. On the return trip, we got off at Reservoir station, transferred to the C line, which we rode to Coolidge Corner. (We needed to pick up some of Boston’s best bagels and bring them back to the car where passengers had been on a bagel, lox and cream cheese kick for a couple of days.) We stopped for a coffee at Peets–Meg confessed that all she had been thinking about all day in terms of  food was New England clam chowder, a big, creamy thick while bowl with lots of clams and some pork thrown in. A fellow working at Peets suggest that we visit the Summer Shack, a large seafood restaurant across from the Alewife Red Line Station in Somerville. We finished our coffees, and headed out.

It turned out that the guy at Peets was right, the Summer Shack was really good, and a very good deal too. When it comes to seafood, frequently large, industrial restaurants get the best fish and do the best frying. At the bar, happy people sat  watching the Sox overpower the Yanks. After dinner, we rode back to South Station. Mom and Meg were ready to relax and sit around the lounge for a spell, and watch the night trains come and go.

Saturday (back to New York):

Saturday morning, we took a morning trip downtown to Boston Common–a part of town I seldom visit. From Park Street we walked toward  Downtown Crossing and marveled at the empty building that used to be Filene’s Department Store. I think a lot of people gave up on Downtown Boston when Filene’s closed. From there, we walked around the common to Boylston Street, and then down Boylston stopping briefly at Marshalls, Filene’s Basement and a small shoe store (did I mention that I was with Meg and my mom). Arriving at Copley Square station, we caught the Green Line back to Park Street, and then caught the Red Line back to South Station. While we were away, the Mount Vernon was unplugged from hotel power and moved from the station into the yard so it could be added to the Boston Section of the Lake Shore Limited. While the car was out in the yard, we were welcome to use the Acela Lounge at the station, so we went in and sat for a spell. I chatted with Lynn, the manager of the lounge who also doubles as the station’s PA announcer, and is a 30 year Amtrak employee. It’s is kind of strange to have your station announcer also serve as the greeter at the first-class lounge. For one thing, Lynn needs to be in constant communication with the yard switching crews and the station redcaps so she spends a lot of time talking on walkie-talkies and her telephone rings a lot. She also has a computer on her desk showing the model board (a map-like diagram of all of the trackage from South Station to Back Bay station), so she can see approaching trains. From memory, she knows what tracks the dispatcher will route them into, and she can recite all the station names for all the trains from memory.

At 11:30 the Mount Vernon, now attached to the Lake Shore Limited, was backed into the station. Train left on time, and  we enjoyed our lunch sandwiches as we headed west. The day was sunny and railfan perfect. What a great trip–we were a half hour early getting into Rensselaer. That evening, my Dad returned to pick up mom and took us out to dinner to The Albany Pumphouse, home of the C.H. Evans Brewery, After saying farewell to Mom and Dad, we watched from trackside as Amtrak wyed the car and set it up for us for trackside electrical power for our overnight stay. For the first time in a few days, it was actually cool.  Once back on the car we sat in the quiet and read for a while, and after about a half hour Jack, Marie and Bob came back. I stayed up late with Jack and talked about train trips until about midnight. Meg went to bed around 10. Every so often, the silence of the evening was punctuated by the chugging of a passing locomotive.

Sunday brought us another perfect morning. We were still about a hundred yards north of the station and trains were whizzing by us with constant frequency as we sipped our morning coffees.. Meg and Marie were doing a final sweep of the car–picking up trash, cleaning out garbage cans in the bathrooms. Around 11:30 AM, the car was attached to a southbound New York City train and was pulled forward into the station in anticipation of our noon departure. We deposited a bag of gabage trackside at the designated location.

Arriving at New York’s Penn station around 2:45, Meg and I said farewell to Jack, Marie, and Bob, and caught a NJTransit train back home. We’d had a really vigorous week on the rails, and was looking forward to sleeping in our big bed and taking it easy for a couple of days.

About the Mount Vernon: Built in 1950 by the Budd Company for the Union Pacific Railroad as a ten-roomette, six-bedroom sleeper, the Mount Vernon led a venerable life in service for the Pullman Company. In the 1970s, Amtrak took ownership of the car, upgraded it, and used it as a test bed for converting sleepers from steam power to electricity. It served on various routes between 1980 and 1995, most notably in overnight service between New York and Boston. With the arrival of the Viewliner sleepers in the 1990s, the car was retired and stored for several years. In 2002, Dominion Rail Voyages purchased the car and sent it to the shops at the Lancaster and Chester Railway where the roomettes were removed and the lounge area, kitchen, shower and diesel generator were added. Master car builder Bob Willets designed the car for automated operation on long trips with limited crew, so the kitchen features a large freezer and unusually large water and sewage tanks. The six original Pullman bedrooms with enclosed annex toilets and fully-folding en-suite doors were retained.

In it’s current configuration, a crew of two and up to 10 passengers can comfortably be on the road for five or six days without restocking of the kitchen.


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