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The Observation Platform


Welcome to the Observation Platform! One of the most satisfying experiences in our pursuit of trains is bagging that elusive cab unit, classic steam locomotive, or other unique piece of rolling stock.

However, the U.S. is a big place. I can visit the WES commuter line any time, but going to Cajon Pass or the Northeast Corridor takes a bit more effort. Thanks to this feature, we can all get a look at that elusive "big game".

Due to server space limitations, I must limit the number of photos available at any time, but I will change categories and add new photographs periodically. I have a collection of several thousand photos, so please bear with me. All that I ask from you is this: if you use one of these photographs in a website or make a hard copy of it, please credit me for it (Photograph by Thomas McCann) or credit the person who was kind enough to provide the photo.



It's July 4, 2015, and the Mount Hood Railroad is taking the holiday off from its normal duties of hauling excursion trains, dinner trains and the occasional freight. The railroad's rolling stock is gathered in the yard at Hood River, Ore. while the community celebrates our country's independence.

This Budd full-length dome lounge, #513 named the "Columbia View", is one of the feature cars of the railroad. It was built in 1954 as one of 14 "Big Dome" cars for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. These cars operated on the "El Capitan", the "Chicagoan/Kansas Cityan", the "San Francisco Chief" and the "Chief".

When the Santa Fe gave up its intercity passenger trains to Amtrak in 1971, these cars operated for a few months in Amtrak service but 13 were sold off to the new Auto-Train Corporation. One of them was wrecked while in A-T service and later scrapped. The other 12 were sold off in 1981 when Auto-Train went bankrupt; the New York, Susquehanna & Western purchased eight of them for use in excursion service, while the other four were bought by private owners. One of the Susquehanna cars was vandalized and burned while in storage and subsequently scrapped.

Ten of the cars were subsequently purchased by Holland America Westours for its "Mckinley Explorer" service in Alaska and remained in service there until the late 2000s, when they were replaced by custom-built Colorado Railcar domes. Eight of the cars were purchased by Iowa Pacific Holdings and now operate on various Iowa Pacific-owned shortlines or services around the U.S. The other two former Westours cars were purchased by the Canyon City & Royal Gorge RR for excursion service in Colorado.

Of the other two surviving "Big Domes", BNSF inherited the Santa Fe's remaining car in the 1995 BN/ATSF merger and operates it in its business car fleet as the "Bay View". Conrail bought the other one from a private owner in 1988 for its business car fleet; it subsequently went to Norfolk Southern in 1999, which now operates it as the "Delaware".


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