Railroad double decker dome 651
Notes: With no mainland connection to the outside world, the Alaska Railroad isn't part of Amtrak's system, and thus provides its own passenger service. The results have been world class. ARR's service and success would make most passenger carriers green with envy. Over the past few years, Alaska Railroad has been updating its passenger car fleet with newer equipment and implementing new services. The most recent is a luxury upgrade on its flagship train, the Denali Star. That service will be provided using two uniquely designed brand new dome cars built by Colorado Railcar.
In addition to the dome, which will seat 72 riders, the car will have a substantial kitchen that is being designed to serve out over 900 meals a day to riders in the dome's dining room and an adjoining dining car. (one of the ex-Florida Fun Train diners, 451 and 452 which, though not purchased with this order, were built byColorado Railcar as well.) With all that space being taken up downstairs, there wasn't much room for such luxuries as an observation platform. The solution? Alaska Railroad's RFP for the cars offered the suggestion that the platform be located upstairs and styled similarly to ARR's single level dome "Aurora".
Wondering how that would look, I set about in April of 2004 to compile photos of the Aurora and several other cars to create an illustration what the car would look like. Now we have the real thing. The cars will be ADA accessible, with wheelchair lifts to the upper level. They are expected to enter service in the summer of 2005.
The cars were in the very early stages of construction when I visited the Colorado Railcar plant in August, 2004. At that time, they still hadn't been assigned actual numbers, hence the arbitrary designations you see right now. When in service, the Alaska Railroad's new luxury domes will operate right behind the baggage car, separate from the other domes in the train. The upstairs platform will face the rear of the train, which should offer a unique and dramatic view of the rest of the train snaking along through some awesome Alaskan scenery. This is going to be one impressive service.
Click here for a tour of this car while under construction.