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Tour of shop cars SC-1 and LC-2

A tour of shop cars SC-1 and LC-2

While in Denver on business, I took advantage of my location to spend a few hours at Colorado Railcar's Ft. Lupton shops. Several photos from around the shop can be found on the Shop Tour photo gallery, but I specifically felt that it was worth creating a special page just for two of the cars that are stored outside.

The SC-1 is a sleeper car, while the LC-2 is a lounge/mezzanine car. Neither car is operable in their present conditions, but both merit mention because of the innovations in their respective appointments. As mentioned on the individual pages, the two cars are used primarily for photographic and proof of concept demonstration purposes. But they are quite an eyeful.

When I visited in Nov., 2003, both cars were side by side just outside the shop building. To the right, out of view, is a car that is intended to be a power car for the Golden Eagle, and another demo car, the SC-2.

The exterior of both cars offers a good view of what lies beneath the skin of all of the ultradomes. As I am told, the bridge truss side design in shared with all of the cars. (By the way, your eyes don't deceive you — the dome windows on this end of the SC-1 are plated over with metal of some sort.)

We stepped around the LC-2 and boarded the SC-1 first, entering through the vestibule.

After entering through the downstairs door, you are greeted by several finished sleeper berths. Basically, half of the car is in a presentation state, with the vestibule end of the lower level and the other end of the upper level finished.

This is the second of the four berths on the lower level, and was the only one during our visit that had the bed folded out. For all intents and purposes, this configuration very closely reflects the final version of the sleeper berths installed on the American Orient Express cars. (See the Other Cars photo gallery). Like most sleepers, the bed folds up into a couch for daytime running.

In a slight departure from other ultradomes, the SL-1 has a straight stairway instead of the spiral stairs found on most production cars. The stairway is found in the center of the car, and climbs lengthwise to the upper level, where I shot this photo looking down the hall toward the suite on the end of the car.

Because the stairway crosses the car, the upper level berths are on the opposite side of the car from the lower level berths.

For an ultradome sleeper, this was what I had envisioned — The windows in the hallway would wrap over the top, and stop near the wall of the sleeper rooms. This to me is a very dramatic vision for a functioning car.

There are four completed berths on the upper level, including this one and the one on the roster page for the car. Basically, these are the same berths as those on the lower level, but they become much more dramatic with the addition of the ultradome windows. Ho, wow.

Picture this: You're on a train. After a restful night's sleep, lulled into slumber by the rhythmic thumping of wheels on rail far below. You roll over, beckoned to wake by the brightening sky, sit up, rub your eyes and BANG! your first view of the day is a panoramic sunrise somewhere on Donner Pass on your way to California. Sound cool? I'd like to think so.

If I had to identify one chief problem with this concept that would need to be addressed on production sleepers, it's the need for some sort of window shading. The humongous window is nice, but the average person would appreciate a little privacy while changing or perhaps even while sleeping. I would imagine that there is enough room along the window frames for some sort of provision like that.

At the end of the car is a full width suite, complete with larger bathroom and shower. This is the pinnacle of over the top opulence. Sign me up.

This photo fails to capture the overall size of the suite. You can just see the door on the right, and I have my back to the bathroom and shower, which are nestled into the end wall of the car.

One thing I am not quite clear about with the SC-1 is that the floor plan is supposed to be more or less identical on the unfinished end. If that's the case, then it would seem that the windows on the unfinished end should be set in from the car ends, and they are not. (For comparison, see the photo of the SC-2 on its roster page.)

After leaving the SC-1, we boarded the LC-2 through the car end via a metal stairway. The room immediately inside the car is unfinished except for carpeting, and leads us into the lower level of the mezzanine lounge, a stunning arrangement for a double level car.

On the lower level, there is a small dance floor and a baby grand piano in the corner. Of course, it's not really a piano, but with its back to you, you can almost hear the notes resonating while the scenery rushes by outside.

Probably my favorite part of the car's configuration is the open balcony of the upper level, which allows riders on the lower level to enjoy some spectacular scenery.

After continuing through the doors in the back to another unfinished chamber, we climbed the spiral stairs to the upper level of the car, which didn't disappoint either.

Looking back at the spiral staircase from upstairs, you can see the open arrangement of this part of the car, which I was really impressed with. I can just imagine settling into one of the plush chairs and sipping a glass of hot tea while the panorama of the Canadian Rockies or some other splendor plays out before me.

Just out of view behind the tree on the right is a very neat looking brass piece that greatly resembles the Union Pacific's original City of San Francisco streamliners, while there was a small service bar to the extreme right. Behind me is the small lounge area depicted in the interior photo on the LC-2's roster page.

Looking over the balcony toward the lower level dance floor and the lounge area on the end of the car. I really like the wider space between window frames on this car, which affords some room for very dramatic lighting options. Bear in mind again that this car isn't an operable car, and thus has none of the lighting, generator and other running components that would be found on a car in regular service.

Looking the other direction from the previous photo, you can see the dining area that occupies the far end of the car. At this point, we are on the end of the car that faced the camera in the first photo, directly above the entrance. You can see the plated over windows of the unfinished end of the SC-1 beside us.

It was at about this point that I started to realize that a lot of what was in the car was for show. Closer inspection of the crests on the headrests, the seats, and other components revealed that they had been put together for looks and not for operation. That's OK with me, as it serves the purpose that the car has been designated for. From a distance like this, the effect is quite convincing. I've seen several promotional photos taken in the cars, and would have never guessed had I not scrutinized the construction up close.

The LC-2 and SC-1 are not operable cars. Too bad, because I'd love to take a trip within their walls. But in their present state, it's easy to be tantalized by what they represent: A very unique "outside the box" vision for the application of Colorado Railcar's ultradome design. And who knows. Maybe we will get to see them on the rail for real some day. Colorado Railcar's principals are seeking financing to launch the luxurious Golden Eagle cruise train, which the preliminary literature says would sleep 60, with two sleepers, a lounge car and a diner. Sounds like that could easily end up being the SC-1, SC-2, LC-2 and SPA respectively. Wouldn't that be great?

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