Let’s Buy a Train

Let’s Buy a Train
Citylab
Andrew Zaleski Mar 25, 2019

If you dream of roaming the U.S. in a your own personal train car, you still can. But Amtrak cuts have railcar owners wondering if their days are numbered.

When Bob Lowe wants to take a cross-country trip, the first stop for him is 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where his own private railroad awaits. Sort of.
Lowe owns a pair of railroad cars, artifacts of the pre-Amtrak era, when the country’s passenger-rail network was a glorious patchwork of private operators. One is a Salisbury Beach sleeper car, so named after the shore in Massachusetts, that was originally put into commission by the Boston and Maine Railroad in 1954 and holds 26 people. The other: an old Colonial Crafts, just one of a series of Colonial railcars that entered service on the Pennsylvania Railroad out of Chicago in 1949. It’s got three bedrooms, a drawing room, a buffet kitchen, and a large lounge. So when Lowe wants to take a train from, say, Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., he doesn’t buy tickets for a seat in one of Amtrak’s coach cars. Instead, he asks Amtrak for a tow, essentially hitching a ride in his own cars with family and friends, usually 25 people at a time between both cars.

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About the Author
Andrew Zaleski
DC-based freelance writer Andrew Zaleski has written for Wired, Washington Post Magazine, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Health, and many other publications.