Thursday, October 24, 2013

Amtrak’s Great Dome car will return to the rails

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

Passengers riding Amtrak Illinois Zephyr trains between Chicago and Quincy will have a unique opportunity this fall to view the change of seasons when the historic “Great Dome” railcar is part of Trains 380 and 383 from Nov. 5 to Nov. 22.

With its partner at the Illinois Department of Transportation), Amtrak worked to bring its only dome car back to the Prairie State. The car features an upper level with windows on all sides to provide passengers with panoramic views of the changing colors of the trees, farmers in their fields, and the picturesque communities along the route, including LaGrange, Naperville, Plano, Mendota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg, and Macomb.

There is no additional charge for riding the Illinois Zephyr during this period, and seating in the Great Dome car is unreserved. The Illinois Zephyr is one of the first state-sponsored trains in the Amtrak network, with continuous operation in partnership with Illinois DOT since 1971, the first year of Amtrak service.

Together with its counterpart, the Carl Sandburg (Trains 381 & 382) and other Amtrak services, ridership on the Chicago-Galesburg-Quincy corridor was strong again in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2013, with more than 261,000 passengers.

The only remaining dome car in Amtrak service, car number 10031 is a Great Dome car previously used on the Chicago-Seattle Empire Builder when the train was operated by the Great Northern Railway and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy Railroad (later the Burlington Northern Railroad). It was built in 1955 by the Budd Company for the Great Northern and carried the name “Ocean View,” car number 1391. It was conveyed to Amtrak in 1971, with this car first being given the number 9361. It was renovated in 1985, renumbered 9300, and used in daily service on the Amtrak Auto Train to and from the Washington, D.C., and Orlando, Fla., areas through 1994. It was further refurbished in 1999, renumbered to 10031, and has been used in Amtrak services including the Pacific Surfliners and other charters and excursions. The “Ocean View” name has been restored to the car, which has a dome section that runs its full length, a rare feature, even when dome cars were more numerous on the nation’s railroads. In addition, it was repainted in honor of the Amtrak 40th Anniversary in 2011 and wears equal-size red, white, and blue stripes, symbolic of Amtrak being America's Railroad®.