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April 10, 2008 7:39 AM   Subscribe

I want to buy a train car and then travel in it. How do I do this?

I've always wanted my own train car. I'd like to buy one, renovate/remodel it, and then travel in it. I haven't the faintest idea how one does this. Do you?

Where could I find a train car to buy?
What would it cost?
Where could I keep it?
How do I get it attached to a train, and once I got some place, what would I do with it?

I'll be living in Bellingham, Washington, so on the off chance you have some local information, that would be especially good. (By local, I'd certainly include Seattle.) Thanks.
posted by Capri to Travel & Transportation around New Orleans, LA (11 answers total) 71 users marked this as a favorite
 
Start here.

I would suggest renting one for a few trips to find out if you like this, before buying one.
posted by beagle at 7:42 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've always dreamed of living on a houseboat, but is far more creative! I know it's possible. Call amtrak and inquire - stomach the bureaucracy, don't get discouraged, and do it!
posted by Dr.James.Orin.Incandenza at 9:16 AM on April 10, 2008


There was an article in one of the major newsmagazine/newspapers about this lifestyle.
From what I recall, once you've got your railcar, you essentially call up a railroad freight company and have yourself moved as freight.
Benefits included going on track normally not used by passenger cars. Downsides included being detached on the far side of an urban trainyard at 3am.
You could also hook yourself up to an Amtrak.

To buy a car, you'd want to talk to one of the rolling stock vendors. If you have a railway museum near you, it might be a good place to start.
Also, I remember it being fairly expensive per mile, even though the weight was low. There are quite a few railcar charter companies around. You might consider doing that first just to get a feel for it.

www.trainweb.com has a bunch of information on this kind of thing, but you may need to do some digging.
posted by madajb at 9:21 AM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


About ten years ago, a friend won a charity auction in which the prize was the weekend usage of Lucius Beebee's private railcar, the Virgina City. We went from Oakland to Reno, spent the night and then returned. It was an unforgettable time. As I recall, we were hooked up to an Amtrak train for the ride to Reno.
posted by Sculthorpe at 9:57 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


Following the link that beagle posted, I found this Amtrak page that is the contact point for attaching private cars. It also shows the possible destinations.

Awesome idea, though. I am totally doing this when I get rich.
posted by procrastination at 11:32 AM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


From The OP: FYI, I found a few cars for sale on the order of $250,000-400,000, depending on their condition and vintage (i.e. just how incredibly cool they are). The really spiffed out cars I didn't bother looking at, since I want to do the spiffing myself. The coolest thing I found out there was an entire train for sale (no price listed, if you have to ask, you can't afford it) -- engine, baggage car, two passenger cars, caboose. Wow!

This idea came from (a) my love of trains, and (b) an article I read years ago about designers who had bought Airstream trailers and spiffed them out, and they were all really cool and unique and beautiful. But I don't want a trailer, I want a train. I'll keep working on it, and eventually I'll blog the whole experience. But don't hold your breath. This will take years. Glad to know others find this amazing too.
posted by Capri at 11:48 AM on April 10, 2008


There was a Metafilter post a couple of years ago about railroad enthusiasts who purchased old personal Pullman cars and rode around in them. They were very expensive but very luxurious and some were formerly owned by captains of industry. My searching skills were defeated, perhaps someone else can do better.
posted by Daddy-O at 11:51 AM on April 10, 2008


One year, I had a job as attendant on a Really Rich Guy's private railcar, and old Pullman Standard with the brass railings around the rear platform. Best Job Ever. He'd want the car in Seattle for a business meeting, would call Amtrak, and I'd ride it up there from Florida (or wherever the car happened to be), and make sure it was serviced, stocked, watered and the waste tanks purged. I also had to provide security, which meant I lived on the car while it was not parked in a secure location.

I was basically being paid to ride around behind Amtrak trains like a potentate, and keep things tidy.

IIRC, the cost to move the car was the equivalent of about 20 first-class fares for the same leg, plus switching fees by the host railroad(s) at each end. I did a lot of the maintenance as part of the job. There's a lot of stuff that can go wrong on a 60 year old railcar, and fixing things can get pretty expensive.

It was worth it, though, giving up the whole year to be a paid tourist, plus there was the added attraction of having what could be considered to be my own private railcar when I'd meet some fetching young thing in the lounge car on the public part of the train >;)
posted by pjern at 12:15 PM on April 10, 2008 [21 favorites]


I've seen a pullman car, with the wheels still on, that was parked and rented out as living quarters. Last I heard it was for sale at $45,000. MeMail me if it appeals and I'll track down some more info on it -- I always thought it looked like a fun place to live.
posted by yohko at 4:50 PM on April 10, 2008


This is the coolest question I have ever read on AskMeFi. What an interesting idea, and what a great lifestyle.

Capri, if you live in Bellingham, then you know you are only an hour or so from British Columbia ...and the Great White North just beyond Vancouver. What is interesting about our rail lines, is that they go to far-flung places, where there are sometimes no roads just vast expanses of wilderness, rivers, chains of mountains. Yet, the railroad tracks go through, old mining towns (or relics thereof) go past as the train picks up steam again.

The route I am thinking of is the Vancouver-Lilloet-Prince George. And then beyond... all the way to Bella Bella, or Bella Coola. In your private car, you would see places and sights that someone who flies or drives up will not experience. In your private car, you could hook up to another rail line, and go to the Yukon. Or to Alaska. Or to the Territories.

Gosh I have no idea where the commercial rail lines go nowadays, or how often service is provided. Mill towns (active) are serviced regularly... but old ghost towns (mining, or closed mill towns) not so much. You will see train stops along the way - names on a track, a sign here, a decrepit building there - and much vestige from days of boom, and days of bust. A trip up through BC's rail system will give you a sense of the Pacific Northwest's history, all our glories and all our sorrows.

I would *love* to explore these places by rail, but only commercial trains go there nowadays (BC has sparse service for people on trains). So the idea of buying a (rail) car and hooking up with a train and visiting these places holds immense appeal.

Thank you Capri for firing up my imagination.
posted by seawallrunner at 9:25 PM on April 10, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oh, what an wonderful idea!
links!
posted by Kerasia at 10:42 PM on April 10, 2008 [1 favorite]


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