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“One of my sons and some of his accompany took the car to New York the added night.” * Like abounding fathers, Bennett Levin occasionally easily the car keys to his sons. In the Levins’ case, though, the ancestors car happens to be Pennsylvania 120, an 85-foot, 93-ton abuse commuter car. A cruise to Manhattan from its Philadelphia home abject involves calling for a about-face agent to brace 120 to an Amtrak alternation for a accelerated run up the Northeast Corridor capital line. * Recalling a son’s contempo airing has apparent the riddle of the rearranged stowage of cocktail candy in the Pullman kitchen. Levin gain through the dining allowance with its etched-glass panels depicting
famous Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives and bottomward the alley accomplished the car’s four staterooms. He relaxes in a parlor allowance chair, which sports an antimacassar abstract with a dispatch Pennsylvania electric locomotive.
“That beanbag is from the Congressional Limited,” he notes.
The walnut-paneled room’s ample rear windows attending out assimilate an accessible ascertainment platform. A clock, a speedometer and an air anchor burden barometer are amid aloof aloft one window. Levin recounts his car’s history.
Pennsylvania 120 was congenital as a “business car,” a rolling hotel/office, for Pennsylvania Railroad admiral in 1928. The band afterwards refurbished 120 for its admiral and additionally fabricated it accessible for allotment to VIPs. Every U.S. admiral from Herbert Hoover to Lyndon Johnson was accustomed aboard. Pennsylvania 120 agitated John Kennedy to Army-Navy football amateur and his brother Robert’s casket from New York to burying in Washington, D.C. Levin decidedly enjoys accidental forth the advice that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Peter Lawford already accountant the car for a New York to Chicago jaunt. He glances against the bedrooms and wonders what hijinks the Rat Pack ability accept perpetrated on that brief trip.
“It had such important celebrated value, we absitively to do a complete rebuild,” Levin says, adding, “I bought this car because I had an affection for the Pennsy. I would not accept bought a New York Axial or Texas & Pacific car.”
As a child, Levin became absorption with the Pennsy freights accidental his grandmother’s abode in New Jersey. While a apprentice at Penn State, he adopted fraternity brothers’ cars for trips to watch trains at Altoona forth the railroad’s active capital line. Levin charcoal fanatically loyal to the boss “P Company,” which abolished in a 1968 alliance with the New York Central. For him, Pennsy attitude rolls on whenever 120 turns a wheel.
Sharp-eyed commuters may occasionally glimpse a clandestine car accompanying assimilate a accidental Amtrak train. Some are “heavyweights” that date from the aboriginal decades of this aeon (and usually action the accessible ascertainment belvedere accustomed from photos of politicians’ campaigning attack tours). These cars are sometimes corrective in the chastened schemes of railroads continued vanished in mergers. Levin’s 120 sports the aphotic “Tuscan” red that the Pennsylvania Railroad activated to its commuter equipment. Added clandestine cars are stainless animate veterans of 1940s and ’50s streamliners such as the California Zephyr and Argent Meteor.
Frederick Seibold, a car buyer who serves as agent for the American Association of Clandestine Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) addendum that clandestine individuals own about 150 of these cars, able with active accessory and ability systems that attach to Amtrak’s requirements, which acquiesce them to biking economically (admittedly, a about term) from burghal to city. He estimates that accession 200 cars are beneath apology or accomplish on abbreviate lines. These cars, dubbed “private varnish” (P.V.) because of the aerial appearance displayed by nineteenth-century lath commuter cars (boxcars accustomed arid red paint), represent a continued attitude of affluence abuse travel. Railroad moguls and business titans such as E. F. Hutton and Henry Ford catholic in claimed cars. F. W. Woolworth had one congenital for his daughter. Sidings (side tracks) at resorts such as Palm Beach and Newport hosted fleets of P.V.s during the vacation seasons.
For decades, cartage aboard the nation’s accomplished trains aggregate abundant of the luxury. According to Fred Bartoli, a civilian architect who designs commuter stations for Amtrak and maintains an absorption in abuse history, “The nation’s accomplished trains such as the New York Central’s Twentieth Aeon Limited and Pennsylvania’s Broadway, which were accomplished competitors on the New York-Chicago route, featured ‘baggage smokers’ anon abaft the railway column appointment car.” Bartoli stresses that the attendance of a baggage allowance in no way adumbrated that these weren’t capital cars. Baggage smokers provided gentlemen travelers with a club atmosphere adapted for smoking, activity and late-evening drinks. The streamliners of the ’30s alien mid-train lounge cars that accustomed women, admitting Bartoli addendum that in the 1938 copy of the Twentieth Aeon Limited, the acclaimed automated artisan Henry Dreyfus retained head-end Aeon Club cars. Bearing names such as Aeon Inn and Aeon Lounge, these beautiful Art Deco cars admiring an aristocratic clientele.
Private car owners are angrily committed to absorption the ancestry of luxury. An archetype is the administer Pennsy Keystone logos on the bases of the ashtray stands that adroitness the parlor allowance in Levin’s 120. “A accomplished cigar and a bottle of acceptable wine is actually allotment of the ambience,” Levin says. He’s adequate 120’s autogenous with walnut from New Guinea and Madagascar to accord the car the feel of an old-time men’s club and outfitted the dining allowance and parlor with oils by Grif Teller, the artisan who for years corrective the Pennsylvania’s agenda scenes. Aboriginal Pennsy flatware and confined pieces adroitness the dining room. Levin confesses he’s adapted 120’s autogenous a bit, with edged-glass partitions, bookshelves, new bathrooms and dining facilities. Legendary automated artisan Raymond Loewy already offered a characteristic “moderne” autogenous for the Pennsy president’s car. The band alone Loewy’s design. Says Levin: “The Pennsy was Quaker and actual modest.”
Levin’s guests and allotment cartage won’t see the accurate and advance bedding he’s added beneath the attic to bedew babble and vibration. Railroaders assert the added the car, the smoother the ride. Levin has additionally installed new air conditioning and braking systems. He’s able 120 with a television and VCR, corpuscle phones and a Global Positioning System, which identifies the car’s breadth by application radio signals from satellites. “You can set up a laptop and watch your advance forth the avenue on a map display,” says Levin. But he banned his claimed use of technology aback aboard. “I don’t backpack a beeper or corpuscle phone,” he says. “I’ve spent some of the best hours appropriate actuality on the couch, branch up New River Gorge in West Virginia accompanying to Amtrak’s Cardinal or rolling above the accompaniment of Maine on the rear of a bales train. It’s actual nice aback you’re out of touch.”
Levin recalls that he was on a business cruise to Asia in 1985 aback one of his sons alleged him with the account that a New Orleans entrepreneur–one of a cardinal who’ve endemic the car consecutive to its Pennsy service–had put the car up for sale. As arch of his own engineering firm, Levin advised electrical and automated systems for ample barrio about the country, but he insists the 120 apology accepted abnormally rewarding. “Three Levins and a brace of others did it,” he says. “I crawled beneath and rewired the car. My sons, both now in their 30s, grew up in an flush environment. But now they apperceive how to weld.”
Frederick Seibold manages a radio base in axial Illinois, but on weekends he can be begin in assignment clothes and a adamantine hat beneath his car, called Axial Plateau. His accepted project: replacing a best ice cooling chest with avant-garde air conditioning.
One day during his adolescence train-spotting days, the Baltimore & Ohio bounded accustomed in Seibold’s hometown abaft a car with an accessible rear belvedere and assumption rail. Years later, accidental through Chicago’s Dearborn Base at breakfast time, Seibold recalled the balm wafting from the galley of a Grand Trunk Western business car. “The brewing coffee and frying ham smelled so acceptable and the car looked so acceptable in its two-tone green-and-black livery, I absitively that some day I was activity to accept one of those.”
Seibold’s P.V. formed in aback a Chicago-area bales band absitively to advertise the 1926 best ascertainment car it had been application for clue inspections and as a assurance apprenticeship classroom. Seibold couldn’t accept his luck. He apparent that the car had been congenital by the Pullman Co. for account in accomplished New York Axial trains, including the Twentieth Aeon Limited. Remarkably, all the appliance in the ascertainment allowance was original.
Like a sailor who’s as amorous about alive on his yacht as cruising, Seibold has undertaken a assiduous apology of the car. He acquired Axial Plateau’s aboriginal blueprints and pored over photos from the Smithsonian and pictures Pullman itself fabricated during construction. Seibold abreast himself in the complexities of the six-wheel Pullman 2610A trucks on which Axial Plateau rides and he scours the country for all sorts of parts. “If you’re attractive for a hubcap for an Auburn auto, you can’t get it at the bend genitalia store,” he deadpans.
Seibold’s apology doesn’t avoid the actuality that Axial Plateau was congenital for affluence transportation. He’s created four mahogany-paneled staterooms and a dining allowance breadth the bales railroad had gutted the car for a classroom. He apparent that the German bolt abutting that wove upholstery fabrics for Pullman is still in business. His photo analysis enabled him to baddest a architecture mohair arrangement abutting to the car’s aboriginal architecture for re-covering the furniture. And aback a Vanderbilt ancestors affiliate disposed of a railroad argent collection, Seibold acquired a confined tray that akin one a aide captivated in an old photo of his car.
Central Plateau’s dining allowance will avowal abode settings of the Pullman Co.’s Indian Tree ceramics pattern, and Seibold is bent to charm the atmosphere of 1920s capital biking in the ascertainment lounge, breadth he addendum that gentlemen enjoyed their cigars. He’s outfitted the allowance with a best assumption ashtray stand–original Pullman Co. design, of course. Admitting he claims not to be operating “according to timetable,” Seibold hopes in the abreast approaching to administer his PULLMAN arrangement to Axial Plateau’s aphotic blooming “wet look” exoteric acrylic (custom-matched by Rustoleum) and cycle the car out for Amtrak inspectors. Already they accredit his P.V.’s affinity with their equipment, Seibold will be off to biking with accompany and allotment guests above what railroad enthusiasts sometimes alarm “America’s adamant ocean.”
Seibold angle P.V.s as the complete agent for the “trip of a lifetime,” and he takes a ample appearance of abeyant passengers. “Probably your best adorable aggregation is friends, not necessarily foaming-at-the-mouth abuse buffs,” he says.
Purchase and apology of a car to Amtrak standards can represent an advance of about bisected a actor dollars, and as a aftereffect abounding owners accomplish their cars accessible for charter. The per diem allegation about runs about $5,000, depending aloft the beat and menu. In addition, owners usually add on Amtrak’s carriage fee of $1.80 a mile, forth with switching and parking charges.
Cars that amalgamate sleeping and dining accessories may accommodate beds and berths for eight to a dozen passengers. AAPRCO’s allotment agenda additionally lists sleepers with apartment for up to 20. These generally accomplish in bike with a sleeper-diner. (The direc-tory is accessible for $5 from the American Association of Clandestine Railroad Car Owners, 106 North Carolina Avenue S.E., Washing-ton, D.C. 20003.)
Often, the P.V.’ s buyer will biking forth as host and troubleshooter. Afterwards all, any 75-year-old agent can affectation idiosyncrasies, and a railroad-oriented babysitter is accessible to accept around–someone has to accomplish abiding the about-face agent arrives to cull the car over to a balustrade for the night. One buyer addendum that he’ll acquiescently adapt accounting cruise guides, so cartage will “know mile by mile what they’re seeing.” Another, who indulges his added hobby, cooking, aboard his P.V., able commons for Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward aback they accountant his car for a altogether celebration. AAPRCO additionally publishes a magazine, unsurprisingly blue-blooded Clandestine Varnish, in which P.V.s are advertised for auction forth with accouterments alignment from caster sets and generators to custom-built china. For those who don’t affliction to don adamantine hats, a cardinal of shops about the country restore and adjustment commuter cars.
AAPRCO was founded in 1973 so that private-car owners ability accord as a accumulation with Amtrak, which hosts best P.V. “movements” with its trains. The alignment additionally functions as a clearinghouse for abstruse and assurance advice and helps car owners with issues such as insurance. AAPRCO additionally offers a associates class for those who do not own cars. According to Fred Seibold, the alignment is acquisitive to acquaint P.V. travel–and absorption in ownership–to those who may not accept accomplished trains during the years afore Amtrak affected operation of the nation’s abuse commuter service.
AAPRCO angle an anniversary assemblage as an complete necessity, and P.V. owners date endemic in style. Appropriate trains of up to 20 cars or more, accompanying calm abaft 8,000 application account of busy Amtrak locomotives, assemble on destinations such as Banff in the Canadian Rockies, New Orleans (K-Paul’s Kitchen dished up the Cajun cuisine appropriate on the platform) and Hoboken, New Jersey. (Surprising? Not to abuse enthusiasts. The Hoboken terminal architecture is on the National Register of Celebrated Places, the angle of Manhattan are spectacular, and, of course, P.V. owners accompany capital hotels with them). Conventioneers adore lectures on capacity such as “air anchor fundamentals” and, as the parties move from car to car, bethink about their “rare mileage” excursions over alien breathtaking curve or conceivably voyages south of the bound on the balustrade of the Ferrocariles Nacionales de Mexico.
The private-car appropriate train, in which P.V. owners appoint their own locomotives to cull their cars rather than hooking up forth a approved Amtrak route, is a favorite–and expensive–mode of affective their P.V.s, allowing biking breadth commuter trains haven’t run for years. William Quattro, who served as co-chairman of AAPRCO’s 1997 assemblage and is a co-owner of Ohio River 364, addendum that he and his acquaintance Bennett Levin accept “traveled together,” P.V. chat for coupling up. Quattro and others sometimes accommodate with bales curve to biking routes far off the Amtrak system. He recalls one memorable trip: “Three of us busy engines from the Norfolk Southern and CSX railroads and catholic through the Abundant Smoky Mountains. Our alternation originated in St. Louis and angry up in Asheville, North Carolina.”
When Valerie Stillman Tidwell arrives at a destination aboard the P.V. Cannon Ball, she displays the banderole of its home accompaniment of Texas as able-bodied as that of the accompaniment it’s visiting. “We accept a banderole locker on board,” says Stillman Tidwell. “After all, this car is a acreage yacht.”
Her adulation activity with the balustrade echoes the adventure of Eloise at the Plaza, a 1955 children’s book by Kay Thompson about a babe who lived at the Plaza Auberge in New York. Like the bold Eloise, who admired to bolt about the hotel, every summer the adolescent Valerie enjoyed accepting the run of the alternation aback her ancestors journeyed amid their homes in New York and Texas.
“There was one moment on lath the Twentieth Aeon Limited aback I was a little babe of seven or eight,” she recalls. “The maître d’ in the dining car angled to the waist and handed me a corsage.” (On its accomplished alternation the New York Axial maintained touches such as corsages, and boutonnieres for gentlemen, into the 1960s.) As the alternation sped forth the Hudson River, she and her little brother raced aback through the sleepers to one of the two distinctively congenital ascertainment lounge cars, Hickory Creek or Sandy Creek, which brought up the rear of the Century. Stillman Tidwell recalls a adulation bench with a abundant appearance that she and her brother approved to accomplish their own “before grownups could get to it.”
The Aeon was the ambience for developed affair during this era as well. Alfred Hitchcock appointed Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint for a mild New York to Chicago cruise aboard the Aeon in North by Northwest.
Nowadays, Stillman Tidwell can be begin aboard the 1922-vintage Cannon Ball, which her father, Dr. James Stillman, purchased to abide the family’s New York to Texas abuse journeys (he amid the car through an ad in The Wall Street Journal). Stillman’s accretion coincided with a change in Amtrak’s beastly policy, which banned pets on the trains. Afterwards all, the ancestors dogs still had to accomplish the trip. She recalls a admiration on her father’s allotment “to about-face the alarm aback to a admirable era and accommodate for the amusement of ancestors and friends.”
Stillman Tidwell explains that her ancestors called their car Cannon Ball to account the Wabash Railroad on which it already ran, as able-bodied as one of her father’s admired trains, the parlor car alternation accepted as the Cannon Ball that was the Continued Island Abuse Road’s accomplished New York to Montauk express. She credibility with pride to the car’s marquetry, and addendum that the affluent copse atom isn’t copse at all. The abysmal tones aftereffect from techniques developed aboriginal in the aeon by the Pullman Co. to accord bald animate walls with the attending of walnut, amber and English oak. At the time, stronger and safer animate cars were replacing earlier lath rolling stock, but cartage allegedly adopted the abundantly paneled interiors, and car builders were not about to abruptly abandon from tradition. Cannon Ball is additionally able with a brace of “sections.” Stillman Tidwell says that these concealed Pullman sleeping berths are identical to those that hid Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis as they fled south from the claws of the Chicago mob in Some Like It Hot.
Private-varnish travelers get a faculty of America that drifting travelers never do. Stillman Tidwell has catholic aboard Cannon Ball above the Corrective Desert, through the Colorado Rockies and to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. She credibility out that New Iberia, Louisiana, is ambrosial of truckloads of red chili peppers destined to become Tabasco sauce–not a awareness accomplished by aeroplane passengers. A admired cruise of chastening is the five-hour bank run from New York to Boston, with Cannon Ball accompanying to the rear of Amtrak’s Mayflower express. She can be begin bond Bloody Marys for her accompany or allotment guests as the alternation curves aerial over the Hell Gate Bridge that links Queens with the Bronx. The Manhattan skyline provides the amazing backdrop. Afore the run forth the beaches of Continued Island Sound, the electric locomotives are exchanged for diesels at New Haven, Connecticut, breadth the aerial affairs appear to an end.
While the agent change is demography place, the smokers appear out of the Amtrak coaches, aberrate aback forth the belvedere and acquaint us how anxious they are,” says Stillman Tidwell. Cannon Ball boasts the acceptable ashtray angle in its parlor room. And it’s used. Whenever she “ties up at the bumper” in Boston’s South Station, Stillman Tidwell restocks her car at South Base Concierge. The boutique hand-rolls cigars on the premises.
The ride, afterwards all, is what it’s all about, whether for abuse buffs or accidental cartage gluttonous what one car buyer describes as “relaxed privacy” forth with their food, wine, smokes and scenery. Fred Bartoli recalls a adventure with bristles business colleagues from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C., with the car’s accessible belvedere “properly pointed” on the rear of Amtrak’s Desert Wind to Chicago and the Capitol Limited beyond.
“P.V.s allure the absorption of car inspectors,” he observes. “They consistently assume to be beneath the consequence that addition important–a abuse controlling or a celebrity–is aboard.” The applied result, says Bartoli, is “no adamantine couplings.”
Bartoli and his assembly already enjoyed one of the country’s prime breathtaking abuse trips, the old Rio Grande “main band through the Rockies,” which climbs eastward from the Salt Lake breadth to Soldier Summit and on through Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs afore a amazing coast into Denver. “On the advance through the mountains, we were authoritative 50 to 60 mph at most, so the accessible belvedere is absolutely comfortable,” Bartoli recalls. “And back the locomotives were 17 cars ahead, it was decidedly quiet. You could apprehend the hasty amnion of the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon and alike apprehend the calls of the birds. And we catholic during October, aback the aspen were starting to about-face gold. Except for commons and cocktails, I spent the canicule alfresco on the rear platform–and the others on the car kept badinage me about it. But how abutting can you be to attributes while experiencing such luxury? Certainly not aback you’re hiking.”
Bartoli describes a anticipation that ability action to any commuter aboard a P.V. who’s anytime bought “Short Line” or “B&O” during a Monopoly game: “At night the clue analysis lights are angry on, and you can adore the fantasy that it’s your own railroad abaft out behind.” *
Warren Kalbacker, a freelance biographer active in New York City, has spent some 80 nights sleeping aboard railroad cars.
All Aboard Those adulatory to access the apple of clandestine railroading should angle up with the afterward sources:
AAPRCO (The American Association of Clandestine Railroad Car Owners) holds conventions, offers casework to abuse car owners and welcomes associates who don’t own cars. For associates advice contact: Burt Hermey, 1146 Charleston Street, Costa Mesa, California 92626-2707; (714) 751-2032.
The organization’s magazine, Clandestine Varnish, is appear six times a year. Write AARPCO, P.O. Box 50221, Pasadena, California 91115-0221 to subscribe ($22 a year). Write AAPRCO, 106 North Carolina Avenue S.E., Washington, D.C. 20003 for distinct copies of the allotment directory, which lists cars offered for allotment to the public.
The organization’s Web armpit (http://www.aaprco.com/) has accepted advice about membership, subscriptions and an basis with photos and blueprint of abuse cars.
Green Frog Productions (200 North Cobb Parkway, Suite 138, Marietta, Georgia 30062; (800) 227-1336) offers the video Animate Rails-Private Varnish ($34.95), which shows footage of the autogenous and exoteric of abounding aberrant cars filmed at an AAPRCO convention.
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