Seeing the US in a Private Rail Car. Now That’s Doing It in Style!

In railroad lingo, private varnish is the name used to describe classic old rail cars that have been refurbished and brought back to the luster of their glory days. There are more than a few people who do exactly that as a hobby. And make no mistake, it takes big bucks, not to mention hours and hours of time spent on locating old parts, fabricating new ones, and lovingly sanding, painting, polishing … well, you get the idea.

Then, of course, what do you do with these beauties once you’ve finished? I’m sure a lot of these folks spend hours entertaining friends … hosting poker parties … or just sitting in there soaking up the nostalgia. I know I would.

But here’s the thing: To help pay for the costs involved in restoring and maintaining these classic old rail cars, many of the owners lease them to people who organize rail tours. And that means it’s quite possible for ordinary folks like you and me to spend a day or two riding around the country in a classic rail car hooked onto the rear of an Amtrak train.

I jumped at the chance to do that several years ago following a NARP* meeting in Washington, when a lounge car and sleeper were hooked to the rear of the Capital Limited and a bunch of us rode back to Chicago. Now that is the way to travel!

But you want to know the best part? When the train stopped at stations along the way, of course our two old rail cars invariably drew a crowd. And there I was … sitting in the window of that classic lounge car gazing down at all the rubber-neckers on the platform, doing my best to appear both lordly and ever-so-nonchalant all at the same time. I was absolutely shameless. And I admit it.

Want to know more? Then contact AAPRCO, the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners.

What the hell … go for it!

*National Association of Railroad Passengers