Playing With Toy Trains-BIG Ones.
If you want to take your interest in trains to a whole new level, there’s always “private varnish.” That’s the inside term for privately-owned railroad cars and referring to the beautiful wood paneling that is featured inside so many of these beauties.
There are more of them than you think, too. And many have been lovingly restored by their owners and the cost of many, many thousands of dollars and many more thousands of hours of labor … often put in by the owners themselves, plus friends who will eventually be paid in rides.
In order to help pay for what has to be one of the more expensive hobbies, many of the owners will lease these beauties to two or three companies that put together attractive itineraries and sell seats to us ordinary folks.
The private cars are hooked onto Amtrak trains for whatever itinerary has been scheduled. Amtrak, of course, charges the tour operator for the service. The last I heard, the rate was $2.75 per mile per car, plus additional charges for switching and for storing the cars on sidings in stations along the way.
Several years ago, I rode from Washington to Chicago in two private cars hooked to the rear of Amtrak’s Capitol Limited. The trip was relaxed, informal, congenial and great fun. Everything was organized and run by NARP member Adam Auxier of Altiplano Rail.
For more information about these vintage rail cars, check out AAPRCO, the American Association or Private Rail Car Owners.
If I recall correctly, The term “varnish” goes back to the era of wooden car building and refers to car exteriors. All railroad cars back then were painted, a long and laborious process. Passenger cars got special treatment, receiving additional coats of varnish to preserve their good looks and avoid costly repainting. Thus, “varnish” was railroad slang for passenger cars.
You are no doubt correct.