Amtrak Won’t Haul Private Varnish.
Every so often, you’ll see a private rail car at the rear of an Amtrak train. The insider term for those cars is “PV”, which is shorthand for “private varnish”. That’s a reference to the lovely wood paneling and trim that’s found in many of those cars.
Most of those classic rail cars are owned by individuals—people of serious means, of course—and many of the cars have been lovingly restored and are so damn beautiful and so . . . well, so classic . . . that you almost want to weep from the pleasure you get just gazing at them. And, of course, you can’t help fantasizing about what it must be like to actually travel in one of those beauties.
Believe it or not, there are a few companies that make that fantasy possible. They lease a couple of the classic rail cars from the owners and then they sell space to individuals … ordinary folks like you and me who would otherwise never have the experience of riding around the country in a private rail car.
The last I heard, Amtrak was charging $2.75 a mile to haul a private rail car on the rear of one of their long-distance trains. There were additional costs for parking one of those beauties on a track in a far corner of a rail yard and still more charges for switching and other maneuvers.
I say “was” and “were” because Amtrak has just decided they’re not going to do this anymore. No more charters. No more special trains. Amtrak’s president, Richard Anderson, made the announcement Wednesday in a communication to Amtrak employees.
So … how’d you like to be the guy who discovered a vintage Pullman car languishing in disrepair in a rail yard somewhere . . . who paid several hundred thousand dollars for it and hundreds of thousands more—not to mention countless hours of sweat equity—to have it beautifully restored. And yesterday Amtrak president and CEO Richard Anderson puts out a memo announcing they’re not going to haul private cars any more. Why? Because they cause “significant operational distraction.”
Do you think the members of the American Association of Private Railcar Owners are pissed?