Why a private railroad car?



A fair question. Why does one own a private railroad car?

And to answer, for much the same reason one has a sports car, SUV, trailer, recreational vehicle, plane or boat. Because you want to.

When it comes to a private railroad car, much of the choice has to do with what you plan to do with it. For example, the first question that comes (much like the other vehicles) is where will you keep it? Let’s face it. This isn’t one of those things you will be adding to the garage at home. So, choices? You could have a section of track put in place somewhere and use your rail car as a hobby space, workshop or just a get away. Not a cheap choice, especially if you use a crane (or two) to have the car lifted into that spot chosen. And once you get there, the question of utilities raises it’s point in the discussion. Water, electricity and sewer may all play their roles here, as they will elsewhere.

Maybe you’ve found a spot to have the car parked some place where it can be moved by rail from time to time. Many owners do. But such a space tends to be charged for by the month. And those charges do add up quickly. Don’t forget utilities again…

If you plan to travel using your rail car, you can plan on seeing that it meets the current Amtrak standards. That means all the mechanical systems including air brakes, water and waste systems (because toilets must go to holding tanks), electrical and HVAC. Plan on having a generator to provide back-up  power on the car, because you never know when the Amtrak train supplied power may be unavailable. Or if traveling on a short line railroad, that head-end power option may not exist.

The basic integrity of the car body and windows must be up to date, too. Paint may hide a multitude of sins, but rust never sleeps and is eventually discovered. Cars need to look good as well. No one I know moves a car looking shoddy all the time. Even primer grey as an overall color looks much better than patch work. And I know of several cars that have made moves (even in passenger charter service) while in primer. Just like with a plane or boat, a quality paint job pays off.

Then you get into what you need aboard your rail car. Based on your choice of car, there are all kinds of things that come next. Basic needs are a good starting point here. Toilets. Decent toilets. With running water for sinks. Few women I know ever give this as an option. Planning to stay overnight aboard your car? Sleeping space of some kind becomes essential. Sleeping bags on a floor may be good enough for the bachelor railroad fans, but not the wife or girl friend. And a good working shower becomes one of those essentials, too. With hot water, no less

After all of that, planning on entertaining are you? Maybe having some friends over for drinks and snacks. Add in a galley with prep space and something to warm food. Even a small bar needs some kind of refrigeration, and that curse of running water is here again. Not to mention potable.

All in all, it is much like what you need aboard that trailer or motor home. Because at some point, it becomes a home away from home. Family, friends, business associates all may come to call aboard. Did I mention insurance? Just like a home of any kind, it’s not only a good idea, but can be required, especially when your car is moved by Amtrak. Check out Amtrak’s web page for Privately Owned Rail Cars. You get an idea of what they expect.

So… you’re still thinking that this appeals to you? Well, check in tomorrow and hear more of what lies ahead!


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