Private Railroad Cars
Years back when I started flight lessons to obtain my private pilot’s license I didn’t believe many hobbies could exceed the cost, aside from Richard Branson style activities like ballooning the world or circling the globe in fancy boats.
Everything I’ve done in between and since: commercial flying and travel, Spanish lessons, skiing, biking and photography, totals less per year combined than renting small planes and flying around the west every few weeks. For that reason I only fly sporadically with friends and instructors, but am still happy I learned..
Turns out there’s another super expensive fun hobby: Collecting old railroad cars. I was in Alamosa, Colorado for a weekend, at which time a group of private railcars owners were overnighting in town during their 2010 tour.
I initially thought the cars on a siding downtown were part of the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, a tourist train which operates day trips through the San Luis Valley from Monte Vista to La Veta. On closer look I saw each car was a restored car from a past era – each with gleaming exteriors and beautiful interior appointments.
I was wanding around the tracks later that evening, admiring the cars, and chatted with several owners and their friends who were explained their group and trip while minding their cars.
This group was from the American Association of Private Railcar Owners. Their 2010 trip brought them to Albuquerque, touring to Raton (New Mexico), then Alamosa before heading over La Veta Pass to Pueblo then southeast to Amarillo. They have their cars delivered by attachment (renting space) on Amtrak or a freight company before link them together for the tour. At night they hang out on the
The stay on board their cars overnight, which are complete with bedrooms and galleys – a kind of luxury RV on rails. The only thing they didn’t have was an engine, so they relied on various companies to move them around, like Amtrak or in Alamosa they hired one of the Rio Grande Scenic engines to bring them down to Pueblo.
While I didn’t get invited on board any cars (they had family or friends with them) at night I could see the beautiful lamps inside, brass trim and curtains – amazingly restored to the early 20th century look they once displayed.
For myself as a railfan it was a real treat to see. Fortunately Alamosa is a small friendly town where no one’s concerned with tourists wandering around the small railyards.
The group was happy to engage my questions – the only thing I forgot to ask was where exactly one parks their railcar in the city. I certainly wouldn’t leave mine in urban railyard. Perhaps they roll it into a museum or something.
If you’d like to book a trip yourself they’re happy to share space: Here’s a list of future trips.
More photos below: