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Classic Streamliners - TRAIN​CYCLOPEDIA

Photo of the lower level of an Astra Dome observation car.

Photo of the lower level of an Astra Dome observation car. The Union Pacific railroad carried these cars on their City of Portland and City of Los Angeles trains. The stairs to the upper level Astra Dome can be seen in the photo. Circa 1950.

Photo of the lower level of the Pullman-built all dome lounge car of the Milwaukee Road prior to its being placed in service. Circa 1952.

Dome Lounge Passenger Car
A dome lounge is a type of domed railroad passenger car that includes lounge, cafe, dining or other space on the upper level or both levels of the car. Examples include both short (approximately half the length of the car, with the dome located just forward or just rearward of the car's center) and full (taking almost the entire length of the car). Some examples include sleeping compartments or coach seating.

Classic dome lounges and their train lines
Classic dome lounges (built during the streamliner era in the U.S. and Canada) include: "Super Dome" full-length cars were built by Pullman-Standard in 1952 for the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific, also known as the Milwaukee Road, and operated in the railroad's Hiawatha passenger train fleet. Ten cars were initially constructed, with one of these destroyed in a derailment while on a test run and later rebuilt using new parts and parts salvaged from the original destroyed car.

"Big Dome" full-length cars built by the Budd Company in 1954 for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe for the railroad's passenger train fleet. Fourteen of these were built in two groups, one group of which included crew dormitory space on the lower level.

"Great Dome" full-length cars built by the Budd Company in 1956 for the Great Northern Railway for its Empire Builder train. Six of these were built; one of them was actually owned by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, over which the train operated between Chicago and the Twin Cities. At least one, Great Northern car number 1391, Ocean View, survived to be transferred to Amtrak ownership.

"Pleasure Dome" short dome cars built by Pullman-Standard in 1950 for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe for its Super Chief train. The six cars had both lounge and dining facilities, including the unique "Turquoise Room", a small dining area identified by the turquoise Native American medallion displayed on one of the room's walls.

"Vista Dome" short dome cars built by the Budd Company for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy for its Zephyr passenger trains. Examples included two dome-parlor-observations built in 1947 for the Twin Zephyrs; six dome-buffet-lounges and six dome-sleeper-observations built in 1949 for the California Zephyr; two dome-coach-buffet-lounges and two dome-parlor-observations built in 1953 for the Kansas City Zephyr; and two dome-buffet-lounges and two dome-parlor-observations built in 1956 for the Denver Zephyr. The California Zephyr cars included those built for the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Western Pacific, which were partners with the CB&Q on the train's route between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area.

"Vista Dome" short dome cars built for the Wabash Railroad. The Budd Company built a dome-parlor-observation in 1950 for the railroad's Blue Bird; Pullman-Standard built a dome-parlor for the same train in 1952.

"Astra Dome" short dome cars built by American Car & Foundry in 1955 for the Union Pacific Railroad and operated on the City of Los Angeles, City of Portland and other UP passenger trains. The railroad purchased 15 dome-lounge-observations.

"Skyline" dome-coach-buffet-lounges and "Park" dome-sleeper-observations built by the Budd Company in 1955 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. The CPR purchased 18 of each car type for its Canadian and Dominion passenger trains.

"Stairway to the Stars" cars constructed by the Southern Pacific Railroad for its Daylight passenger trains. The railroad built seven cars in its own shops, using components from retired cars and dome components supplied by the Budd Company. These cars were more accurately three-quarters length domes, since the dome level was more than half the length of the car but did not extend the full length.

Waning years of original passenger train use
Most of these cars remained in service for their original owners up to the end of privately run passenger trains in North America in the 1970s. In the U.S., most cars moved on to Amtrak or to operators such as Auto Train. A few remained in business car service for their original railroads. In Canada, the entire Canadian Pacific fleet went to Via Rail.

Current usage
Most of them survive as of 2013. Some are in excursion train or dinner train service, while others are on display in museums. A few remain in business car service. Most of the original Canadian Pacific cars remain in service on the transcontinental Canadian train operated by Via Rail Canada.

A new generation of dome lounges currently operate in cruise train service in Alaska and Canada. These do not necessarily use the traditional dome design, but are more similar to the bi-level design first seen in commuter-style "gallery" cars on U.S. railroads in the 1950s and on the "Hi-Level" cars built by the Budd Company in 1956 for the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe El Capitan train.

Most of these cars were constructed by Colorado Railcar Company of Fort Lupton, Colorado. Some early versions were built by Tillamook Railcar of Tillamook, Oregon, which operated out of an old U.S. Navy airship hangar at the Tillamook Airport. The owner of Tillamook Railcar later went on to form Colorado Railcar. These early versions were reconstructed from retired commuter "gallery" cars. More recent ones were built new, and several of these are longer and taller than the classic passenger car design.

Dome Car Magic DVD
Photo of the lower level of the Pullman-built all dome lounge car of the Milwaukee Road prior to its being placed in service. Circa 1952.