California Zephyr Dome Coaches
Coaches on passenger trains allowed for the most basic of
amenities, a place to sit. Even during the streamliner era they
were still used to provide this basic service although the
seating had become more comfortable as the wood benches gave way
to padded, upholstered seats.
The coach was one of the
earliest passenger train cars, dating back to the late 1820s and
1830s. These early cars resembled stagecoaches, in that they had
a roof and basic car body with no center isle and very little
protection from the outside elements. As construction techniques
improved so did car design and ride quality as well as the
seating provided. Coaches now featured a center isle and seating
to either side. Forward facing bench seats on either side of the
aisle became the primary type of design. It was not until the
streamliner era that the coach design evolved. It was around
this time coach cars became more diversified with many featuring
individual as well as much more comfortable seating.
designed from the start the coaches on the CZ were built to
afford all coach passengers with comfort and convenience as well
as a new design feature, a dome, on the regularly assigned
vista-domed-coaches. The idea of a “dome” on top of a passenger
car was not new as various ideas had been tried as early as the
1880’s without widespread success. Further refinements to the
idea didn't come until 1944 when Cyrus Osborn of EMD conceived a
new idea while traveling in a Denver & Rio Grande Western
locomotive through Glenwood Canyon in Colorado. From his seat,
high in the locomotive, he recognized what wonderful views
passengers could enjoy from a car with a panoramic dome atop it
allowing a 360-degree view.
|Silver Dome at Chicago, Illinois August 1971.
Mr. Osborne took his idea to
the CB&Q which then took the sketches he had made and used the
idea to rebuild one of their Budd built stainless-steel coaches
at their shops in Aurora, Illinois, with the new Vista Dome atop
it. As built the dome area featured seats that were positioned
in the cabin lengthwise facing double-pane windows which had
also been designed with improved insulation qualities. This
first Vista Dome was called, appropriately, Silver Dome. It was
then tested in the consist of the Twin Cities Zephyr on July 23,
1945. This dome car featured flat glass dome windows. Budd took
this new idea and with the introduction of their first domes,
completed in Fall 1947, refined it so the dome now featured
curved glass which created a full streamlining effect. It was
this design that entered service on the many CB&Q Zephyrs
including the CB&Q-D&RGW-WP California Zephyr.
All of the
coaches on the CZ, normally three per train, featured forty-six
deep cushioned reclining seats, comfortable foot and leg rests
as well as arm rests dividing each seat which folded out of the
way when not in use. The two seats next to the bulkhead at the
foot of the stairs leading to the vista-dome did not recline.
Seating on the “main floor” of the coaches was reserved and
assigned in advance. Divided into two sections at car-floor
level the forward section, as the cars were normally placed in
the train, could seat eighteen passengers with the rear section
seating twenty-eight. Access to the vista-dome was by stairway
from the twenty-eight-passenger section.
sills at elbow level and equipped with venetian blinds were
frost-proof, mist-proof and heat resistant. Featuring recorded
music and radio reception each coach had its own color scheme.
The first was a blending of nut-pine, rust and shades of
mocha-gray, henna and brown; the second in soft shades of
turquoise, brown, beige and green; the third in Indian red,
orchid-gray, wood tone and burgundy.
wall-to-wall carpeting, spacious restrooms, modern interior
decorating as well as murals depicting scenic and historic
highlights enroute the cars were comfortable and functional.
Soft pillows were available from the car attendants and the
lights were dimmed during sleeping hours. Originally six of the
coaches (which were placed immediately behind the baggage car)
were fitted with a forward section, divided from the rest of the
car by a swinging door behind the entrance to the women’s
restroom that was reserved for women and children only. This
section had electric receptacles for use with a bottle warmer,
which could be obtained from the hostess. This use was later
discontinued, and the door removed. The Silver Bridle, Bronco,
Dollar, Feather, Lariat and Lodge were so equipped.
Coupled directly behind the baggage car (later behind the
48-seat coach) each coach featured a vista-dome similar to the
one in the dome-lounge and lounge-observation cars.
Accommodating twenty-four passengers each, reservations were not
required nor was there an extra charge for these seats. The
second dome-coach in each train differed from the other two by
replacing the luggage shelf space with a conductor’s booth at
the vestibule end of the car. This booth was fitted with a shelf
desk, a seat and a locker.
Of the eighteen vista-dome
chair coaches ordered, CB&Q owned seven numbered 4716-4722 and
named Silver Bridle, Lodge, Lariat, Ranch, Rifle, Saddle and
Stirrup. D&RGW owned four the 1105-1108 named Silver Bronco,
Colt, Mustang and Pony with WP owning seven which were numbered
811-817 and carrying the names Silver Dollar, Feather, Palace,
Sage, Schooner, Scout and Thistle.
reflected names suggesting the characteristic features of
western life and the environment.
|Dome Coach (with Conductors Window) Door Left