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Domeliners in the United States and Canada

See our photo gallery of 21 shots of domecars
Published: December 22, 2010
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Santa Fe’s premier train, the Chicago-Los Angeles Super Chief, was the first to get dome cars. Santa Fe called them “Pleasure Domes.”
Photo by Santa Fe Railway
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Santa Fe used these full-length domes built by the Budd Co. on its trains El Capitan, San Francisco Chief, Chicagoan, and Kansas Cityan. The top level contained 57 angled seats for sightseeing.
Photo by Santa Fe Railway
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The front panel of this Baltimore & Ohio Strata-Dome has a speedometer, altimeter, barometer, and a clock. This view is from the Columbian, B&O’s first dome-equipped train.
Photo by Baltimore & Ohio
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Two B&O dome cars ran in the consist of the final Capitol Limited, seen departing Chicago on April 30, 1971.
Photo by Harold Edmonson
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Canadian Pacific debuted the Canadian in 1955 as a dome-equipped transcontinental streamliner. You can still ride in these cars today on VIA Rail Canada’s incarnation of the Canadian.
Photo by Canadian Pacific Railway
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The first regular-service train with domes was Burlington’s Chicago-Minneapolis Zephyrs. This Zephyr, with five domes in its consist, is crossing the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.
Photo by Burlington Route
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Passengers riding in a dome car on the California Zephyr have access to the best possible reading material.
Photo by Willard V. Anderson
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Milwaukee Road’s upper-level domes stretched almost the full length of the car, earning the name “Super Dome.”
Photo by Milwaukee Road
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Workers service a full-length Milwaukee Road Super Dome from the Olympian Hiawatha at Tacoma, Wash.
Photo by John S. Larison
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Rio Grande reconfigured this round-end dome observation car for mid-train use on the Royal Gorge. The car was originally built for Chesapeake & Ohio, but never saw revenue service on the C&O.
Photo by Jim C. Seacrest
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The westbound California Zephyr dives into the Moffat Tunnel in the Colorado Rockies on the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. A round-end dome observation car brings up the rear of the train.
Photo by A.M. Byers
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Great Northern Railroad used two types of domes on its transcontinental flagship the Empire Builder. Short domes accommodated coach passengers, while the full-length Great Dome was reserved for sleeping car passengers. The eastbound Builder train rolls through Washington state in 1970.
Photo by Jerrold F. Hilton
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Missouri Pacific called its dome cars “Planetarium Domes.” This car was built by the Budd Co. for use on Missouri Pacific’s Colorado Eagle. The dome is air conditioned by ducts in the ceiling.
Photo by Missouri Pacific Lines
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You can see two of the four dome cars used on Northern Pacific’s flagship transcontinental train North Coast Limited. The train is seen west of Missoula, Mont., in 1956.
Photo by Northern Pacific
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Northern Pacific’s North Coast Limited ran with two dome coaches and two dome sleepers. The railroad bought 20 dome cars from Budd Co. for this transcontinental train. Burlington Route and Spokane, Portland & Seattle also bought dome cars for this train.
Photo by Northern Pacific
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Southern Pacific was the only railroad to home-build all of its dome cars. This prototype dome lounge was tested throughout the system before more cars were assembled at the railroad’s own shop.
Photo by Southern Pacific
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The Spokane, Portland & Seattle served as the Portland, Ore., connection for the transcontinental trains of both the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern. As such, SP&S bought equipment for both railroad’s trains. This 70-passenger Vista-Dome coach was built by the Budd Co., and placed in pool service on Northern Pacific’s North Coast Limited.
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General Motors helped launch the domeliner era in 1947 when it rolled out the Train of Tomorrow, a demonstration postwar passenger train that included dome cars. Union Pacific bought the Train of Tomorrow in 1950, and put the equipment in service between Seattle, Wash., and Portland, Ore.
Photo by Classic Trains collection
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These distinctive dome observation cars brought up the rear of Union Pacific’s Domeliner fleet. This car was used on UP’s City of Los Angeles.
Photo by Union Pacific
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A round-end dome observation car brings up the rear of Wabash’s Blue Bird. This car was built by the Budd Co. in 1950.
Photo by Wabash
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The transcontinental California Zephyr was launched in 1949, a dome-equipped train from the beginning. Here the train crosses California’s Altamont Pass on the Western Pacific Railroad in 1949.
Photo by David Gray Edwards, Rail Photo Service
Riding in a dome car is as thrilling as ever. Though few opportunities exist today (your best bet might be a trip on VIA Rail Canada’s long-distance Ocean between Montreal and Halifax or the Canadian between Toronto and Vancouver).

Once dome cars were staples on some of the greatest trains in North America.

Trains Magazine's February 2011 issue shows you the routes these famous domeliners took, and when they were introduced to the public.

After perusing "Map of the Month: Routes of the Domeliners," enjoy this sampling of photos of the great domeliner trains.
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