Canadian Pacific dome car 'Selkirk' joins passenger car fleet

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'Selkirk' rests beneath the Calgary skyline.
Canadian Pacific
CALGARY, Alberta – Canadian Pacific dome car Selkirk entered service with the railroads Heritage Fleet this summer after an extensive rebuilding. The ex-Southern Pacific dome was rebuilt in the former locomotive shop at Ogden Yard in Calgary under the supervision of Kevin Hrysak, senior manager of heritage operations, and Justin Tracy, manager of heritage operations and Mechanical. For its first trip, the car operated from Calgary to Banff and Golden and return.

For several years CP had considered acquiring a dome for its Heritage Fleet, but the impetus to finally purchase the car came from Canadian Pacific President and CEO  Keith Creel. Hrysak recalled after a trip in 2017 Creel asked what the train was missing, but before he or Tracy could say anything, Creel said “a dome car.” The search then began for an appropriate dome which resulted in the purchase of ex-SP No. 3605 from Colorado’s Royal Gorge Route Railroad.

One reason for selecting the car was SP’s domes were unique. Rather than having all seats immediately under the dome as most cars have, SP cars had two levels. At “ground” level there was a 20-seat lounge with the dome high overhead. Stairs then went from the lounge to the dome. “There isn’t another type of car that has that open ceiling to it,” Tracy says.

SP’s seven dome cars were designed by Frank H. Stengle Jr. and built by SP at its Sacramento Shops during 1954 and 1955. The railroad claimed that most dome cars were too tall to fit through its tunnels, so it designed and built its own domes out of older cars. They weren’t full-length domes – the dome only ran three-quarters of the length of the car. They were built for service on the San Joaquin Daylight, Shasta Daylight, and the San Francisco Overland, and were later used on the Coast Daylight and the City of San Francisco. Budd built the upper dome portions of the cars. At 15-feet, 2-inches tall, they had the shortest dome height of any dome car.

The Canadian Pacific car was fabricated from SP tavern car No. 10312, built by Pullman Standard in 1937, and was outshopped in May 1955 for Shasta Daylight service. It became Amtrak No. 9374 in 1972, and was retired in 1981. It then went through a succession of owners before being sold in 2000 to the Royal Gorge Route where it ended up in storage when the railroad purchased three other full-length domes.

When CP purchased the car was it was essentially a shell, with windows missing and no interior furnishings. According to Tracy, that actually was beneficial, since CP planned to tear the car down to a shell anyway before inspection and rebuilding could begin. “Any way you look at it, it was a ground up restoration,” Tracy says. Work on the car began in August 2018 and it entered service on June 13, 2019.

The railroad replaced sheet metal on the outside of the car, and inspected and repaired the side sills. The dome structure itself need very little work, Tracy said. Interior features that were added include captain’s chairs and recliners in the dome. Soft leather chairs with tables were added in the lounge section, but this can be changed depending on the type of meeting or event. A new bar was built and installed. The car originally did not have a bathroom so one was added. In a salute to its Southern Pacific heritage, the air slide doors (which are now electric) retain their round windows, SP Daylight style speaker grilles were installed, and it was numbered CP 3605.

“The car is now used more for comfort, so seating capacity was reduced, Hrysak said. “Where the car used to seat 60, it now has 11 seats in the lounge and 40 on the upper lounge level.” TV tray style tables that can be pulled out or folded up were placed by the captain’s chairs. An electrically-driven retractable flat screen television that folds into the ceiling above the bar area was built in. The car was named Selkirk after the mountain range in British Columbia traversed by CP.

Plans call for the car to be used on company specials, and eventually on charter trips of the Royal Canadian Pacific.

In addition to the CP car, four other ex-SP cars survive, but only one is in railroad service. No. 3603 is painted in Kansas City Southern’s “Southern Belle” colors and used on Panama Canal Railway passenger trains between Panama City and Colon.

Look for a feature story on the Selkirk in an upcoming issue of Trains magazine.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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