A "REAL" FORWARD-FACING DOME CAR FOR SUPERLINERS?
By Allen Brougham
It's been 13 years since I first suggested my dome car idea for Superliners, and I've never wavered from my belief that it would be an ideal addition to the Amtrak experience. Yes, I know that Amtrak has more important concerns at the present time. But the fact remains that it will have to face the role long-distance trains will play in the future, if they are to survive at all.. Moreover, new equipment will eventually be needed if the service is to continue. In talking with fellow travelers, many have marveled at the amenity offered by the Pacific Parlour Cars assigned to the Coast Starlight. But if they like those cars, think of how they would enjoy one of these! One shortcoming of the Superliner Sightseer lounge cars - as well as the Pacific Parlour version - is that they do not afford their passengers with FORWARD-FACING visibility. While they do provide panoramic viewing to the top and to the sides, they provide nothing for viewing toward the front. There is one option, however, whereby forward-facing visibility COULD be made available in Superliner equipment. Known as a "transitional" car, the front of the car has interior steps that descend from the upper-level to the "standard" level by which the crew can move between the Superliner car and the standard level car in front of it. The roof of the transitional car is about two feet higher than the roof of the standard-level car (typically a baggage car), and it is this space that could be used to effect forward-viewing for passengers......
My idea is to equip the front portion of a transitional car with a dome-like configuration, preferably with raised seating to permit optimum visibility (but not having to increase the height of the car itself). This would avail a forward view similar to what was traditionally available in the standard-level dome cars that became so popular in trains back in the 1950's. In support of this idea, I would propose that it be an amenity available exclusively to sleeping car passengers. The car could still have revenue space (deluxe bedrooms upstairs; standard bedrooms, family room and handicap bedroom downstairs), with lounge space being applied to the forward portion of the car on the upper level, with downward steps at the extreme front end. It is here, in the dome configuration, that patrons could be pampered in the same manner as they are now in the Pacific Parlour cars, or simply be allowed to sit and wile away their time in the company of their peers. The idea WOULD work. Currently, all of Amtrak's transitional cars are crew cars (with steps in the front, but no dome). These cars would NOT have to be replaced or retrofitted. (Sounds simple, the crew car could run on the REAR of the passenger consist.) Yes, I know my idea would cost money - but, once again, new equipment will have to be considered sometime down the road anyway. Not to act on this idea - since Superliners are higher than standard-level cars in any event - is akin to building a warehouse upon costly beach front property.