In the past, Radovich has run weekend trips for groups of about 15 to 20 people. They’ll take a car of his up from Dallas to Oklahoma City by way of Fort Worth. To hitch a ride on Amtrak, a private railcar owner first finds an Amtrak route headed in the direction they’d like to go, and then couples onto the train behind the cars carrying ticketed passengers. To take a train from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C., Lowe provides 30 days’ notice for his request to have his cars also hooked up behind Amtrak locomotives. On his runs to Oklahoma City, Radovich hooked a car of his to Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer and Texas Eagle trains, which provided all the necessary connections to and from Dallas.
One little-discussed casualty of this effort by Amtrak to improve its bottom line has been service cuts that affect private railcar owners.
But the law failed to guarantee long-term funding, forcing Amtrak to regularly scramble for fresh subsidies to make ends meet. Amtrak is consistently under pressure to cover its costs, and its subsidies are often a point of criticism. (As O’Toole is wont to point out, there’s a salient difference between his car ownership and Amtrak’s subsidies: “I love passenger trains, but I don’t believe other people should have to support my hobby with their tax dollars.”)
In practical terms, that means that unless railcars belonging to a group or private owner are in some easily accessible rail terminal, like 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, Amtrak is no longer going to great lengths to get private cars hooked up to its passenger service lines traversing the country.
“There are fewer opportunities to get on and off the train in terms of switching a privately owned car on and off,” Radovich says. (For the curious, here’s a list of the locations where “special car moves” are permissible.) “Buying a train car or right-of-way is likely the cheapest part. From there, it never ends.”
When Bob Lowe wants to take a cross-country trip, the first stop for him is 30th Street Station in Philadelphia, where his own private railroad awaits. Sort of.
You can blame this, like many things, on Richard Nixon, whose administration oversaw the creation of Amtrak in 1971. Before, private railroad companies operated both freight and long-distance passenger and commuter rail service on their lines around the country. As cars and airliners stole long-distance riders, most companies found they lost more money than it was worth to keep their passenger service. The Rail Passenger Service Act, signed by Nixon in 1970, allowed companies to sell their money-losing passenger routes to the federal government, creating a consolidated national carrier.
Going in style: In a 2006 photo, passenger Ted Hutton is served by Connie Dixon inside a private-car train that includes a Vista Dome sleeper-lounge topped with a glass dome providing a 360-degree view. (Tom Uhlman/AP)
“We’re not stopping at every station along the line because it would be an inconvenience to a larger number of paying customers,” Magliari says. “And there’s a reduced number of places where we’re going to attach or detach private cars because we don’t want it to affect our primary business.”
If you dream of roaming the U.S. in a your own personal train car, you still can. But Amtrak cuts have railcar owners wondering if their days are numbered.
Anyhow, I’m self employed since I was 18 and never stopped buying and restoring antique cars, horse draw wagons, potbelly stoves, one arm bandit, etc. I have this thing with the past that I enjoy doing. There’s not too much of anything that’s old, I didn’t have my hands on onetime or another.
MOST railroads let bids on their scrap. Most scrap bids are an annual
contract that requires previous experience in the scrap business and
between $1,000,000 and $10,000,000 in insurance to work on RR property and
a high bid for an entrance ticket. Brokers of cars have to compete with
and/or work with scrapers for large lots of material that may include
wrecked and burned equipment, pure scrap, bridges, re-rolling rail, spikes,
tie plates, etc. When I USED to broker this stuff I’d have to buy TONS of
junk in order to get two or three hacks and the negotiate with the guys I
was bidding against to buy the junk I didn’t want. Typically I’d pay the
railroad about $3000.00 for a hack in any shape. I also usually had to
repair the cars to move by rail (move by rail $1.30/mile)(after working out
getting the job done in a “cloed” union shop by non-union labor because the
union boys wern’t allowed to work on them) to the tune of $2300 for a brake
job, $1500 for changing out old plain bearing trucks for new acceptable
roller bearing ones, $300 replacing missing safety appliances, etc. and
then nearly bribe some jerk clerk who couldn’t figure out how to get the
car into the railroad’s system to get it moved since it’s number had been
retired and “the computer says it can’t move.” Then the cars were too far
gone to repair to roll on their own had to be hauled by highway at about
$1200 for loading plus $1.10 per mile for each of two trucks, one for the
carbody and one for the trucks. The railroads that sold the cars wanted
them gone within 5 days of the sale. My turn around on selling them was
usually 3 to 6 months so I’d move them and store them and protect them from
the vandals and theives, insure myself against lawyers and their clients.
Usually I’d have about $8,000 in a car that I MIGHT be able to sell for
$9,000 and somebody would always want to talk me down in price because,
“Hey, da railroads ‘give’ them things away just ta get rid of them, I’ll
give ya $2,000 fer it.”
She probably thinking?? (Not another one)
It took nearly took 12 years before I could think of buying one, in 1996 that changed. I spent a lot of time looking and taking pictures of cabooses meanwhile. I found a lot of them in upstate New York being used for campsites, cabins, back-yard fun-houses, etc. Most of them were wooden cabooses with no trucks. Some were FREE others could be had for a couple hundred. Trying to move a wooden caboose is very hard and expensive work.
Sorry to sound a bit angry here but this kind of thing takes A LOT of
heavy, hard work and cold hard cash. I sold many coaches, diners,
sleepers, lounges, hacks, locomotives, cranes, motorcars, rail, ties,
ballast, track machines and made some good money. I also lost my shirt on a
few of them. I exported equipment to all kinds of exotic place overseas
including Austrailia, China, India, Indonesia. and even traveled to Osage
City, Kansas where I fell for a local beautiful, blonde, heartbreaker.
Buying one from a private party was always fun too! They either paid
someone like me to do all of the above or paid more to do it themselves
because the had to pay the “tuition” of learning the system. They wanted
out what they had in and they had pulled it off of live rail, let their
housemover buddy demolish anything that had ever looked like running gear,
moved it 65 miles from the nearest railroad, welded the wheels to a piece
of track, and remodeled it for $10,000. The best I could sell it for would
be $5,000 and somebody would have to reverse the process to get it to their
place for a total of $13,000.
Remember me telling you about steel cabooses for $500? I was told of a person who bought 90 of them for $350 each! I don’t know if it was a rumor, but I think if you could buy 90 cabooses in late 198? it probably is true. So I give the guy a call, he said he really had 90 but only has 40 left at $4500 each, this was in 1996.
And they where only 100 miles from me, after calling about moving them. I found out it would cost about the same to move one or four with a 50 ton crane and low bed trucks.
So I called the guy back and asked what he would sell 8 of them for, after a couple days horse trading and talking, I ended up with all 8 of them for $3200 each. Below is a cost breakdown to move them to the station.
A L ittle A bout M yself Before I get in the Cost of a Caboose I was raised in Catawissa, Northeast Penna. and lived between both the Pennsy & Reading Lines (Catawissa Branch), the tracks