FORT WAYNE – The Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society has acquired Riding Mountain Park, a streamlined, domed, vintage observation car built in 1954 for transcontinental passenger rail service in the Canadian Pacific. The purchase was made possible by a private donor.
The car is scheduled to undergo a major multi-year mechanical overhaul that will update its electrical and HVAC systems and interior appointments at a cost of approximately $250,000. Donations can be made online at fortwaynerailroad.org or by mail.
“Most first-class trains of the 1940s and 1950s were equipped with a dome car, a lounge car, or an observation car. With Riding Mountain Park, our future guests can enjoy all three, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to preserve that experience,” said Wayne York, Senior Excursion Manager. “The acquisition is a special way to end our 50th anniversary and mark the beginning of a new chapter.”
Named for the Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada, the car’s design was partially inspired by the California Zephyr’s stainless steel passenger cars in the United States. Riding Mountain Park was once part of “The Canadian,” a first-class passenger train that ran between Montreal, Canada, Toronto, Canada, and Vancouver, Canada, and was one of 18 such cars in the Park Series.
Riding Mountain Park was retired and privately owned in 2005. For over 10 years, Riding Mountain Park has been in storage with the Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Company in Blissfield, Michigan. Much of its original interior decoration and artwork, created by members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, survives. All Park Series cars were designated “feature cars of every train” in 1954.
Pending restoration, the car will serve as part of the Indiana Rail Experience, a new rail tourism program operating on the Indiana Northeastern Railroad in western Ohio, northeast Indiana and southeast Michigan via former Wabash Railroad and New York Central tracks. In 2022, the Indiana Rail Experience welcomed over 6,000 guests from 35 states and three countries in just 10 days of operation. Events and excursions in 2023 will feature historic Nickel Plate Road steam engine #765 and other historic locomotives and historic passenger cars.
Earlier this year, the Fort Wayne Railroad purchased the Collinsville Inn and Franklin Inn, two 1950s Pennsylvania Railroad passenger cars, from the DC Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and completed the renovation of the former California Zephyr and Amtrak Silver Diner dining car . They also completed the remodeling of a former Santa Fe baggage car, now named John H. Emery.
While dome cars weren’t particularly common in the Midwest, the Riding Mountain Park bears resemblance to the Wabash Railroad’s stainless steel “Domeliner,” and its lounge class and observation end were popular on New York Central’s first-class passenger trains running nearby commuted Waterloo and Hillsdale, Mich.