HILLSDALE — Looking to expand its rail tourism program, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society just added a new historic railroad car to its fleet.
The Riding Mountain Park car is a unique first class passenger car built in 1954 for transcontinental passenger train service on the Canadian Pacific and will operate in the Hillsdale area following restoration.
“Passenger cars like this were common in the postwar ‘streamliner’ era and were usually found on the railroad’s most popular or well-known routes,” said Kelly Lynch, the company’s vice president.
Lynch said that while the car will remain mostly in its original condition, the “observation dome car” will require about $250,000 in mechanical and electrical upgrades and interior restoration and furnishings.
“It’s in pretty good shape, all things considered,” he said.
Much of the interior artwork remains intact, created by members of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
For 10 years the car was in storage at the Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Co. in Blissfield, Michigan after being sold to a private owner in 2005.
The addition of the new car was made possible by a donor, and the company plans to accept donations to restore the car.
“A fundraiser has been set up to defray the total cost of restoration so the car can be put into service sooner,” Lynch said.
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The car is named after Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba, Canada.
According to a press release, its design was “partially inspired by the California Zephyr stainless steel passenger cars in the United States.” Only 18 such cars were produced.
“Its acquisition is a special way to end our 50th anniversary and mark the beginning of a new chapter,” said Wayne York, the company’s senior manager of tours.
The car arrived on November 16th in New Haven, Indiana, where it will be restored by a group of volunteers and skilled mechanical contractors.
Earlier this fall, the society partnered with The Indiana Northeastern Railroad Company and Little River Railroad to bring hundreds of rail passengers and visitors to Downtown Hillsdale as part of the Tri-State Scenic Stream Excursion.
After restoration, this new car will enter service as part of the Indiana Rail Tour. This new rail tourism program will operate on the former Wabash Railroad and the New York Central Line in Western Ohio, Northeast Indiana, and Southeast Michigan.
“Events and excursions in 2023 will include historic steam locomotive No. 765 and other vintage locomotives and historic passenger cars,” the press release said.
Lynch said the society continues to look for more acquisitions to expand the fleet.
“Strategic acquisitions like this will help us increase train capacity and add variety for tourists and citizens,” he said.
— Elise Appel is a correspondent for The Hillsdale Daily News. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.