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Western Maryland Scenic now operating Amtrak’s last dome car

By | July 16, 2021

Great Dome 'Ocean View,' built for Empire Builder, debuted earlier in July

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Full-length dome car with red stripe
Full-length dome car with red stripe
Former Amtrak dome car Ocean View is now operation on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. (Rail Excursion Management)

CUMBERLAND, Md.  — As tourist railroads and museums emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, they are offering new experiences to attract the public. At the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, this effort has translated into the addition of Amtrak’s last dome car.

The Ocean View, built in 1955 and retired by Amtrak in 2019, debuted earlier this month on the Western Maryland Scenic between Cumberland and Frostburg, Md. The Super Dome, now in Western Maryland’s red and white “circus” colors, is part of a trainset that also includes a newly renovated open-air car and privately owned cars Pacific Trail and Overland Trail. The is proving to be an exciting addition, says Wesley Heinz, interim executive director at Western Maryland.

The Ocean View was part of a six-car order built by Budd to serve as lounges for sleeping-car passengers aboard the Empire Builder, with five cars assigned to the Great Northern and one to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy. Three of the cars eventually went to Amtrak, with one kept by Burlington Northern for its executive train, one sold to Holland America, and one burned and destroyed.

The Amtrak cars were converted to head-end power and had their vestibules replaced with an electrical locker. Two of the cars, Mountain View and River View were sold to Xanterra and are now at Grand Canyon Railway. Ocean View was retained for Amtrak to use on executive trains and on specials and seasonal service until the company retired the car, citing maintenance costs.

The car was purchased and renovated by a partnership between Rail Excursion Management and PAXRAIL. It’s believed to be the first dome car to operate over the Western Maryland Railroad other than one or two documented detours of Baltimore & Ohio passenger trains pre-Amtrak.

Meanwhile, Western Maryland Maryland is preparing to begin testing on its Chesapeake & Ohio 2-6-6-2 No. 1309. The locomotive, the last Baldwin steam engine built for domestic use, is awaiting new firebrick for its firebox. Firebrick has been stalled due to supply and labor shortages.

Side view of dome car
The Ocean View was built in 1955 for the Empire Builder. (Rail Excursion Management)

8 thoughts on “Western Maryland Scenic now operating Amtrak’s last dome car

  1. The last train to operate over the entire Western Maryland mainline west of Cumberland in 1975 was a passenger special that carried a former Burlington mid-car dome.

  2. I’m glad this car has been repaired and put back into service. I rode with our younger son and his older daughter when it was in seasonal service on Amtrak’s Downeaster two or three years ago, but only from Boston’s North Station to Haverhill, Massachusetts. The crew kindly let us sit in it for that stretch, and my granddaughter like it very much. The exterior livery featuring autumn leaves and a landscape it sported for at least one Fall before that was very attractive indeed.

  3. The EnterTRAINment Line excursion operation, which operated from 1989 to 1995 on the Maryland Midland Railway’s ex-Western Maryland line in north-central Maryland, included a former Union Pacific, later Auto-Train, dome diner.

  4. I had a messenger job on the BN about 1988 or so and saw the Glacier View up on blocks at the X-GN car shop in southeast Minneapolis. The guys converted it to HEP. Does anyone know the disposition of the other five cars? The news release says that one burned.
    Ed Burns

  5. “…Ocean View is now operation on…”
    “The is proving to be…”
    “Meanwhile, Western Maryland Maryland…”

    Three obvious typos in one short article. Are there any journalistic standards on ‘News Wire’? David P. Morgan is rolling over in his grave.

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