California Zephyr Dome Buffet Lounge Observations

Featuring rear-end platforms with overhanging roofs featuring an open view rearward, the Observation car became a fixture on passenger trains in the late 20th century. With the advent of the streamliner the design of the observation car changed from an open air porch to a fully enclosed area with a rounded end. Located at the end of the train they offered the passengers an unobstructed view from the rear of the train to make the trip more enjoyable and usually featured a lounge area with many also having sleeping compartments.

Spacious and Luxurious! That described the Vista-Domed-Buffet-Lounge-Observation car at the rear of the train. This car boasted four separate and distinct accommodations and provided lounging facilities for as many as fifty passengers on three different levels.

Located at the rear of the train immediately behind the sleeping cars the main attraction was the Vista-Dome for use by the Pullman sleeping car passengers. Accessible from the lounge area via carpeted and individually lighted steps the dome area was decorated in sandalwood tones. The handrails for the stairway were made of solid Lucite plastic with light from the top and bottom of the stairway transmitted through the plastic to produce a soft amber glow during the evening hours. From any of the twenty-four comfortable dome seats passengers could ride in almost unbelievably quiet air-conditioned comfort and enjoy to the fullest a complete view of the magnificent scenery which the California Zephyr route traversed in any direction through the shatterproof glare-resistant glass.

The main-floor observation lounge in shades of petal beige and rose-tan, with settees and deeply cushioned occasional chairs in shades of sandalwood and brown grouped to suit the convenience of the passengers invited relaxation. Also, in this area was a writing desk with mail drop as well as a magazine library.

In the lowered section beneath the dome was nestled a sophisticated buffet area. Although food service was not available in the buffet area twelve passengers could enjoy cool refreshing beverages while socializing and enjoying their trip. Decorated in rose and gray-green this area provided a comfortable rendezvous to help passenger’s speed the time and miles traveled.

Located immediately forward of the buffet were a drawing room, with its own enclosed shower/bath/toilet facilities and three bedrooms each having its own toilet facilities. Drawing Room D contained the only shower on the whole train! Each room was tastefully decorated in shades of rose-tan, taupe, petal beige, and ashes of roses. The car was completely carpeted, and all side windows were equipped with venetian blinds with those in the observation area having drapes of gold and white.

A red Mars signal light provided protection for the rear of the train which operated in a horizontal figure eight pattern. This light could also be rotated to become a solid white light and used as a headlight when backing the train. The brakeman had full signaling, and braking controls located at the rear of the car for these backup movements. A hand operated windshield wiper was also mounted on the rear window if needed during inclement weather.

Built to BUDD plan 9511 the cars were equipped with a 10-ton air conditioning system, 25,000-watt 32-volt axle driven generator and carried 500 gallons of potable water as well as 150 gallons for the air conditioning system. 110-volt power was provided with two motor generators. Cars from the original order built in 1948 and 1949 were built to plan 9511 and include CB&Q’s 375-377 named Silver Horizon, Penthouse and Solarium. D&RGW car 1145 was the Silver Sky and WP’s two cars, 881 and 882 the Silver Crescent and Planet. CB&Q added to the fleet in 1952 with car 378 the Silver Lookout built to plan 9533.

Dome Buffet Lounge Observation End Right
Dome Buffet Lounge Observation End Left