California Zephyr Dome Buffet Lounges

Following the dawn of the streamliner era in the 1930s the lounge, or club car as it was oftentimes called, became a fixture on many of the cross-country passenger trains. In order to be deemed a lounge car some type of both drink and food service had to be offered. The Buffett-Lounge car on the CZ featured the same type of dome as the coaches but was meant as a place to relax and enjoy the experience of traveling by train. Featuring the best of both the diner and coach, the lounge car offered the ability to enjoy a lite refreshment and beverage, particularly if there was no interest in sitting down to a full course meal in the dining car.

Placed between the vista-domed-coaches and the sleeping cars the vista-domed-buffet-lounge provided buffet service throughout the day and evening. Featuring accommodations for fifty passengers the cars were divided into three sections at car-floor level. The forward section, as the cars were normally placed in the train, provided dormitory space for fifteen crewmembers in five sections. In this area were the crew lockers, toilet, shower, lavatory, and limited lounge facilities. There were also two private bedrooms. One for the Zephyrette hostess with a lower bunk only and one for the Dining Car Steward with an upper and lower berth.

Located in a lowered center section under the dome was a seven-passenger “sip and snack” lounge with bar access while in the forward area was a directly connected buffet area with seating for nineteen passengers. In this area friends, both old and new, could gather for snacks and conversation without disturbing any early-retiring passengers. Located immediately next to the bar the lounge kitchen was equipped with a combination coffee/hot water urn, toaster, freezer, sinks, and a dishwasher. Coffee, cool refreshing beverages, and sandwiches were available for the passenger’s enjoyment. Access to the vista-dome was by stairway from the hallway that divided the crew dormitory area from the rest of the car and was for use by sleeping car passengers only. A low swinging door in the passageway near the lounge entrance divided the train between coach and sleeping car passengers. As with the other vista-domed cars the stairway handrails were clear Lucite plastic illuminated top and bottom for a pleasing amber glow in the evening hours.

Morning service buffet offerings included fruit juice served with cereal and cream, toast with jelly or a sweet roll, fruit juice with waffles and syrup or fruit juice, toast with jelly or a sweet roll with all combinations served with a choice of beverages. A la Carte items were also available for those not desiring the combination meals offered.

Remodeling of the cars came about in 1964 with the introduction of the “Cable Car Lounge”. Adorning the end wall of the lounge area opposite the bar was a photo mural taken in color from the front end of a San Francisco Cable Car. Giving the illusion of enjoying a meal or beverage at one end of the little cable cars, which went into operation on August 1, 1873, travelers enjoyed a scene that many who regularly rode the cable cars would not recall seeing. Enhancing the atmosphere were two scale models of the famous San Francisco Cable Cars, which were mounted on the wall on either side of the car in the lounge area. Advertising of the new lounges soon brought controversy as a photo with Waiter Bernard “Barney” Osborne shown entering the room with a tray of refreshments was thought to be obscene due to lighting and a shadow across his leg caused by his coat. Evidently the photo used in the original ad was retaken or retouched which brought to an end the negative comments associated with the promotion of the new look in the lounge.

Windows, with sills at elbow level and equipped with venetian blinds were frost-proof, mist-proof and heat resistant. Featuring wall-to-wall carpeting with modern interior decorations these cars also had a theme assigned to them with a mural prominently displayed depicting a scenic or historic highlight that could be found along the route. Dome seating in this car was solely for the use of the sleeping car passengers.

Numbered 250-252 the CB&Q cars carried the names Silver Club, Lounge and Roundup. D&RGW’s car 1140 had the name Silver Shop and WP’s two assigned cars were numbered 831-832 and were named Silver Chalet and Hostel. In later years these cars were well known for the “Cable Car Lounge”, complete with two model cable cars and a large mural “Looking Down Hyde Street”. These lounges were the subject of a major advertising campaign in the early 1960’s. WP 832 the Silver Hostel is now preserved at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.

Dome Buffet Lounge Coffee Shop Left
Dome Buffet Lounge Coffee Shop Right