Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Beauties in Arizona

A few weeks ago, my wife Katy had to work with a client over the weekend in Scottsdale, Arizona. Anxious to escape the winter weather, I jumped at the chance to fly out and spend the weekend with her.

While she worked during the day, I visited some of the sites, which I will chronicle in the next couple of posts. First, we are going to McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park in Scottsdale. The park is an extensive complex featuring a 15" gauge live steam railroad, exhibits of full-sized railroad equipment, and a large building containing several large model railroad layouts. We did not make it to the park until late in the day, so I was unable to tour the layouts. I did find this nice locomotive, with train on display:

Coupled to the 2-6-0 was a Santa Fe heavyweight baggage car. At the rear of the train was a real gem, a Pullman "explorer" series heavyweight private car. This car, named the Roald Amundsen after the famous arctic explorer is a real gem. This car, and others in the series were built by Pullman in 1928 as part of their lease fleet of private rail cars. Think of it as NetJets for the 1920s. This particular car was used by Presidents Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. The car that was later converted into FDR's private rail car, the Ferdinand Magellan is also part of this series.

This car is a real beauty, and retains many original 1920s and 1930s features. Unlike a lot of other private rail cars, it does not appear that it received much in the way of modernization, like sealed windows, or smooth sides. After Pullman service, the car was used as a business car by the New York Central railroad.

The railroad park has a nice video about the car, including an interior tour. It can be found here.

Fun Fact: Not really fun, but the car's namesake Roald Amundsen died the same year the car bearing his name was built. He died in June 1928, in a plane crash looking for survivors of the Italian semi-rigid airship Italia, which crashed on an expedition to the North Pole. There is actually a decent 1969 Soviet/Italian film of this ordeal, titled The Red Tent.

Another Fun Fact: My maternal grandfather was in an Army anti-aircraft battalion that spent part of World War II in Washington, D.C., manning AA guns on top of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. He told me about how the President's rail car was stored in the building when not in use.


Anonymous said...

I have also visited the Railroad Park in Scotsdale.

I commented to a still wet behind the ears teenager who was running the mineature Diesel that he was running the locomotive backwards! He said that's the way they had always done it!

But I did like seeing the heavy weight Pullman cars.

Ted Miles

Randall Hicks said...

Ted: This was posted by David, not Randall, but Randall has been to the Scottsdale Railroad Park also, though not for many years. If I remember correctly, while it's a city park, some of the work is done by volunteers. It's a nice place, and if you live in the Phoenix area, there's not a lot to choose from. When I travel around, I always wind up being glad I live near IRM!