After Union Pacific
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This page was last updated on January 21, 2016.
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After being purchased by Auto-Train in June 1972, they remodeled the former UP 9003 into what they called a "Maxi-Dome", which included 24 revenue seats on the main level, 20 revenue seats in the dome, and a bar and small lounge under the dome. Auto-Train ended its service on April 30, 1981, and AUT 903 passed into private ownership following the December 8, 1981, auction of Auto-Train equipment at Sanford, Florida.
(Read more about the former Union Pacific cars sold to Alaska Railroad)
(See American Orient Express)
American Orient Express
(Read more about the former Union Pacific cars sold to American Orient Express)
GrandLuxe Rail Journeys
(See American Orient Express)
Kasten Railcar Services
Incorporated in Maryland on February 19, 1992. In business as early as 1984 when the company purchased several Auto Train cars..
Located in Edwardsville, Illinois.
Moved to Madison, Illinois, in ??
Sold to Illinois Transit Assembly Corporation in ?? (prior to November 1998)
Sold to Gateway Rail Services in October 2007.
Northern Rail Car Corporation
April 25, 1986
Northern Rail Car Corporation began operations. William Gardner is shown as the company's owner and CEO. Two years later, he became the owner, director and principle officer of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, a company that had been in business since July 1980, and which Mr. Gardner purchased on August 12, 1988. By 1994, Northern Rail Car had two divisions: one repaired and rebuilt passenger cars; and the other remanufactured wheel sets used on locomotives, freight cars and passenger cars. (Railroad Retirement Board Decision 94-49)
Northern Rail Car's facility and shops were located in Cudahy, Wisconsin, built in the late 1950s as Milwaukee Crane's North Plant. The address was 3240 East Van Norman in Cudahy.
A full page ad in November 1986 Trains magazine, page 65A, details the company's capability.
Complete in-house facilities for mechanical and electrical systems.
In-house cabinetry shop for custom interiors.
AAR approved shop.
Northern Rail Car Corporation provides the following services and system designs:
• Complete 480/220 electrical systems
• Generator sets to fit your needs
• Heating & air conditioning systems
• Domestic water systems
• Refrigeration systems
• Window frame & glass replacement
• Head end power installation
• Brake system inspection & repair
• Complete truck rebuilding
• Interior & exterior painting & refurbishing
• Sanitary systems
• Complete draft gear conversion
Over 40,000 square foot indoor facility on seven acres of fenced-in area accommodating 10 passenger cars with two 50 ton overhead cranes for any type of minor to major repair. Our outside storage tracks can accommodate 16 cars with a 10-ton overhead crane. We also have complete sandblasting facilities.
Northern Rail Car purchased cars and locomotives from Alaska Railroad in November 1986 for a proposed dinner train. The locomotives arrived in Milwaukee on December 1, 1986. (Trains magazine, February 1987, page 13)
The dinner train, known as Scenic Rail Dining, Inc., ran between Granville (about 12 miles northwest of Milwaukee) and Horicon, Wisconsin, a distance of about 39 miles. The train was in operation from October 1988 through May 1990, using three ex UP dome cars (not purchased from Alaska RR) and an ex Alaska/Milwaukee E9. A test run was completed on May 9, 1987, with plans to start the train during 1988. (Trains magazine, September 1987, page 15)
(As a matter of public record, revealed through numerous court cases, Gardner married his wife Diane in October 1985. It was his second marriage and her fourth. At the time, he was sole owner of Gardner Bender, and she was a waitress. There was a prenuptial agreement, which was later contested on almost all its features. Gardner's company, Gardner Bender, was established in 1959 to supply tools to professional electricians. By 1988, when Gardner sold the company for an estimated $25 million, the company manufactured hundreds of specialized tools and accessories for both professionals and the do-it-yourselfer, including electrical tools, voltage testers and wire management products found along the electrical aisle of stores like Ace Hardware, Home Depot, Lowe‘s, Menards and True Value.)
Scenic Rail Dining was a joint venture that got its start in July 1987 when the Gardners purchased property on Brown Deer Road in Granville, Wisconsin, that would be the site of the dinner train's main restaurant facility. The restaurant cost $480,000 to complete.
The first Scenic Rail Dining train operated from the depot on Brown Deer Road to Horicon (76 miles) on October 4, 1988. (Fond Du Lac Commonwealth Reporter, October 14, 1988)
Photos indicate that Scenic Rail Dining usually operated with four cars and a locomotive, including three former UP dome cars. At the end of operations, there were five cars.
William Gardner also owned Northern Rail Car Leasing Corporation, which began operations on April 12, 1988. The company owned locomotives, freight cars, aircraft, vehicles and machinery. The locomotives, freight cars, vehicles and machinery were leased to a railroad company (likely WSOR). Non-railroad equipment was also leased to non-railroad companies. The company also owned and operated an air charter operation.
Scenic Rail Dining was reportedly a resounding success and routinely sold out, yet it was abruptly canceled in late 1990 with over one year's advanced reservations on the books.
November 15, 1990
"Bergersen says Scenic Rail Dining in the Milwaukee area was disbanded last week, the Geneva Limited [operated by Wisconsin and Calumet; WICT] has become the only dinner train for the entire state of Wisconsin." (Lake Geneva Regional News, November 15, 1990)
In late 1990, Scenic Rail Dining was liquidated after it lost approximately $3 million. As part of the liquidation, Scenic Rail Dining transferred the restaurant on Brown Deer Road to one of Gardner's companies, Gardner Realty, for $480,000 and used the proceeds to pay its debts. Subsequently, Gardner Realty sold the real estate for $240,000. Scenic Rail Dining, Inc. was dissolved as a corporation on December 30, 1992.
According to a May 1990 article in the Chicago Tribune, in a profile of William Gardner, it cost as much as $900,000 to have the company repair and refurbish a rail passenger car, a business that accounted for about 20 percent of the company's revenue. There was a potential market of about 100 privately owned railroad passenger cars. Northern Rail Car completed the electrical work, mechanical work, and roughed-out the interiors of six passenger cars for American-European Express, at a cost of $400,000 to $500,000 per car. In 1987, he began acquiring passenger equipment he would need to operate a scenic dinner train, which he and his wife started as Scenic Rail Dining, Inc., and which ran its first train on October 4, 1988. (Chicago Tribune, May 6, 1990)
After the dinner train operation ended in mid 1990, the equipment was sold by Northern Rail Car to Transcisco Tours for a similar operation known as the Sierra 49'er, between Oakland, California and Reno, Nevada. The Sierra 49er Express officially launched on December 7, 1990, after selling 18,000 advance tickets. Transcisco reportedly stated that it needed an annual average of 50,000 tickets to break even. But so-called "ticket sales" were in fact only reservations, and the actual cost drove most of the reservations to cancel. Actual sales fell flat and the Sierra 49'er service was quickly in trouble. The lack of sales meant loss of income, and the service only lasted 20 weeks before the final train ran on April 29, 1991. Transcisco reported losses of nearly $14 million and filed for bankruptcy in 1992. The four former UP cars were returned to Northern Rail Car in August 1991 (included were UP 4003, 7012, 8003, 9009).
By 1997, Northern Rail Car had moved to a new location at 5300 North 33rd Street in Milwaukee, opposite the intersection of Rohr Avenue and 33rd Street.
In July 2000, five former employees of Northern Rail Car started their own company, Avalon Rail, located in the former Allis-Chambers plant in West Allis (Milwaukee), Wisconsin. In April 2001 Gardner filed complaints that the owners of Avalon Rail had stolen plans and scheduling and inventory software from him to start their own company.
Northern Rail Car declared bankruptcy and a receiver was appointed after Virginia Railway Express canceled its contract for 20 refurbished cars, after Northern Rail Car only delivered four completed cars. The delay was reportedly caused by Gardner being on a cash-only basis with many of his suppliers, and these suppliers not delivering materials in time to finish the contract. Gardner had turned over daily operations to his son Dan, who abruptly quit in summer 2000 and left the state. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, October 4, 2001)
February 15, 2002
An auction was held to sell all of the assets of Northern Rail Car at its location at 5300 North 33rd Street in Milwaukee. The auction included all manner of equipment such as fork lifts, scissor lifts, welders and torch sets, air compressors, power saws, drill presses, and hoists and jacks. Also included were several vehicles including nearly new Cadillacs and Lincoln Town Cars, vans and pickup trucks, and trailers, along with 40 sets of office furniture. (Wisconsin State Journal, February 10, 2002)
Northern Rail Car was essentially out of business by January 2003, amid accusations and law suits between William Gardner (owner of Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, and owner of Northern Rail Car Corporation), and his son Daniel Gardner's claim that his father was to turn over ownership of Northern Rail Car to him.
St. Louis Car Company
St. Louis Car Company and RailCruise America were founded by Ed Boyce, a St. Louis entrepreneur who was age 70 in 2005 when a profile of him was run in the St. Louis Business Journal for October 30, 2005.
It appears that the first RailCruise America trip was on October 18, 1996, with a continuing focus on operating special trips for businesses for their customers and employees. The St. Louis dinner trains, and associated special public trains started at a later date.
"Starting with one vintage railroad car, St. Louis Car Co. has grown to a full-service meetings and events company with six modern cars available for stationary or moving charters hosting up to 150 passengers. The St. Louis Car Co. has been offering charter trips for years by hooking rail cars onto the back of Amtrak trains. Now that the company has purchased two locomotives, it's able to offer trips without adhering to Amtrak's schedule. "We buy everything for a little more than scrap and rehab it," he said. (St. Louis Business Journal, November 3, 1996)
January 24, 2006
RailCruise America sold its locomotives and cars to Kansas City Southern. (Jan Anderson, RailCruise America, email dated January 31, 2006, "last Tuesday")
"A unit of Kansas City Southern is the buyer for Ed Boyce's RailCruise America. Last week, Boyce sold the four engines and eight passenger cars that had run rail excursions from Union Station." (St. Louis Business Journal, February 12, 2006)
(This St. Louis Car Company should not be confused with the previous company by the same name, formed in April 1887 to manufacture and sell streetcars and other kinds of rolling stock of street and steam railways supporting the traction industry. In 1960, St. Louis Car Company was acquired by General Steel Industries. St. Louis Car continued business until 1968 and finally ceased operations by 1974. -- Read the Wikipedia article)