Amber Trail, a 44 seat chair car originally manufactured for the Union Pacific Railroad

The Hatrick family is excited to announce the upcoming debut of its second Amtrak-certified railway car, the Amber Trail. Purchased in 1983 and partially refurbished at that time, the car sat at the Golden Gate Railroad Museum at Hunter's Point in San Francisco for most of our ownership while waiting for its opportunity to again hit the high iron. That time has almost arrived! We decided to "bring the car home" to Southern California in mid 2004 and to commence an "Amtrak certified rebuild".

A little background ... in year 2000, Amtrak re-equipped its San Diegan trains with new, double-deck "Pacific Surfliner" cars, and that created a serious problem for us. Our Overland Trail has no vestibule, no steps for boarding from trackside. Passengers can enter the car only through the end doors when coupled to another car. That was very typical of diners and lounges ... as you can imagine, space is at a premium on a railway car/train.

The passageways in Amtrak's new double-deck cars, however, are four feet higher than our conventional height railcar - so you can't enter our car when hooked up to these cars! By bringing the Amber Trail back to LA, upgrading it to Amtrak standards, and coupling it to the Overland Trail, we will have a vestibule for boarding from ground level. We'll also have 44 more seats!


After storing the Amber Trail briefly in Fullerton, California, we moved it to Anaheim, CA, for its upgrade to an Amtrak-certified private car.

The two-axle, outside swing hanger and disc brake equipped trucks were completely disassembled, nondestructive tested, refurbished, reclaimed, and reassembled to meet Amtrak's requirements for towing. Amtrak also requires electrical compatibility with their "head end power", the 480 volts generated by the locomotive to power their all electric cars. We had to install heavy-gauge (4/0) wire to carry this voltage, plus wire for Amtrak's "com" (communications) and "mu" (multiple unit) circuits.

The car has been equipped with holding tanks (no more dumping on the track!) and a modern air conditioning system. We also took advantage of this downtime for some interior improvements ... new glass, new curtains, and some fresh paint.

The Amber Trail is poised to once again grace the mainline as a first class chair car. We look forward to her coming-out party!

A Brief History

The first postwar coaches for Union Pacific were delivered between June and October of 1950 by the Pullman-Standard Company as part of lot 6844, plan 7617. The car was constructed with aluminum side sheet, which was very popular with (and almost unique to) Union Pacific. One of 50 cars (5400 - 5449), the Amber Trail was numbered 5430 and was ordered for general service - meaning it would serve where needed on trains all over the system.

Built as a long-distance chair car, the car featured plenty of leg room. The Karpen brand seats reclined deeply and had foot and leg rests. The seats could be reversed (spun around) so the car need not be turned around for the return trip. Each pair of seats had its own window, venetian blind, reading lights, and decorative curtain on the pier panel between each window, quite nice for a coach!

This class of car — in fact, all 152 sister coaches built by ACF, St. Louis Car Co. and Budd — also featured decorative artwork on the coach compartment bulkheads, large men's and women's restrooms with several washstands (including a dental basin - a mini sink - just for brushing one's teeth), and rubber floor covering with inlaid designs. Interestingly, a small (0.5 cu. ft.) refrigerator was built into the electric water cooler for chilling baby bottles and whatnot.



Union Pacific sold 5430 and several sisters (5423, 5426, 5429, 5436, and 5445) in 1970 to Penn Central. 5430's new owner, renumbered her PC 3003 and used her and her sisters to (GASP) to ... equip the famous Broadway Limited, formerly an all-Pullman sleeping car train with coaches.

The advent of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, brought the wholesale discontinuance of much of the rail passenger system in the United States. Amtrak bought the best of the passenger cars from the various railroads and Penn Central 3003 became Amtrak 4403. After serving across the Amtrak system through the '70s, the car was retired and sold at public auction in 1981. We purchased her in 1983 and have delighted in seeing her preserved for future generations to enjoy.

The Amber Trail will soon return to the mainline and fulfill one of our dreams, her reunion with the Overland Trail out on the "High Iron". Undoubtedly, they had occasion to operate together in the same train over the oldest and most prestigious of the transcontinental routes: the Overland Route of the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads! (Those who collect train consists ... please be on the lookout for any UP, SP, Penn Central, Amtrak or Southern Railway trains that include the following numbers: UP 5430, PC 3003, Amtrak 4403, SP 2981 (or any sisters, 2981 - 2986), Amtrak 3500 (or sister 3501), Sou Rwy 2001, Amtrak 2814)

Anaheim photo album including truck rebuild and HEP/com/mu install and Santa train. Several photos include visiting "carmen" who would come by and lend a hand ... a tip of the olde conductor's cap to all for their help!

Page two includes historical info and photos











Page two includes historical info and photos

Questions? Comments? Contact

copyright 2008, Overland Trail

Last Update 12/13/2008