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Alaska Railroad's next domes: a conceptual look

Disclaimer: The images on this page are based solely on Alaska Railroad's document 04-4-42012, "Request for Proposal: Bi Level Passenger Cars." They are provided for illustration purposes only, and were not authorized by Colorado Railcar, Alaska Railroad, or any other agency. They are purely the product of an imaginative webmaster with an iMac, photoshop, and a free Sunday afternoon. The illustration is offered up only to help visualize a "what-if" scenario based on information gleaned from the above document, which can be viewed by clicking this link. Also, it is vital to note that the RFP does not close until April 13, 2004, and that this concept look should not in any way be construed as indication that Colorado Railcar or any of its agents have been selected as the builders of these cars.

Alaska Railroad's RFP has several interesting requirements for their new domes, which will be used on an all-new high end service on the Denali Star, the same train that hosts Colorado Railcar domes owned by Princess Tours, Royal Celebrity Railtours and Holland America. The massive document is 91 pages in length, and includes among other things 106 specific design requirements and suggestions for the cars.

According to the RFP, specs are for two twin level full dome coaches 89 feet in length, 18 feet 1 inch in height, with features including: rounded dome glass, a minimum of 72 dome seats, a downstairs dining area (to be separated from the restroom/storage area by a pair of bifold etched glass doors), a massive kitchen (with everything from convection ovens to dishwasher carefully spelled out) capable of serving 900 meals per day between the car and an adjoining dining car (not part of the RFP), two restrooms including one ADA accessible restroom, ADA lift to the upper level, HEP and 27 pin connections, two axle trucks, maximum speed rating of 90 mph (and where on the ARR do they go that fast?), and carbon steel exterior with Dupont Imron finish.

Perhaps the most interesting feature I saw, though, was item 8, a suggestion: "An option to be proposed for the second level is an observation platform at one end of the car, about 8 to 12 feet deep, glass roofed and with 'windshield' glass wrapping around either side, but generally open on the sides."

This got me to thinking. First of all, the idea of an upper level observation platform has never been applied to a CRM dome, though the specs remind me a lot of the platform on Alaska RRs 2000 "Aurora". So what would this concept look like when applied to a double decker car? Using a bit of photoshop image manipulation on a free weekend afternoon, I was able to assemble the following photo-illustration for your viewing pleasure. It will be interesting to see how close to accurate this turns out to be should a car to these specifications ever be built. Enjoy!

Update: These cars are under construction at Ft. Lupton, with an expected April, 2005 delivery date. They will be numbered ARR 651 and 652.

Photo-illustration by Jody Moore. Actual cars (if any) most certainly will vary.

Type of Car: Double Deck Dome Coach
Coach: 72 minimum
Length: 89 feet
Height: 18 feet, 1 inch
Weight: ?
Platform Size : 8 feet by 10-12 feet (suggested)
Kitchen/Galley: Yes, substantial
Restrooms: 2, 1 ADA compliant
ADA Features: 1 ADA Restroom
Expected delivery date: April 30, 2005

A note for the technically minded. The above illustration was assembled on an Apple iMac DV using Adobe Photoshop 6.0. The image was rendered using approximately 70 different parts from photos of three separate cars, plus a little freehand drawing work to blend it all together. (Perhaps the hardest part was getting the off-color glare reflections to blend together realistically...) Anyhow, the resultant image looks convincing enough (at least to me).

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