In the movie Wall Street, Michael Douglas’s Gordon Gekko woos Charlie Sheen’s Bud Fox to the dark side by rhapsodizing about being “rich enough to have your own jet.” But maybe that’s becoming old hat? As per an item in Robb Reportthe newest status symbol is to do it like they did 100 years ago, and be rich enough to have your own private train car.
Indeed, wealthy people yearning to embrace their inner Commodore Vanderbilts are discovering a new (but old) method of luxury travel. David Hoffmana director of the American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (AAPRCO) and operator of Northern Sky Rail Charters, referred to the throwback as “a hidden business.” He added that “You won’t believe how many times people say to me, ‘I didn’t know you could do this.’”
Disused railcars start at around $200,000. After one restores it (you’ll need WiFi, central air conditioning, and maybe better water pressure in the shower than they had years ago), Amtrak will, in fact, allow you to hitch up your car to their locomotives for “about $4 per mile,” according to Tony Marchiando of AAPRCO. You’ll need to pay for a storage fee, too, but if you’ve made it this far, a few extra bucks won’t turn you off.
Deluxe renovations usually cost about $1 million, Marchiando says, and that’s before you get into furniture, art, and other decorative elements. You’ll want some comfortable seats on there when you watch Succession or The White Lotus or Triangle of Sadnessno?
The most popular route is from Chicago to the West Coast by way of the Rockies, where one can “see sights that you don’t see from a car or a plane,” boasts Hoffman.
If you want to test this idea out with a charter before committing to a private railcar all your own, there are rentals available. I am personally fond of “The Glass Slipper,” a dome-lounge-diner that comfortably fits 24 for a formal event (and includes a washer-dryer), and also “Babbling Brook,” a Streamline-styled relic from the late 1940s with a full-service kitchen and private bathrooms in each of its eight bedrooms.
At Grand Central Terminal in New York City, there is a so-called “secret track” (Track 61) that connects the station to the nearby Waldorf Astoria Hotel. It is believed that U.S. presidents make use of this corridor during visits to the United Nations. (Train nerds continue to argue whether or not President Franklin Roosevelt rode through here or if it is a myth.) But my point is this: once every billionaire on the block has their own private train car, the true status symbol will be that “leaked” image from Track 61. All aboard!!