History of the Princess Rail Cars
With the introduction of two more new Midnight Sun Express luxury rail cars in 1997 Princess Tours offers a total of eight cars carrying more than 700 passengers a day each season. The new cars, which are being previewed in 1996 but will officially debut for the 1997 summer season, will join the company's existing six to offer a total of eight cars carrying more than 700 passengers a day each season. The Ultra Domes are aptly named as they feature full-domed glass ceilings with the largest window panes ever built for a rail car, giving passengers excellent views of surrounding scenery. Traveling daily on the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage, Denali National Park and Fairbanks, from May through September, the cars are a highlight of visitors' experiences.
In 1982, Tom Rader started "Alaska Tour Operators" as a cruise operation. The name was change to "Tour Alaska" in 1983 and its own private cars were added onto the Alaska Railroad.
The original Midnight Sun Express cars, known as Super Domes, pioneered luxury rail travel in Alaska in 1984. Four ex-MILW domes were acquired. Three were refurbished using parts from another car. The cars held 60 passengers each and featured full-domed views and fine dining prepared on board.
In 1986, Princess acquired "Tour Alaska" and repainted the cars using the current paint scheme. A fourth done was placed in service in 1987. The company then purchased SP gallery cars numbers 3700-3709 (PS 1955), 3710-3730 (ACF 1957), 3731-3745 (PS 1969).
In 1988, Princess Tours continued their tradition of luxury rail travel by replacing the Super Domes (ex-MILW cars) with four Ultra Dome Series I luxury rail cars which seat 90 passengers each and continue to be the largest passenger rail cars in the world. These cars were converted from SP "gallery" commute cars by a joint venture between Tilamook Railcar Repair (Tom Rader) and Bob Steele & Associates.
The first four "Ultra Domes" were the Denali (no. 7080, kitchen, ex-SP3734), the Gates of the Arctic (no. 7081, observation, ex-SP3740), the Katmai (no. 7082, kitchen, ex-SP 3744) an the Kenai Fjords (no. 7083 , observation, ex-SP3745).
The Ultra Domes offer passengers 360-degree views, unique outdoor observation platforms, a fine dining salon with seating for 32 and meals prepared fresh-to-order on board. A ladies' powder room, bar service, circular stairways to the upper level, and a stainless steel kitchen also are featured.
For the 1993 Alaska tour season, Princess introduced two all-new Ultra Dome Series II rail cars (numbers 7084 and 7085) to add to the existing four cars already in Alaska. Built at a cost of nearly three million dollars by Colorado Railcar Manufacturing (CRM), the Series II and III cars are designed to complement the Series I cars. Although similar in design and interior appointments, the newer cars are "self-contained" meaning they can travel independently of each other, whereas the Series I cars shared a kitchen and travel in pairs. The new cars seat 88 passengers on the upper level and 32 in the dining salon below. Series III cars were added in 1996 (numbers 7086 and 7087) and Series IV cars in 1999 (numbers 7088 and 7089).
|7080 - B||coach/kitchen||PS||1988||88||32||ex-SP 3734; Tilamook Railcar Repair added second level; "St. Elias"|
|7081 - C||coach/observation||PS||1988||84||32||ex-SP 3740; Tilamook Railcar Repair added second level; "Wrangell"|
|7082 - B||coach/kitchen||PS||1988||88||32||ex-SP 3744; Tilamook Railcar Repair added second level; "Denali"|
|7083 - C||coach/observation||PS||1988||84||32||ex-SP 3745; Tilamook Railcar Repair added second level; "Foraker"|
|7084 - E||coach/kitchen||CRM||1992||88||32||built new, "Illiamna"|
|7085 - E||coach/kitchen||CRM||1992||88||32||built new, "Susitna"|
|7086 - A||coach/kitchen||CRM||1996||88||32||built new, Sanford"|
|7087 - A||coach/kitchen||CRM||1996||88||32||built new, "Hunter"|
|7088 - D||coach/kitchen||CRM||1999||88||32||built new, "Blackburn"|
|7089 - D||coach/kitchen||CRM||1999||88||32||built new, "Pioneer"|
Note: Cars with lifts leading to the second floor are labeled in bold test. Prince "A", "C" and "D" cars all have lifts to the first floor. However, only "C" cars have lifts going up into the dome. "B" cars have an upstairs door that leads into the upstairs of a "C" car.
Click here for a photo of the Princess tours service building (looking east)
Also, check out Jody Moore's Ultradome roster
Added by Casey Durand on 11/24/11
Here are some good roster shots of the Princess spread taken in Whittier. This is a special train consisting of one 70/43 MAC and one each of the different Princess cars, A-D cars, now all renamed after mountain peaks. This special move services the cruise ships in Whittier and is designated as a DEX (Denali Express) train.
Page last updated 5/21/16