Ex Southern Pacific Bilevel Commuter Cars on the Alaska Railroad
by Pat Durand

Review of photographic records and sketchy roster notes reveal the following history of the former Southern Pacific Bilevel cars in Alaskan service. These cars reportedly were built by ACF in 1954 as 125 seat Gallery Coaches. By process of elimination and deduction I have determined there were at least 9 cars brought to Alaska by Princess Tours for use in moving passengers from their ships calling at Whittier, Alaska to destination in Anchorage. The cars were painted in the cruise line colors of blue and white.

Ken Brovald made the following notes while photographing a Whittier bound Princess Cruise Train on August 13, 1987 powered by locomotives #3012, #2007 and #2003. On the Brake end at the sill level on both sides there is 4" lettering with reporting marks PPCX XXXX. In addition in a circle next to the door is the single digit CAR Number.

PPCX 3720 #1 Port of Tillamook
PPCX 3722 #3
PPCX 3713 #4
PPCX 3724 #7
PPCX 3730 #8
PPCX 3716 #9

Ken shot a Princes Cruise train both north and south bound behind locomotive #3010 on August 18, 1990 which clearly shows 7 cars with unreadable numbers.

The Alaska Railroad acquired three of the 9 cars in a trade arrangement with Princess Tours. Initially the old car numbers and Cruise Train logo were removed and a single ARR logo was installed over the door. Upon repaint to ARR blue and yellow the logo and 600 series number were added to the right and ALASKA to the left of the center door. Photos of 601 at retirement show this paint scheme.

PPCX 3712 #? ARR 600 Still on the ARR roster in storage to be used as needed.
PPCX 3717 #? ARR 601 We can assume these are cars can be #2, #5, #6 missing from the list above
PPCX 3730 #8 ARR 602 601 and 602 are gone from Alaska, no longer on roster.

With the numbers sequenced there is one car missing. Were there actually 10 cars brought North?

Walthers has announced release of the SP Cars for late March delivery. That is just in time for the summer tourist season.

5970 Pullman-Standard SP Style Bilevel Commuter Car - Assembled -- Undecorated HO 34.98

The undecorated cars would be an easy paint job into either the Princess paint or The Alaska Railroad 600 series cars. On the pictures I have seen they have the proper window placement. Put a full train together to meet the cruise ship or slip a few of the Alaska cars into your Whittier Shuttle. As always I welcome additions and clarifications before this analysis becomes urban fact on the internet. -- Pat Durand
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Additions and Corrections

From Robert Krol on 2/16/04: "There were 10 ex-SP Double Decker cars brought up here by Tom Rader. He started Tour Alaska. When he sold the Tour Alaska company to Princess, he still ran the Cruise Train for a few years. Princess eventually bought the 10 cars and they were maintained by the Princess Rail Dept. 2 and sometimes 3 were on the Whittier Shuttle. The Cruise Train normally ran with 6 coaches; on heavy days we would add the 7th and sometimes up to 9 cars on the Cruise train. The coaches were numbered 1-10, normally #6 and #10 were on the shuttle. When Princess left Whittier after the 1992 season, the ARR bought 3 cars, I don't know what Princess did with the other 7 cars."

From Jody Moore on 2/18/04: "Back when I was in college (about 1989-1990) there were about ten or so bi-level cars parked out at the Port of Pasco (WA) industrial park. I remember them thoroughly, and I recall them leaving one here and one there over time. I have since moved away to the Oregon Coast, but remembered the cars because at least one was marked for the Port of Tillamook Bay, my current employer and subject of a website that I have run for almost four years.

Recently I was back in Pasco, and I stopped by the Port specifically to look for those cars. Three still remain, including the POTB marked car (also
marked Cruise Train 1) and two other cars, Cruise Train 6 and Cruise Train 3 (PPCX 3722) I have the numbers for the other two cars, but can't find my notes at this instant. Anyhow, I'm pretty sure that these are your guys. You can see a photo of the Port car at my site, http://www.trainweb.org/potb

The whole thing was stirred up the previous week when, while back in Denver on business, I payed a visit to Colorado Railcar, where I noted with
interest two other cars painted in the same unique manner. I didn't think to record the numbers on either car, but the one most prominent in the photos has a circular herald and number 2 on it. I went pretty crazy with the camera (don't get to Denver every day) and was running low on film by the time I got to the back lot, so I only got one shot of both cars. That can be seen mid-way down the page at this link: http://www.trainweb.org/ultradomes/crm/shoptour.html

Anyhow, I think I may have accounted for five of the cars. I'll look for those numbers tomorrow. Can you shed any light on whether or not they worked on the POTB?



Gallery coach number 601 was built in 1954 by American Car and Foundary for SP Co. (#3717) with 145 seats. When the Alaska Railroad acquired it, they removed eight seats to accommode wheel chairs.  It was retired in January 2002  

Photo courtesy of Curt Fortenberry


Gallery coach number 602 was built in 1954 by American Car and Foundary for SP Co. (#3730) with 145 seats. When the Alaska Railroad acquired it, they removed eight seats to accommode wheel chairs.  It was retired in January 2002

Photo courtesy of Duane Frank

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