Railroad Passenger and Baggage Cars
Western Pacific 801
Western Pacific 801 is a streamlined baggage car built entirely out of stainless steel. Cars like this were hauled in passenger trains and were used for carrying passengers’ luggage, express freight, and other less-than-car-load (LCL) shipments. This car was built in 1948 for use on the California Zephyr and was originally named the “Silver Beaver.” Later the car was sold to Auto-Train, which operated passenger service between Virginia and Florida, and in 1979 it was sold to Ringling Brothers Circus, where it was assigned to the “Gold Unit Monte Carlo Train.”
Western Pacific 801 Details
Year Built: 1948
Length: 72ft 8in
Trucks: C Frame ISH 6×11
Description: Baggage Lightweight
Condition: Complete / unrestored / not operational
WP 801 Ownership History
1948-c1971 – Western Pacific #801 “Silver Beaver”
c1971-c1970s – Auto-Train #135
c1970s-1979 – Auto-Train #1135
1979-c1980 – Ringling Bros. Circus #MC-231
c1980-c1983 – Ringling Bros. Circus #38
c1983-c1985 – Ringling Bros. Circus #39
c1985-c1988 – Ringling Bros. Circus #35
c1988-c1990 – Ringling Bros. Circus #73
c1990-1992 – Ringling Bros. Circus #69
1992-2015 – Privately owned
2015-present – Illinois Railway Museum, Union, IL
What was the Western Pacific Railroad?
Baggage car 801 is the only ex-Western Pacific (WP) car at IRM. The WP was an east-west railroad stretching from San Francisco, CA, to Salt Lake City, UT. Financier George Jay Gould spearheaded construction of the WP in the first decade of the 20th century as part of his effort to create a new transcontinental railroad. At the time, the Southern Pacific dominated rail transportation in northern California, but the WP constructed a line northeast from San Francisco through rugged Feather River Canyon and into northern Nevada. In 1931 the railroad also built a link to the Great Northern Railway in northern California, creating a route from the San Francisco Bay area to Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA.
After World War II, the WP was the westernmost of three railroads that jointly operated the famous California Zephyr streamlined train. The train was routed over the WP between San Francisco and Salt Lake City, over the Denver & Rio Grande Western between Salt Lake City and Denver, and over the Chicago Burlington & Quincy between Denver and Chicago. All three railroads contributed rolling stock to this joint venture, with this baggage car being a part of the WP’s contribution. Amtrak took over operation of the California Zephyr in 1971 and in 1982 the Union Pacific Railroad acquired the WP.