Alaska Railroad's new cars have a tropical look

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) Alaska Railroad's new cars look familiar from the outside, but it's a whole different decor on the inside.

While the outside of the cars is blue with a gold stripe along the side, the inside is splashed in aquas, pinks and light green. Some of the new cars have curve-around dome windows to better see the sights.

The state-owned Alaska Railroad Corp. bought nine cars, including four single-level dome cars, last summer for $3.6 million at auction in Florida. The railroad also bought three dome cars from Amtrak for $380,000.

The cars are being refurbished and put into service for the tourist season, which for the railroad began May 13 and runs through Sept. 23.

The railroad last year carried more than 670,000 passengers, an increase of about 55,000 people over 1998, a passenger count that exhausted the railroad's passenger-car reserves, said spokesman Scott Banks.

''We were at the end of our rope. We just didn't have anything left,'' he said.

The dome cars from Florida will be used mainly on the Anchorage-Whittier and Anchorage-Seward runs. The cars have windows starting about thigh level and curling over to form most of the ceiling, offering a panoramic view.

The Florida cars, with their tropical decor, had belonged to the Florida Fun Train, which shuttled passengers between South Florida beaches and Orlando-area theme parks. Bill Sheffield, Alaska Railroad chief executive, outbid representatives from B.C. Rail to get the cars.

''It's pretty flush looking stuff,'' Banks said.

The former Florida cars headed out Friday on their first commercial trip in Alaska -- an evening charter.

The bar car, like the dome and dining cars, still has the Florida motif inside. Its model palm tree, fake-grass decorations around the bar and dance floor, bamboo accents and a mirror with fish and coral reliefs may look a little out of place to tourists expecting moose or eagles.

The Tiki Bar car will run as-is, at least for the time being, Banks said.

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