To understand the importance of the 1517 and its future supporting the operations of 3751, we’d first like to tell you a little about the 1517’s heritage. Completed in mid-2015, crew member Alex Gillman took on the task of researching the 77-year-old car to help describe not only the future importance of the car, but also recall why the car itself is a pristine piece of American railroad history.
Excerpt from the SBRHS “The Crew Car,” Volume No. 42, August 2015
Looking at the 1517, you wouldn’t be wrong to guess that the railcar comes from Santa Fe Railway heritage. With “Santa Fe” painted on the letter-board above the car’s windows and the digits “1517” painted below in the classic Santa Fe style, it’s hard to imagine this car coming from any other railroad.
To know the 1517’s true heritage, lets first look back to when it was built. The 1517 rolled out of the EDW. G. Budd Manufacturing Company’s Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shops in 1940 for the Seaboard Air Line Railroad’s (SAL) newest passenger train, the Silver Meteor, as car No. 6003. Originally only planned to operate with one train-set, the Meteor was the country’s first streamliner to run between New York and the state of Florida, serving the cities of Miami and St. Petersburg with departures from each city every third day. With an Electro-Motive E4 diesel locomotive on the point, the Meteor’s consist included a baggage-dormitory coach, three 60-seat coaches, a coach-tavern, a 48-seat diner and a beautiful, round-end coach-obversation car.
Because of the train’s immediate popularity Seaboard went on to purchase two more seven-car train-sets that Budd delivered during the winter of 1939-1940, followed by 18 more cars for the 1940-1941 winter. As SAL No. 6000 is reported to be the first car of the 18-seat baggage-dormitory-coach series for the original Meteor in 1939, the SBRHS’ car, SAL No. 6003, can be linked as being part of the additional 18-car order for the Silver Meteor consist for the 1940-1941 winter. With this additional equipment, Seaboard began operating daily trains between New York, Miami and St. Petersburg.
In 1957 SAL No. 6003, still a baggage-dormitory-coach, was renumbered to SAL No. 6056 after it was rebuilt into a baggage-dormitory car. Out of seven original baggage-dormitory-coach cars built by Budd for service on the Meteor, No. 6056 is one of only three that received this rebuild configuration. In June of 1967, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad’s life came to a close. It’s new life began the following day, however, following its merger with the Atlantic Coast Line that formed the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad (SCL). It was during this this merger that SAL No.6056 became the SCL No. 5017.
Less than four years later, SCL’s passenger service was handed to Amtrak in May of 1971. It was following this acquisition of equipment that SCL No. 5017 was once again renumbered, becoming the AMTK No. 1517. At that time, the car is reported to have had 23 crew bunks that had remained from its 1957 rebuild. No. 1517 went on to serve Amtrak for more than a decade on both coasts, ending its revenue passenger career with Amtrak in September of 1980 as part of the Coast Starlight consist.
In the early 1990’s, No. 1517 found itself listed to be part of an Amtrak equipment auction. In a stroke of luck, the car missed the auction and became available to the recently formed SBRHS…at the time nearing the completion of its restoration of 3751. After acquiring the car and moving it to Fontana, Calif., No. 1517 found itself behind 3751 during the engine’s initial trail runs under steam on the Kaiser Steel Mill team tracks in August of 1991. With the schuss of the restoration still fresh in their minds, the SBRHS’ hard work paid off when 3751 was cleared to pull a recreation of the California Limited from Los Angeles to Bakersfield and return in December that same year. Needing to be moved to Los Angeles for the for the upcoming trip to Bakersfield, 3751 pulled a Santa Fe Railway freight train from San Bernardino to Los Angeles with No. 1517 proudly riding behind the locomotive – its first official, mainline trip being the locomotive as its support car. A week later, No. 1517 served on its first revenue trip with 3751 a part of the California Limited serving the SBRHS in the vital role of a tool and bunk car during the two day trip.
The 1991 trip was the last time No. 1517 served with 3751 during an excursion. The car remained in San Bernardino until it was moved in January 2004 to an undisclosed location where it’s restoration is currently underway.
As we enter into the first quarter of 2017, the SBRHS is looking forward to a promising year of work on the restoration of the 1517. With preparations complete to move the car (ranging from brake tests, stenciling of new reporting marks and the installation of AEI tags), we’re hoping the car will be moved from its storage location during April-May. Once moved, the crew will be able to begin the more extensive parts of the restoration that include interior redesigning and installation of 480v cables to be compatible with today’s passenger electricity system.