A piece of Pacific Northwest Rail history rolled into Snoqualmie Tuesday morning as the Northwest Railway Museum saved one particular rail car from the scrap heap.
If you rode the Amtrak Cascades passenger rail line over the last two decades it is likely that you rode on a Talgo Series 6 rail car. Those rail cars serviced the Pacific Corridor from 1999 to 2020 when they were retired.
One of those cars was a so-called “Bistro” car specifically designed for our region. It’s now in the hands of the NW Railway Museum.
The museum announced Tuesday that it was preserving the only surviving Amtrak Cascades Talgo Series VI rail car. It was shipped from Indiana and arrived back in the PNW Tuesday morning. It’s estimated that the cars carried more than 14 million passengers between Eugene, Oregon, and Vancouver, BC, during their years of service.
There were only six Bistro cars that were used to provide food and beverage service -- and they were custom designed with an interior that echoed the PNW, according to Richard Anderson, Executive Director of the Railway Museum.
“The car bodies were built in Spain but the interiors were all fabricated and assembled here in Seattle,” Anderson said. “Mostly by members of the machinists and aerospace union,” said Anderson.
Back in 2019, more than 50 Talgo series rail cars were slated to be replaced. State transportation officials made the decision after the National Transportation Safety Board said the lightweight Talgo cars were unsafe and did not provide enough protection during the 2017 fatal Amtrak crash near DuPont.
KIRO 7 did ask if the Bistro car that will be featured at Railway Museum could become a museum restaurant since its original purpose was to heat up food that passengers could take away to eat at another spot in the train. Anderson says that the restaurant idea is not likely but he hopes people will get a chance to see the car up close hopefully this summer.
The Northwest Railway Museum is seeking to preserve the Bistro car and its history since the car, according to Anderson and the museum, featured an elegant design that supported a dining car, but also provided that takeaway option.
Award-winning industrial designer Cesar Vergara created the Bistro car interior design according to the museum. Vergara is a Mexican-born American who helped to custom-design the Bistro car with an illuminated map of the Pacific Northwest.
Rail Excursion Management Company (aka “Rail Exco”) donated the Bistro car to the museum and provided assistance in preparing the car to come back to Washington state.
Latinos in Heritage Conservation, a nationally-organized group, supported efforts to preserve the Bistro car. Vergara’s contribution to Latino heritage may be recognized and used to inspire a new generation of Latino students in the field of industrial design.
Museum and railway heritage supporters have worked for more than two years to save this exceptional historical artifact from destruction, but the effort is ongoing. Public support is vital to ensuring that the Bistro car is transported, conserved, and interpreted.
Contributions to the museum will be used to offset the significant costs associated with moving and caring for this artifact and may be made at trainmuseum.org.
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