The California Zephyr debuted in 1949, providing overnight First Class rail service between Emeryvilla, CA and Chicago, IL. The route was absorbed into Amtrak service beginning in 1970, but the stainless steel dome cars that made the trip so memorable (right) are no longer included in Amtrak's fleet(1), having been replaced on SuperLiner trains with Sightseer Lounge cars (below).
A few days ago, though, the L.A. Times brought to the public eye an opportunity that most people (including me) didn't realize existed: several of the Silver-series dome cars from the original Zephyr route have been refurbished by rail enthusiasts and are now used as private rail cars. Not only that, but the company that uses these cars--Trains Unlimited Tours, Inc., which has been in business for 24 years--offers a dozen or more train tours each year, providing their own onboard First Class service (Coach and sleeper accommodations available) completely seperate from Amtrak's staff and passengers.
Looking to do something special for Valentine's Day 2009? It happens to be the Saturday of Presidents Day weekend; put the three days to use on the Valentine Snowflake Express from Emeryville, CA to Reno, NV. First Class accommodations in a Pullman sleeper car, with meals and beverages included, runs $649 per person.
(1) Amtrak still maintains a single dome car, but it is not used on the Zephyr route.