Historic railroad coaches will entertain again

Posted Monday, Jul. 15, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After more than 40 years in storage, three vintage railroad coaches have made their last stop at the Grapevine Vintage Railroad.

But these cars won’t end up in a railroad graveyard.

The city plans to restore the trains to their former glory and put them back into service to entertain riders, a throwback to their original use when they were designed decades ago.

According to Michael Woody, Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau assistant executive director, coaches like these have a storied history and are a link to the past.

“These coaches operated between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the 40s, 50s and 60s,” Woody said. “Legends such as Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., among others, rode and entertained on these coaches that were designed with performance areas and, of course, a dance floor.”

For years, the vintage coaches belonged to B.B. Garrett, a former Cotton Belt steward and railroad enthusiast. According to Woody, as the popularity of train service declined in that corridor during the late 60s, the coaches were taken out of service. Once decommissioned, Garrett purchased the set and moved them to his ranch in East Texas.

When Garrett died, the idea to purchase the coaches from his estate was presented to the Convention and Visitors Bureau board of directors. Members enthusiastically agreed.

“For the past couple of years, we have been trying to identify the right coaches to expand our offerings,” Woody told the City Council on April 2. “Through those searches we found several coaches, but they either needed too much work or were priced well out of our range. These coaches struck the perfect balance. They were priced right and will require very little work to have them in full operation.”

After the presentation, the City Council voted 6-0 to approve the purchase of the rolling stock for $60,000. Woody said it was “well under their appraised value” of $75,000.

“In Grapevine, we are always looking to bring new elements to the city,” said Charlie Whiteside, manager of train operations for Grapevine Vintage Railroad. “We intentionally search for items that have historic significance and these coaches are no exception.”

The coaches arrived in late June.

With minor work to get them up and running, the coaches are scheduled to make their debut this Christmas season and tie in with Grapevine’s North Police Express. Most of the work will be air brake rehabilitation, which will be done using the Grapevine Vintage Railroad mechanics and crew under the existing roundhouse operations.

They will also be used to expand the vintage railroad’s special event and charter business and allow for regular route operations during heavy railroad usage such as Day Out With Thomas.

By adding the coaches to the railroad lineup, Woody said the city had “an opportunity to increase revenue as it provides a consist or a collections of coaches that our customers and prospective customers are looking for.”

Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367

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