March 01, 1999
Meetings & Conventions: Short Cuts March 1999 Current Issue
March 1999
Short Cuts:

Train Plotting
Corporate track: The Scottish Thistle hosts private events.

There’s something about a train&” Remember that tag line from an old Amtrak ad campaign? It conjured up images of adventure, elegance, glamour and the sheer romance of the rails.

While most modern-day American rail riders would be hard-pressed to experience or even expect any of these qualities (sorry, Long Island Rail Road and Amtrak), there is one track a planner can take to recapture the magic of trains for a group event. A number of sleek and elegant cars (all with fanciful names like Cascade Nights, Texas Cannon Ball and Scottish Thistle) of yesteryear (pre-1960s, that is) are enjoying a second career as unique venues for dinners, parties and even small board meetings.

Randy Schlotthauer, vice president of Fullerton, Calif.-based Slotsy Travel, has used rail cars for clients such as Mountain View, Calif.-based Silicon Graphics, Inc., (40 top employees were transported from Los Angeles to a convention in Atlanta in high rail style) and In-N-Out Burger, the Baldwin Park, Calif.-based fast-food chain (Schlotthauer staged the firm’s anniversary bash on a train, where different cars featured different types of entertainment: stand-up comedy acts, swing music, a magician and a deejay).

“Trains work for any size group you can use a small car for a meeting of six, or use a half-dozen for receptions of 200 or more,” he says.

Private cars can easily go anywhere Amtrak goes and they’re typically attached to Amtrak engines. Cars may also travel on freight railways and into Canada and Mexico. Or they can simply be parked, sans engine, at the terminal of your choice.

In addition to rail travel specialists, another great source for tracking down these cars-for-hire is the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of Private Railroad Car Owners (202-547-5696;; the organization’s Web page has photos, layouts and contact information for more than 50.

There are several types of cars to choose from; among those best-suited for group events are business cars, which typically have a kitchen, crew quarters, a dining room seating six to 10, two bedrooms, a lounge and an open brass-railed platform; observation cars, which have a rear lounge and rear-facing windows; full-lounge cars, which feature casual seating, tables and a bar at one end; and dining cars, which contain a large kitchen and table seating for up to 48. For overnight trips, sleeper lounges, holding five or six double bedrooms, a small serving pantry with food preparation facilities and a lounge or casual seating area, are a good option.

The price tag for the rail experience? Schlotthauer says the average fee is $4,500 per day, including rental of the car, service, operating costs and track fees. Food and beverage, provided by a chef or caterer, is additional


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