the mid to late 1950's, the type food service required by the travelling
public on inter-city passenger trains was changing. Food service
cars ordered and operated immediately after World War II were designed
for elegant, full service dining. By the late 1950's, passengers
clamored for a lower cost food service option. To satisfy this demand,
railroads, including the Union Pacific Railroad, began to utilize
lunch counter cars.
late 1958 and early 1959, the Union Pacific decided to rebuild the
5000 series (5000-5006) diner-lounge cars into lunch counter cars.
As built by the American Car and Foundry in 1949, the 5000 series
cars had a café capacity of 24, a card section of 8, a lounge
capacity of 20, 3 loading doors, and a 21-foot kitchen.
the rebuild of the 5000s, the card section was removed, the lounge
capacity was reduced by 4 to 16, and a lunch counter with a seating
capacity of 8. As a result, the 6 dining tables which seated 24
individuals were moved towards the lounge end of the car. Two windows
were blanked out and the mid-car loading door was removed to allow
for the installation of additional food storage areas and coolers.
addition to rebuilding the 6 café-lounge cars on the property,
the Union Pacific also ordered 10 more of the 5000 series cars (5007-5016)
from the St. Louis Car Company. These cars were delivered in July
1959 and were identical in configuration to the rebuilt 5000s.
early 1970, lunch counter-café-lounge car 5001 was out of
service and stored in UP's Los Angeles coach yards. Members of the
Pacific Railroad Society (PRS) inquired about the availability of
the car for purchase. By the end of the year, PRS had purchased
the 5001. After the purchase of the 5001, a contest was held to
assign a name to the car. The winning entry was Starlight Café
and the car was so christened.
the 1970's, several modifications to the interior of the Starlight
Café were performed. The original lounge chairs were
replaced with more modern chairs, a stained glass partition was
installed between the lounge and eating areas, and wood paneling
was installed in the hallway next to the kitchen. Although these
changes did not irreversible damage the historical value of the
car, the changes altered the as-rebuilt appearance of the car.
the 1990's, original UP chairs were purchase or donated to refurnish
the lounge area. Some of the modifications have been removed and
some of the original appearance has been restored. Future plans
include remove the rest of the modifications including the wood
to the car to operational systems have been performed recently.
The water system in the kitchen has been refurbished, the electrical
system has been checked for problems, the air conditioning systems
has been checked, and new wood slates were made for the kitchen.
In addition, PRS has raised funds to proceed with the repairs and
modifications required to make the Starlight Café
fully Amtrak compatible. This work includes completing a 40-year
truck rebuild, installing Head-End-Power cables, and installing
Amfleet compatible diaphragms.
Starlight Cafe has been used on numerous one-day and overnight
PRS excursions. It operated to San Francisco and on the Indio Date
Festival Limited in 1987 and was last used on the Mojave Circle
excursion in 1988.