Private Varnish FAQ

What Is Private Varnish? - Private Varnish is a term used to describe privately owned railroad passenger cars. These cars are usually from the 1950s and 60s and were sold by the railroads  starting in the 1970s and 80s as Amtrak (the entity that took over passenger service in the US in the 70s) began to modernize their fleet. These cars were often sold to scrap yards or equipment resellers and were then picked up by individuals and groups to preserve them and operate them. Some cars retain their original configuration while others are rebuilt to suit the new owners.

What is it like riding a private car? - The best way of describing riding in a private car is to compare it to First Class on an aircraft, however riding a private car is far more enjoyable! No lines, freedom to walk around, amazing scenery and luxurious appointments make PV travel so much greater. While slower than an aircraft, the benefits far outweigh the spent time. Imagine arriving at the downtown railroad station to see your private car sitting there without having to go through security or wait for hours in uncomfortable chairs waiting for a gate at the airport. Before you even board the train, your friendly crew greets you and takes your luggage aboard for you. Onboard, food and drinks are always available and gourmet meals are served. Sleeping on PVs is great too! Leaving the city behind as the sun sets over the skyscrapers you'll be rocked to sleep as the car rolls along safely and swiftly through the night. As the sun rises, the golden rays illuminate a serene countryside outside your window. It's also entirely possible to go to sleep looking at pine trees and wake up looking at palm trees! While the amenities you get on PVs varies based on the actual cars you get, you're still far ahead of other methods of travel. 

Where can we go on a private car? - The answer is almost anywhere! Private Varnish trips use Amtrak (The US Passenger railroad) to pull cars anywhere Amtrak goes. In many locations, the car can be parked for the duration of your trip and used as a hotel on wheels! Luxury Rail Travel can work with you to set up start and end points and extra amenities needed for your trip. 

What kind of private cars are out there? - There are many types. Coaches are used to haul passengers for day trips. Their draw is that they have a higher capacity (usually 40-60 people). Lounge cars often feature comfortable chairs, sofas and table seating. Many of them have kitchen facilities also Lounge car capacity varies but usually runs between 10 and 25 people. Sleeping cars are perfect for overnight or long haul trips. They vary in configuration, but feature comfortable beds, many of which can be set up as seats for day use. Capacity on these cars vary from 10-20 people. Business cars are the pinnacle of luxury and usually have everything you'd need to take a few people (usually 5-10) on a multi-day trip. They're often equipped with sleeping facilities, kitchens, a lounge area, and many have a rear observation platform. Last but not least, dome cars can make any trip even more spectacular! Dome cars have a glass bubble roof over part or all of the car in which you can sit and have an unparalleled view of the passing scenery. At night, lights can be turned off to watch the lights of the countryside whiz by or lean back in the plush seats and watch the moon and stars through the glass top. There are some cars out there that don't really fit into these classifications, and we here at Luxury Rail Travel can work with you to get what most fits your needs. 

How hard is it to charter a car? - Not difficult at all! We here at Luxury Rail Travel work hard to make it all happen. You tell us where you want to go, how many people are going, the dates, and what kind of amenities you want and we can find the perfect car for you. If you have a particular car in mind, we can also work with the owner to get you on the high iron. 

Who owns the cars? - Cars are owned by individuals, railroads, or preservation organizations. Luxury Rail Travel works with many owners to get you the cars you need. 

What does it cost? - Cost of chartering a private car varies based on several factors including which car(s) you'd like to charter, mileage of your trip, amenities you wish to have on your trip, length of trip, etc. We'd be happy to discuss options with you and work with your PV budget. 

How far out do we need to book our PV Charter? - Generally, we'd need at least 3 months to set up a charter, but it can be done in as little as 4 weeks, although short notice trips cost more due to the short notice. 

I want to go somewhere Amtrak doesn't operate, is that possible? - Maybe. Often, we can charter a car to the closest Amtrak station and then arrange ground transportation from there. 

What services does Luxury Rail Travel offer with a PV charter? - Luxury Rail Travel can handle almost all the aspects of the trip to make it as fun and easy as possible. We can arrange hotel rooms, rental cars, tours at your destination, external activities (skiing, cruises, etc), and many other services. We also handle all the onboard services you desire including porter service, food preparation, providing servers, providing car hosts, and much more. Just let us know what you want! We aim to make it easy so you can enjoy the trip. 

How do I get started? - Email us! We can get working with you right away to make your trip happen. Just email us and we'll get started.