Santa Fe Hi-Level Transition Coach 736

This unique car was a part of 12 68-seat coaches built by the Budd Company for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway’s El Capitan luxury coach train in 1964. This was a unique train that composed of two-level passenger cars with most accommodation on an upper level, and entrances and some seating on a lower story at ground level. The cars offered more efficient use of space and quieter interiors than conventional single-level cars.

The 1956 El Capitan was the first two-level intercity train, and the design was revived by Amtrak in the 1980’s for its “Superliner” cars that are still in use today. The El Capitan was the coach counterpart to the prestigious Super Chief all-sleeper train connecting Chicago and Los Angeles.

In the 1960’s, the two trains were combined with special cars-one of them being the 736-providing a connection between the high-level coaches and the single-level sleepers. After Amtrak took over passenger service in 1971, the Hi-Level cars remained in service and were used interchangeably with the Superliners. Eventually the coaches and diners were withdrawn from use, leaving only the dome-lounges in service until 2018.

At some point in its career, 736 had half of its upper-level seating removed and replaced with 8 bedrooms (each with a bunkbed) for use by crew members of its respective train. A crew bathroom with a shower was also added on the lower level.

Retired by Amtrak between 1994 and 2000, with a mileage of 4,163,957, the car was sold into private ownership and stored before being purchased by the Steam Railroading Institute in 2019 and returned to service later in the year. It’s currently used to provide a connection between all single-level equipment and our hi-level Pere Marquette Parlours, while also providing crew quarters in the dormitory section of the car. The next step is preparing the coach section for passenger service once again on future excursions.