The Tri-City Herald, July 14, 1984
By Bob Woehler

Curt Andrews, left, and his father Clyde Andrews stand on the observation platform of Curt's executive railroad car which he is restoring at Bruce near Othello, Washington. Below, Andrews looks over a guest book in the observation room.

OTHELLO-- Railroad buffs and the curious can glimpse the opulent luxury of a bygone era of private railroad cars when Curt Andrews holds an open house in his vintage car this month.

Andrews, who fulfilled a lifelong dream when he purchased a 1910 car, said railroad executives used private cars in the first part of this century, much like corporate jets are used today.

Andrews, 27, is living in one of the staterooms of the car as he meticulously goes about restoring the car to mint condition. It's parked on a siding at Bruce, a small industrial farm area, four miles west of Othello.

The car was once the flagship of the Denver Rio Grande Railroad, carrying railroad executives and other VIPs across the Rocky Mountains from Denver to Salt Lake City.

It has two staterooms with a white tiled bathroom in between that has seven shower heads: one overhead, two at shoulder height, two waist high and two knee high.

There is also a private room for a secretary, a parlor and dining room paneled in French walnut.

French walnut is also used for the dining room table that is covered with fading, but once expensive, silk brocade.

Call buttons are liberally placed throughout the car to summon servants, but Andrews is the only one who can answer the ring now.

The servants quarters and a galley are at the rear of the car.

The car has air conditioning only in the spaces used by the railroad executives. The porter and chef, who lived and worked in the rear, had to sweat it out, he said.

Andrews' favorite spot is the observation deck that has an awning.

The car was built in 1910 as a regular coach and Denver and Rio Grande officials spent $33,000 in 1929 to convert it to an executive car.

It was retired by the railroad in 1964 and since then has collected dust and rust at various railroad sidings in the Southwest.

Before he really gets to work on the car, Andrews will hold an open house on Sundays in July between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Curt's father Clyde Andrews operates sun Country Storage at Bruce and handles and stores grain. The car is parked near the firm's office and Curt uses the Sun Country's electric power.

He's helping his efforts by working for his father.

A large china cabinet with lead rimmed glass doors takes up one wall in the dining room.

Curt is the grandson of longtime Mid-Columbia agri businessman C.C. Andrews who started a vegetable processing plant in Grandview, built a french fry plant in Prosser and an ice plant and cold storage plant in Kennewick, before later building what is now the Carnation french fry processing plant in Othello.

Curt said his interest in private railroad cars began when he watched the television program Wild Wild West as a boy. In the program, the hero, Robert Conrad, traveled in a private car.

He said he started searching for his own private car about six years ago, but few of the type he wanted were available and those available were expensive.

Curt grew up in Othello and graduated with two degrees from Eastern Washington State University, one degree in logic and philosophy and the other in industrial design.

"I had a hard time convincing myself of the logic of buying a railroad executive car, but eventually my yearnings won out over logic," he said.

Andrews won't confirm a Spokesman Review newspaper report that the car cost thousands and that it will take another $50,000 to put it in mint condition.

He did say that mint condition cars that meet the requirements to be pulled behind Amtrak trains can bring prices of $500,000.

Finding the car and fixing it up is what Andrews said he enjoyed the most.

He said once it is refurbished he'll take off and travel around renting it out. He hopes to go along as the conductor.

Andrews found the 1910 car at Tucson where it was in storage. It took six months to get it in condition where it could be certified by Amtrak to be hauled behind their trains.

Andrews became a student of old railroad cars, consulting with the Smithsonian for the proper hue of paint to match the color of the original car -- sort of a root beer brown.

He said he's trying to restore the car as closely as possible to its original condition except for the modern conveniences like an all-electric kitchen and air conditioning instead of coal stoves and fans.

When the car was converted to an executive car in 1929, the old-fashioned street cartop was filled in to give it a rounded appearance. Andrews plans to restore the top to the original look.

He will name the car after Abraham Lincoln. It was called the "Car 101" by the Denver and Rio Grande.

While President Lincoln was one of the first to recognize the value of special railroad cars and his son Robert Todd was head of the Pullman Corporation that built cars like the "101", there is no connection between Andrews' car and the President Lincoln.

Andrews and his father went to Tucson June 10 to bring the car to Bruce.

His father said the first night out they spent all their time on the observation platform watching the rails and the cactus-studded landscape slip by in the desert moonlight. "it was an experience I'll never forget," his father said.

"Curt must have stayed up all night. I went to bed around 3 a.m.," the elder Andrews said.

It cost Andrews $1,700 to move the train to Spokane behind various Amtrak trains. The cost of pulling a private rail car varies from $1 to $3 a mile, he said.

Andrews said when he finishes his overhauling job sometime next year he hopes to leas the train, but whoever rents it will probably have to be wealthy since it will cost about $1,000 a day to put the train on the track.

"For $1,000 a party of four could go in grand luxury and a party of six in first-class conditions," he said.

The $1,000 would cover the food and transportation and lodging during any trip.

"There are no other cars like it in the Pacific Northwest and while I don't have anyone lined up to rent it, there was considerable interest in the car the minute it arrived in the state."

"I really didn't buy the car with the intent to make money, but rather the challenge it offers." he said.

The modern day Casey Jones said fulfilling his childhood dream is enough of a reward.


This schematic drawing shows the make-up of the private railroad car.