While traveling by train through Glenwood Canyon, Cyrus Osborn of the General Motors Electro—Motive Division came up with the idea of a panoramic dome. This would allow train passengers to see all around them while traveling by rail. While similar ideas had been thought of before, none were successful until the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad took Osborn’s design and built the first Vista Dome car, debuting it in1945.
The dome car design was offered free of licensing and royalty fees under the idea that General Motor (GM) parts would be incorporated by the companies building dome cars. To showcase the new design, GM partnered with Pullman-Standard to build four dome cars that would travel the country. The new “Train of Tomorrow” was completed in May 1947 and pulled by a GM locomotive. From May 1947 to October 1949, the train crossed the United States and Canada.
Luncheons and excursions were held for guests at many stops and the doors were opened for public displays where people could view the train cars. Each dome car was different: the chair car, named “Star Dust”; the dining car, known as “Sky View”; the sleeping car, called “Dream Cloud”; and the lounge-observation car, named “Moon Glow”, the only surviving car which sits in Ogden, Utah in very poor condition.
The train made a trip through the Royal Gorge on November 10, 1947 while traveling to Grand Junction. Other stops in Colorado included Denver, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. Photos of the train in the Royal Gorge show the train moving through the gorge, photos on the Hanging Bridge, and the train parked at the bottom of the Incline Railway. The last location appears to be where people were allowed to walk through the train and view the different cars.
After touring the country, the dome cars were immediately put into use by the Union Pacific Railroad Company. By 1965, all the cars were retired and the “Train of Tomorrow” became just a memory.
Special thanks to Larry Green for providing information on the train for this blog.
The information presented in this article is compiled using research conducted by the Royal Gorge Regional Museum and History Center.