California Zephyr Silver Pony

California Zephyr Silver Pony
California Zephyr Silver Pony on flatcar in transit to the Illinois Railway Museum 12/10/2010 (Photo by Phil Stepek)

Funding Still Needed for Silver Pony Restoration

The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL has been the new home for the California Zephyr Silver Pony since December 2010. As of July 30, 2012, DRGW 1108 is still in the process of getting back on her trucks, getting cleaned and repaired, and hopefully will soon be joining the growing string of Streamliner cars in Yard 5.

It has been a long process fraught with twists and turns in the mire of railroad preservation efforts but all good things need time to develop fully. Your $25 donation to the Silver Pony fund will make a difference.

You can view all images by Phil Stepek showing the Silver Pony in transit in 2010 at

Photo albums for the Silver Pony at IRM show her most recent history. 

IRM California Zephyr Silver Pony Blog Updates from Phil Stepek

Phil has been working on the California Zephyr Silver Pony since it arrived on campus and has gathered data about it's recent operational history. 

On 11/3/2010 Phil wrote this response to a question about the history of the Silver Pony: 

D&RGW 1108 – "Silver Pony", coach, Amtrak 9448 (4/83-not applied), Alaska Railroad 7002 (2/84-not applied), Alaska Railroad 7033, Roaring Fork RR (10/86), DRCX 7033 (800447), Wyoming & Colorado (lease-86/87), to Canada for filming of "Narrow Margin" (6/89), stored Hudson CO, DRC Tours, Mexican American RY Nogales MX tour service in Mexico (1999). As of 2001, service terminated and car withdrawn from Mexico. Sold 5/04 in auction to Grand Canyon Railway. Car is apparently a goner. It suffered a derailment en route from the auction, was re-railed, and subsequently was crashed into somehow. Don't know what structural problems this caused, but word was they're not going to repair it. It was to be set on the ground as soon as they can arrange for a crane and used for parts. Later word was that they 'may' try to repair it. Status uncertain. Sold (along with entire railway) to Xanterra 9/06.

Other blog updates by Phil Stepek about the Silver Pony follow in order of oldest to newest. 

1/27/2011: For the folks that are just tuning in, yes we now have a DOME! a Cal Zephyr dome to boot.

Silver Pony arrived via flat car about three weeks ago, and will be a little while before its on wheels. But you know us, no moss gathering here…..

The car is cleaned out a lot, and the reading light circuits are up and running, so its not a bad view already. When I have the time, I will fire up the 110vac circuits and turn on the ceiling lights as well.

The car is open for tours “by appointment” as i am not in the car every day. Its current location is an all or nothing spot, so if i am working on Ridge, I cannot be near Pony, that kind of thing.

2/17/2011: Silver Pony is making a bit of progress. Cleanup and interior prep work continues.

The one item that we accomplished this week was the installation of the lights in the corridor under the dome. With all the windows missing and boarded, it is a dark spot, so the lights help a bunch for now.

There are five more of the round lights to be replaced, but we have located them and they are on the way.

We also got some more cleanup, vacuuming much of the broken glass off the floor.

Not quite ready to walk in bare feet yet, but better than it was when it got here, for sure.

Night lights in the bathrooms are now working as well, so it is possible to SEE the grunge.

A couple more stair lights fixed.

i have added a few detail pictures to the cars web page, partly to maintain an archive of the restoration process, partly to let the more distant friends share in the “techie stuff behind the scenes”.

Seats for the lower sections are in the works, samples are at the upholstery shop, and we have located a soft blue fabric to use. On the advice of a couple of DRGW/CZ experts, pale blue was one of the colors used for the original CZ seats, so I think we are safe for this. We will need to BUILD four backs and ten seat bottoms to complete just the seat frames on hand. Its going to take a bit, as first we will have the metal seat parts fabricated, then the wood and upholstery will need to be created.

Even though we dont need to replace all of them right now, of course I want to settle on a good fabric to use throughout the process, which might take years.

With the seat cushions being repaired/created,  we still need to find a source for the two missing frames for downstairs and about six frames for upstairs. We measured them, and discovered that while the frames are identical design, the dome seats are two inches narrower than the downstairs seats. It makes sense because the coach seats are intended to be a “home” for two days, while , in theory, the dome seats are for temporary occupancy.

Now, we ALL know better, as folks would spend the entire trip in the dome if they could.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, its important to remember that the work is just beginning on this car, and we have some rather expensive repairs in the near future just ot make the car presentable.

I estimate about $5K for windows , plus another 4-5 K for the missing seat cushions. This is NOT including replacing the missing frames or the broken dome glass OR the track space costs.

Therefore, I once again remind everyone that donations are needed, and will be used specifically for car of your choice.

Many thanks to everyone that has contributed thus far, and we hope to use your gifts wisely.

Passenger Car Department Donation Page at

3/3/2011: The work on Silver Pony is going, just not as well as I would like, its been a little hectic and energy draining.

The windows in Silver Pony are going to make me old before my time. They are frozen in place, and even with all the visible mounting hardware removed, they dont want to come out.


Seat hardware is ordered, and we are doing research on the correct fabric for the car. We have been able to locate color swatches from the archives of Mary Lawser so we actually now have a detailed record of colors.

3/16/2011: With apologies to John Bunyan….. slow but steady progress is being made on Silver Pony.

After the frustrations, and finally some information from CSRM, we discovered the physics behind the windows in the car. All are installed from the outside, directly different from all the other streamliner cars we have been working on.

Soooo, last weekend we spent one day experimenting with techniques. Tried and tried to salvage the gasket material, finally realized it was so stiff and dry-rotted, that it was never going to come apart intact. OK then, slice away! First window out on the weekend, 21 to go! Took gasket to our glass shop, and good news. The glass used , laminated tinted is still in use and available, AND the gasket as well.!!!! YAAY.

Today Wednesday, with 60 degrees and sun, and armed with an understanding of the design, we managed to get three more windows out , including the first big coach window, which had three inches of water in it.

Another small item we accomplished today was to break open the traps so we might be able to make the car a little more accessible for visits soon, because we might be able to have a staircase alongisde. The car is open most Wednesdays and weekends for volunteers, but will not be open for public until she is on her wheels and safe in a display area.

Silver Pony Images

We are not going to have much time for more progress for the next couple of weeks, because we have to prep and set up Barn 3 then Yard 5 for opening in April and May. any interested folks around the museum are welcome to stop in and see the car, i hope to have it open for visits on April 16 for folks that come to the Annual Meeting.

3/16/2011: CZ Siver Pony This car, having arrived in January, is making progress in anticipation for display.

The weather here is more inclement than is its last place of residence, and shortly after a good rainstorm, we discovered the significant water leaks caused by the broken windows. Due to this issue, we have begun the process of replacing windows sooner rather than later. In addition we continue to clean and organize the interior. missing parts have been identified and some already located for repair. Our goal is to have the car ready for display as soon as it is placed on trucks.

Completion will take years of course, but short term work should make the car safe for guests, as well as potential donors. We understand the high profile nature of this acquisition and hope to make it a positive addition to the museum. 

3/20/2011: Next the bad news. It appears that the timetable for Olympus remains stalled a bit waiting for shop time in St Louis as preparation for its travel to IRM. This probably means that in early May, after the road restrictions are lifted, the CBQ heavyweight baggage and Silver Pony will get mounted on wheels, but it means that the shop trucks will have to go under the dome and a second crane set will have to be planned once Olympus gets in.


And the rest.

This weekend is the start of the prep for Opening Day, now less than two weeks away. so for the next couple of weeks we wont be getting much done on Silver Pony.

4/7/2011: CZ Silver Pony

This car, having arrived in January, is making progress in anticipation for display.

The work on this car has been stopped temporarily, as we focus our effort on the current public areas of the department.

Window preparation is continuing, with three bathroom windows and one coach window reglazed, awaiting the gasket material and the time to reinstall.

Our efforts will be refocused once the other displays are completed in Barn 3 and Yard 5.

4/7/2011: In addition, some people have made specific donations to Silver Pony to help us make the early repairs.

Silver Pony windows and seats are my priority, as many of you know, and the gents in the Used Book Store have helped us tremendously with funds to pay for a large “chunk” of the windows.

While i applaud the funding on hand, I must remind everyone that there is a long way to go

Silver Pony alone total will be about $6,000 for windows, not even including the broken dome panel.

Then the seats….replacing the ones that are missing, (not the frames, just the seats) is gong to be about $4000

Then we begin to think about the missing parts/seats/fixtures/……..its gonna be a while before i run out of things to do on this car I am afraid.

Along the way , we will need more ventilation equipment, since we are adding another car for display. AC unit, blowers, etc.

Plus , eventually, another generator if we want to take it out at night someday.

Then we talk about the mechanical stuff we will need before we can ride it.

Please keep all of the cars in mind if you can. All donations are tax deductible and required to be spent on equipment of your choice.

5/6/2011: CZ Siver Pony

This car, having arrived in January, is making progress in anticipation for display.

The work on this car has been stopped temporarily, as we focus our effort on the current public areas of the department.

We hope to begin work once again shortly after all Yard 5 displays are completed over the next week or so.

We understand the high profile nature of this acquisition and hope to make it a positive addition to the museum.

5/15/2011: I know folks are interested in Silver Pony, but with the weather as it was this weekend, I certainly didn't plan to do windows on a ladder.

If i get a bit of sunshine, i hope to get back to it in the next week.

6/13/2011: CZ Silver Pony

We await some parts from the metal shop to allow the fabrication of the missing seats. The upholstery shop has the materials, and will begin work as soon as the framing pieces are completed.

7/15/2011: CZ Silver Pony

This project has slowed a bit, as we devote our time to the public areas and displays. upholstery work has been stopped to allow the upholstery shop to concentrate on the Nebraska Zephyr work with its short timeframe.

8/16/2011: CZ Silver Pony

While no obvious progress has been made, there has been some forward motion nonetheless. 

Light glass for all dome fixtures has been located and acquired. 

The two missing lower level seat frames have also been located and thanks to an effort by Nick, Mike and Ray, moved into the car. 

A dome seat frame has also been located complete with seats, so I now have a pattern to fabricate the dome seats themselves. 

With the NZ project complete, the upholstery shop awaits the metal frame fabrication to begin creating the missing downstairs seat cushions. The hope is to begin this work within the next two weeks.

9/25/2011: CZ Silver Pony

No real work has been completed this month as we focused our efforts on Thomas and his many friends.

With the NZ project complete, the upholstery shop awaits the metal frame fabrication to begin creating the missing downstairs seat cushions. Upholstery is in hand in preparation   The project is delayed while we solve a technical problem with the metal fabrication for the missing seats. 

10/9/2011: Out on the steam leads, patiently awaiting her wheels, Silver Pony makes more progress.

As we have mentioned earlier, we found the last two seat frames needed for the downstairs areas, and we have now gotten them apart and off to the upholstery shop for repair.

The other thing we have moved on is the pedestal frames, as we will need several of them as well.

I still hope to have all the downstairs seats done by  the time we get the car on wheels and in line with the others.

As some of you know, the car came in with some mechanical items half apart. The ventilation blowers are one example. 

During its life as a parts car, the main blower motor was stripped out, but the squirrel cages were left dangling from the ceiling, to the point that we couldnt even close the ceiling panels in the foyer when we began. Well that little problem is now solved. Last week we got them reinstalled and attached in their original spots.

At least now they seem to also be free and functional. Next item will be to pla the replacement of the motor, which is missing. The system appears to be very similar in design to the one in Silver ridge, so armed with that knowledge, we may just be able to make it right soon. The blower for the dome is still in place and still works, so I know the circuitry is intact. The ceiling lights will have to wait until i can plug the car into a power supply not connected to a GFCI plug. .

I had a similar issue with Silver Ridge at first, as the car is built with a body ground that trips the breaker when energized. I can avoid the problem using the 32v circuits of the DC rectifier.

My immediate concern with the car is the fact that I need to keep it heated to prevent freezing in the windows. Because of the delay in setting the car down, I haven't been able to fix the windows yet. Soon I hope, but since they must be installed from the outsoide, i dont hold much hope to get them done for winter.

This car has not been exposed to rain much in its recent life, and right now I am accumulating water between panes of glass. If I let them freeze, they will of course crack and make an awful mess.

11/22/2011: CZ Silver Pony

With the end of public season, we have been able to renew some work inside the car. 

Seats are in process, and the missing seat mount pedestals are also being fabricated.

Lenses for the dome lights have been acquired

The primary ventilation blowers, which were left in shambles by the previous owner, have been reinstalled, and we hope to effect motor installation soon, to allow for air movement

Electrical systems cannot be developed completely until we have the car in place (on wheels) to install a stable electrical system.

12/23/2012: Next on the good news info, is that the wheels from Olympus have been offered to us for Silver Pony. This is, as many of you know, HUGE!!!!!

The down side is, since they are now a separate acquisition, they will need to be purchased. The cost at this point appears to be about $10-12,000. Whatever the cost, they will also incur about $1000 to get them here.

They are not perfect, as we have discussed in the past, but they are the correct design, and it will allow us to get the car on wheels and work on the mechanics as time goes on. Also, while not cheap, they are the only solution we have heard until now.

It also means that the Silver Pony fund will need help in a significant way, to absorb the costs. There have been a couple of wonderful donations recently toward the car, and we are extremely grateful.

CZ Silver Pony

With the end of public season, we have been able to renew some work inside the car. Seats are in process, and the missing seat mount pedestals are also being fabricated. Lenses for the dome lights have been acquired We know the windows are a priority, but a major stalling point was locating the gasket material for the windows. With the help of the Executive Director, we have located a possible source, and hope to make progress soon.

Currently, we have gotten one of the vestibule traps working. It needs a bit of adjusting yet, but the mechanism is all back together and working.

We also have begun to work on the blower system, to try and ventilate the car this spring.  We have the fans back in place, so now we have to fabricate a blower motor mount. It appears similar to the one we built for Silver Ridge, so maybe we will get lucky.

We also are beginning to repair the ceiling lights, new ballasts and starters.

3/31/2012: Wheels for dome car Silver Pony have been located, but in three different places.

Two wheelsets are supposedly part of the donation, but the third and fourth axle will require purchasing, and the location is still not known. This information is part of the description received from the Executive Director following his last visit to the St Louis area.

CZ Silver Pony

Thanks to significant help from Lee Evans we have begun a spring cleaning of the car interior.

As with many of our other displays, we hope to make the car available for view quickly once we can get it in position, even as we continue the restoration projects.

Dome light lenses have been installed.

We cannot complete some of the work until the car is on wheels.

Seat frames have been completed by the metal shop and delivered to the upholstery shop. The hope is to have seating in the lower section completed gradually over spring and early summer.

Dome seats have been located via a meeting at the RPCA convention, and we hope to have them on hand this summer, delivered by the donor.

Window gasket material is being sought. Contact has been made with a supplier in California.

5/3/2012: CZ Silver Pony

Once again this project is stalled a bit as we await the wheels, however….

Wheels have been located, and they supposedly are expected in the next two weeks!!!

We will keep folks updated when actual work begins. Mike plans to rebuild the brake calipers before the trucks go under the car, and we hope the timing allows that.

Its a lot easier when you can walk up to the job instead of crawling under the car to get there. Downstairs seats are expected to be fabricated during late May and early June.

Nick has managed to find a guy that seems to have dome seats and is going to bring them to the museum in the summer.  This is a huge load off my list, as we were going to have to fabricate 24 seats from scratch otherwise at a 5-700 cost per seat.

Window gasket material is being sought. contact has been made with a supplier in California.

7/11/2012: Silver Pony has received a wonderful donation of 17 dome seats! Of course they are all needing upholstery, but at least I will have almost all the frames in hand as soon as I can get the funding for them

The trucks and wheels are here, as I mentioned earlier. 

Mike has seven of the eight brake cylinders off and Ray and Marc have rebuilt them. 

The eighth is frozen in place and trying to get it loose in 95 degree sun has not been fun.

The crossover and feeder hoses are in the process of being ordered and delivered.

There is some other work to do on the truck frames, so its good that we have a bit of time to do before they are under the car.

For now folks need to know that there remains a serious need for donations to Silver Pony.

The trucks will cost over $20K with wheels and all.

A huge part of the reason we took on this cost, is simply that these are true dome trucks and true Budd disc wheels for them.

The fund name is R1108DRGW – online donation

Other Online Resources for the California Zephyr Silver Pony – Images of Silver Pony at various times during operational years – Passenger Car Photo Index, Denver & Rio Grande Western – Denver & Rio Grande Western images – Pictures of DRGW 1108 Denver & Rio Grande Western Standard and Narrow Gauge Passenger Equipment Folios 

One thought on “California Zephyr Silver Pony

  1. I was at the Grand Canyon Railway Mueseum they do have 2-8-2 #4960 they also have 2 F40PH engine, they have like 3-5 dome cars I did see that California zephyr dome car car. In their yard it had a little bit of rust on it there was like, a slight layer of dirt, and grime on the streamlining, the roof looked OK But the dome glass was more sea green then sky blue the plate where it was displayed name I couldn’t see but I think it was gold lettering in like a cursive font the plat itself I think was purple. I hope this helps you guys to restore the dome car you own to its former glory.

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