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Princess Tours 2005 car refitting, part 1

Over the winter of 2004-2005, the first four ultradomes ever built — Princess Tours’ 7080, 7081, 7082 and 7083 — are being sent to Colorado Railcar for refurbishing and upgrades, and a general renewal of several systems. The first two cars, MSEX 7080 and 7081, arrived in Seattle on Sept. 30.

The 7080 and 7081 were the first ultradomes ever built. To the best of my knowledge, they also have never actually been to Colorado, as they were constructed in an old WWII Navy blimp hangar in Tillamook, OR, about two miles from where I presently sit.

I had the chance to look them over before they were shipped to Ft. Lupton. Being the first cars built, there are some significant differences between these and the domes that followed. The 7080-7084 were built using old Pullman bilevel gallery commuter cars. They still have the original center entrances, and several other features that aren’t common on the newer cars.

One thing that really struck me was the difference in finish compared to the all-new construction cars. The newer cars have a much smoother external appearance, and a much classier overall look. Not to detract from the originals, which certainly revolutionized the Alaskan market, but it’s obvious that Colorado Railcar’s methods have matured greatly since these four rolled out of the hangar into the Oregon sun for the first time.

The cars had already been unloaded from the barge when I made my way to Seattle, so I wasn’t able to watch that part of the process. But I did find them on Harbor Island, awaiting transfer by BNSF to Stacey Street yard. Special thanks should go out to John Crews of Princess, who took time to come back over to the island with me later in the evening to unlock the cars and let me have a look inside.

The car interiors had been completely removed prior to shipping, so they weren’t as impressive as they will be in about six months. Several elements were retained on each of the car. The ceiling on the 7080 had just been refinished, and will be carried over during the refitting process .

One thing that surprised me once we got inside was the passage between cars on the upper level. This is a feature unique to the first four cars, and is placed only on one end to allow movement between cars without passengers being required to pass through the large kitchens on the 7080 and 7082.

The kitchen on the 7080. I don’t know if any significant work will be done on this part of the car, but it was the only part of either car that didn’t show any serious signs of being disturbed.

Car 7081 and 7083 feature the largest observation platforms ever applied to an ultradome — a full 18 feet long. Small doors swing open on the back part of the platform to allow the built-in hydraulic wheelchair lift to move passengers onboard.

Another feature unique to these first four cars is the emergency exits – which are on the ends of the cars rather than the sides. It’s hard to read at this resolution, but the white lettering below each of the end windows reads “Emergency Exit”. They are removable from the inside if needed.

You’ll notice that the center window (right above the doors) is a bit smaller than the others. A small service bar is located here, as opposed to the end of car location of a lot of other ultradomes. This view also shows the rubber tube diaphragm for the upper doors. It’s also interesting that these cars don’t feature the exterior skirting of a the rest of the ultradomes. I wonder if that will be changed during the refitting.

From there, we headed inside the 7080. Click here to continue to part two of this series.

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