It took well over a hundred telephone calls to find one of the ex SP domes in Tampa Florida .
I had dug up the information that it was an Ice Cream Parlor in St Petersburg, owned by Mr. Belmont of the 50's singing group "Dion & the Belmonts". I even had the address of the place but I was about 3 years late since by the time I got through to the Chamber of Commerce for St Pete, all I could get was the address - they had no record of the business.
Next, off to the Police Department to ask if they had a listing for what was there now as information had no listing for "The Belmont Station Ice Cream Parlor". I was able to get them to tell me that a crusier in the area stated that there was a Subway shop there, and info had the number.... a sub shop in a dome - cool!!!
I rember the first call to them ..."yes we are at that address, no we don't have any dome car, or any passenger cars here"! "But I remember my dad taking me there for ice cream cones when I was young."!!!
A request to speak with the manager gave me the "landlord's" name and address; this required about sixteen calls to twelve different departments to "find" someone who could help, then to their lawyer to verify the "amount" of information I was eligible to recieve, or not.
Then I got someone who was by now sick of me to give me the phone number of the "office" of the condo there that Mr. Belmont was living at....
Many calls later, stilll nothing (gotta protect those old "stars" ya know ! ). Finally a fellow passenger train fan I had met in the area said that he had heard there was an ex-Amtrak dome at "some motel in the Tampa area".
Well the logical place for me was the "Econo-Lodge / Steak Depot" on Bush Ave, since I had spoken with the owner and his partner (his daughter) on several occasions. They were in possession of a number of other Amtrak cars, all of which they verified in past conversations, but Oooooopppppppssss sorta forgot to mention the huge dome car sitting out by their POOL!!!!! And yes it was "given" to them by some guy in St Pete! Duuuuh!
Another call, and re-call to verify the number on the cars sides and thankfully the Amtrak number still existed, even though they had renumbered the car with a completely false SP number and a big sign stating that it was "The largest railcar ever built" painted on it's side! It was incredible how many times I had spoken to these people, and not once did they bother to mention "Oh yeah...we also have the biggest railcar ever built out back by our pool"!
So, an upcoming business trip to the Orlando area found me spending the night in Tampa at a particular motel...sure enough, It was there!! (as well as a ton of other cars, most of which have been "Gas - Axed" since then). Total cost...estimated at $245.00 in telephone calls alone for ONE car (you gotta be NUTS to try and do this kind of research!)!
(side note - the car was drug out and shipped to New Orleans in 2001, rebuilt, and is now operating again on the Panama Railway).