Rock Island business car "Lake Michigan" was built by the Pullman Company in 1950. Originally, it was one of ten lightweight, Cor-Ten steel coaches constructed to Rock Island specifications (Pullman plan W52013, Lot W6888) for General Electric Company's "More Power to America" train.
The interiors contained the latest in GE electrical equipment instead of chairs and luggage racks. The train toured the country showing its contents, by invitation only, to prospective industrial and power company clients - seldom to the general public. It visited 2000 cities, plugging the importance of electricity in 1950's America.
In the autumn of 1951, the cars were purchased by the Rock Island and finished for use as 72-seat coaches at the huge car repair plant and coach shop at 49th and Wentworth in Chicago. They were given names and numbers as follows:
In 1953, car number 352 was converted into Rock Island business car "Lake Michigan" and given the number 101. It was assigned to J. D. Farrington who was, at that time, president of the Rock Island. As delivered by Pullman, these ten coaches were fitted with fluted stainless steel sides. Because of corrosion problems on business car Lake Michigan, the lower fluted panel was replaced with flat plate steel in 1968. This corrosion problem apparently occurred on several of the other coaches in this series as well.
Business car #101, Lake Michigan, once the pride of the Rock Island, was sold to a private California company in 1980 as part of the bankruptcy liquidation. The new owner, who was not a railfan, refitted it for his and his family's personal use, and renamed the car "Felipa".
Montana Rail Link, Inc. bought the car in 1988 and completely rebuilt it in their Missoula, MT Car Shop. The car was rewired and equipped with new diesel generators.
The interior layout, while similar in floor plan to the original Lake Michigan, has been modified somewhat to suit the MRL management. The car has been repainted and named "Silver Cloud". The car number, 101, has been retained.
MRL's beautiful "Silver Cloud" was placed in service on March 30, 1990, and was first used in a train on official business on April 10, 1990. Its specifications and credits are as follows:
AMTRAK Number - 800033
Dimensions - Length, coupled: 85 feet, 7 3/4 inches
Width: 10 feet, 8 1/2 inches
Weight - 149,550 pounds
Capacity - Overnight Accomodations: 3 bedrooms
Sleeps 5. Day trips: 12
Electrical - 480v. Head End Power
Auxiliary Generators - Northern Lights/John Deere powered 60kw and 40kw
Diesel Fuel Capacity - 150 gallons
Water Capacity - 450 gallons
Car body restoration, electrical work by Equipco
Metal Fabrication by Ironhorse Welding, Inc.
Air conditioning by Temp-Rite Service, Inc.
Painting by Rainglow Services, Inc.
Signs by Integrated Signs, Inc.
Interior design and furnishings by PJ's Interiors, Inc.
Upholstery by Lance Hartley
The Rock Island Digest, Volume 6, article by Larry Thomas, entitled "Traveling First Class on the Rock Island".
Rock Island Lines News Digest, January, 1952.
The Official Pullman-Standard Library, Volume 8 - Rock Island.
Photo of MRL business car "Silver Cloud" provided courtesy of Montana Rail Link, Inc.
Photo of CRI&P business car "Lake Michigan" from R. L. Decker collection, used with permission from the estate of R. L. Decker.
Special thanks to Milt Clark at Montana Rail Link, Inc., for historical information and specifications on "Silver Cloud".
Article and scanned images contributed to RITS web site by Wade Calvert.