Feasibility of a private train?

Could a multi-millionaire own his own private luxury locomotive and cars and chug across the USA and perhaps other countries as well?

He wouldn’t own the tracks of course. So how would the routes and scheduling work?

In the age of private jets it would be quite interesting to see a four star luxury train with lots of woodwork and style - oh and a car that opens up to be a helipad of course.

Before the age of air travel, very rich people did in fact own their own private rail cars. They’d have to pay a railroad company for the right to attach their car to a train going to their destination. There were specialized booking agents in major cities to handle the logistics.

Even today, Amtrak will haul private cars for a fee. (Provided the car meets modern railroad codes.) They tend to be owned by corporations and enthusiast groups, rather than individuals, these days, but there are assuredly a few people out there who have them.

Yes, of course you can given enough money. You can still attach private cars to trains or even charter full trains through some services that exist for that purpose. Lots of different trains share tracks so you can’t just ride around on a whim but, if you afford your own train, you can afford a professional staff to handle the scheduling for you.

Here is one service that offers chartered cars for 8 people at $7500 a day which isn’t that terrible and you can arrange whole trains for much larger groups as well. I have been on a couple of private trains using regular tracks and they were very nice.


I travel by train quite a bit and have seen private cars being hauled fairly often, especially between Chicago and St. Louis. One private car, the “Phoebe Snow” used to be at Chicago’s Union Station on a regular basis. I was told by one of the Amtrak employees that it was a private car belonging to one of the investors in the House of Blues who didn’t fly.

Interestingly, the singer took her stage name from the train, not the other way around.

Some of the larger US railroads, such as the Union Pacific, Norfolk Southern, and Kansas City Southern, have their own sets of passenger equipment and dedicated locomotives for executive use. Maybe a very large wad of money would persuade them to part with their equipment for a special run every so often.

Part of the reason for the dedicated locos (other than appearance) is that current passenger equipment requires so-called ‘head-end power’ (HEP), AC electricity for HVAC and lighting. Freight locomotives, even ones that produce AC for traction, are not set up for this. The choices for our zillionaire are: a) provide passenger-model HEP-equipped locomotives of his own; b) run the HVAC and lighting off a generator car that travels with the train; c) limit travel to Amtrak routes, with the private cars tacked onto scheduled passenger trains; d) rent the executive locos of the host railroad, if the host is willing.

Oh, and even if you supply the locomotives, you’ll need operating crew of the host railroad to run them. It is extremely important for safety that the engineer (driver) and conductor know very well the grade and curve profiles, speed limits and signal indications of the particular route traveled, and crew must qualify to operate on a given line.

This is all very enlightening! Thanks y’all.

The Alaska railroad carries private rail cars on their trips from Anchorage to Denali national park. The private cars are part of tours that normally include cruises on the inside passage.

Before TV sports announcer John Madden got to be very popular he used to take Amtrak to games since he won’t fly but I think he just took regular trains. Later he got his own private bus with a crew that took him to games.

There are some pretty stringent rules put out by the FRA (Fed RR Admin) that restrict passenger service to certain grades of rail, and certain distances from freight traffic. Most rail lines in the US are not classified to carry passengers, so sticking to the Amtrak routes would probably be best.

Also a problem is that there is no one organization that owns all that rail. It’s owned in bits and pieces all across the country by many different organizations. The federal gov’t requires that anyone who owns a rail line provide freight service to customers, but there’s no mandate about passenger service. So even if you find a route that has rail, you might not get permission to use it.

So yeah, it’s possible, but it’s tricky both monetarily and logistically.