The Dome-Buffet

Second only to the observation car, the dome-buffet car was one of the most elaborate cars on the California Zephyr. In front of the dome–the short end of the car–were tables and seats for 19 people, plus two small restrooms. The photo below shows murals carved in linoleum by Pierre Bourdelle, who also did the murals at the steward’s station in the dining cars.

Click image for a larger view.

Under the dome was tables and chairs for six more people, plus one chair without a table, giving the lounge a total of 26 non-revenue seats. The rest of the space under the dome was used for a bar and small kitchen for making light meals such as sandwiches and soups.

This mural, by Pierre Bourdelle, appeared on the back wall of the main room in the lounge.

Behind the dome, in the long-end of the car, was a crew dormitory, including a large room with five sets of bunks for the dining car crew plus a shower and toilet facilities. I think they stacked two high so there were 10 bunks, but if they stacked three high there would also have been room for some of the sleeping car porters. Behind the bunk room were two compartments, one for the dining car steward and one for the zephyrette.

In about 1960, the railroads refreshed the train with new paint and upholstery. Most of the decorations in the cars were left unchanged, but the buffet was significantly altered. The Bourdelle carvings were removed and large mural was placed at the dome end of the lounge making it appear that passengers were aboard a San Francisco cable car. (Oddly, the mural was in the back end of the lounge but the photo made it appear that it was the front end of the cable car.) Cable car models and pictures decorated the other walls of the lounge.

The upper photo on this page from a 1962 brochure about the California Zephyr shows that the above mural was replaced by a photo taken from the front of a San Francisco cable car. The lower righthand photo shows that the other Bourdelle carvings were replaced by small framed pictures of cable cars. Click image to download a 12-MB PDF of this 16-page brochure.


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