It all started with Tom Rader working as a marketing guy for Holland America Cruiselines. He was looking for a way to expand tourism in Alaska so that he could promote cruise ships to go there. He thought of the idea that cruise-like train service to Denali would help that. He bought some ex-Metra/ex-SP commuter cars, along with a few ex-Milwaukee full length domes, to operate those on the back of the Alaska Railroad's train.
Tom Rader started "Alaska Tour Operators" as a cruise operation in 1982. The name was change to "Tour Alaska" in 1983 and its own private cars were added onto the Alaska Railroad. In 1986, Princess acquired "Tour Alaska" and repainted the cars using the current paint scheme. Pictured below is the "Tour Alaska" paint scheme.
Photo 1 (top) - Tom Rinehart took this photo.
Photos 2-6 - Jeff DeBrock, took these photos at the old Navel Blimp hanger outside of Seattle in the mid 1980s. The Blimp Hanger is where Princess had old SP BI-level commuter cars rebuilt into there present coaches. Robert Krol adds, "Princess sent [these domes] down to California when the current cars came online and called the service California Sun Express. I don't know where those four cars went when the service was discontinued, but it lost a lot of money in California."
Contributed by an anonymous source [7/1/05]: "Two of the original "Tour Alaska" cars are in Colorado Railcar Manufacturing's back lot, and there are a few more in Pasco, WA"
See also Restored
Cars Make First Run