Missouri Pacific Planetarium Dome Coach No. 892 was one of three "Planetarium Dome" coaches built by the Edward G. Budd Company, for the Missouri Pacific Railroad in June and July of 1948 as part of a $14 million investment in their "Eagle" fleet. The original numbers for these three coaches were No. 890, No. 891, and No. 892.
The Colorado Eagle
The Colorado Eagle was an overnight train that ran from St. Louis, Missouri to Denver, Colorado via Pueblo and Colorado Springs. This attractive train included three sleeping cars, a standard coach, a grill coach, and a diner lounge car in addition to the one dome coach. The train had three consists to cover the run. Each consist contained a dome coach. Each railroad that bought dome cars referred to their cars with a unique name, these three domes, while in service on the Missouri Pacific were called Planetarium Domes.
While in Missouri Pacific service the dome coaches were painted to match the other cars in the consist. The colors of the cars were blue and white with gold and silver striping. The vestibules were stainless steel. The original numbers for these three coaches were No. 890, No. 891, and No. 892. The first two cars, No. 890 and No. 891, carried "Colorado Eagle" on their letterboards, and primarily saw service on that train. However, 892’s letter boards simply carried "The Eagle” so as it could be used on the Texas Eagle and Missouri River Eagle trains as well. By 1952, No. 890 and No. 891 had their letter boards changed to read "The Eagle" allowing Missouri Pacific greater flexibility when making train assignments.
From February through June of 1963 a general renumbering of lightweight cars was ordered by the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Dome coaches No. 890, No. 891, and No. 892 were renumbered to No. 590, No. 591, and No. 592 respectively.
The Missouri River Eagle
In 1964, the Colorado Eagle was downgraded due to declining patronage and the dome coaches were transferred to the Missouri River Eagle running between Omaha, Nebraska and St. Louis, Missouri. The dome coaches were also run on trains 21 and 22 running between Ft. worth, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Illinois Central
In June of 1967 the Missouri Pacific sold the three dome coaches to the Illinois Central Railroad. The Illinois Central planned on using the dome coaches on their trains, the City of Miami (running between Chicago, Illinois and Miami, Florida), and the City of New Orleans (running between Chicago, Illinois and New Orleans, Louisiana). During their service on the Illinois Central, the dome coaches were painted chocolate and orange on the exterior. The Illinois Central renumbered dome coaches No. 590, No. 591, and No. 592 to No. 2200, No. 2201, and No. 2202 respectively.
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Club
In 1972 the Illinois Central sold dome coach No. 2202 to the Heart of Dixie Railroad Club of Birmingham, Alabama. When the Club received the car it was repainted metallic burgundy with gold stripes and lettered Heart of Dixie for service on various club sponsored excursions.
Cosmetic Restoration Work
During 1988 and 1989 the interior of the car underwent a cosmetic restoration effort involving new seat covers in a tan fabric. These covers replaced a black and silver vinyl covering that the Illinois Central had applied to the seating. The interior was also repainted at this time and many windows were replaced, most noticeably the teardrop corner windows of the dome and the front and rear facing windows in the dome. When received from the Illinois Central, these windows had been plated over. The upper portions of the dome windows are still plated over. Supposedly the railroad did this because when running in and out of Chicago, children lacking direction and guidance were throwing blocks off of bridges and smashing the windows.
In 2015, the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum cosmetically restored the exterior of No. 2202 back to its original MP No. 892 heritage. The No. 892 is a great example of a Dome Coach in its original configuration. Most Dome Coaches today have been modified for use as dining cars, or have had heavy modifications made in order to be used in Amtrak Service.
Special thanks to the Missouri Pacific Historical Society for their assistance with paint samples and other knowledge allowing us to perform an accurate exterior painting of the car.