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History of the Redwood Empire

The private railcar, Santa Fe No. 33, "The Redwood Empire," was built by the Pullman Manufacturing Company in 1923 for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (AT&SF). Most railroads utilized similar passenger cars, known in the rail industry as "business cars," for senior executives. The Redwood Empire is a heavyweight, riveted, all-steel car with a Mission Revival interior of quarter-sawn white oak, built-in cabinets, trim, paneling, and mostly brass fixtures.

Getting Business Done

Designed as a self-contained residence on rails, this car and its sisters were utilized by Santa Fe executives from its four Grand Divisions—Eastern, Western, Gulf, and Coast Lines—to do the company's business. That included inspecting track and right-of-way, serving as a temporary residence on construction sites, and, since it was equipped with a full kitchen and dining room, providing a hospitable venue to entertain local businesspeople patronizing Santa Fe's freight service.
Attendant on Train

The Kings of the (Rail)Road

Number 33 was one of eleven sister cars assigned to Santa Fe Railway Grand Division Managers, Assistant Managers, and other senior officials. "Grand Divisions," in Santa Fe Railroad parlance, were geographically based administrative regions approximating one-fourth of the railroad and commanded by a General Manager. These individuals were each the king of the road in their bailiwicks and were of such stature they merited assignment of a prestigious business car. The Redwood Empire is the only existing business car in the series that still retains its original oak paneling and brass fixtures.

Change of Owners

In 1969, AT&SF sold Number 33 to the Atlantic Richfield Corp. It was sold again in the 1980s when it bore the name "Tamalpais." As Mount Tamalpais is the dominant peak in the county just north of the Golden Gate, it reflected the locale of many of its then-owners. Redwood Empire Railcar, LLC, a California limited liability company, and SF-PV, LLC, a California limited liability company, are the current owners of the car. The current owners chose to retain the Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino identity and the area's Northwestern Pacific Railroad heritage by renaming the car the "Redwood Empire" while retaining the Number "33" car designation.

Preferred by Presidents

Throughout the 20th Century, similarly configured railroad business cars served presidential candidates as comfortable means to travel and campaign. The rear "open platform" was a convenient tool for aspiring officeholders and incumbent presidents to meet and greet in small towns and whistle-stop villages. Franklin and Teddy Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Dwight Eisenhower, and Harry Truman all made these cars famous. President Warren G. Harding made his last trip in a private railcar before passing away unexpectedly at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco in 1923, the very year Redwood Empire debuted.