Bar Cars: End of an Era?


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Used to be a lot of bar cars on a lot of railroads. Most are gone. In the 1970’s “new” cars were built for what is now Metro North. Now these cars need to be replaced and a debate is going on to replace them or to get out of the bar car business.

The bar cars don’t run as frequently as they used to as some are already retired, but there is a WebSite for tracking current bar cars running and what trains they are on

Picture above is of the most famous bar car. Only the New Haven could come up with a car name such as “V:XI-GBC.” This translated to, “5:11 Gentlemen’s Bar Car”. The New Haven had little to do with choice of names. Despite the Pullman pool livery, it was railroad owned after 1956.

Here is a story of the bar cars that replaced older “conversions” when the New Haven and rest of current Metro North upgraded to the M1, M2, etc in the 1970’s.

We have lots of information on bar cars in general and the “V:XI-GBC.” in particular. See the Connecticut Railfan WebSite and the Commuters Website.

Information below is from the New Haven Technical & Historical Society:

  1. The V:XI GBC was NEVER a private club car
  2. The Cars history is as follows Built 1913 as Plan 2411A 12 sec  1 Dr, 1 Cpt, with Gothic arched windows as La Fourche. Rebuilt as Wall Street 4007A on 12/20/30 and assigned to the Reading for NY Phila service. It was an error in the records that the car was renamed Westward Ho It never happened. The cars were renumbered for the NHRR by the NHRR
  3. Wall Street was bought in 12/31/45 by the NHRR and leased back to Pullman for operation until 12/54. The car was painted NH #13 Pull Green and later TTG on 9/28/54.
  4. The Wamsutta is a totally different car with Ice A/C and 242a trucks which could not be V:XI GBC. That was an error by the authors of the guide. And the RR records have a glitch in them.
  5. I and other students of the Pullman NHRR operations came to the conclusion that the cars were not renamed but renumbered to group them for RR service as Pullman only tracked cars at that time by NAME only. The best evidence is the Plymouth up at RMNE.

Shown below are some comments on the possible demise of the Metro North Connecticut line bar cars:

Given that they’re worn out and it’s not worth the expense of converting the unpowered singlet option orders into bar cars, do the M8’s (or M7’s) have the capability of interfacing with a generic coach if it’s sandwiched between MU’s? I would think propulsion would not be an issue for one unpowered outlier sandwiched on a longer consist driven by, like, 3 powered pairs since they are capable of trainlining with singlets. But are the MU’s capable of providing compatible hotel power for a “foreign” car and otherwise keeping the consist in systems sync through a foreign car? Because if they can do that with unpowered MU singlets it would seem like an unnecessary design compromise to totally preclude coupling, system compatibility, and communication pass-thru with just one generic sandwiched in the set. You know, like a private car for special runs. Unless there’s something that special about the MU’s design requiring a fully custom singlet.

What a lot of people do not understand is bar cars are underutilized money loosing cars.
yes bar service is profitable, but the bar car is NOT, so both MTA and CDOT are seeing less and less need for bar cars.


Converting a coach to work with MU’s would require a complete electrical revamp, a different brake system, a hep source trough control wiring, pantograph/third rail gear etc etc and only for a car that carries only 25% of passenger capacity of regular car and is only used in Bar service one out of 4 trips.

Every seat counts. I cannot see a clear enough reason to give up seats to sell drinks on board the train when there are dozens of bartenders selling their products in GCT.

Replacement/s trains will become the ‘brown bag specials’ and the ‘carry out ltd’s’!!! Martinis and Manhattans in ‘sip’n’staw’ boxes!!

Nothing so sinister, the bar carts in GCT openly sell same stuff for you to carry to your seat at a much higher profit but at same price.
A bar cart sells 10 times amount of Alcohol of a Bar car, but with very little down time and no expensive railcar to maintain.

Start serving breakfast & lunch on those things sell a contract to Dunkin Doughnuts etc I am sure someone will buy out the space outside evening rush hour. Their can definitely be a profit for the bar cars.

Impossble to do, US health code could never be satisfied.
No wash facility, no bathroom with proper facilities for food establishment etc etc etc

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10 thoughts on “Bar Cars: End of an Era?”

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