by Blake Herzog
Located in front of the Maricopa Historical Society at 44240 Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway, the Silver Horizon is open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Hours will be expanded in the future, says Paul Shirk, president of the society. Updated hours will be posted on www.maricopahistory.org.
With its restored glass-walled, upper-level observation deck known as the “Vista Dome,” the car signifies the luxury in which passengers could ride the California Zephyr route between Chicago and San Francisco from 1948 to 1970 and on other routes until 1985.
This route once was known as “the most talked-about train in America,” and just seven Silver Horizon cars were produced for it.
Hundreds of people toured the car on its opening day, Oct. 7, the first time they’ve been able to since the historical society held semi-annual open houses from 2011 to 2016 while it was located at the Amtrak station at the corner of AZ-347 and Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.
The society purchased the car from Pinal County for $1 in 2017, and it was moved to its current site in 2019 to make way for construction of the highway overpass.
A “Zephyr Guild” of historical society members, local businesses, craftspeople and other volunteers teamed up to restore the rail car beginning in 2020, replacing windows, air conditioning and making other upgrades.
Shirk says a local model railroad club “for kids of all ages” is being formed, with member benefits including opportunities to run the trains within the Silver Horizon car. Contact the historical society for more details.
The Maricopa Historical Society is open 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, and admission is free to all exhibits, including the rail car.