Power Car 1785

Power Car 1785

US Army Kitchen Car to Amtrak Baggage Car

Head End Power (HEP) car 1785 is ex-Army Medical Service Ambulance Kitchen Car number USAX 89608 built in 1953, by the St. Louis Car Company. Construction was based on a World War II-era car design utilized by the Army Medical Service and the Army Transportation Corps. It was part of an order for kitchen and ambulance cars that were produced to replace cars shipped to Korea

The purpose of an ambulance kitchen car was to prepare meals on ambulance trains. Ambulance trains were used to move wounded soldiers from a port of entry to bases or other facilities throughout the continental United States. Kitchen facilities included a double oven coal-fired stove, ice boxes, food storage lockers, a hot water heater, three sinks, a pressurized water system and even a shower.

Soon after the new ambulance trains were delivered to the Army, they started to use long-distance air travel which quickly supplanted ocean liners as the predominant transoceanic transportation and eliminated the need for the trains. During the next major conflict (Vietnam), most travel involved jet aircraft. Most of these cars were stored for over 20 years and were retired without ever entering service

After retirement, many similar cars were converted into “shorty” baggage cars by Amtrak in 1976, like our car, or used as platforms for HEP cars, like we are now doing. Our car was Amtrak shorty baggage car 1352 and had HEP capability added to it in 1984. By 2002, 1352 was no longer in service on Amtrak and it was sold to the Heber Valley Railroad, renumbered HVRX 3684, and stored in Ohi-Rail’s Minerva yard before being donated to the ELDCPS in December of 2016.

ELDCPS Baggage Car 1785

In January of 2017, baggage car HVRX 3684 was renumbered RPCX 1785 for

movement from Ohio to Pennsylvania. Although this is not an historical Erie, Lackawanna, or EL car, we numbered it one car above the last Osgood Bradly milk car in that series because it resembles that type of car.

Work commenced on Baggage Car 1785 shortly after arriving in Scranton in mid-April 2017. Early work included the removal of several years of detritus that had accumulated while the car was stored. Once that was done, volunteers started to remove the diamond plate that Amtrak had installed over the

original wood decking. This revealed that the floor had suffered severe water damage over the years, water has seeped in between the diamond plate and the wood floor. We are now in the process of replacing the floor from the baggage door opening to the end of the car with new lumber, and reattaching the diamond plate to the new floor.

We will be installing two 27″x48″x48″ fuel tanks in the “A” end of the car and a 350KW generator set ahead of the fuel tanks once the floor is rebuilt. Installation of train line switching gear will follow to control when the generator’s output is applied to the train’s power distribution bus. We hope to have this car in service before the end of August with help from our members and the public. We are trying to raise $60,000 for this project through donation and fundraising events. Please consider donating to this project by clicking the “Donate” button below.


For the latest updates on work being performed on these cars, look for new posts on our homepage or see our past posts under the Equipment Update category


Northwest Railway Museum:  United States Army Medical Service Ambulance Kitchen Car USA 89601
Railway Hospital Trains.org:  Army Hospital Trains by Robert S. Gillespie, MD, MPH
Amtrak Photo Archive (unofficial):  The 1300 Series Baggage Cars