Recently my employers purchased tickets for a journey on the world-famous "Orient Express" from Paris to Istanbul - and we're all thrilled of course to get rid of them for awhile. But did you know that some rich people have their own private railway cars?
If you have around a million dollars to spare you can purchase a private railway coach (also called a Private Varnish) that includes a sitting parlor, a full kitchen, a dining room, bedrooms (called Staterooms on a train or ship), an observation platform on the back of the train, and even bunk-beds for servants - someone like me.
The luxury of a Private Varnish is limited only by the imagination. You want a baby-grand piano in the sitting parlor? Tiffany stemware in the bar? Fine Italian Pratesi sheets in the staterooms? Whatever you wish.
In addition to the interior design and the purchase price of the car itself, it'll cost you another $15,000 - $20,000 a year for storage, insurance, and maintaining the car to Amtrak standards. And then, it costs anywhere from $500 to $1,500 to have it pulled from storage and added to the make-up of a scheduled train or locomotive.
As of this writing (2011) Amtrak charges about $2.10 per mile to pull a private coach. That would be roughly $6,000 just for mileage from New York to Los Angeles. But double that amount if you want to get back home, right? Then, there are other charges such as over-night parking on Amtrak property, septic services, coach washing and cleaning, crew charges, and so on.
While having your own private varnish is a huge status symbol of course, you don't actually have to own one to enjoy the luxury and leisure of private-car travel. There are companies out there that will rent private cars for family reunions, business meetings, and for eager politicians going on the stump, trying to recreate Lincoln's and FDR's famous cross country "whistle stops", giving speeches from the observation platform at the back of the train. These rentals can cost you an easy ten-thousand a day, and up.
Having said all that about owning a private coach and attaching it to a scheduled train - there's always one step above in the world of the rich. Get this: there are some rich people in this world (a few at best) who own not only a private car but also their own Locomotive. Which just blows me away.
Mercifully, my employers do not have their own private coach, and thank God! I would HATE being trapped with them for days on end in such close quarters. I'm sure you understand.
Thanks for dropping by this evening,