A Very Special Train
Updated: May 22, 2021
It was the most sensational setting for a book talk ever.
Since the day we met, my great friend Patrick Henry, CEO of Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, Houston, and owner of two private railroad cars, has been instrumental in furthering my work as a writer.
Patrick orchestrated one of the most interesting speaking engagements of my life. One August afternoon in Oakland, as the sun dropped over the BNSF railroad yard, and as the fog rolled in from the bay, Teresa and I boarded a private passenger train operated by the BNSF Railway. Some 24 hours later, after three spectacular meals, a cascade of fine wines and top-shelf liquors, about four hours of sleep, and in the company of a lot of newfound friends, Teresa and I disembarked the train in Los Angeles.
My obligation as a guest speaker: Somewhere between Paso Robles and Santa Barbara, I was to give an informal talk on writing fiction in general, and writing The Dining Car in particular. (It helped that everyone on the trip already had a copy of this book, which is set on a vintage private railroad car.)
Execs at the BNSF Railway designed a unique observation car they named Glacier View. It's a two-level car with multitiered, theater-style seating. The rear wall consists entirely of glass. For viewing purposes, the Glacier View always gets the coveted rear-of-the-train position.
I gave my book talk holding a microphone, perched in front of this amazing wall of glass.
I signed a non-disclosure agreement, so I can't describe the details of the group or the occasion, but I thought I'd share some shots of this very special train, which the BNSF Railway uses mostly to entertain senior executives of its freight-company customers.
For people in the know, seeing this long BNSF passenger train traveling down the California coast on Union Pacific tracks made their jaws drop. We had a lot of camera-laden railfans rushing to crossings, their lenses following our train's progress.
A few weeks after this trip, on You Tube, I came across a drone-shot video of our special train. Credit Steven M. Conroy. The aerobatics and camerawork are impressive. If you have a few minutes to spare, you must watch this. By the way, the blue-on-beige vista dome and sleeper in the middle of the train are Patrick's private cars.