Round ended observation cars
Over Christmas I saw my grandson's Polar Express train and I noticed that the Observation Car had a rounded end with an open platform. I did a search through some photo archives and I found plenty of cars with a round end but no platform. Any cars I found that had platforms were squared off. I'm just curious if this was strictly a movie animation or did such cars actually exist.
While there was a lot of variation in designs for observation cars, I doubt your grandson's both rounded off, AND open platform, "Polar Express" model observation car is likely to have been based on any real car.
Older, heavyweight, steam era, observation cars had squared off rear platforms that were open to the elements. The only thing between a passenger riding on that platform and the track speeding away from him, was a simple metal railing.
If you remember the original classic film version of "Double Indemnity" starring Fred MacMurray, Barbara Stanwyck, and Edward G. Robinson, such open platforms could be dangerous, maybe.
Later, and safer, observation cars were fully-enclosed, with large windows providing the view, and with the passengers safely inside the walls of the car. These fully-enclosed cars came in several different styles, round end. square end, and domed end, were all used.
My favorite railroad, the Milwaukee Road had two of the more unusual observation car designs. Milwaukee's "Skytop" observation cars had half-dome, rounded rear ends with multiple windows in both the walls, and the ceiling. Their "Beavertail" cars had a semi-squared off rear end that sloped downward and a fin on the outside center of the car. The "Beavertail" was also one of the very few observation car designs with a seat that actually faced outward, toward the big windows in the rear, so that passengers could sit, and look directly out the window.
Oddly enough, most observation cars had only inward-facing seats. (I guess you were supposed to "observe" the passengers across the aisle! :laugh: ) As far as I know, all the many round tail observation cars had their seats facing inward. The famous "California Zephyr" train run jointly by the Burlington, the Rio Grande, and the Western Pacific, railroads, had an observation car with a dome on top. It was one of five domes on that train.
Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos: