Hi-Level Trains

Hi Level Train Fact Sheet

What we have—Like most businesses today, Corridor Capital stays nimble by owning as few assets as possible and using contractors to provide specific services, facilities and products on an “as-needed” basis. Click on this link to download the Hi-Level brochure in .pdf form: Corridor Capital Hi-Level Brochure Single Pages 2017

With one critical exception:  Corridor Capital owns or controls 50 of the finest railroad passenger cars ever built — a mix of double-deck stainless-steel coaches, dining cars and lounge cars built by the legendary Budd Co. of Philadelphia for the Santa Fe Railway’s finest passenger trains during the 1950s and 1960s.

Known as the “Santa Fe Hi-Levels,” the original 1955 order of 47 new cars — enough to equip six complete trains — was assigned to Santa Fe’s premium, all-reserved, extra-fare luxury coach train El Capitan that operated on a 39¾-hour schedule between Chicago and Los Angeles.  Designed to run at speeds as high as 117 miles per hour, the Hi-Levels were built of rugged stainless steel, which is impervious to rust and is three to four times stronger than conventional steels of the same gauge and weight.  Because of their two decks the Hi-Levels provided not just higher comfort but higher capacity — 72 luxury sleeper seats compared to 52 spaces in conventional single-deck equipment. Click here to see a brief overview: We re Reinventing The Wheel

The 1955 Hi-Level cars proved so popular with El Capitan riders that Santa Fe continued to market its passenger trains and maintain them at a premium level of service even at a time when other railroads were eliminating their passenger trains and claiming they could not compete with the Interstate highways and the new jet airliners.  Eight years later Santa Fe ordered another 24 more Hi-Level coaches so it could upgrade its San Francisco Chief and Texas Chief.  When Amtrak began service in 1971 it acquired the entire Santa Fe Hi-Level fleet, and when it expanded its long-distance fleet in the 1980s the Hi-Levels served as the model for the next generation of rolling stock, the Superliners.


By 2001, the Hi-Levels were coming due for a major heavy overhaul.  Amtrak lacked a congressional budget appropriation sufficient to perform a total rebuild, so it decided to sell the cars to a series of private collectors.   Most of the Hi-Levels never ran again.  In 2006-07 Corridor Capital acquired them so that they could be rebuilt and modernized for operation in the fastest-growing passenger-rail market in the U.S. — intrastate daytime corridor trains.

Hi-Level Fleet Equipment Illustration Page Hi-Level Fleet Equipment Illustration Page
(1 page, PDF)

As designed, the Hi-Levels were configured for overnight travelers, with seats that reclined virtually to the horizontal for comfortable sleep on a two-night trip.  The lower levels contained only baggage storage, rest rooms and spacious dressing rooms where travelers could change clothes before retiring.  Everyone rode and slept upstairs.

As redesigned by Corridor Capital engineers, the Hi-Level coaches have been reconfigured for daytime corridor operation, with new state-of-the-art reclining seats on 40-inch centers that raise coach capacity from 72 to 94.  The lower-level dressing and rest rooms have been replaced with a modern rest room and handicapped rest room, along with passenger seating that includes a wheelchair space.

The Corridor Capital fleet also includes a new type of interior — Business Class — with 78 spacious seats on two levels, including five sets of seats that face each other over a table for face-to-face, confidential conferring en route.  And both classes of travelers will have access to a spacious food-service car with lounge seating.

Several veteran railroad rolling-stock engineers have pronounced the Santa Fe Hi-Levels  “the best passenger cars every produced” and have called them “ageless” because their stainless-steel carbodies do not rust and are virtually immune to metal fatigue.  Before selling or leasing them to a passenger-rail operator, Corridor Capital will totally rebuild them, “tubing out” each car so that only the body shell and the truck assemblies are retained.  Everything else—air-brake systems, window glass and seals, heating and air conditioning, plumbing, electrical systems, flooring, seats, public-information systems, wheels, suspension, interior surfaces and fabrics, will be replaced with the latest contemporary technology and materials.  The cars will be virtually indistinguishable from, and interoperable with, the “Next Generation” bi-level railcars financed by the 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act.