All Aboard

Galveston's Newest Vacation Rental

By Kathleen Maca
All Aboard 

For a unique experience that is still completely Galveston, the Galveston Railroad Museum is now offering one-of-a-kind overnight accommodations in their sleek Bonnie Brook observation car. The former New York Central Railroad car arrived at the museum last year and brought a celebrity history with it. 

 Comedian Jackie Gleason, who famously did not like to travel by plane, chartered an entire train including the Bonnie Brook to transport the cast and crew of his New York-based Jackie Gleason Show to their new home in Florida in 1964. The press dubbed it the “Great Gleason Express.” 

 Naturally, the media went crazy over an event that included live musicians, the June Taylor Dancers, actors, comedians, writers, and cameramen having one long, loud southbound party. Now, visitors can not only step back into another era by walking through the exhibit but also rent the Bonnie Brook for events or overnight stays. 

 The Bonnie Brook was the last of seven sleeper/lounge observation cars made in the Brook Series by the Budd Company between 1946 and 1949. Her sister cars were named the Singing Brook, Sunrise Brook, Wingate Brook, Babbling Brook, Fall Brook, and Plum Brook. Only three of the series are still known to exist. 

 Sam Christensen, Curator and Collections Manager at the museum, says that the Bonnie Brook was designed to be at the very end of a train. 

 “It has a rounded end that completed the streamlined look of the train so the entire thing would look like a silver bullet. They didn’t keep observation cars for too much longer after they built it in 1949. New York Central Railway started to get rid of their observation cars in the mid-50s because they didn’t generate that much revenue, and passenger service was on the decline, so it went into private hands.” 

All Aboard 

Artwalk The 72-year-old stainless steel car that once served the New England States route between Boston and Chicago radiates mid-century glamour that would be the ideal rental setting for a Mad Men theme party, poker night, cocktail parties, and other special occasions.

ArtwalkThe car can comfortably accommodate about 20 people for an event. The possibilities are endless. As Gleason himself used to say, “How sweet it is!”

Groups up to eight people can stay overnight as well. The air-conditioned car features 2.5 bedrooms, a galley kitchenette, a working bathroom with a shower, and a roomy observation lounge area.

The first bedroom features three twin bunk beds, and the second bedroom has a full bed and an optional twin bed. A third, half-bedroom will have the choice of being outfitted with two twin beds or as an office. Each bedroom also features a small toilet and a sink.

The observation lounge has seating for 20, tables, chairs, couches, and a large WiFi-enabled television. The period galley kitchenette has a working refrigerator, microwave, cooktop stove, and a coffeemaker. The museum is also offering 24-hour concierge service for overnight guests’ convenience.

This unique opportunity is available beginning June 3. Overnight rates are expected to be $800 during the week and $1,000 during the weekend booked through Airbnb and VRBO. For further details, contact the Galveston Railroad Museum at 409.765.5700.