All aboard the Louis Sockalexis

Two old railroad passengers car are mysteriously parked just east of the La Posada. If by chance walking by, you may have noticed the hum of an electric box attached to one of the cars. What is inside? Who does this belong to?

Mike Salwitz, a medical clinic physician, comes up from his home in Payson to work at the Winslow Prison for two days out of the week. In between these two days of work in Winslow, Salwitz strolls across the La Posada grounds in front of the Amtrak depot to his other home, the Louis Sockalexis.

Salwitz bought this passenger rail car over 26 years ago from a Baltimore and Ohio railroad brakeman back east.

"When I bought this car it was a wreck. In fact, there was a sapling of an oak growing right out from one of the windows here," Salwitz said.

After getting a bargain on this rail car, Salwitz worked out a deal with Amtrak and they hooked it up and hauled it to Tucson, where he spent some time restoring it before having it moved again to Phoenix and eventually Winslow.

The Louis Sockalexis was built by the Pullman Company as an end observation car for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1949. The car was later used as private car for the rail line owner of an on the Broadway Limited in and out of New York City. The car was retired in 1963.

The Louis Sockalexis has been restored to a near replication of its former glory with only minor touches of modern technology and a few hints of local southwest culture placed throughout.

Much of the interior is wood and copper, cut and shaped to a late 40s/early 50s aesthetic. Bruce "Grumpy" Van Camp, owner of B & B Automotive Machines in Payson, has been helping Salwitz for years to fabricate and recreate the interior of the Louis Sockalexis for its restoration.

The other railcar attached to the Louis Sockalexis, was known as the "Jim Crow car," said Salwitz. He purchased this railcar from Amtrak many years ago. He said it used to be run on the Seaboard Railroad from New York to Miami that was pulled by the Silver Meteor engine.

"When the Seaboard train crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, it stopped and they forced all the African Americans into the back of the train ‹ which was this car and that is how it got its name," he said.

Salwitz said he is working on the Jim Crow Car currently, but is mostly using it as storage and would like to have it finished like the X Louis Sockalexis next door.

He said that if the Railroad Days continue then perhaps other railcar restorers would too be interesting in bringing in their projects into Winslow for train enthusiasts to see.

It was during the Winslow's First Annual Railroad Days that Salwitz first opened his railcar to be viewed by the public.

"This brings back wonderful memories. We used to ride in these all the time as kids ‹ thank you," said a tourist couple as they walked off the car.

Salwitz said he was glad to show his railcar to those interested and especially those who remember riding in railcars like them.


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