Silver Horizons
The city and Maricopa Historical Society are renovating the historic Silver Horizon rail car as part of the city's new history museum in the former veterans center. [Brian Petersheim, Jr. photo]

The renovation of one of Maricopa’s most iconic historical landmarks, the Silver Horizon rail car, is progressing – with a milestone coming soon.

Paul Shirk, president of the Maricopa Historical Society, said new windows are being installed in the railcar to replace the 70-year-old original windows. When completed, the air conditioning system will be rebuilt.

“We’re installing the windows this week, then we’ll schedule with the air conditioning contractor,” Shirk said. “With the A/C, we intentionally went with the shell of the old units to keep the original look and feel, but we’ll have all new components inside them. They will be more efficient in cooling the car. They have pretty much been rebuilt; we’re just waiting on a few parts to complete the work.”

The new windows are also energy-efficient, with UV-coated and smoked glass. When those two projects are completed, the society will complete the renovation of the rail car’s interior.

Shirk said one of the attractions in the Silver Horizon railcar will be a working model of Chicago’s rail system, including the railroad yard, elevated trains, and landmarks such as Wrigley Field and Union Station.

“We’re not about stuffy history,” Shirk said. “We want to have fun with it.”

The transformation of the former veterans center into museum is almost complete and will likely be finished ahead of the railcar work.

Shirk said the historical society will coordinate an unveiling event with the city when the work is done.

The Silver Horizon is one of just seven domed observation cars on the legendary California Zephyr train that ran between Chicago and San Francisco from 1949-70.

The renovations are being funded through a donation made before the COVID-19 pandemic. The railcar, along Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway near the Maricopa Unified School District administration building, was used in a scene from the 2001 movie “Pearl Harbor.”

The railcar was moved to Maricopa in 2001 and used as a ticket office for the Amtrak station. When the ticket office was moved to a larger space, the Zephyr was moved to its current location, where it has remained a city landmark.