Wednesday, July 12, 2006
The Scarlet Lady (????-2006)
There is a fire that is burning out of control in San Bernardino County as I write this. It was started last Sunday July the 9th by lightening. Hayden Ranch and The Scarlet Lady are two casualties so far.
The following is taken from the Desert Gold Page.
The Scarlet Lady, as she is known, is a private railway car without equal in the entire world. In more gracious times long ago, gentlemen of great wealth and social distinction, owned private railway coaches; mansions on rails fit for kings and princes. One of that-elite royalty was the young and dashing Baron Michael Von Redl who came to America when his scandalous behavior with a titled lady in Europe made it advisable to seek his fortune elsewhere. In the Gay Nineties the Baron was adored by hostesses of New York parties where a 22-year old handsome and rich bachelor had no trouble in making friends. One of those was Willis S. Kilmer, known far and wide as the Swamp Root King, who invited the Baron to invest in his patent medicine business, which the two parlayed into a multi-million dollar venture. It was Kilmer who introduced Baron Von Redl to the joys of private railroading in Kilmer's car "Remlik", (Kilmer spelled back-ward). The young Baron, never one to take half-measures, ordered a three car train from the Pullman Standard Company, built to his specifications. The first car was an office, complete with indirect lighting, a built-in safe and the most modern of office facilities. The second was a lavishly fitted sleeping car with a fireplace, built-in wardrobes and a bathtub. The third, and by far the most wonderfully designed of all, was the Scarlet Lady, a saloon car with a bar, tasseled red velvet seating, richly carved wood decoration, silken shades and curtains and an observation platform. As far as we know, the Scarlet Lady is the sole survivor of those three remarkable cars. The Baron, eager to show off his new toy, traveled to Nevada where he invested in the Comstock Lode and made friends of Lucky Baldwin, Leland Stanford and Charlie Crocker. Later, back in New York, he rejoined his old pals, Jim Fisk, Diamond Jim Brady and Betcha-a-Million Gates in an interval of high living that eventually bored him into seclusion. Don Porfirio Diaz, the dictator of Mexico, introduced him to a beautiful Mexican actress whom the Baron followed to Mexico. There, unhappily, he vanished and it is generally thought that his fortune was dissipated and that he died in obscurity. The Scarlet Lady, herself, fell upon evil days, winding up on a dingy, siding of the Sonora Railway in Guaymas, Mexico, a pathetically ravaged, remnant of her former grandeur. She was hauled away to a railroad junk-yard at Williams. Arizona, near the Grand Canyon and it was there that two railroad buffs discovered her just in time to prevent her dismantling. They commissioned the famed art director, Martin Obzina to restore the Scarlet Lady to the splendor of her youth. For several years thereafter she was a fixture of a sumptuous restaurant near Los Angeles. In 1983 Allen Ward attended a function there and he knew, at first sight, that she belonged on the high desert ranch of Russ and Mousie Hayden whose property, long a motion picture location, had become the Hayden Ranch and Western Museum. The restaurant owners, at first reluctant to part with the ancient car, at last agreed with Mr. Ward that she take up new residence; He had her moved -- all 180,000 lbs. of her -- to the Hayden Ranch, where she was on loan to the Sandra Hayden Memorial Foundation and an outstanding exhibit in the museum complex of buildings and western memorabilia. She stands upon a section of her own track, beside a station platform that is furnished with wrought iron benches and antique lamps and she looks for all the world ready to steam away upon another madcap adventure with the Baron. Lucius Beebe, who wrote many books on the subject of American Railroads, wrote nothing of the Scarlet Lady because his books were written in the years of her obscurity in Mexico and Arizona.
In his book "Mansions on Rails" he wrote: "Great is the pity that today no single specimen of the primeval private railway car exists anywhere and that its likeness cannot be found by seekers of departed grandeur." How happy he would be to know that a single specimen does exist and that seekers of departed Grandeur have only to go to Pioneertown California where the uniquely beautiful Scarlet Lady may be seen at the Hayden Ranch and Western Museum.