Scottish Thistle. Business car. Day trip: 20 people. Overnight: Six people. Based in Southern California; (714) 544-5779, http://www.scottishthistle.com
Overland Trail. Lounge car. Day trip: 39 people. Overnight: Three people. Based in Southern California; (714) 546-6923, http://www.overlandtrail.com
Colonial Crafts. Sleeper-lounge. Day trip: 33 people. Overnight: Nine people. Based in Los Angeles; (818) 951-1800, http://www.colonialcraftsrailcar.com
Pacific Sands. Pullman (sleeper). Day or night: 22 people. Based in Los Angeles; (877) 452-7245, http://www.pullmanadventures.com
Tioga Pass. Rear-observation-platform business car. Day trip: 15 people. Overnight: Seven people. Based in Los Angeles; (877) 452-7245, http://www.ridemytrain.com
Silver Solarium and Silver Lariat. Dome lounge sleepers. Day trip: 24-66 people. Overnight: eight-40 people. Based in Oakland; (714) 751-2032, http://www.CalZephyrRailcar.com
Virginia City: Rear-observation-platform business car. Day: 12 people. Overnight: Six people. Based in Oakland; (650) 369-5405, http://www.vcrail.com
You can charter a rail car for your whole trip for about $3,500-$5,000 a day, including crew, food, Amtrak fees, etc. This approach is often used for special family gatherings or corporate events. Large groups may charter more than one car to accommodate both overnight sleeping and daytime lounging and dining. The posh Virginia City charters for about $5,000 per day.
Your group could charter a rail car for a one-day excursion. The Scottish Thistle's one-day charters from Los Angeles to San Diego run about $3,700. Its one-day, all-inclusive charters from San Diego, Orange County or L.A. to Santa Barbara — including a bus tour, wine-tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley and gourmet candlelight dinner in the rail car — run about $5,980 ($299 per person with 20 people).
Some private rail-car owners plan tours and sell individual tickets. A ticket for California Zephyr Railcar Charter's nine-day, all-inclusive tour July 1-9 from Los Angeles through Portland, Ore., to Whitefish, Mont., and Glacier National Park (by bus), returning via Seattle to L.A. starts at $4,499.