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Pullman Trains: America's Passenger Class Train Cars


Written By: Christine Dantz

May 2016

Pullman Trains: America's Passenger Class Train Cars

Before there was Amtrak, several American cities had Pullman Trains. Considered a luxury train, they were a step up from Amtrak, but, were a far cry from the Oriental Express. The train's brainchild, George Pullman, built the first American-made sleeper car in 1863. He used his experience with canal boats on the Erie Canal to design and build the sleeper car.

Chicago's Alton and St. Louis Railroad gave Pullman, and his partner, New York Senator Benjamin C. Fields, their first contract and the pair went on to build their first two trains. The first two cars, the Springfield, named after President Lincoln's hometown, and the Pioneer, were built in Chicago for more than $20,000. Pullman's success was evident in 1864 when he was drafted into the Union Army, but the budding entrepreneur was able to pay another man to take his place so he could continue his work on the sleeper cars.


The first Pullman Sleepers were built in 1858-59
The first Pullman Sleepers were built in 1858-59

 

An image of the inside of a Pullman Car in 1900 on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. Although the passenger trains were sleeper cars, this picture depicts a daytime trip.
An image of the inside of a Pullman Car in 1900 on the Chicago and Alton Railroad. Although the passenger trains were sleeper cars, this picture depicts a daytime trip.




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In 1868 he built the President; the country's first "hotel on wheels." The first-class sleeper car had a full dining car with an attached kitchen. Pullman employed former house slaves that were now free, following the Civil War, as chambermaids, porters, waiters, and valets.




A Pullman porter making the upper bed on the Capitol Limited sleeper car that was bound for Chicago. The Capitol Limited ran on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) from 1923-1971.
A Pullman porter making the upper bed on the Capitol Limited sleeper car that was bound for Chicago. The Capitol Limited ran on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) from 1923-1971.

 

Moving to the West Coast, the California Limited was a dedicated passenger service that ran between Chicago and San Francisco. The service began in November of 1892 and only used Pullman sleeping and dining cars. A first-class, round-trip ticket from Chicago to California cost $100.




California Limited at Los Angeles
California Limited at Los Angeles circa 1899



Santa Fe California Limited Ad-1910
Santa Fe California Limited Ad-1910


From the looks of these pictures, Amtrak could take a history lesson from George Pullman and give America a REAL luxury passenger train service!

References
Archives: The California Limited. (1892, October 31). Retrieved from Chicago Tribune.
Capitol Limited (B&O train). (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikipedia.
Detroit Publishing Co via Library of Congress #LC-D4-42202. (1900). File: Chicago and Alton Railroad Pullman care interior c 1900.png. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
File: Pullman car interior.jpg. (n.d.). Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
File: Santa Fe California Limited ad 1910.jpg. (1910). Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
Jack Delano via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washing, D.C. # LC-USW38-000050-D. (1942). File: Pullman porter making an upper berth aboard the Capitol Limited bound for Chicago.jpg. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
Jackson, W. H. (1843-1942). File: ATSF California Limited at Los Angeles circa 1899 William Henry Jackson photo;jpg. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons.
The Pullman Company. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Pullman State Historic Site.

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Other Articles of Interest:

Amtrak or Japtrak? Japanese Company Paid to Build Passenger Cars and Now They Can't Deliver

Cocaine: America's First Cure-All Drug

An American First: The Steam-Powered Motorcycle

The First All-American Airbus Rolls off the Assembly in Mobile, Alabama

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