Modern Travel by Pullman

This 1956 brochure unfolds into a poster showing an array of Pullman accommodations on one side and a history of Pullman cars on the other. Accommodations are shown using the same illustrations as yesterday’s brochure, but the single bedroom and duplex rooms aren’t mentioned. The single bedroom had been largely replaced by roomettes; though they were used underneath the dome in Northern Pacific’s dome sleepers, those cars were built by Budd (but operated by Pullman).


Click image to download a 8.2-MB PDF of this brochure.

Curiously, of the twelve cars shown on the history side of this poster, the last one–dated 1956–is a dome sleeper. But Pullman never actually built any dome sleepers other than one for the 1947 Train of Tomorrow that was never actually used in sleeping car service. By 1956, the Pullman operating company had been separated from the car manufacturer, so the car shown here is the Budd-built North Coast Limited dome sleeper.

Pullman Day or Night

This timetable-sized booklet presents a full array of Pullman accommodations in the 1950s. These include the section, single bedroom, duplex single bedroom, roomette, duplex roomette, double bedroom, compartment, and drawing room. The booklet even distinguishes between roomettes whose mattresses were 35 inches wide for the full length of the bed and those whose mattresses tapered at the foot end to allow the guest a small space to stand when the bed was lowered.

This is another booklet whose “front” cover, shown here, is actually on the back. Click image to download a 11.0-MB PDF of this 24-page booklet.

One size of room not mentioned was the master room, the only streamlined sleeping-car accommodation that had a shower. As previously noted, this had been used on only three trains, and by the time this booklet was published, just two trains. Though there’s no date on this booklet, it mentions that Pullman was 95 years old, which would mean the booklet was issued in 1954.

Six New and Improved Accommodations

The passenger rail world was rapidly changing when Pullman issued this booklet in 1938. Railroads were buying more comfortable coaches, so budget-minded overnight passengers were more likely to sleep in reclining chairs than expensive Pullman cars. The remaining sleeping-car passengers increasingly wanted private rooms.

Click image to download a 5.0-MB PDF of this 16-page booklet.

As described in this booklet, Pullman responded by designing several more compact rooms and redesigning existing ones. Roomettes were small rooms with a sink, toilet, and a single bed parallel to the direction of the railcar. Duplex single bedrooms had sofas that converted to beds perpendicular to the direction of the car. The “duplex” part meant that half of them were three steps above the other half so that half of the higher rooms overlapped half of the lower ones. Continue reading

Pullman Accommodations: 1934

This booklet describes the types of sleeping-car spaces available to passengers in the heavyweight era. Just six types are described: the low-cost upper; the slightly more comfortable lower; the section, in which someone bought both the upper and lower for the price of a lower plus half to three-quarters of the upper; the rare single bedroom, a private room with a sofa that converted to a bed with a sink and toilet and that cost as much as an upper and lower combined; the compartment, which had the same beds as a section in a private room with a small closet and a sink, and that cost as much as two lowers and an upper; and finally the drawing room, a private room with a private bath, an upper and lower, and a sofa that converted to a third bed, and that cost 3-1/2 times the price of a lower.

Click image to download a 10.2-MB PDF of this 24-page booklet.

The writer of this booklet was fond of repeating the dimensions of every accommodation. The horsehair mattresses were all 4-1/2-inches thick, and people who got a section were allowed to have two mattresses on top of one another for nine inches of comfort. Most mattresses were 6-feet, 2-inches long and 35 inches wide, except for the third bed in the drawing room which was only 25 inches wide. The beds also all came with two pillows stuffed with 2-1/2 pounds of “downy goose-feathers.” Continue reading

Pullman’s Diamond Jubilee

The second year of Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition also happened to be the 75th anniversary of Pullman’s first sleeping car, so it issued this booklet praising its new aluminum passenger cars. The silver cover is supposed to remind people of aluminum, but since aluminum corrodes easily, all of Pullman’s aluminum cars were painted. The result is that the cover is more reminiscent of Budd’s stainless steel cars, which may have been an attempt to distract people from Budd’s truly innovative cars.

Click image to download a 5.7-MB PDF of this 16-page booklet.

Inside, the booklet praises Pullman’s innovations in the Union Pacific streamliner sleepers, such as metal privacy curtains and sinks in each of the sections. While useful, none of these were repeated in later Pullman sleepers. The booklet also devotes too much space to a phony conversation between “John” and “Mary” reminiscing about previous generations of Pullman sleepers. Continue reading

Travel the Educator

Despite the title, this booklet says almost nothing about the educational value of travel. Instead, it focuses on the huge improvements in comfort and speed provided by the railroads in general and Pullman in particular in the previous 70 years.


Click image to download a 2.1-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.

“Americans are the world’s greatest travelers,” notes the booklet, something which remains true today. What the booklet doesn’t say is that, in the early twentieth century, that travel was very unevenly distributed: the top 20 to 30 percent of Americans did most of that travel, while as recently as 1910 probably half of Americans had never been more than 50 miles from where they were born. What changed that was not the railroad as much as Henry Ford’s mass produced automobile.

The Peripatetics of a Pullman Car

Previously, I somewhat snidely mentioned that there were no Pullman Facts booklets about how the company managed to become a monopoly. But in fact the answer is hidden in Pullman Facts No. 10, which shows that Pullman provided a large pool of cars that its customer railroads could draw upon to deal with seasonal variations and special events.


Click image to download a 1.8-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.

This reduced the costs to the railroads. Since Pullman could send cars north in the summer that were serving the south in the winter, it could account for such variations with a minimum of surplus cars. Continue reading

The Pullman Bureau of Tests

“How do the Pullman builders manage always to get exactly the best material for every part and detail of the car’s construction?” asks this booklet. The answer is that the company tests everything from paint to steel. But the hidden message is that Pullman cars represent “perfection of material and construction.”


Click image to download a 1.8-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.

This claim, of course, would be upset in a few years when Budd introduced stainless steel to the passenger car industry. While Pullman no doubt did its best to please its customers, the Budd trains would make Pullmans look old fashioned and obsolete.

The Hidden Mechanisms of a Pullman Car

Pullman Facts No. 8 describes how heating, lighting, and other services work in a Pullman car. It notes, for example, that each car contained about a mile of copper wire for lighting and electricity.


Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.

The booklet also marvels at the fact that the trucks alone for a then-modern Pullman car weighed five tons more than the total weight of the first Pullman car. While this extraordinary weight contributed to smoother rides, it also meant railroads had to provide more power to pull such trains. The lightweight trains that would appear just four years after this booklet would begin a reversal of the trend toward heavier cars over time.

How a Pullman Car Is Lighted

From candles to kerosene lamps to Pintsch gas burners to various forms of incandescents, this booklet traces the progress of lighting passenger cars. The booklet notes that the incandescent system required batteries and generators stored under the car: when the car was in motion, the wheels turned a generator that not only lit the lights but recharged the batteries that were used to power the lights when the car was stationary.


Click image to download a 2.5-MB PDF of this 12-page booklet.

Edison was too famous for Pullman to take credit for inventing electric lamps. But it claimed to have done more than anyone else to bring electric lighting to passenger cars, boasting that without its efforts it might have been “many years” before passengers enjoyed electric lights on trains.