The New Columbian

This beautiful booklet was used to introduce the 1949 Columbian, an all-coach train between Chicago and Baltimore-Washington that complemented the all-Pullman Capital Limited. I’ve previously described this train twice, but this booklet provides far more information.

Click image to download a 16.6-MB PDF of this 20-page booklet.

As built by Pullman, the first car on the train was half crew dorm and half coffee shop with seating for 16 people. This was followed by two 56-seat coaches; the dome-coach with 42 revenue seats, 24 non-revenue seats in the dome, and 17 non-revenue seats underneath the dome; a 38-seat diner; two more 56-seat coaches; and finally a full-length observation car with 41 seats. That’s 136 non-revenue seats for 266 revenue seats, a pretty impressive ratio (though not as high as many western trains).

Being an all-coach train, B&O originally planned to run it during daylight hours, but at the last minute put it into overnight service. A 1955 schedule shows it just a few minutes apart from or running at identical times as the Capital Limited. In 1958, the B&O added Slumbercoaches to the train.

In response to a brief brochure about the train, someone asked where the “semi-private coach sections” were located. This booklet shows that they were underneath the dome along with two small restrooms. One lounge had room for six people; another for eleven. Both lounges were non-revenue areas open to all passengers. “Their large, comfortable sofa-type seats, Marbelle flooring, fluorescent lights, and smoking accessories” made them “friendly, cozy gathering places.”

These lounges were probably used mainly as smoking rooms. The 56-seat coaches had large lounges and dressing rooms associated with the restrooms. Many Budd domes also had men’s and women’s dressing rooms associated with restrooms under the domes. The non-gender-specific lounges in these Pullman domes may have provided family space as well as smoking areas, as shown in the pictures in this booklet, but at the sacrifice of not having dressing rooms in that car.


The New Columbian — 1 Comment

  1. That would have been me that asked about the “semi-private” compartments. Thanks for the answer. This pamphlet gives a clearer view of the idea. It looks like a vain attempt at corralling smokers and having some of the smoke contained behind the half walls. Maybe they had better ventilation in those compartments too. The B&O was tough about smoking for back then. You couldn’t smoke anywhere except the “lounge” in a coach, no smoking in the Strata-Dome or in the food cars. You could smoke in the club car and a small part of the observation car. And, I guess, in those semi-private compartments.

    This is the train my family took from Akron to Washington in 1956. Since I was 10, I wan’t privy to all the arrangements but I do remember they had some sort of summer family special that saved my dad a lot of money on train fare. The Strata Dome was the first dome of any kind I rode. We were in the middle of heatwave that covered the whole eastern US. The dome was almost uninhabitable. They had railroad personnel fool with the A/C at almost every stop, but it never improved. They just weren’t meant to stand up to 95 degree humid heat. The conductor actually got on the PA and apologized. The coaches seemed to be OK though.

    The train came back during the evening and night and the dome was habitable again. Those instruments in the front were pretty cool to me, a budding weather nerd. The view was fabulous, and I enjoyed the night. We got a good thunderstorm that followed us for about 50 miles and it was quite a light show. All in all, it was quite a train to this 10 year old. But, please, Amtrak, bring back those Sleepy Hollow seats. You really could sleep in them.
    Regards, Jim.

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