The North Coast Limited Slumbercoach

In 1958, the Budd Company’s continuing quest to one-up the Pullman Company resulted in the development of the Slumbercoach, a sleeping car with 40 beds. Though one was used by the porter, this was still far more than the 22 beds found in most typical sleeping cars at the time. Budd persuaded the ever-innovative Burlington Route to try Slumbercoaches on the Denver Zephyr, and the Northern Pacific (which owned nearly half the Burlington) soon agreed to lease four Slumbercoaches that, starting in January, 1959, would be a part of a pool of cars used on both the North Coast Limited and Denver Zephyr.

The Loch Long, one of several Slumbercoaches that the Northern Pacific purchased from the Baltimore & Ohio in 1964. To underscore the thrifty nature of Slumbercoaches, the NP and Burlington named theirs after lakes in Scotland. Photo by Jim Sands; click image for a larger view.

Each Slumbercoach had 24 single rooms (indicated by the staggered windows) and eight doubles. The beds in each room were only two feet wide, rather than the standard three feet in most Pullman sleepers. Other than their small size, the rooms had all the features of a Pullman room, including a toilet, sink, mirror, and a place to hang clothes.

Northern Pacific’s advertising for the Slumbercoach relied on the stereotype of thrifty Scots. Click image to download a 2.6-MB PDF of this brochure.

Since NP leased its first Slumbercoaches, and they were part of a pool with the Burlington, they were left in polished stainless steel rather than painted Loewy’s two-tone green. In 1964, NP not only purchased the leased cars, it purchased enough additional cars to run on the Mainstreeter, but kept them all in stainless steel.

Slumbercoaches cost considerably less than a Pullman roomette, and NP advertised that passengers need only purchase a coach ticket plus pay a room charge, instead of buying a first-class ticket plus the room charge. But this also meant that Slumbercoach passengers didn’t have access to the first-class facilities on the train, including the observation car and dome cars in the sleeping-car portion of the train.

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