Oriental Limited Train Directory

This little (2-3/4″x4-1/4″) booklet was given to passengers aboard the train that Grace Flandrau had described in relatively florid prose. By later standards, the 1924 Oriental Limited was fairly simple: baggage cars, coaches, tourist sleeping cars, a diner, first-class sleeping cars, and an observation car.

Click image to download a 2.3-MB PDF of this 20-page brochure.

Most of the features described in this brochure are crammed into the observation car: a men’s smoking room; a women’s lounge with shower and a maid who can serve as a hairdresser, manicurist, and masseuse; an observation room with 14 seats plus a writing table; a small buffet where passengers could order drinks and snacks; plus a drawing room and two compartments. Elsewhere on the train was a men’s barber shop.

In its early years, Great Northern operated its own sleeping cars, but starting with the 1924 Oriental Limited GN joined with most of the rest of the nation’s railroads in contracting with Pullman to operate the sleepers. One advantage of Pullman operations was that the company could add more cars when there was local demand, shifting them, for example, between Florida in the winter and the West in the summer. While coaches on most western trains were lettered for the name of the railroad, sleepers were lettered “Pullman.”

This apparently is not what motivated the Great Northern to contract with Pullman, as it lettered all of the cars on the standard Oriental Limited consist by the train’s name. The cars were painted dark green, as were most Pullman cars, but with a light green letter board above the windows on which “Oriental Limited” was painted in gold. Pullman cars were still identified by the word “Pullman” in small letters at the end of the letter boards. Extra cars of tourists going to Glacier National Park would be carried by the summer-only Glacier Park Limited, so the Oriental Limited could be made up of cars marked for that train.

Most of the sleeping cars on the Oriental Limited were 12-and-1s–that is, twelve sections (with 24 beds) and one drawing room (for a total of 27 beds). In addition to regular Pullman sleepers, the train also carried at least one budget tourist sleeper. While the first-class sleepers had headboards between each section, offering a bit more privacy, the tourist sleepers did not. GN asked Pullman to convert the drawing room in the tourist sleeper into a smoking room and the former smoking room into a barber shop in which men could get a haircut, take a shower, or have their clothes pressed. This car ran immediately in front of the diner so men from the first-class sleepers would not have to walk through tourist sleepers or coaches to get a haircut or shower.

Only first-class passengers could access the observation lounge, which only had 14 seats plus a seat at a writing table. Click image for a larger view of this 1925 ad.

Only first-class passengers could access the observation car; coach and tourist-sleeping-car passengers could not. This meant that, unlike the 1955 Empire Builder, which gave coach passengers a choice of three domes, the Ranch car, and the diner, coach and tourist-sleeper passengers on the Oriental Limited had a very limited number of places to go.

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