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Original 1859 Pullman Sleeping Cars

History of Pullman Cars

While doing my desk research for this report, I wondered what the first Pullman Sleeping Car looked like 150 years ago, in 1859.  I found a drawing of that car and some interesting facts at

The following drawings and text are from this excellent website:

1859 - Pullman's First Sleeper Completes First Trip


The first Pullman Sleepers (above) were built in 1858-59 from a rebuilt day coaches. The first overnight trip was made on the Chicago and Alton Railroad between Bloomington, Illinois and Chicago on September 1, 1859. The body of the coach was all wood, with metal truss rods underneath. The roof was basically flat with a slight arch, and was so low that a tall man could barely stand up . The seats were adamantine, it was lighted by candles and two small wood burning stoves furnished heat. At each end was a toilet room large enough for one person. A tin wash basin was in the open. There were ten upper and ten lower berths; mattresses and blankets, but no sheets. While these cars continued to be in service Pullman didn't get an order to convert any more coaches.

1865 - The first real Pullman Sleeping Car Introduced


The first "modern sleeper" built from the ground up by Pullman was put in service on the Chicago and Alton 1865. The Pioneer was much longer, higher and wider than previous sleeping cars, railroad bridges and platforms needed to be modified to permit its passage. The car introduced folding upper berths which could folded up to the ceiling during the day. The car was heated by a hot air furnace under the floor, lighted with candles, included a raised upper deck or monitor roof and was ventilated through the deck windows. The car had two compartments at each end, eight sections, and a roomy washroom. Furnishings included black walnut woodwork with inlay, framed mirrors between the windows, French plush upholstery, polished brass fixtures, good beds, ample bedding, deep pile carpeting on the floor, somewhat influenced by the furnishing of the saloons and cabins of the river steamboats. The car ran on 2 eight-wheel trucks.

The car proved to be immediately successful, it was added to President Lincoln's funeral train and was a popular choice of several dignitaries including General Grant.

While other companies produced equally comfortable and luxurious sleeping cars, Pullman's more efficient use of space allowed him to charge more reasonable rates to passengers providing a better value.

The website gives credit for this text and photos above to:  Evolution of the Pullman Sleeping Car based largely on Pullman Progress: 1859-1929, and Modern Travel by Pullman, both published by the Pullman Company. Photos and illustrations from the Pullman Company.

Since many readers are located in Southern California, they might find the following facts interesting:

Pullman Sleeping Cars at Orange Empire Railway Museum:

Orange Empire Railway Museum exhibits three Pullman Sleeping Cars:

    * the Corydon, a 7 compartment, 2 drawing room car built in 1917;
    * the Bison Peak, a 10 section 2 drawing room car built in 1926;
    * the National Scene, a streamline 6 roomette 6 section 4 drawing room car, built in 1956.

Read more about the Pullman Legacy:

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