Those of us who keen for the past elegance of rail travel get a little misty eyed considering Pullman cars and the adventure and style they evoked. While there are efforts to restore Pullman service between Chicago and New Orleans, the luxury excursion service is expensive. To choose the swank class A bedroom with stationary double bed for two will run you $2850 on a one-way run between the two cities, all expenses included (drool over the various car layouts here). Not only have the cars been restored, Pullman blankets have been rewoven and the cars are staffed at Pullman-era levels. The cars catch rides with regularly scheduled Amtrak routes (and are therefore, subject to Amtrak delays in service). More news of expanding passenger service in upstate New York and Texas using restored Pullman cars can be found here.
Pullman operated from 1857 until 1984. The main plant at Pullman, Illinois closed upon the fulfillment of their last order for Amtrak in 1981. Derivatives of the Pullman Company survive today, though outside the rail business. The atrophy of American rail led not only to loss of service, but also to loss of jobs among railroaders and related industries. I hate to see waste: rail lines torn up for highways, only to choke a city with car traffic 30 years later (see my post on Ottawa). The government issued a request for proposal for Made-In-America bi-level rail cars in April 2012 to be used in Amtrak service in California, Missouri, Iowa, Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. It is an effort to start to build homegrown rail equipment in an era of increasing rail interest, and after the era during which we ate our own. Hi-speed rail doesn’t just create jobs on the trains themselves, but also in building and outfitting the trains.
Chicago in five hours? Bring it on – I’d never take a plane there again.