Transportation Tuesday – Pullman Rides Again?

Pullman Car at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. Photo: Mike’s Rails

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.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.