Some Fun Facts About The Heavyweight Cars

| April 25, 2013

Thursday, April 25, 2013
Rob A.

Pullman Fun FactsWhile the individual railroads almost always owned their Coach (or Chair Car in the case of ATSF) rolling stock, up until the breakup of the Pullman Company in 1944 (enforced in 1947), Pullman owned and operated virtually all of the sleeping cars in America. The vast majority of these cars were painted in Pullman Green and simply lettered “PULLMAN”. The Pullman company also operated a significant fleet of Parlor cars (as many as ½ of the parlor cars in operation in any given year) and a handful of dining cars. The railroads themselves usually operated the dining cars as they viewed railroad cuisine as a way to differentiate their service and Pullman’s quality sleeper service was very standardized across the nation. So it was quite common to see Coaches, Baggage, and Dining cars lettered for the Railroad, but the Sleeping Cars lettered “PULLMAN”.

When you purchased a ticket for a Pullman Sleeper, you would pay the railroads for the transportation, and the Pullman Company for the sleeping accommodations on two separate tickets. The Pullman Conductor would collect both tickets, and the Pullman Porter would convert your section or compartment into sleeping beds while you were at the dining car eating. Overnight he would shine your shoes, and gently wake you up in the morning at your requested time – “Good morning Upper 5, it’s 7 o’clock and you are 30 minutes away from St. Louis” – frequently with coffee and a newspaper.


Pullman operated about half of their sleeping and parlor cars in pool service. This allowed them to assign extra cars to seasonal service, winter trains to Florida is a prime example, and reduce service in off season. These cars were typically painted in Pullman Green, or Pullman’s Two Tone Grey, with “PULLMAN” lettering. In the first half of the 20th century, they could be seen mixed in just about any train – including “Named” Trains such as New York Central’s 20th Century Limited and Union Pacific’s Overland service.

The other half of the Pullman fleet were in dedicated service. These cars were assigned to a single Pullman line, which in turn frequently ran on a single railroad. Commonly these cars were painted in the assigned railroad’s colors with both the railroad’s name and Pullman on the car. The Pennsylvania Railroad is a good example of this: <See PRR-CENTHILL> Other large railroad’s had dedicated Pullman sleepers, but they remained lettered “PULLMAN”.

PRR Pullman

ATSF is an interesting example of this because the cars were owned by Pullman, Lettered for Pullman, dedicated to ATSF service, and painted Green. But ATSF had a unique shade of Pullman Green! While they may look like Pullman Green paint, in fact they are not. ATSF green that had a hint more yellow in the color than Pullman Green. We painstakingly researched this and got firsthand confirmation that the ATSF Green color we used is a museum quality match for the prototypical color. This does not mean that they will look out of place with other Pullman Green sleepers, as the color shift is a subtle difference. But running true ATSF Green Heavyweights will seriously impress even the most diehard ATSF enthusiasts. In 1937, the following Pullman 12-1 (12 Section, 1 Drawing Room) Sleeping cars were assigned to the ATSF: 47 cars – Alpland, Aylsebury, Balzac, Bohemian, Bonsecour, Burland, Bushard, Chatsworth, East Byars, East Cairo, Elveden, Fort Monroe, Holtenau, Hopatgong, Ilsesboro, Isolita, Jefferson, McCallum, McCloskey, McConaughy, McConnico, McDowell, McKell, McMann, McPeek, McRaney, McWade, Milbank, Napanoch, Oakhill, Ondawa, Orston, Parvin, Prometheus, Raritan, Red Juniper, Red Mill, Red Oak, Red Pheasant, Red Pine, Sbago, Sundridge, Torbert, Vandor, Viento, Watanga, and Yakima.

After 1947, the Pullman fleet was sold to a consortium of 57 railroads for ~$40 Million. They then to lease the cars back to the Pullman Company who continued to operate them. From 1947 forward, the railroads began a slow process of repainting the cars into their own colors. Some of the more colorful schemes of the 1950s began appearing on classic Heavyweight sleepers such as the Union Pacific’s striking Yellow, Grey and Red.

AZL Pullman

Since most of us today are children of the Jet Age, Parlor cars were the equivalent of 1st class. Our 28-1 car had 28 individual, very comfortable, library lounge chairs. With 14 chairs on each side of the car, they each swiveled 360 degrees so you could look outside, position yourself with privacy to read, or turn to chat with the fellow next to you or across the wide isle. These cars also had a single sleeping compartment that could be booked for privacy or rest. A Pullman Porter provided any refreshments or services needed at your seat. New Haven’s Merchants Limited was a great example of all Parlor service train. The 4 hour run between New York and Boston stopped only in New Haven and Providence, and departed every evening at 5:00 PM in each direction. In March of 1949, this extra fare, all Parlor train consisted of 8 Parlor Cars (one with a Radio Telephone) and one Dining Car – all owned and operated by the New Haven Railroad.

One class of Heavyweight that out lived all the others was the Baggage car. As passenger service continued to decline through the 1960s, Mail and Express services became an increasingly significant source of revenue for the railroads to support their money losing passenger operations. Heavyweight baggage cars were perfect for hauling full cars of mail and express packages. The REA (Railway Express Agency) a forerunner of UPS was a heavy user of these cars. In the 1960’s it was not uncommon for Heavyweight Baggage head end cars to outnumber lightweight streamlined cars in passenger operations. While railroads upgraded their coaches to lightweight rolling stock in the transition era, Baggage cars were usually the last class to be cycled out of the fleet. Almost every major line had a “Mail” train consisting of 20 or more Heavyweight Baggage cars with a single lonely passenger coach attached to the rear making every stop along the line. When the railroads lost their mail contracts in 1968, the heavyweights still soldered on finding new life as Maintenance of Way (MoW) cars for decades to come.

We hope you enjoy all of our Heavyweight cars. Perhaps even more so now that you know a bit of their history and the research that went into each one.

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Category: Rob's Blog