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The streamlined Pullman observation-lounge car Coconino, coupled to a heavyweight sleeper painted in two-tone Pullman grey, brings up the rear of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's Chief at La Junta, Colorado on February 27, 1938.

The Pullman Palace Car Company, founded by George Pullman, manufactured railroad cars in the mid-to-late 19th century through the early decades of the 20th century, during the boom of railroads in the United States. Pullman developed the sleeping car which carried his name into the 1980s. The labor union associated with the company, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, which was organized by Pullman porters, was one of the most powerful African-American political entities of the 20th century. The company also built thousands of streetcars[1] and trolley buses for use in cities.[2]


After spending the night sleeping in his seat on a train trip from Buffalo to Westfield, New York, George Pullman was inspired to design an improved passenger railcar that contained sleeper berths for all its passengers. During the day, the upper berth was folded up somewhat like a modern airliner's overhead luggage compartment. At night the upper berth folded down and the two facing seats below it folded over to provide a relatively comfortable bunk for the night. Although this was somewhat spartan accommodation by today's standards, it was a great improvement on the previous layout. Curtains provided privacy, and there were washrooms at each end of the car for men and women.

Pullman established his company in 1862 and built luxury sleeping cars which featured carpeting, draperies, upholstered chairs, libraries and card tables and an unparalleled level of customer service. Once a household name due to their large market share, the Pullman Company is also known for the bitter Pullman Strike staged by their workers and union leaders in 1894. During an economic downturn, Pullman reduced hours and wages but not rents, precipitating the strike. Workers joined the American Railway Union, led by Eugene V. Debs.

After George Pullman's death in 1897, Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln, became company president. The company closed its factory in the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago in 1955. Pullman purchased the Standard Steel Car Company in 1930 amid the Great Depression, and the merged entity was known as Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. The company ceased production after the Amtrak Superliner cars in 1982 and its remaining designs were purchased in 1987 when it was absorbed by Bombardier.

Corporate history

See also: Pullman Strike

Pullman's Palace Car Co. capital stock certificate (1884)

The original Pullman Palace Car Co., had been organized on February 22, 1867.

On January 1, 1900, after buying numerous associated and competing companies, it was reorganized as The Pullman Co., characterized by its trademark phrase, "Travel and Sleep in Safety and Comfort."

Coach built in 1890 by Pullman for the B&O Royal Blue, now at the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, Maryland

In 1924, Pullman Car & Manufacturing Co. was organized from the previous Pullman manufacturing department, to consolidate the car building interests of The Pullman Co. The parent company, The Pullman Co., was reorganized as Pullman, Inc., on June 21, 1927.

The best years for Pullman were the mid-1920s. In 1925, the fleet grew to 9800 cars. Twenty-eight thousand conductors and twelve thousand porters were employed by the Pullman Co. A Pullman timeline is at The Pullman Virtual Museum. Pullman built its last standard heavyweight sleeping car in February 1931.

Pullman purchased controlling interest in Standard Steel Car Company in 1929, and on December 26, 1934, Pullman Car & Manufacturing (along with several other Pullman, Inc. subsidiaries), merged with Standard Steel Car Co. (and its subsidiaries) to form the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. Pullman-Standard remained in the rail car manufacturing business until 1982.[citation needed] Standard Steel Car Co., had been organized on January 2, 1902, to operate a railroad car manufacturing facility at Butler, Pennsylvania (and, after 1906, a facility at Hammond, Indiana), and was reorganized as a subsidiary of Pullman, Inc., on March 1, 1930.

In 1940, just as orders for lightweight cars were increasing and sleeping car traffic was growing, the United States Department of Justice filed an anti-trust complaint against Pullman Incorporated in the U. S. District Court at Philadelphia (Civil Action No. 994). The government sought to separate the company's sleeping car operations from its manufacturing activities. In 1944, the court concurred, ordering Pullman Incorporated to divest itself of either the Pullman Company (operating) or the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company (manufacturing). After three years of negotiations, the Pullman Company was sold to a consortium of fifty-seven railroads for around $40 million. (

Pullman-Standard built its last lightweight passenger cars in 1965, an order of ten coaches for Kansas City Southern.[3] The company continued to market and build cars for commuter rail and subway service and Superliners for Amtrak as late as the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Beginning in 1974, Pullman delivered seven hundred and fifty 75 ft (23 m) stainless steel subway cars to the New York City Transit Authority. Designated R46 by their procurement contract, these cars, along with the R44 subway car built by St. Louis Car Company, were designed for 70 mph (110 km/h) running in a new subway line under Second Avenue in Manhattan. After construction of the Second Avenue Subway was deferred, the Transit Authority assigned the cars to other lines. Pullman also built subway cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which assigned them to the Red Line. Pullman-Standard was spun off from Pullman, Inc., as Pullman Technology, Inc., in 1981, and was sold to Bombardier in 1987.

The end of Pullman

After the 1944 breakup, Pullman, Inc., remained in place as the parent company, with the following subsidiaries: The Pullman Company for passenger car operations (but not passenger car ownership, which was passed to the member railroads), and Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Co., for passenger car and freight car manufacturing; along with a large freight car leasing operation still directly under the parent company's control. Pullman, Inc., remained separate until a merger with Wheelabrator, then headed by CEO Michael D. Dingman, in late 1980, which lead to the separation of Pullman interests in early and mid-1981.

Operations of the Pullman Company sleeper cars ceased and all leases were terminated on December 31, 1968. On January 1, 1969, the Pullman Company was dissolved and all assets were liquidated. (The most visible result on many railroads, including Union Pacific, was that the Pullman name was removed from the letterboard of all Pullman-owned cars.) An auction of all Pullman remaining assets was held at the Pullman plant near Chicago, Illinois in early 1970. The Pullman, Inc., company remained in place until 1981 or 1982 to close out all remaining liabilities and claims, operating from an office in Denver, Colorado.

Pullman advertisement in 1962 Seaboard Air Line Railroad time table

The passenger car designs of Pullman-Standard were spun off into a separate company called Pullman Technology, Inc., in 1982. Using the Transit America trade name, Pullman Technology continued to market its Comet car design (first built for New Jersey Department of Transportation in 1970) for commuter operations until 1987, when Bombardier purchased Pullman Technology to gain control of its designs and patents. As of late 2004, Pullman Technology, Inc., remained a subsidiary of Bombardier.

Pullman, Inc., spun off its large fleet of leased freight rail cars in April 1981 as Pullman Leasing Company, which later became part of ITEL Leasing, retaining the original PLCX reporting mark. ITEL Leasing (including the PLCX reporting mark) was later changed to GE Leasing.

In mid-1981, Pullman, Inc., spun off its freight car manufacturing interests as Pullman Transportation Company. Several plants were closed and in 1984, the remaining railcar manufacturing plants and the Pullman-Standard freight car designs and patents were sold to Trinity Industries.

After separating itself from its rail car manufacturing interests, Pullman, Inc., continued as a diversified corporation, with later mergers and acquisitions, including a merger in late 1980 with Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc., in which Pullman became a subsidiary of Wheelabrator-Frye, Inc. In January 1982, Wheelabrator-Frye merged with M. W. Kellogg, a builder of large, cast-in-place smokestacks, silos and chimneys. Wheelabrator-Frye retained both Pullman and Kellogg as direct subsidiaries. In 1990, the entire Wheelabrator-Frye group was sold to Waste Management, Inc. The Pullman-Kellogg interests were spun off by Waste Management as Pullman Power Products Corporation, and by late 2004 that company was doing business as Pullman Power LLC, a subsidiary of Structural Group, a specialty contractor.

As a non-Pullman side note, other construction engineering portions of Pullman-Kellogg were spun off as a new M. W. Kellogg Corporation, and in December 1998, became part of the merger that formed Kellogg, Brown & Root, a specialty contractor which itself was later sold to Halliburton, an oil well servicing company. In an eventual competitive move, other Kellogg engineering interests were merged with Rust Engineering becoming Kellogg Rust, which itself became The Henley Group, and later Rust International before it became the Rust Division of what is today Washington Group International, a specialty contracting firm that competes directly with Halliburton worldwide. Washington Group International is the successor to the Morrison Knudsen civil engineering and contracting corporation, and is also the owner of Montana RailLink.

After the last of the Kellogg interests of Pullman-Kellogg were spun off, and after the railcar manufacturing plants were sold, and with the formal dissolution of the old Pullman Company (the operating company from the 1944 split), the remaining portions of the Pullman interests were spun off in May 1985 by Waste Management, Inc., into a new Pullman Company. In November 1985, Pullman bought Peabody International and the new company took the new name of Pullman Peabody. In April 1987 (after Pullman Technology was sold to Bombardier), the name was changed back to Pullman Company. In July 1987 the company acquired Clevite Industries.[4] By 1996, Pullman Co., with its Clevite subsidiary, was almost solely a supplier of automotive elastomer (rubber) parts, and in July 1996 the company was sold to Tenneco. As of late 2004, Pullman Co. (now the brand name Clevite), as a manufacturer of automotive elastomer products, was still under the control of Tenneco Automotive.

Pullman antitrust case

United States v. Pullman Co., 50 F. Supp. 123, 126, 137 (E.D. Pa. 1943) (defendant ordered to divest itself of one of two lines of sleeping car business where it had acquired all of its competitors).

Company town

Pullman, Illinois

The company built a company town, Pullman, Illinois on 4,000 acres (16 km²), 14 mi (23 km) south of Chicago, USA in 1880. The town, entirely company-owned, provided housing, markets, a library, churches and entertainment for the 6,000 company employees and an equal number of dependents. Employees were required to live in Pullman, despite the fact that cheaper rentals could be found in nearby communities. One employee is quoted as saying "We are born in a Pullman house, fed from the Pullman shops, taught in the Pullman school, catechized in the Pullman Church, and when we die we shall go to the Pullman Hell". Alcohol was prohibited in the town, as George Pullman found it a distasteful habit for his workers; though it was available in the company's Hotel Florence, primarily for the benefit of the hotel guests as it was generally too expensive for laborers.

In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court required the company to sell off the town which was annexed into the city of Chicago; the surrounding areas, which like Pullman were part of Hyde Park Township, Cook County, Illinois, had been annexed in 1889. Today, Pullman is a Chicago neighborhood, State and National Historic Landmark District with an integrated population that has a strong drive towards restoration of this unique district.

Other Pullman Sites

The Pullman Company operated several facilities in other areas of the U.S. One of these were the Pullman Shops in Richmond, California which was linked to the mainline tracks of both the Southern Pacific and the Santa Fe Railroad's, servicing their passenger equipment from throughout the Western U.S. The main building of the Richmond Pullman Shops still exists, as does the thoroughfare it's located on: Pullman Avenue.


A Pullman porter assisting a passenger.

The Pullman Company was also noted for its porters. The company hired black men for this position. Although a porter's occupation was menial in some respects, it offered better pay and security than most jobs open to blacks at the time, as well as an opportunity to travel the country. Pullman porters were unionized in the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters under A. Philip Randolph. At one time, Pullman was the largest employer of blacks in the USA.[citation (source) needed]


Rail vehicles

A 1946 Pullman-Standard PCC-type streetcar in Boston

Pullman Gallery cars

Pullman Gallery car closeup

Pullman-Standard Superliner dining car

  • streetcars (1891–1951), including the Presidents' Committee Conference streetcar, "A" series
  • Chicago Transit Authority 5001-5002 articulated rapid transit cars (1947); retired 1985
  • Chicago Transit Authority 2001-2180 rapid transit cars (1964); retired 1993
  • MBTA Red Line 01500/01600 cars (1969–70)
  • NJ Transit Comet I commuter cars (1970)
  • New York City Transit R6 (1936), R7 (1937), R7A (1938), R46 (1975–78)
  • Amtrak Superliners (1978–81)
  • Gallery I-III series Bi-level passenger cars

Pullman's streetcar building period lasted from 1891[1][2] until 1951.[5] The company one was one of just three builders (and one of only two in the U.S.) of the PCC streetcar, a standardized type of streetcar purchased by numerous North American transit systems between 1936 and 1952[6] and nearly 5,000 of which were constructed.[7] Pullman built the body of the very first all-new PCC car, a prototype called "model B", in 1934,[8] but the first production-series Pullman PCC cars were not built until 1938 (and delivered in early 1939).[5] The St. Louis Car Company captured about 75% of the U.S. market for PCC cars, with the balance of around 25% being supplied by Pullman.[5]

Trolley buses

In addition to rail vehicles, Pullman-Standard also manufactured trolley buses — or trolley coaches, as they were more commonly known at the time — starting in 1931[9] and concluding in late 1952.[10] A total of 2,007 trolley buses were built by the company.[9] Production took place at a former Osgood Bradley Car Company plant in Worcester, Massachusetts, which had come under Pullman control as part of its 1929/30 acquisition of a controlling interest in the Standard Steel Car Company.[2] The vast majority were built for U.S. cities, with only 24 being supplied to Canadian cities and a total of 136 built for cities in South America.[9] The very last trolleybuses built were an order of 30 for Valparaíso, Chile, in late 1952.[10] That city's Pullman trolley buses have far outlasted any others, and in 2009 about 15 are still in regular service there,[11] about five from the 1952 batch and the others from a larger group built in 1946-48 but partially rebuilt in 1987-88.[11] In 2003, the remaining 15 were declared a National Historic Monument by the Chilean government.[11][12]

See also

  • Pullman (car or coach)
  • Pullman train (UK)
  • List of Tram manufacturers


  1. 1.0 1.1 Middleton, William D. (1967). The Time of the Trolley, p. 424. Milwaukee: Kalmbach Publishing. ISBN 0-89024-013-2.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Sebree, Mac; and Ward, Paul (1973). Transit’s Stepchild, The Trolley Coach (Interurbans Special 58), p. 173. Los Angeles: Interurbans. LCCN 73-84356.
  3. "Pullman Co. reports earnings for Qtr. to Sept 30" (December 8, 1987). Retrieved on November 30, 2010. 
  4. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Carlson, Stephen P.; and Schneider, Fred W. (1980). PCC: The Car That Fought Back, pp. 103–4. Glendale (CA): Interurban Press. ISBN 0-916374-41-6.
  5. Kashin and Demoro, p. 59.
  6. Kashin and Demoro, p. 81.
  7. Kashin and Demoro, p. 35–36.
  8. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Porter, Harry; and Worris, Stanley F.X. (1979). Trolleybus Bulletin No. 109: Databook II. Louisville (KY): North American Trackless Trolley Association (defunct).
  9. 10.0 10.1 Saitta, Joseph P. (ed.) (1987). Traction Yearbook '87, p. 111. Merrick (NY), US: Traction Slides International. ISBN 0-961414-6-3.
  10. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Webb, Mary (ed.) (2009). Jane's Urban Transport Systems 2009-2010, pp. 65-66. Coulsdon (UK): Jane's Information Group. ISBN 978-0-7106-2903-6.
  11. "Quince troles porteños so monumentos históricos" (in Spanish). La Estrella (July 29, 2003). Retrieved on 2009-11-28.
  • Tye, Larry (2004). Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Making of the Black Middle Class. Henry Holt and Company. ISBN 0-8050-7850-9. 
  • Welsh, Joe and Howes, Bill (2004). Travel By Pullman. MBI Publishing Inc.. 
  • Kashin, Seymour; and Demoro, Harre (1986). An American Original: The PCC Car. Glendale, CA (US): Interurban Press. ISBN 0-916374-73-4.

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