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George Pullman (1831-1897) was the American inventor-industrialist who created the luxury "Pullman car" railway carriages that became a feature of the US, British and Continental European railway networks.

Coffins and hotels and railways

George Pullman's career was a fairly improbable one that let him combine an odd set of specialisms to become a railway-carriage mogul.

Pullman got his start building coffins, and helped his father with work on the Erie Canal project. The canal project had to raise some buildings along the route by physically "jacking them up" on extendable supports - the buildings were "cut" horizontally, the tops physically raised up, and the gap then filled in with brickwork or other architectural work.

George Pullman then moved from New York to Chicago just as the city needed to put in a long-overdue sewerage system. Chicago's problem was that ground level wasn't too much higher than the level of the river that ran through the city, which meant that underground sewers (or basements) weren't possible. However, Chicago had a glut of money form its business as a railway hub and meat-processing centre, and the city's extreme solution was to use a similar "jacking up" method to raise its city buildings by a storey, and then raise the level of the roads running between them to match. As one of the few people with previous experience of this sort of work, Pullman became one of the engineers responsible for "lifting" hotels and civic buildings.

As an inventor, Pullman was naturally attracted to the possibilities offered by the railway business, and saw businessmen coming and going at Chicago's main station to do deals, and spending a lot of money to stay at expensive hotels. His study of hotel buildings for the Chicago project, combined with a familiarity with carpentry (and perhaps, a recollection of the long, thin, "packet boats" that ran on the Erie canal) resulted in his designing the first Pullman railway cars based around the concept of a mobile hotel on rails, the Palace Car of 1864. His awareness of the funeral industry also came in handy when President Abraham Lincoln was shot in 1865, and Pullman scored the public relations coup of having the President's body ceremonially moved across the country in a Pullman railway car.

Developing the concept

Pullman's business flourished, and he introduced other "non-railway" concepts to the railway industry. A hotel would be inefficient without passageways that let staff and guests move between its parts, so why couldn't the same be done for Pullman cars? And a great hotel often had a great restaurant, so why not include one of those, too? Pullman introduced and patented the concept of vestibuled sections connecting carriages together, and introduced a sleeper car with an attached Kitchen and restaurant section, the President, in 1867. This was followed by the Delmonico restaurant car, manned by staff from Delomonico's restaurant, New York.

Pullman joined the board of Union Pacific in 1871, and as the business expanded, Pullman set up a private town for his employees, named Pullman, but labour unrest when the business contracted, coupled with the authoritarian method in which the town was administered, led to civil unrest, the Pullman Strike of 1894 that paralysed the country's rail network, and a investigating Government commission that concluded that the town should be released from Pullman's control and allowed to merge with the rest of the growing city of Chicago.

The Pullman company became Pullman-Standard in 1930.

Pullman in Britain (and Brighton)

George Pullman was invited to Britain in 1873 by the Midland Railway, who added eighteen Pullman cars to their rolling stock, and the Great Northern Railway followed with a Pullman Car on one of their services, with other railways "dipping a toe" into the idea of a Pullman option on some services, including the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway (LBSCR) in 1875.

The LBSCR embraced the Pullmans and introduced a four-car all-Pullman Pullman Limited Express in 1881. They added new vestibuled "Pullman Pups" cars, and the 1898 London-Brighton Pullman service became the Brighton Limited in 1899. This was followed by the seven-car Southern Belle in 1908 ("The Most Luxurious Train in the World"), which originated the classic brown and cream Pullman livery (Pullmans had previously normally been brown with gold lining).

The Southern Belle was also the first British Pullman train to be built in the UK (rather than assembled in the UK from parts shipped from America), and other all-Pullman services started to spring up around the country, including the Bournemouth Belle, the Flèche d'Or (Golden Arrow), the Continental Boat Express, and many others. Brighton's Southern Belle was replaced by the new all-electric Brighton Belle in 1934.

British Pullman carriages were serviced at a works just up the line from Brighton Station, at Preston Park.

Further reading

  • Charles Fryer British Pullman Trains: A tribute to all Britain's steam, diesel and electric Pullman services (Silver Link Publishing Ltd., 1992) ISBN 0947971785
  • Antony M Ford Pullman Profile No 1, The 12-Wheel Cars (Noodle Books, 2008) ISBN 9781906419004
  • George Behrend Pullman in Europe (Ian Allan Ltd)
  • Don Carter, Joe Kent and Geoff Hart Pullman Craftsmen: Life in the Pullman Car Company's Preston Park Works, Brighton 1947-1963: A view from the shop floor (QueenSpark Book 27) ISBN 0904733505
  • Ivan Broadhead Pullman Past and Present Meccano Magazine, October 1961

External links

Pages in category ‘Pullman’

The following 71 pages are in this category, out of 71 total.

Media in category ‘Pullman’

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