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Pullman cars

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  • Member since
    August, 2015
  • 126 posts
Pullman cars
Posted by Autonerd on Friday, November 03, 2017 12:05 PM

Hi all -- I'm starting to take an interest in pullman cars, thanks to a fellow club members' NYC heavyweight train and those wonderful Branchline kits.

I've looked at getting some more cars for my friends' NYC train, but am wondering about running Pullmans with other equipment. I believe Pullman-lettered cars would have run on many railroads, but would that have been the green cars or two-tone grey? What other equipment would be on the train -- would the Pullmans mix with the RRs own diners, baggage cars and coaches? Would the two-tone cars mix with other RRs' paint schemes?

Any and all information would be appreciated -- thanks!


  • Member since
    February, 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 10,743 posts
Posted by wjstix on Friday, November 03, 2017 2:41 PM


Beginning in the 19th century, Pullman painted it's cars a dark green..."Pullman green"...with gold or dulux (yellow) lettering. Before that time, railroads painted their passenger cars a variety of colors, like dark red or "straw" (pale yellow). As railroads started using the dark green Pullman cars, most of them chose to paint their passenger cars the same color green, so the train cars would all match and look more uniform. Pullman cars said "PULLMAN" on the letterboard, with the car name (or occassionally, it's number) on the car body. Pullman owned the car, not the railroad, so the car could in theory go anywhere.

A few large railroads used so many Pullman cars that Pullman painted the cars into other colors to match the railroad's cars, like say Pennsylvania's tuscan red scheme. The two-tone paint scheme I think you're referring to relates to the New York Central's streamlined 1938 Twentieth Century Limited. But in the 1910's-1930's "heavyweight era" almost all Pullman cars were dark green.

Shortly after WW2, Pullman sleeping car operation was sold to a consortium made up of many different railroads. After that time, you generally saw sleeping cars painted and lettered for the railroad, with it's name in the center of the letterboard and "PULLMAN" in small letters usually near the end of the car. The cars were owned by the railroad, but operated by Pullman. As time went on, many railroads chose to use their own employees to operate the cars.

New York Central had a variety of passenger cars - Pullman green heavyweight cars, two-tone gray streamlined (and some heavyweight) cars, and stainless steel streamlined cars. It tried to keep trains uniform - two tone gray on the 20th Century Ltd, stainless steel cars on the Empire State Express - but by the mid-fifties it was "mix and match"! Most trains had a variety of cars all together.


  • Member since
    August, 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 6,666 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Friday, November 03, 2017 2:45 PM

Hi, Aaron

The subject of Pullman car assignments can get pretty complex, especially considering the broad time-frame involved.

Some of the variables to look at are weather or not the cars are Pullman owned; Pullman owned but assigned to particular trains; Pullman owned and leased to specific railroads or sleeping cars owned by railroads and operated by Pullman.

Add to this the effects of the anti-trust settlement from the 1940 case against Pullman where they had to divest the ownership of their fleet, which took years to actually accomplish. In some cases the Pullman owned cars were sold to the operating railroad, then immediately leased back to Pullman. That's when the railroad name appeared in the letterboard with smaller PULLMAN lettering at the ends, some time around 1946.

You could see the Pullman green cars operated along with the railroad's own equipment. In many cases where cars were permanently assigned to particular trains, the cars would be painted to correspond to that railroad's passenger style.

Often, but not always, the dining and parlor cars were operated by the individual railroad. Pullman offered mostly club and lounge car service but on some railroads they provided full meal service.

Pullman chose the two-tone gray color scheme for most of their "pool" cars which would be operated on an as-needed basis where traffic changes warranted. Of course, many of the regularly assigned NYC Pullman cars were also the two-toned gray.

Pullman kept records of cars available in their frequently updated "List Of Standard And Tourist Cars" which chronicled the names, numbers types and descriptions of available cars and where they were assigned.

If you can find a copy, the Pullman Paint And Lettering Notebook by Arthur D. Dubin is a valuable resource. Kalmbach published this back in 1997 and copies are scarce!

Another good book that can be found very reasonably, especially in the used-book market is The Cars Of Pullman by Joe Welsh, Bill Howes (former Pullman manager and B&O Vice President) and Kevin Holland.

Once you scratch the surface of how the Pullman Company operated it's huge "Hotel On Rails" you will be fascinated and will look for more information than can be posted here.

This site has a pretty good overview of Pullman information:


Hope that helps,


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