Pullman's First Car

A Visit to the States
by The London Times

It was not until he had run his experimental coaches for about five years that Mr. Pullman felt able to carry out his plan as he had evolved it in his brain, and he then built his ideal sleeping coach. This took a year to construct, in 1864-65, and was built in a rude shed in a railway car-yard in Chicago. He called it the "Pioneer," and it cost £36,000, and in it he developed his idea of harmony, which combined comfort and luxury with attractiveness of decoration, and when finished it was regarded as a marvel far in advance of any railway coach construction of that day. This first coach is still doing daily and profitable duty upon the Pullman lines. But when it was completed, although its fame travelled far, yet it was so heavy, so wide, and so high that no railway could undertake to run it, as it necessitated elevating bridges and cutting off station platforms.

He had a famous white elephant on his hands, but he bided his time. Suddenly President Lincoln's assassination profoundly shocked the country, and the funeral, with its escort of mourning statesmen, was progressing from Washington to Chicago on the way to the grave at Lincoln's home in Springfield, the capital of Illinois. The nation was watching its progress, and the railways transporting the cortège were doing their best. The railway between Chicago and Springfield asked for the use of the "Pioneer" in the funeral train. They sent out gangs of men, and cut off the station platforms, elevated the bridges, and took several days to prepare the line, so that the coach could go over it, and Pullman's dream at last was realized.

His coach of the future carried the dead president to his grave, and became known throughout the world. A few weeks later General Grant, the conqueror of the rebellion, had a triumphal progress from the camp to his Illinois home. Five days were spent in clearing the railway line between Detroit and Galena, where he lived, and the "Pioneer" carried the General over that line. Mr. Pullman then had the future in his own hands. The public had seen his coach, and the most distinguished men had been riding in it. They would be satisfied with nothing inferior, and the railways began demanding the coaches. The lines leading out of Chicago used them, and before long they were put upon the Great Pacific and the Pennsylvania lines.


As Others See Chicago, Compiled and Edited by Bessie Louise Pierce
University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1933