The terms Pullman, Pullman Body or Pullman Limousine do not refer to automobile bodies manufactured by the Pullman Company. Rather they pay homage to the Pullman railroad car by using the term to describe the absolute finest limousines money can buy.
Mercedes-Benz in particular has made various Pullman models from the early 1920s all the way up to current model designations (eg: 2016 Mercedes-Maybach S600 Pullman Limousine). Another overseas manufacturer of Pullman's was Thrupp & Maberly who constructed a series of Pullman limousines on 1950s Humber chassis. Humber listed a Pullman range from 1930 through 1954. British funeral car builder Woodall Nicholson also manufactured a line of Humber Pullman Hearses in the 1950s.
The York Motor Car Company of York, Pennsylvania manufactured a Pullman automobile from 1905 to 1917. According to its president, A.P. Broomell, the moniker was used to reflect the same kind of quality and luxury offered by the rail car manufacturer, which was not related in any way to the automobile manufacturer. Several Pullman automobiles survive out of the estimated 12,000 to 23,000 cars constructed.
The Ranier Automobile Co. (1905-1911) claimed it was the "Pullman of Motor Cars" in its 1908 advertising and many other manufacturers, both domestic and overseas advertised their vehicles rode 'like a Pullman' or had 'Pullman-style' appointments or interiors.
Interestingly, the subject of the preceding accolades, the Pullman Company of Chicago, Illinois, made a significant foray into the manufacture of automobile bodies from 1919-1936. During that time they constructed large numbers of production all-metal automobile bodies for Moon (10,000 closed bodies in 1924-1925), Packard (open bodies from 1919-1925 and sedans 1924-1925) and several other firms (Peerless, Velie, Willys-Overland).
Production of all-steel bodies and stamped steel components continued on a smaller scale into 1925 when existing contracts were completed. After several years of dormancy Pullman sold off their auto related body patents to Budd in 1930. Between 1932 and 1952 the Pullman Co.'s (Pullman-Standard Car Mfg. Co. after 1947) Worcester, Massachusetts plant manufactured several series of trolley buses, producing 2,300 examples between 1932 and 1952. During the end of its corporate life Pullman also purchased ne of the Us' best known trailer manufacturers, Trailmobile, reorganizing it as the Pullman-Trailmobile division of Pullman, Inc., with plants in Northbrook, Illinois & Longview, Texas. That firm's history is covered on the site under the Trailmobile entry.
The railcar manufacturing history of Pullman's Palace Car Co. / Pullman Co. / Pullman Inc. / Pullman-Standard Car Mfg. Co. has already been well covered by rail historians so I'm only going to concentrate on the founder's life and the firm's foray into production automobile bodies and trolley buses.
George Mortimer Pullman was born on March 3, 1831 in Brockton, Town of Westfield, Chautauqua County, New York, to James Lewis (aka Lewis) and Emily Caroline (Minton) Pullman. Lewis was a native of Rhode Island and his wife Emily a native of Auburn, New York. Situated 1 mile south of the southern shore of Lake Erie, Brockton was a small farming community located approximately 54 miles southwest of downtown Buffalo.
George had 9 brothers and sisters, two of whom died in infancy: Royal Henry (1826-1900), Albert Benton (b.1828), Frances Carolan (1833-1834), James Minton (1835-1903), William Eaton (1837-1839), Charles Lewis (b.1841), Helen Augusta (b.1843), Emma Caroline (b.1846). and Frank William (b.1848) Pullman. Two of George’s older brothers, Royal Henry Pullman and James Minton Pullman became prominent Universalist ministers, Frank William became an Assistant US District Attorney for New York, while the other two, Albert Benton and Charles Lewis, would assist him in managing his Chicago enterprises. One of George's sisters, Emma Caroline, married Dr. William F. Fluhrer, chief surgeon of Bellevue Hospital, New York City, while the other, Helen Augusta, married George West, a prominent New York City woolen merchant.
Originally a farmer, George’s father, Lewis, had subsequently learned the carpentry trade and gathered some experience in the moving of old buildings. In 1841 he applied for a patent for a novel method of removing existing structures through the combined use of weights, trucks (multi-wheel), carriages (frames) and capstans:
In 1845 Lewis relocated the family to the Town of Barre, Orleans County, New York where he established his own cabinet shop and house moving service. George, our subject, having just completed the 4th grade, remained in Brockton for several years, taking a $40 a month position at the Buck & Minton general store which was co-owned by his uncle, John H. Minton.
By 1848 George had moved to Orleans County to work as an apprentice at his family's furniture works, which was then headed by his eldest brother, (Royal) Henry. During the next few years, his older brothers Henry and Albert married and moved away and by 1853 George assumed control of the firm.
Lewis, the family patriarch, had fallen ill several years earlier and after a long period of gradual decline finally passed away on November 1, 1853. His widow Emily was confronted with the necessity of providing for herself and her minor children and 22-year-old George, being the oldest unmarried son, stepped up to the plate and relieved her of her financial burdens.
In addition to cabinetry, the Pullman works built all kinds of furniture and several couches attributed to Pullman currently reside in homes and businesses located in and around Albion. Pictured to the right are 2 pieces that can be found in Albion's Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home, the former residence of Lieutenant Governor (1851-1854) Sanford Church.
By the mid-1850s, the Erie Canal, begun in 1817 and finished according to the original plans in 1825, had become inadequate to the demands made upon it. Plans were introduced to widen the waterway and New York State advertised for bids for contracts to move/remove buildings in the way of the proposed canal improvements.
The tremendous business opportunity was not lost on Pullman who successfully secured one contract which called for the removal of approximately 20 structures, several of which were large warehouses located in downtown Albion.
The 1855 New York State Census lists the Pullman family in the Town of Barre, Orleans County, New York where George is listed with his mother Emily C. and five younger siblings; James (occupation cabinet maker), Charles, Helen, Emily (Emma) and Frank. Although it's very hard to read the original document it appears that his occupation is listed as gentleman.
In 1856, Pullman answered an advertisement seeking contractors to help raise Chicago buildings to help control flooding and to allow a modern sewer system to be installed. Chicago was constructed on marshland and. being level with Lake Michigan, during storms the water frequently backed into the cellars, causing massive flooding and unhygienic conditions. Many of the city’s blocks were at or near the water table, requiring that the entire east side be raised an average of six feet.
Most of the buildings and blocks were raised by the engineering firm of Brown and Hollingsworth, principals of the firm being Bostonian James Brown and Chicago engineer James Hollingsworth. However, smaller contracts were available and with $6,000 in capital Pullman joined forces with Charles H. Moore forming Pullman & Moore, which won several such contracts during the next few years greatly increasing the two partners personal fortunes. One of the largest jobs they secured was the raising of the old Tremont House, something like three feet above its foundation. Their listing in the 1861 Chicago directory being:
Between 1856 and 1860 Pullman made frequent trips between Albion, Buffalo and Chicago tending to his various business interests and based on his own accounts it was at this time that he got the idea of an improved sleeping-car. His was not the first - that distinction goes to the Cumberland Valley Railroad who in 1836 put into service a bunk car christened the Chambersburg. This car, with its permanent bunks at three levels, was imitated by a number of railroads. In 1838, the Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore Railroad put into service the first cars with convertible seats for both day and nighttime use. In 1843, the Erie, though only three hours end-to-end, put into service the 'Diamond Cars' so known because the truss-work in their sides dictated that the windows be of that shape. Other designs followed, as inventors tried to improve each other's' inventions. But early efforts had one thing in common: they were not known for their comfort.
One night while riding in a Woodruff sleeping car Pullman noticed that the rattling and jolting of the car as it traversed the uneven track bed made sleep all but impossible.
At that time the bunks provided were nothing more than three tiers of shelves similar to the bunks on the canal boats. It was necessary on rounding a curve to hold on tight to keep from being spilled out on the car floor. A person could recline in such a bunk, but it would have been foolhardy to try to sleep.
The unusual roughness and discomfort of the trip set Pullman to thinking, and during the six hours occupied by the run he considered the question in various ways. Before the end of the journey was reached he had decided to build a car in which it would be possible to sleep, and which would also give passengers as much comfort as the space at command permitted.
On a 1858 trip to Albion, New York Pullman met with his old friend, Benjamin C. Field (b. June 12, 1816 – d. August. 14, 1876), a prominent businessman and politician who was also active in railroad circles. He casually mentioned that he had received the rights to use Woodruff's sleeping-car patent on certain Western railroads - presumably in return for getting some favorable sleeping-car legislation through the New York State Assembly.
He had no Western partner to help develop the franchise, so along with his younger brother Spafford, Field took in the enterprising young contractor, forming Field & Pullman to see what income could be derived from the Woodruff patent. At the time Chicago was rapidly becoming the nation's railroad center, and Pullman, who now had some business experience in the city, was in the right place at the right time.
Benjamin C. Field's biographer claims the sleeping car incident took place while the two partners were travelling to Chicago from Albion:
Field & Pullman signed contracts with the Illinois and the Galena and Chicago Union to provide them with Woodruff-style sleepers, with Pullman serving as the firm's Chicago agent.
Field had previously constructed his own sleeping coach using a Dayton, Ohio firm. The car was afterwards run on the Alton road and was distinguished by its exterior, which was covered in lettering listing destinations from around the county - it is said "there was not a place on the side of the car but what had the name of some place on it." As Field & Pullman did not have any shops of their own, the task of constructing the cars was subcontracted to third-parties, who completed the work under Pullman's direction.
The partner's first sleeping cars were constructed at the Chicago and Alton shops in Bloomington, Illinois in 1857, and were made from old day coaches Nos. 9 and 19. The exact details of the sleeping furniture are not known, but if the arrangement of an 1897 replica can be believed, it differed from Woodruff's standard three-tier scheme. It was thought at this time by the railroad officials that two cars of this character would be sufficient. The two cars entered service during the fall of 1859, one to be run from St. Louis to Chicago, and the other from Chicago to St. Louis every night.
In remodeling the cars everything was taken out from the inside of the day coaches, and the contract between Field & Pullman and the Alton company was that the former company was to keep up the repairs on the inside of the coaches while the railway people were to make the necessary repairs on the outside.
The lower berth was a double berth, and there were two single berths above. Field & Pullman charged $1.00 for the lower and 50 cents for the upper berths. The car at that time was a great curiosity, not only to the general public, but to the trainmen as well. Old-fashioned stoves with blocks of wood for fuel furnished the heat in those days.
In an interview with Pullman historian Joseph Husband, Leonard Seibert, a former employee on the Chicago & Alton Railroad, recalled the first two Pullman Cars:
The cars as stated above were run to and from Chicago and St. Louis. On the departure and arrival of every coach each evening and morning either Mr. Pullman or his brother, Albert B. Pullman, would be at the Alton depot to note the progress the car was taking with the traveling public. The employees of the railroad did not take kindly to the sleeping car, criticizing its president, former Governor Joel Aldrich Matteson for "putting $4,000 into new-fangled cars and not paying them their regular wages", a situation which led to the first railroad strike in Illinois.
Pullman historian Joseph Husband also interviewed J. L. Barnes, who was in charge of the first car run from Bloomington to Chicago over the Chicago & Alton.
Pullman's first sleeping-car business was thus underway, but it was not promising enough to hold his full attention. The Field brothers, however, were content with the progress and Field & Pullman purchased several more sleepers named 'Tremont' and 'Southerner', one of which was built by Barney and Smith in 1860 or 1861. Operations were extended to the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad and by July of 1863 the Alton had four Field-Pullman cars in service and had contracted for four more.
Field remained a member of Field & Pullman for several years, until about 1866, when the company was succeeded by Pullman's Palace Car Company. His obituary in the August 16, 1876 edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle briefly mentions his railroad interests:
"Subsequently Mr. Field became interested in politics, and gave his attention to the contract business, especially in the building of railroads—some of the most important in this country have been constructed under his supervision."
The 1860 US Census lists George M. Pullman temporarily back in Orleans County, his occupation, 'house raiser' and the household made up of George, his mother Emily C., and 3 younger siblings; Helen, Emily and Frank.
As early as 1860 Pullman began investing in Pikes Peak, Colorado, which was experiencing a gold rush.
He realized that the real money to be made was not though mining, but in supplying other fortune hunters with goods and transportation, and formed the firm of Lyon, Pullman and Co. with James E. Lyon.
The firm operated an ore crushing mill at the town of Russell Gulch as well as a mining supply store in Central City, operating a freight business to assist customers in transporting ore and supplies to and from their mines. Disagreements with his partner resulted in Lyon's share in the firm being acquired by Spafford C. Field, a partner in the Field & Pullman sleeping car business. He also acquired an interest in a silver mine and brought Charles H. Moore, his partner in the still active Chicago-based house-moving firm of Pullman and Moore out to Colorado to help expand his growing business.
During the next few years Lyon, Pullman & Co. developed 1,600 acres of property into the Cold Spring Ranch, a prominent base camp located on the road to Denver, where miners could bed down, camp, purchase supplies, and buy a meal and a drink. The Ranch also served as a depot where weary animal teams could be switched over for fresh ones, giving it the moniker 'Pullman’s Switch'.
He subsequently began to spend more time in Colorado, and began living there full time in the spring of 1862. Pullman's visits to Chicago were frequent enough to keep him active in the affairs of Field & Pullman and in April, 1863 he moved back to Chicago, a wealthy man – having earned more than $20,000 (equivalent to $300,000 dollars today) from his year in Colorado.
Now that the Pike Peak's gold rush was over, the sleeping-car business of Field & Pullman took center-stage and Pullman got serious about what up until that time had been just another side-line. At that time he was facing some stiff competition from both Webster Wagner (New York Central Sleeping Car Co. - later Wagner Palace Car Co.), Theodore T. Woodruff (T.T. Woodruff & Co.; Central Transportation Co.) and his younger brother Jonah Woodruff (Central Transportation Co.; Woodruff Sleeping & Parlor Coach Co.).
To make a mark of his own Pullman theorized
he would have to pull out all the stops and come up with a
sleeping car so luxurious that wealthy patrons would get in line to
In July of 1863, Field and Pullman took delivery of a new $20,000 56-passenger 58-foot-long four truck convertible parlor/sleeping car they had commissioned from the Wason Car Co. of Springfield, Massachusetts. Christened the Springfield after the hometown of its builder (which coincidentally shared its name with then-President Lincoln's Illinois hometown), it incorporated 14 sections with a stateroom occupying each end. During the day it functioned as a typical parlor car with sofas lining the perimeter. At night the sofa bottoms would slide out, their backs folded down forming beds separated by a 3 foot aisle down the center of the car. Each of the 12 center sections also included overhead bi-lateral sleeping berths that folded down from the ceiling, providing sleeping accommodations for 4 passengers. Each state room slept 4, providing sleeping accommodations for all 56 passengers.
As magnificent as the Springfield was, Field & Pullman's next sleeping car, the Pioneer, gathered far more publicity, and marked the first time the partners constructed their own car, under their direct supervision. Its construction commenced in a leased portion of the Chicago & Alton car barns during late 1864 under the direction of George M. Pullman's brother Albert. The 48-passenger coach featured 12 identical 4-passenger compartments, its dimensions being one foot wider and two feet taller than its predecessors, due to its novel clerestory ceiling. Like the Springfield, the Pioneer was a twelve-section convertible sleeping car whose upper berths hinged from the back side of the car and tipped up in front. It included crossways seating and a combination linen closet, saloon, and washstand located at each end of the car.
In his 1917 book, 'The Pullman Car' Joseph Husband included the exact costs of the Pioneer:
Although period accounts (including many of Pullman's biographies and obituaries) claim the Pioneer was so heavy and wide its use necessitated raising trestles and bridges and cutting off station platforms, the facts tell another story. In his 2002 book, 'The Chicago & Alton Railroad; The Only Way,' railroad historian Gene V. Glendinning, states:
The Springfield and Pioneer combined comfort and luxury with attractiveness of decoration, and when finished were regarded as a marvel far in advance of the competitions, however they were deemed too heavy, too wide, and too high, requiring that a few existing bridges and railway stations be raised and widened in order to accommodate them. Although they embodied many of the features that would become standard in all subsequent Pullman cars, they remained in the train-shed of the Alton Railway during most of 1864, a year in which Pullman was called to serve in the Union Army, but like many young men with means, hired a substitute to take his place.
Although the two cars were little used, they attracted the attention of James F. Joy, president of the Michigan Central, who gave Field & Pullman sleepers a shot on his railroad. Pullman took every cent of money he could get his hands on and ordered four new cars, built to his exacting specifications. They cost $24,000 each, and when Joy learned how much money had been expended on them it amazed him so much that he was on the point of ordering a discontinuance of all experiments. Joy held up the trial for a month, and then allowed the cars to go out only on condition that each one be accompanied by an old-style car. The old cars were deserted. People who traveled preferred to pay $2 for a berth in a Pullman car, rather than 50¢ or 75¢ for a bunk in the jolting, spring-less cars.
Still, most railroad men could not see the advisability of investing $25,000 in luxury sleeping cars, and they contineud to purchase the less expensive cars made by his competitors. This led Pullman to on the pathways to ecome both an operators and a manufacturer, a scheme that would make him a multimillionaire with a decade. He also set about getting patents on the moveable celestory sleeping berths and transformable seating systems Field & Pullman had introduced in their sleeping cars as follows:
Upon the dissolution of Field & Pullman, Field later gave Pullman full rights to the 2 patents by assignments dated September 23, 1867, and October 24, 1868. In 1875 they were renewed and reissued solely under Pullman’s name:
The following appears in the text of the renewal:
Investors did not flock to him, but he got together enough to start operations, and the five cars he already had on the rail were earning money. The big roads centering in Chicago were pushing out in all directions. The transcontinental roads were open for business. The ending of the Civil War had paved the way to railroad extension in the South. All these facts gave new opportunities for Pullman's business, however his prospects received an unexpected boost in late April, 1865 when the Pioneer was included as part of the train that ferried passengers from Chicago to Springfield, Illiniois.
The Pioneer's legendary status was also bolstered by Pullman's claim that it was prominently featured in President Lincoln's Funeral Train, with some later accounts stating as fact that the Pioneer carried the President's remains.
In reality Lincoln’s remains were placed
President's Car', an ornate open-vestibule car built in Alexandria,
the car shops of the Military Railroad System in 1864. Eight other
made up the funeral cortège, none of which had any connection with
the Chicago & Alton Railroad. Also included on the train were the
of his son, William Wallace (who had died in 1862), who would join
those of his
The Funeral Train left Washington on April 21, 1865 making a circuitous journey across the Northeastern US for the next ten days, making lengthy stops at Baltimore, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, New York City, Albany, Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus and Indianapolis. On the morning of May 1st, it passed through Michigan City, Indiana at 8:00 am, arriving at Chicago's Court House at 11:00 am after which his coffin lay in state until 8:00 pm the next day. The train left Chicago on the evening of May 2, 1865 travelling to Springfield where his remains were interred in a huge ceremony at the specially-prepared tomb the following day.
Gene V. Glendinning relates what additional facts that he uncovered concerning Pullman's involvement with Lincoln's Funeral Train:
Glendinning concludes that while the Springfield and Pioneer were used during Lincoln's funeral ceremonies, they were part of a special train (which included 11 sleeping cars) that carried various Chicago and Northern Illinois dignitaries down to Springfield just ahead of the funeral cortège so they would be there to greet it. He concludes:
Soon after Field & Pullman created their first full-service hotel on wheels, a matched two-car set called 'The President'. It marked the frist time they had combined a sleeper with an attached kitchen and dining car whose food and service rivaled the finest hotels of the day.
Although Field & Pullman's flagship Springfield and Pioneer saw little use during the next few months, clever exploitation made them household names, and they brought Pullman and the firm some much needed publicity which resulted in new cars, new investors, and more importantly new customers. The Michigan Central became a customer in October of 1865; the Burlington Line joined that November and by the end of 1866 Field & Pullman was operating 37 cars on six lines - including every major line operating out of Chicago.
During that year the firm placed a dozen more cars under construction and on May 19, 1866 Pullman formed a partnership with Hannibal I. Kimball and Robert H Ramsey, who controlled a similar operation running out of Atlanta. By 1888 the Pullman, Kimball and Ramsey Sleeping Car Co. had sleepers running on ten southern railroads.
Pullman soon tired of having to deal with partners, and sought the advice of Chicago businessmen John Crerar (of Crerar, Adams & Co., a railroad supply house) and Marshall Field (of Marshall Field & Co., a Chicago dept. store) who offered to back him in taking the company public. His longtime partner, Benjamin C. Field (unrelated to Marshall Field), was less than enthusiastic and in January 1867, the pair dissolved the partnership and Pullman assumed Field's share in the firm in exchange for future loans.
Pullman's Palace Car Co.'s $1 million charter was approved by the Illinois Legislature on February 22, 1867 and the board of directors (who included Crerar & Field) elected Pullman as president and general manager; Charles W. Angell, secretary; and Albert B. Pullman, general superintendent. Its listing in the 1867 Chicago directory follows:
The new corporation owned all of the sleeping cars on the Michigan Central Railroad, Great Western Railroad (Canadian), and New York Central Railroad, and with the increased capital as his disposal, Pullman set about implementing his vision of establishing a single nation-wide sleeping-car network. Pullman mostly handled marketing sleeping car services, while his brother Albert managed the manufacturing end of the operation. Charles Angell, a lawyer who later embezzled thousands of dollars from the company, handled all of the new company's financial and legal affairs.
Up until that time most of Pullman's cars had been manufactured/refurbished by third parties. In order to control costs it was essential that he have his own dedicated factory, which presented itself in the form of the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad’s Aurora, Illinois car shops, which manufactured most of his equipment up until he purchased his own dedicated factory in 1869.
On June 13, 1867 Pullman married Harriet Sanger, daughter of a construction company owner, and the union was blessed with the birth of four children: Florence (1868-1937), Harriet (1869-1956), and the twins George, Jr. (1875-1901) and Walter Sanger (1875-1905) Pullman. In the 1890s a young German named Gustave Behring claimed that he was an illegitimate son of Pullman, a claim steadfastly denied by the Pullman family.
Building upon the success of 'The President', Pullman's first full-service hotel on wheels, he set his sights on building an even greater stand-alone dining car. 'The Delmonico', which debuted in 1868, was named after the famous Manhattan eatery of the same name. Built at a cost of $20,000, the 60 foot long, 10 foot wide car seated 48 and was staffed by 2 cooks and 4 white-jacketed waiters whose gourmet selections were served using the finest china, crystal, silver and linen money could buy. Pullman also provided employment to former house slaves who served as porters, waiters and chambermaids throughout the Pullman system.
After a chance meeting with future steel magnate Andrew Carnegie – who held a substantial stake in the Woodruff brother's Central Transportation Co., Pullman's largest competitor – at Manhattan's St. Nicholas Hotel, the two businessmen formed the Pullman Pacific Car Co., a $500,000 firm organized in November of 1867 to provide the Union Pacific railroad with sleeping cars.
The new contracts called for more cars and as demand increased, it became necessary for Pullman to consolidate his scattered manufacturing operations into one facility. In 1869 he purchased the Detroit Car and Manufacturing Co. which was located at the intersection of Crogham and Dequindre Sts. in Detroit, Michigan. The plant, which also intersected the Detroit & Milwaukee Railroad, was a full service facility which during the next decade constructed an ever-increasing variety of railcars which included; parlor cars, sleepers, dining cars and baggage cars.
Unlike most of Pullman's operations, the Pullman Pacific Car Co. was not a success. Competition from the Central Pacific Railroad's Silver Palace cars and from Union Pacific's line of budget-priced tourist sleepers resulted in an operating loss. In order to make the line profitable Union Pacific and Pullman Pacific entered into an association agreement in October of 1871, which gave both firms a 50% share in the sleeping car business which continued into 1884 when Pullman Pacific's share in the Association was transferred to Pullman's Palace Car Co. Also unsuccessful was the southern branch of Pullman's operations, the Pullman, Kimball and Ramsey Sleeping Car Co. which had run into numerous obstacles during it half-decade in operation, first and foremost being its chief competitor, the Southern Transportation Co.
However all of that ceased to be of concern when he acquired control of the Central Transportation Co. (and the associated Southern Transportation Co.) in February of 1870. Not a takeover in the traditional sense, Pullman shrewdly negotiated a $264,000 per annum 99-year lease with the Central Transportation Co.'s largest shareholders, making a similar arrangement with the associated Southern Transportation Co. whose main investors, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas A. Scott and J. Edgar Thompson, were the same.
Now that he controlled the lion's share of the nation's sleeping car business Pullman set about acquiring the remaining independents, and in February of 1871 he took over the Paine Lines (Enoch H. Paine of Louisville), forming the Pullman Southern Car Co., a consolidation of the Pullman-controlled lines in the Cotton states and in 1872, the Erie and Atlantic Sleeping Car Co., a firm which leased sleeping cars to operators in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. By the end of the year Pullman controlled over 500 sleeping, drawing room, and hotel cars and held numerous maintenance and operation contracts with various third parties. Another 400 cars were jointly owned with associated firms and Pullman's Palace Cars traversed the nation on approximately 30,000 route miles of track. Although his famous sleeping cars were unavailable for purchase, Pullman's car manufacturing operations enjoyed a brisk business in manufacturing and outfitting standard passenger (chair) and dining cars for third parties.
By 1875 the Golden Age of the Pullman Palace Car had arrived. Riders were treated to a full bar, freshly prepared gourmet meals, and a good night's sleep in modern rail cars equipped with electric lighting, leather seating and the latest heating and air conditioning systems. George M. Pullman's business model of leasing clean fully-staffed sleeping and dining cars to the nation's railroads was fully realized. At that time he had several hundred thousand dollars in reserve, controlled $100,000 worth of patents, and operated over 700 luxury rail cars on both sides of the Atlantic. The firm's listing in the 1875 Manhattan directory follows:
By the early 1880s Pullman had a half-dozen manufacturing facilities at its disposal. In addition to its four main US facilities - St. Louis, Detroit, Elmira (NY) and Wilmington (DE) - he controlled several factories in Europe and England. Orders for rolling stock, which now included boxcars, refrigerated cars, baggage cars, parlor (chair) cars, dining cars, mail cars and its world-famous sleeping cars, would soon exceeded its capacity and Pullman set about searching for an ideal location to construct a car-building factory that would suit the firm's future needs.
In 1880 the Pullman board allotted $800,000 to purchase a 4,000 acre plot located 14 miles southwest of Chicago adjacent to Lake Calumet and the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad in the Town of Hyde Park. For many years Pullman had sought a permanent solution to the nation's ever-increasing labor problems, and after much thought and discussion settled on the idea of building his employees a company town – a clean and culturally invigorating community where they would live and work in harmony with their employers.
Architect Solon Spencer Berman and landscape designer Nathan Barrett were hired to design the new plant to be constructed adjacent to Pullman's planned community for which they would also furnish the plans.
The August 5, 1893 issue of Scientific American commented on a scale model of the city that Pullman displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World's Fair) in Chicago:
The town's massive 2,500 hp Corliss engine cost $77,000 and was fueled by scrap wood from the factory. Through a novel transmission system it helped power all kinds of machinery including a pump that transferred raw sewage to a company-owned farm where it was used to fertilize the fields that supplied produce to the community.
Completed in 1884 the town of Pullman was completely fireproof (constructed of brick, steel and mortar) and all of its inhabitants enjoyed state of the art facilities which included indoor plumbing and municipal gas, water, sewer, maintenance and sanitation services. The town's Arcade building was the forerunner of the shopping mall and featured a wide assortment of shops as well as a restaurant, bank, free library, post office and theater.
However Pullman differed from other municipalities in that it had no government. The town was merely an extension of Pullman's business empire and it too was expected to turn a profit (6% for the town, 8% for the factory). Its residents did not own their homes and residency required that at least one household member work at the plant.
Like its namesake, the town of Pullman was also dry – the only bar was housed in the Florence Hotel, and it was only allowed to serve alcohol to guests – requiring that Pullman residents interested in getting drunk had to do so outside the city limits. Pullman also kept tabs on which books were carried in the library, what merchandise could be carried in its stores and what performers could appear at the theater.
Despite a few downsides, most Pullman employees/residents were happy to live there, and were far better-treated than their contemporaries.
Pullman's various operations dominated the nation's railways during the 1880s and his designers and engineers came up with several important safety innovations, the most important being the vestibuled train – which effectively converted a passenger train (whose cars were bellows-equipped) into a single long interconnected car, a feature that all passenger trains continue to use today.
Although several vestibuled concepts had been tried, it was Pullman engineer Henry Harold Sessions that created the first practical bellowed system. Patents related to the system, one of which was attributed to Pullman himself, follow:
For passing between cars, there was a passageway in the form of a steel-framed rectangular diaphragm mounted on a buffing plate above the center coupler. The vestibule prevented passengers from falling out, and protected passengers from the weather when passing between cars. In the event of an accident, the design also helped prevent cars from overriding each other, reducing the risk of telescoping.
Prior to the development of vestibules, passage between cars when a train was underway was both dangerous - stepping over a shifting plate between swaying cars with nothing on either side but chain guard rails - and unpleasant, due to being exposed to the weather, as well as soot, red-hot cinders and fly ash raining down from the exhaust of the steam locomotive hauling the train.
Pullman's first set of vestibuled cars were introduced on the inaugural run of the Pennsylvania Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad on June 15, 1887.
With Pullman enjoying a virtual monopoly he had few worries during the 1880s and early 1890s, however his mishandling of employees after the panic of 1893 would ruin his until-then untarnished reputation. It was the worst economic depression the United States had ever experienced and was marked by the overbuilding and shaky financing of railroads, of which Pullman was a direct participant. Compounding the railroad bubble was a run on the gold supply and consequent run on banks, with the stock market seeing its worst decline in history. By 1894 the unemployment rate in Pennsylvania hit 25%, in New York 35%, and in Michigan 43%. Over 500 banks failed, 15,000 businesses went bankrupt, and thousands of farms went idle.
To offset any losses to his investors and himself, in late 1893 Pullman slashed production and - rather than invoking mass layoffs - cut hourly worker's wages roughly 33% across the board – all three reasonable response to the economic emergency. However Pullman made the grave mistake of keeping everyday expenses for his captive employees, eg: rent, utilities, food and other commodities, at pre-panic levels. As the rent for Pullman, Illinois residents was subtracted directly from their paychecks, many hourly workers found themselves with only a handful of dollars in take-home pay.
For example a typical hourly employee earning $30 per month before the panic saw their take-home pay reduced to $20. However their monthly deduction for rent and utilities stayed the same - $14 per month was typical for many Pullman residents – leaving them with $6 a month to pay for their family's food and other living expenses.
By 1894 Pullman workers residents were getting desperate, begging the company - and its president and namesake - to reduce the rents to reflect their reduced wages. Their cries fell upon deaf ears and Pullman's workers turned to the American Railway Union (ARU) for assistance, who soon enrolled a large percentage of the Pullman plant's workers. Enraged, Pullman refused to negotiate with the ARU or its president, Eugene V. Debs, and on May 11, 1894 as many as 90% of Pullman factory employees went out on strike (unaffected were the porters, cooks, maids, ticketing and maintenance workers of Pullman's Palace Car operating division). During the next few weeks some striking Pullman workers returned to work and Debs realized more drastic measures were called for and organized a boycott of midwest railroads carrying Pullman cars. Although the boycott was ultimately effective west of Detroit (at its peak it involved 250,000 workers in 27 states) opposition from the railroad brotherhoods and American Federation of Labor (AFL) in the east prevented the boycott from going national.
The situation in the Chicago suburb of Pullman escalated sharply during the month of June and Pullman, fearing for his safety, retreated with his immediate family to Castle Rest, his Thousand Islands estate (located on an island in Alexandria Bay) for the duration. Interestingly Alexandria Bay marinas enjoyed a brisk business renting out small vessels to journalists encircling Pullman Island hoping to spot or score an interview with the industrialist.
Officially the American Railroad Union urged its members to refrain from violence, however numerous riots took place and between July 5 and 7 several hundred blockaded railroad cars were torched. President Cleveland acted swiftly and obtained an injunction against anyone interfering with mail-carrying trains, dispatching 12,000 soldiers to points where the order was being ignored. The State of Illinois responded by dispatching the National Guard to protect the Pullman plant and residence. By the time Federal troops got the trains moving on July 10, 1894, several hundred soldiers and strikers had been wounded, 30 strikers had been killed and $80 million worth of property damage inflicted. The strike officially ended on July 12, 1894 and its legacy remains today as the Labor Day holiday which was pushed through Congress just six days after the strike ended in order to placate the nation's labor organizers.
Although the strike collapsed, George Pullman's model for handling his workers had failed miserably. Criticized and scorned, Pullman died of a heart attack on October 19, 1897 at the age of 66. Funeral services were held privately at his mansion on Prairie Avenue in the afternoon. To prevent his body from being stolen or desecrated by angry employees, Pullman had made special provisions for his burial in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery. His casket consists of a lead-lined box covered in one inch of asphalt, and rests in an eight-foot-deep concrete-filled pit. Eight steel rails rest above the casket and a final layer of concrete was poured on top. The funeral cortege arrived at Graceland Cemetery where a pit the size of an average room had been dug on the family plot, its base and walls of reinforced concrete 18 inches thick. Into this the lead-lined mahogany casket was lowered, and covered with 1” of tar paper and asphalt. The pit was filled with a layer of poured concrete on top of which 8 steel rails were laid at right angles to each other and bolted together. These rails were embedded in another layer of concrete upon which a layer of stoned, soil and sod were placed. It took two days to complete, then sod was put down and a gravestone, designed by architect Solon Spencer Beman, was placed.
His will appeared in the October, 28, 1897 edition of the New York Times:
After Pullman's death, both his town and his company experienced significant change. Following the departure of military troops in 1894, Pullman residents enjoyed domestic tranquility. In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court ordered the Pullman Company to sell the nonindustrial land in the neighborhood to its inhabitants, determining that the Pullman Palace Car Company did not have the proper authority to provide nonmanufacturing services such as renting property. Finally, residents could buy their homes. The appearance of Pullman changed as residents renovated their homes and structures, such as the Arcade, deteriorated.
After the death of George M. Pullman in 1897 Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) assumed the presidency of the Pullman Palace Car Co. Lincoln remained president of the company until 1911. When Pullman died he left behind an estate of $7.6 million, 2490 railroad cars and a $63.5 million corporation. At this time the company had 90% of the sleeping car business in North America, and it had the largest railroad car plant in the world. In 1898, during this transition period the sewage farm was sold; it never being a successful operation for the efficient treatment of sewage. The brickyards located south of the community at 116th Street was sold and became the Illinois Brick Co.
rapidly restructured immediately following Pullman's death. In 1899
Pullman expanded into the
construction of freight
cars and coaches for subways, the Wagner Palace Car Co. (its chief
the firm in 1900, and the resulting business was reorganized as the
Company with Robert T. Lincoln, the son of President
of the firm.
In 1889 Pullman purchased the Union Palace
Car Co., a
recently organized firm that was a consolidation of the Woodruff
Parlor Coach Co. and Mann Boudoir Car Co. Organized in December of
new firm operated a small fleet of sleeping cars (approximately 35)
miles of railroad and was headed by Job H. Jackson, a principal of
rolling stock and ship builder Jackson & Sharp.
In 1891 Pullman entered the streetcar and interurban manufacturing business, establishing an all new facility 8 miles southeast of Pullman in the Chicago suburb of Calumet, Illinois.
When Pullman died he left behind an estate of $7.6 million, 2490 railroad cars and a $63.5 million corporation. At this time the company had 90% of the sleeping car business in North America, and it had the largest railroad car plant in the world. President Lincoln's son, Robert Todd Lincoln (b. 1843 - d. 1926), assumed the presidency of the Pullman Palace Car Co., remain at the helm until his retirement in 1911.
Continuing conflicts within the community prompted an 1898 Illinois Supreme Court decision ordering the Company to sell all of its nonindustrial land in the City of Pullman to its inhabitants, determining that the Pullman Palace Car Company did not have the proper authority to provide non-manufacturing services such as renting property.
In 1899 Pullman expanded into the construction of freight and subway cars, and on January 1, 1900 purchased the Wagner Palace Car Co. of Buffalo, NY, its chief competitor. The purchase coincided with the reorganization of Pullman's Palace Car Co. as the Pullman Co. to better reflect its status as a constructor of all kinds of rolling stock. At the time the $60 million firm controlled over 2,500 sleeping, parlor, and dining cars carrying 5 to 6 million passengers a year over 125,000 miles of railway. The reorganized firm now owned and operated repair and manufacturing facilities in Buffalo, New York; Calumet and Pullman, Illinois; Atlanta, Georgia; Richmond, California; Wilmington, Delaware and St. Louis, Missouri.
After the all-steel freight car was introduced in the 1890s, several railroads began investigating all-steel passenger cars as a way to increase both passenger capacity and safety. By that time long distance rail travel had became affordable for America's middle class, who could even afford to ride in a Pullman car, if they wanted to splurge. Although infrequent, the horrific crashes of passenger trains were front page news and various railway proponents and government officials urged the adoption of all-steel 'safety' cars.
Although safety was a concern, the move to all-steel cars was first and foremost an economic one for operators like Pullman, and the April 3, 1901 edition of the Newark Daily Advocate (NJ) detailed the profits that could be had on a typical cross-country journey:
“Many people have wondered how much money can be made by a sleeping car. The income or earning capacity of a sleeping car is considerable. Take the run from New York to Chicago, 1,000 miles. Every road in the United States pays three cents a mile for the privilege of hauling a sleeper, and contracts to return said car in as good shape as it is received, and pay for all damages. The journey on the limited express to Chicago is made in 24 hours, therefore the car earns $30 a day for travel. If it is full, which is generally the case, receipts from berths, sections and state rooms amount to $185, making a total revenue of $215 a day. Out of this must come the wages of the porter and conductor, the former, however, usually having charge of several cars—the towels, sheets, soap, ice, etc., the whole amounting to but a small sum. Earnings of $60,000 a year per car will about cover the case.”
At that time scions of industry and finance sat on the Pullman board and at one such meeting in 1906 the subject of building all-steel Pullman cars was placed on the agenda. Although the firm's chief engineer, Richard Dean, had prepared a lengthy presentation on the subject, it wasn't necessary as Andrew Carnegie and J.P. Morgan had already decided Pullman should move ahead with the program.
Within the year Pullman's first all-steel sleeping car, 'The Jamestown,' debuted at the June 1907 Master Car Builders Association Convention in Atlantic City. Named in honor of the tercentennial of the first English settlement in the United States, the 12-section car closely resembled the firm's wooden offerings and weighed in at 80 tons – twice the weight of a comparable wooden coach. As the firm had little expertise in welding sheet steel, the Jamestown was constructed of readily available steel panels attached to various steel I-beams and sills.
In 1909 a new steel car plant was outfitted at the firm's Pullman, Illinois works and during the next two years 90 all-steel passenger cars of various types were produced for the New York Central and Harriman railroads. Pullman engineers slowly gained experience using the new material and by the time they debuted their second prototype sleeper, 'The Carnegie,' in January of 1910, Pullman's engineers had reduced the weight by 12 tons to 68 tons. It brought in over 500 new orders for steel cars and the company instituted an accelerated plan to replace its wooden cars with steel ones.
Pullman also took the opportunity to standardize their passenger car building operations which up until that time had changed on the whims of its customers. From now on the firm's passenger cars were structurally identical. The frames, trucks, shells (roof and body) and mechanical equipment were the same. Sleepers, day coaches, dining cars and even baggage cars all used the same blueprint, only the windows, doors and interiors (seats, berths, tables, chairs, etc.) varied from one type of car to another. Although the interiors of the cars experienced periodic changes, over 50% of the firm's passenger cars constructed from 1910 into 1935 were constructed using one single basic design.
The changeover to all-steel construction occurred in phases. Recently constructed cars were retrofitted with steel underframes, greatly increasing their safety without having to rebuild the entire car. By 1913 over 600 existing Pullman cars had been so equipped, and 857 new cars constructed, the latter at a cost of $22,000 each. By 1926 75% of Pullman cars were all-steel and all but 4% of the remainder were steel-underframed. By 1935 all of their steel-underframed wooden-bodied cars had been retired.
In addition to rail car construction, Pullman's Manufacturing Department also handled the conversion of town of Pullman properties to private ownership and engaged after 1919 in the manufacture of all-steel auto bodies for such firms as Velie, Packard, Willys-Overland, Moon and Peerless. Pullman's vast models shops, engineering facilities prototype and stamping departments were equipped for runs of from one to ten thousand – whatever amount the customer desired.
An office for the new Auto Body Dept. was established in Room 701, Pullman Building, Chicago, Illinois and a sales manager and design/engineering staff hired. An underused plant at the corner of Maryland Avenue and 103rd Street in North Pullman currently used to manufacture phonograph cabinets was outfitted for the production of all-metal automobile bodies, and News of the Week column of the Sept 20, 1919 issue of The Music Trades announced that Pullman had just gotten their first contract to produce phonograph cabinets for the Edison Co.:
The November 11, 1919 issue of Business Digest and Investment Weekly announced that Pullman had just gotten a contract to produce 4,000 automobile bodies for Packard:
The Supply Trade Notes column of the November 15, 1919 issue of Railway Review carried much the same news:
The November 15, 1919 issue of the Lumberman carried the following news
These bodies were produced in a plant constructed in 1919 in the north part of the manufacturing area at Maryland Avenue and 103rd Street. During 1919, 50,000 phonograph cabinets were produced in this plant for the Edison Phonograph Works. Pullman Co. archives state that from July of 1920 through 1922 the company produced approximately 13,000 steel automobile bodies for the Packard Motor Car Co.
In her authoritative work on Packard, Beverly Rae Kimes mentions:
Most post-war Packard production bodies were furnished by Anderson Carriage/Towson Body, Buffalo (American Body Co.), Limousine Body Co., Pullman CO., C.R. Wilson and later on Murray and Briggs.
The February 9, 1922 issue of Automotive Industries reported that Pullman was ramping up to get 600 bodies per month to Packard:
The Men of Industry column in the March 16, 1922 issue of Automotive Industries:
August 31, 1922 issue of Motor Age:
The Body Builders column of the September 1922 issue of the Automotive Manufacturer:
September 14, 1922 issue of Automotive Industries:
November 30, 1922 issue of Automotive Industries:
Ware Bros. 1923 Vehicle Yearbook lists the firm as follows:
Listed as president is E.F. Carry with William Bonn as Body Superintendent.
This division was listed as "building passenger car bodies both open and closed made of wood and metal construction."
Using patented designs developed by Peter Parke (Pullman's Chief Engineer), Joseph Brack and Carl H. Apel, the company built experimental prototypes for Packard and Willys-Overland and manufactured bodies for Moon and Peerless automobiles.
Pullman's auto-related patents consist of the following closed metal body:
The 'Men of Industry' column in the March 29, 1923 issue of Automotive Industries:
Men of Industry column in the April 12, 1923 issue of Automotive Industries:
Pullman constructed open bodies for the 1924 Packard Model 126 Sport models.
"The Pullman Company Exhibiting on Packard Chassis" from the 1924 Chicago Salon program.
January 24, 1924 issue of Automotive Industries:
An overview of the Chicago Salon (Drake Hotel) by Edward J. Schipper appeared in the February 7, 1924 issue of Automotive Industries:
During 1924 several other all steel prototypes were constructed on Willys-Overland and Packard chassis in the hopes of securing a large order from the two firms, however the two automakers decided to pursue other options and all the money and time spent on developing the beautiful all-steel Berline displayed at the 1924 Chicago Salon did not produce any new business for the firm.
Pullman manufactured the coachwork for the 1924 Peerless Model 6-70 5-passenger touring phaeton, of which one example survives today. It's unknown whether the survivor was a production vehicle or a prototype although the Pullman archives contain daily production reports, 1923-1925, for both Moon and Peerless auto bodies and financial records (monthly financial statements, 1922-1924, billing records, 1924-1925, and journals, 1920-1924).
The Pullman archives also note that "some" Pullman bodies for Peerless cars were in storage during 1924 although no distinction is made as to if they are production or prototype bodies. Circa 1923-1925 the bulk of Peerless' production bodies were being supplied by Budd, Murray, Raulang and Springfield Body Co.'s.
Introduced in January, 1924 production of the Peerless 6-70 spanned from March, 1924 to March, 1925, when the mechanically similar but re-designed 6-72 replaced it. The 1925 Model 6-72 featured a new radiator shell, new hood and boat-tail rear decks on the roadsters and roadster coupes.
By the fall of 1924 operations at Pullman's automobile body department started to wind down, and Walter F. Thompson, its director, left to pursue other opportunities, the October 23, 1924 issue of Automotive Industries reporting:
Over time Packard, at one time one of Pullman's largest customers, had become disenchanted with its various production body suppliers. Firm contracts for specific quantities of bodies had led to disputes and costly cancellation charges with Anderson/Towson (later Murray), Pullman and Buffalo whenever car production diminished and bodies were no longer required.
A switch to Briggs brought complaints of poor quality with higher prices sought as more rigid controls were instituted by Packard. Gradually more body fabrication was brought in-house and, on October 14th, 1925, board minutes noted, ". . . it was decided to build all of our own bodies when, and as, arrangements can be made to that end" (according to B.R. Kimes).
The Edward G. Budd Mfg. Co. threatened Pullman with litigation over the alleged infringement of several of Joseph Ledwinka's metal automobile body patents, however the matter never reached the courts and Pullman grew to become a major Budd customer and shortly after their 1929 merger with the Standard Steel Car Company (forming the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company) sold their existing automobile body-related patents to Budd.
In 1924 the Pullman Car & Manufacturing Co. was organized from the previous Pullman manufacturing department to consolidate the car building (including automobile bodies) 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, and in its banner year of 1925 the Pullman operating system included 9,800 cars, which were manned by 28,000 conductors and 12,000 porters.
No further automobile work is mentioned in the Pullman Co. archives nor the automotive press. However they did make several thousand trolley coaches (aka trolley bus) that found favor with several east coast operators. The firm's trolley coach business was a result of Pullman's February 18, 1930 acquisition of Worcester, Massachusetts Osgood Bradley Car Co. which was reorganized as the Osgood Bradley Car Corp., later becoming a subsidiary of the Standard Steel Car Corp. a wholly-owned subsidiary of Pullman Inc.
Just prior to the initial acquisition, Osgood Bradley had produced a prototype trolley-coach for a Brooklyn surface transit operator. In 1932 the customer ordered six examples of the prototype which resulted in several more batches of similar coaches for other operators during the following few years.
After the introduction of single-motor coaches in 1936, interest in their trolleys and trolley coaches increased, and Pullman's Worcester subsidiary won a sizable share of the east coast business. Transit systems in Boston and Providence were particularly steady Pullman customers, and other large fleets ran in Atlanta, Milwaukee and Birmingham. A modified design for the export trade was offered after 1945, and some were sold to Valparaiso and Sao Paulo. Between 1930 and 1954 Pullman-Standard constructed approximately 2,100 trolley-coaches in its Worcester plant and many of its coaches remained in service into the 1970s.
The Depression marked the end of prosperity
for the Pullman
Co. Both the number of car orders and passengers for their sleeping
declined precipitously forcing massive layoffs.
Just as the firm was returning to prosperity the U.S. Department of Justice filed an anti-trust complaint against Pullman, seeking to separate the company’s sleeping car operations from its manufacturing activities. The court concurred and in 1944 ordered 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 in 1947 for $40 million.
Carroll R. Harding was named President of this new Pullman Companywhich started out optimistically in 1947 with good passenger traffic figures, but the years following brought steady and marked decline. Regularly scheduled lines were cancelled, all shops except St. Louis and Chicago were closed, employees were furloughed, and major railroad owners such as the New York Central and Pennsylvania Railroad totally or partially withdrew from service.
Although not directly related to their automobile body business, Pullman constructed one of the largest road-going vehicles ever manufactured, the Pullman Arctic Explorer (popularly known as Admiral Byrd's Snow Cruiser).
Dubbed the Penguin by the press, and 'Big Bertha' by its crew, the massive vehicle was constructed at Pullman's 111th street plant from August to October 1939 for use by Admiral Richard Evelyn Byrd's 3rd Antarctic expedition which ran from late 1939 into 1941.
Byrd's 1934 expedition relied upon Citroen half-tracks which proved to be too cold and cramped for long-distance travel. Dr. Thomas C. Poulter, Byrd's second-in-command, envisioned an all-in-one solution for the next journey which would not only be impervious to the extreme conditions, but serve as a mobile base of exploration.
Poulter, whose PhD. was in physics, joined the Research Foundation of Armour Institute of Technology after the 1934 expedition, and proselytized about the future of arctic exploration and the need for an all-in-one polar exploration vehicle that would solve the problem of moving between outposts in the Antarctic interior.
After Admiral Byrd announced plans for a third expedition Poulter went to Washington, D.C. and on April 29, 1939 presented plans for his massive polar exploration vehicle to the officials of the United States Antarctic Service. He had the financial backing of the Armour Institute back in Chicago and pledged to personally oversee the construction of the massive $150,000 36-ton vehicle, which measured 55 ft. 9 in. in length, 19 ft. 11 in. in width and 16 ft. in height.
The novel vehicle featured a number of innovative features designed to handle the harsh climate and terrain of the World's southernmost continent. To prevent cracking of the 12-ply Goodyear rubber tires, its wheels could be retracted into housings where they warmed by the engine's exhaust gases.
Long overhangs front and rear assisted the vehicle to traverse crevices of up to 15 feet - the front wheels would retract, allowing the rear wheels to push it across the divide. Once safely over the crevice the front wheels would be extended, and the rear retracted, allowing the vehicle to pull its rear half to safety.
A hybrid Diesel-electric drive train provided an exceptionally spacious interior and had the secondary benefit of providing built-in heat. A pair of General Electric generators powered by two 150 hp 672 cu. in. Cummins diesels supplied the electricity to four 75 hp GE electric motors, each one powering one of the Goodyear-equipped wheels. The Cummins' antifreeze circulated through radiators to heat the living quarters and the GE generators also supplied current to a bank of storage batteries that powered the vehicle's equipment when the engine wasn't running.
A pad on top of the vehicle carried a 350 hp 5-passenger Beechcraft Model 17 'Staggerwing' observation plane that could be offloaded by the crew.
The Explorer carried 5 persons and included a kitchen, living quarters, a darkroom and a machine shop as well as a rear storage area which housed 2 spare tires, provisions and two fuel tanks - a 2,500 gallon tank of low-temperature diesel for the Cummins engines and a 1,000 gallon tank of aviation fuel for the Beechcraft.
Pullman commenced construction of the Arctic Explorer on August 8, 1939 and on October 24, 1939, it began its shakedown cruise – a well-covered 1,020 mile journey from Chicago to the Boston Army Wharf where it would loaded onto the North Star, en route to Antarctica.
The vehicle was covered in great detail inside the pages of the December, 1939 issue of MoTor by the periodical's technical editor, Harold F. Blanchard:
As magnificent as the vehicle was, it had an Achilles heel, which so hampered the vehicle's progress it was abandoned and turned into a stationary, albeit well-insulated, workstation after just one Antarctic trial. The problem presented itself as the vehicle was first offloaded at Little America in the Bay of Whales, Antarctica in January of 1940. As the vehicle traveled down the wooden ramps, one of the tires broke though the ramp. Although Dr. Poulter was able to power the vehicle free from the ramp mishap, it promptly dug itself into the snow-covered icepack when it landed on-shore.
Unbeknownst to Dr. Poulter, or anyone else connected with the Byrd party, the 75,000 lb. vehicle's treadless 12-ply Goodyear tires had almost zero traction in snow and ice. In desperation they mounted the two spares to the front axles and mounted snow chains on the rear, however the vehicle remained virtually stationary, and could only manage to traverse the snow when driven in reverse.
The large, smooth, tread-less tires were
for a large swamp vehicle; they spun freely and provided very little
movement, sinking as much as 3 feet into the snow. The crew attached
spare tires to the front wheels of the vehicle and installed chains on
wheels, but were unable to overcome the lack of traction. The crew
that the tires produced more traction when driven backwards. The
was 92 miles – driven completely in
reverse. On January 24, 1940, Poulter returned to the US, leaving F.
in charge of a partial crew. The scientists conducted seismologic
cosmic-ray measurements, and ice core sampling while living in the
timber-covered Snow Cruiser.
Funding for the project was canceled as the focus in the United States became World War II and the crews were sent home and the Arctic Explorer abandoned. In the late 1940s, an expedition team found the vehicle and discovered it needed only air in the tires and some servicing to make it operational.
Thomas Poulter emerged unharmed from the episode. In 1948 he joined the Stanford Research Institute in Menlo Park, California, where he remained until his death in 1978. In that long period he ranged widely in his research, from the dynamic phenomena of explosives and ballistics to the communication of marine animals.
In 1958 an International Geophysical Year expedition located the now-buried Arctic Explorer using a bamboo pole left by a previous group. The gained full access using a bulldozer and found the interior exactly as the crew had left it, with papers, magazines, and cigarettes scattered all around.
It has not been seen since.
In 1957, Pullman Incorporated closed its
Pullman plant and only three years later, the city of Chicago
on a list of 'blighted and deteriorating areas' that required
clearance and redevelopment. Residents responded by forming the Pullman
Organization and began working to gain landmark status. South Pullman,
currently bordered by 111th Street, 115th Street, Cottage Grove Avenue,
Calumet Expressway, became a state landmark in 1969, the same year that
Pullman Company ceased operations after 101 years in business.
Pullman's former phonograph cabinet and automobile body plant at S. Maryland Ave. and E. 103rd St.in North Pullman, Chicago was converted into an apartment complex during the 1970s and was razed to construct Corliss High School's Gately Stadium, which is located at 810 E. 103rd St., Chicago, Ill.
© 2015 Mark Theobald for Coachbuilt.com