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George Mortimer Pullman

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1913. Built at Birmingham. Exhibit at the National Railway Museum.
December 1957. The Railway Magazine

George Mortimer Pullman (1831-1897) was a railway designer best known for his Pullman carriages.


1897 Obituary [1]

"...death is announced, in Chicago, of Mr. George M. Pullman, president of the Pullman Palace Car Company, who expired suddenly from heart disease. The fame of Mr. Pullman, one of the millionaires of Chicago, has extended all over the world, not only as an inventor, but as the originator of the Pullman system of railway travelling.

He was born in Chautauqua County, New York, in 1831. At fourteen he entered the employment of a country merchant, and at seventeen joined an elder brother in the cabinet-making business in Albion. At the age of twenty. two he successfully undertook a contract for moving was rehouses and other buildings along the line of the Erie Canal, then being widened by the State.

In 1859 he removed to Chicago, and engaged extensively in the then novel task of raising entire blocks of brick and stone buildings. A year before this, however, his attention had been directed to the discomfort of long-distance railway travelling, and in 1859 be remodeled two old day-coaches..."More


1897 Obituary[2][3]

"THE death of Mr. George M. Pullman, at Chicago on Tuesday last, was tragic in its suddenness. Heart disease was the cause. He had not yet completed his sixty-seventh year, and yet few men have so fully realised the success of their lifework, or experienced the pleasure of so wide a recognition. The Pullman car has made rapid and continuous travelling convenient and safe, if not always absolutely without fatigue; and vehicles of the type perfected by Mr. Pullman are now regarded as indispensable.

Mr. Pullman was born in 1831 in Chautauqua, New York, and was trained as a mechanic. Early in his career he devoted his attention to the raising and making of brick and stone buildings, and It was not until after 1859, when he settled in Chicago, that, stimulated by the discomforts of long-distance travelling, he set to work to design a sleeping-car which would minimise the fatigues of the traveller between the far-removed cities of the great Continent. Then there were 30,000 miles of railways in the States; speeds were very moderate, and travelling very rough, so that a great reward awaited a successful solution. Mr. Pullman widely matured his plans ere yet he claimed their recognition. He experimented for seven or eight years, mainly on the Chicago and Alton Railroad, and spent large sums of money before he started works on a small scale in 1863 to build his first sleeping car-the first ever produced that was worthy of the name.

The comfortless vehicles previously in service for the night accommodation of passengers had cost about 800l. each; this new venture was built at an expense of between 3000l. and 4000l , and was in all respects a very luxurious vehicle for the period. This car was the now historic "Pioneer" and the success it met with justified Mr. Pullman in immediately constructing a second on a more elaborate scale, at a cost of nearly 5000l. The "Pioneer" and the cars built immediately after, were placed on the Michigan and Central Railroad, the president of which appears to have been a more far-seeing man than the other railway managers of the time; but even he had misgivings, for he argued, with much apparent reason, that the public would object to pay the somewhat high tariff for the use of the new cars-2 dols., as compared with 1 1/2 dols. under the old system. Mr. Pullman's very practical proposal that the matter should be left to the decision of the public, was tried, with the somewhat unexpected result that the old cars were wholly abandoned. Within a few weeks the old cars were withdrawn from service, and, in spite of the increased charges, the Michigan Central at once became the favourite line of travel, thus forcing rival companies to follow in their steps and provide superior accommodation at an increased rate. The demand for comfort, or rather luxury, in travel dates from this experiment of the Michigan Central, and the Pullman Company has never yet been able to supply anything too elaborate or complete for the tastes of the American public, although it must be admitted that the charges made for so much comfort are astonishingly moderate.

Little change has been made in the essential features of design; although in successive years great strides have been made in artistic development, and the demand for the cars rendered necessary the organisation of special works, which have now a capital of 12 millions sterling. Mr. Pullman, with characteristic foresight, decided in 1879 to lay out not only works, but a town of his own, so removed from extraneous influences where he could give full play to his philanthropic schemes specially intended to improve the condition and the work of his mechanics. The result is seen in the ideal community and in the bank balance accumulated to their credit. It is on the shores of Lake Calumet, and although it was 13 miles distant from Chicago when first organised, it is now surrounded by that great city, although from the local Government point of view, still isolated. We have already fully described this town of Pullman with its broad streets and tree-lined avenues; its workmen's cottages, each set in a garden plot, its churches, institutes, and banks, so that it is only necessary to suggest, by one or two statistics the immense business of the company. In a recent year the number of employees at the works was 15,341; earning daily 29,346 dols., a high average, as the number includes the women and boys employed. The total amount of lumber used annually is 51,234,000 ft., and there are 85,000 tons of iron also used. All this material is worked up into 12,520 freight oars, 313 sleeping cars, 626 passenger, and 939 street cars. Coupled together, these cars would make a train over 100 miles long. There are now running in the States some 2700 sleeping and parlour cars, carrying annually about 6,000,000 passengers, the company having arranged with 75 to 80 per cent. of the total railways of the States for running cars under the same conditions as those first arranged with the Michigan Central. In the dining cars 2! million meals are served per year, some of the trains having an unbroken run of 4322 miles.

In this country we have not the same long-distance journeys, but the Pullman car has nevertheless gained a great popularity and exercised a powerful influence. The Midland Railway, who have been pioneers in several movements, were the first to adopt the type, the late Sir James Allport, when manager, having become impressed with the advantages when on a visit to the States in 1872. Two trains were built at Derby in 1875, one for the Bradford and the other for the Liverpool service, while in the following year sleeping cars were added to the Scotch trains. The arrangement made was that 7s. extra was to be charged for the journey to Glasgow and Edinburgh for the Pullman Company, who provided the car and attendant, and maintained and lighted it; but the charge has since been greatly reduced. It was in connection with the Pullman cars, too, that electric lighting was first introduced into trains, the first Brighton Pullman train of 1881 being so illumined. The dining car was introduced first in the Great Northern Leeds express in 1879, and from that time forward great improvements have been made in this country and in Europe, Mr. Shenstone Roberts, the English manager of the Pullman Company, being a powerful factor. It is not necessary, however, to review the progress made a journey to the far North is now less heroic and infinitely less fatiguing that a run to Birmingham 20 years ago; since one may have all the luxuries associates, say, with Club-life which is supposed to be the highest attainment in modern social comfort, and this is due to the initiation and energy of the subject of this brief memoir."


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