All Aboard!  Train travel was luxurious
when you travelled Pullman

Sleeping cars, dining cars and Pullman parlour cars
of transcontinental trains were top of the line
for privileged passengers

“When you go Pull­man you relax on deep-cush­ioned, com­fort­able seats. You sleep on big, soft, clean beds.

You enjoy mod­ern toi­let facil­i­ties, air con­di­tion­ing, light­ing, and heat­ing. The per­son­al ser­vices of a trained Pull­man porter are yours to com­mand. And—on longer trips—delicious, well-served meals in rail­road din­ing cars are available.

You arrive refreshed and relaxed on depend­able rail­road sched­ules, right in the heart of town, con­ve­nient to everything.”

Such were the claims that Pullman offered in this advertisement.

Train travel ad for Pullman

Found­ed in 1867, the Chica­go-based Pull­man Com­pa­ny pro­duced a range of rail­road car types, from din­ing cars and par­lour cars to freight cars, but it was sleep­ing cars for which Pull­man was renowned. These cars con­tained sleep­er berths for all pas­sen­gers. By day each berth com­prised two fac­ing seats on either side of a wide win­dow: at bed­time the two seats fold­ed down to form a bed and then an upper berth—stored by day above the two seats—was pulled down from above. Berths had sheets, and pil­lows, and drapes for pri­va­cy. Wash­rooms were sit­u­at­ed at the end of the cars. 

Roomettes, bed­rooms and draw­ing rooms were also fea­tures of Pull­man Sleep­ers; each pri­vate com­part­ment, with its own wash­room, con­vert­ed to sleep­ing quarters. 

The roomette was pop­u­lar with solo trav­el­ers. Each roomette had com­fort­able seats and a fold-down table. To sleep, the pas­sen­ger pulled down a bed that cov­ered the seats (and cov­ered the toi­let also!) 

Bed­rooms, with bunk beds and their own wash­room, accom­mo­dat­ed two per­sons: draw­ing rooms were an option for small families.

Then in 1868, Pullman introduced a dining car equipped with a kitchen where chefs prepared dishes—from fresh ingredients—served elegantly by white-coated waiters. The ambiance was that of a private club with diffused lighting, colorful window drapes, and soft carpets. The plates were fine china, the silverware gleamed. The menus and wines pleased connoisseurs.

“The Pull­man Com­pa­ny also became known as a pur­vey­or of pri­vate rail cars, an accom­mo­da­tion of choice for the super wealthy who want­ed pri­va­cy and com­fort” wrote real estate agent Robert Khed­e­ri­on in an arti­cle head­lined Before pri­vate jets, there were lux­u­ri­ous pri­vate train cars.” It was pub­lished in Curbed, an Amer­i­can real estate and urban design web­site found­ed in 2010 and lat­er inte­grat­ed into the mag­a­zine New York.

2019 marked the 150th anniver­sary of the com­ple­tion of the first transcon­ti­nen­tal rail­road. It was “The Gold­en Age of the Pull­man Car” wrote Jack Kel­ly in The His­to­ry Read­er pub­lished by St. Martin’s Pub­lish­ing Group. Jack Kel­ly, his­to­ri­an and nov­el­ist, has writ­ten exten­sive­ly on George Pull­man and his rail­road car. His book, The Edge of Anar­chy: The Rail­road Barons, the Gild­ed Age, and the Great­est Labor Upris­ing in Amer­i­ca, details Eugene Debs’s lead­er­ship of the Pull­man Strike.

And what of the passengers
who couldn’t afford to travel in Pullman style?

The most famous pas­sen­ger was Phoebe Snow, a fic­ti­tious young lady cre­at­ed by the adver­tis­ing depart­ment of the Delaware, Lack­awan­na & West­ern Rail­road. Appar­ent­ly Phoebe always wore a white dress when she trav­elled from New York to Buffalo.

After a long trip on a coal-pow­ered train, trav­el­ers fre­quent­ly would dis­em­bark cov­ered with black soot. Not  Phoebe! The Lack­awana loco­mo­tives were pow­ered by anthracite, a clean-burn­ing hard coal.

And here is how the adver­tis­ing copy­writer told the sto­ry of Phoebe.

Says Phoebe Snow
About to go
Upon a trip to Buf­fa­lo
“My gown stays white
from morn till night
Upon the Road of Anthracite.”

Adver­tise­ments recount­ed the expe­ri­ences of Phoebe Snow, includ­ing her encounter with the sta­tion mas­ter “He’s so polite”, and the guard at the gate to whom she showed her tick­et. Oth­er adver­tise­ments pro­mot­ed Phoebe’s recog­ni­tion that the Lack­awana was the way to go.

With dim­pling face
All full of grace
Fair Phoebe pic­tures
In a daze
That jour­ney bright
When clad in white
She used the Road of Anthracite.


Ide­al­ly, adver­tis­ing copy­writ­ers work to cre­ate themes  rather than cre­ate one sin­gle idea per adver­tise­ment. An adver­tis­ing theme is a series of ads that present the same mes­sage in dif­fer­ent ways.  Each adver­tise­ment recalls pre­vi­ous adver­tise­ments in the series and the cam­paign grows stronger with each famil­iar but dif­fer­ent adver­tise­ment in the campaign.

The Phoebe Snow cam­paign was a theme devel­oped around dozens and dozens of rhymes set­ting out the sat­is­fac­tions Phoebe enjoyed rid­ing on the Lack­awana Rail­road. Adver­tise­ments used dif­fer­ent images but the rhymes gen­er­at­ed the theme.

The web­site of the Hobo­ken His­tor­i­cal Muse­um fea­tures all of the jin­gles in The Sto­ry of  Phoebe Snow. 

printers devil

CBS News ran this video: Pull­man rail cars: A detour back through time.  It pro­vides just a hint of train trav­el in Pull­man cars.

This advertisement contrasts
air travel on a Douglas DC‑6
with travelling by train

Won­der how air­lines were com­pet­ing with train trav­el? They adver­tised that:
“It’s so easy…so comfortable…so clean! None of that overnight fuss and nui­sance of chang­ing clothes in cramped quar­ters. No stand­ing in line for meals—you get delec­table full-course meals free! And tip­ping is not allowed.”

Read about it in this post in our Print­ing Times