Pullman And The Bleeping-Car
( Originally Published 1900 )
Another Chicago specialty of wide fame is the railway sleeping-car, brought to its present high stage of development by one of the most prominent Chicagoans, the late George M. Pullman. The earliest American sleeping-car was devised by Theodore T. Woodruff, who constructed a, small working model in M54 at Watertown, New York, and subsequently building his car, first ran it on the New York Central Railroad in October, 1856, charging fifty cents for a berth. George M. Pullman was originally a cabinet-maker in New York State, and moved. when a young man to Chicago. His first fame in that city, as already stated, came from the ingenious methods he devised, when the grade of the town was elevated to secure better drainage, for raising the buildings by putting hundreds of jackscrews under them, trade continuing uninterrupted during the process. Pullman, subsequently to that time, travelled -occasionally between Chicago and Buffalo, and one night got into Woodruff Is car. He was stretched out upon the vibrating couch for some two hours, but could not sleep, and his eyes being widely open, and the sight wandering all about the car, he struck upon a new idea. When he left the car he had determined to develop from his brief experience a plan destined to expand into a complete home upon wheels for the traveller, either awake or sleeping. In 1859 he turned two ordinary railway coaches into sleeping-cars and placed them upon night trains between Chicago and St. Louis, charging fifty cents per berth, his first night's receipts being two dollars. He ran these experimental coaches about five years be-fore he felt able to carry out his ideal plan, and he then occupied fully a year in constructing his model sleeping-car, the " Pioneer" at Chicago, at a cost of $18,000. But when completed the car was so heavy, wide and high that no railway could undertake running it, as it necessitated cutting off station platforms and elevating the tops of bridges before it could pass by. Thus he had a white elephant on his hands for a time. In April, 1865, President Lincoln's assassination 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 Springfield. The nation watched its progress, and the railways transporting the cortege were doing their best. The manager of the road from Chicago to Springfield used the "Pioneer" in the funeral train, taking several days to prepare for it by sending out gangs of men to cut off the station platforms and alter the bridges. Pullman's dream was realized; his " coach of the future," with its escort of statesmen, carried the dead President to his grave and became noted throughout the land. A few weeks later, General Grant, fresh from the conquest of the Rebellion, had a triumphal progress from the camp to his home in Illinois. Five days were spent in clearing the railway between Detroit and Galena, where he lived and the "Pioneer" carried Grant over that line.
These successes made Pullman's fortune, and the business of his company grew rapidly afterwards, it being now an enormous concern with $70,000,000 capital, controlling practically all the sleeping-cars of this country and many abroad. The main works are at the Chicago suburb of Pullman, ten miles south of the centre of the city, where there are about twelve thousand population, most of the people being connected with the works, which are an extensive general car-building establishment. Pullman was built as a model town, with every improvement calculated to add to the comfort and health of the working-people, being also provided with its own library, theatre, and a tasteful arcade, in which are various shops. It was at Pullman in 1894 that the great strike took place which ultimately involved a large portion of the railways of the country, causing much rioting and bloodshed, and finally requiring the intervention of the Federal troops to maintain the peace. After a protracted period of turmoil, the strike failed.