Games Learning Resources Visit the Museum
America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Interior of Pullman-built Southern Railway passenger coach #1663, 1926

Enlarge Image
Interior of Pullman-built Southern Railway passenger coach #1663, 1926
NMAH, Transportation Collections, Pullman photos #30411


This object appears in the following sections:

Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927
Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 — A Way of Travel

Ticket Punch

Railroad conductor's ticket and cash case

Cap, Railroad Conductor's

Steam locomotive, Southern Railway No. 1401

Railroad passenger coach, interior
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

This car was built for the Southern Railway in 1926 by the Pullman Co. The Pullman Co. not only owned and staffed sleeping cars on passenger trains, it built all types of passenger cars and freight cars and sold them to railroads. The Pullman shops in Pullman, Ill., turned out more railroad cars in the 1920s and '30s than any other railroad-car manufacturer.

This particular coach was intended for 'local,' short-distance trains making many station stops. Note the spartan interior and the signal cord running above the center-aisle. The cord allowed passengers to signal the conductor or trainman (a conductor's assistant) to stop at a 'flag stop,' i.e., a station at a small town where a stop was not regularly scheduled.

This plain coach was also of a type often used as a Jim Crow car. If used as such, signs indicating 'Colored' would be placed over the doors at each end. Some Jim Crow cars had bulkheads that divided the white and colored halves of the car.

Physical Description
Date Made:
Dates Used:
1926 - 1926

The railroad coach with pairs of seats on either side of a center aisle, and with an open interior without compartments, became known as the 'American style' coach. (This in contrast to many European-style rail passenger cars built for day travel up through the 1930s - and even more recently - which were configured with divided compartments, a side aisle, and, in many such cars, an exterior door to the station platform for each compartment.)

The 'American style' coach is more economic, since it seats more travelers in a given length of car. Also, the fully open interior allows the conductor and other train staff easily to keep an eye on passengers' behavior in the car - a valued benefit for the safety of passengers, especially in the 19th century (but even today).

'American style' coaches, carried by eight wheels arranged in two, four-wheel bogies (called 'trucks'), came as early as the mid-1830s in the U.S., i.e., within just a few years after the very first steam-locomotive-pulled trains began running in the U.S., in 1830. The two trucks, rather than just four wheels under a smaller car, gave a much more stable ride. The 'eight-wheel car' was another common term for the type. The basic style continues to this day.

Railroad coaches could be equipped for short-distance or long-distance travel. Short-distance cars, such as for commuter and 'local' trains, had plain seats, short pitch (the distance between seats fore-and-aft), and very plain interiors. Coaches for long distances had more comfortable seats, longer pitch, and perhaps a bit more elegance in interior appointments.

Seats in both types of coaches were reversible, so the car could go in either direction with its seats facing forward, and to allow train staff to turn some seats to face one another if passengers so requested.

National Museum of American History About This Site | Sponsors | Buy the Book | E-mail Signup | Credits