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Pullman conductor John W. Zimmer greets a passenger, Burlington, Iowa, 1925.

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Pullman conductor John W. Zimmer greets a passenger, Burlington, Iowa, 1925.
NMAH, Transportation Collections, from Pullman News, December 1925


This object appears in the following sections:

Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927
Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 — Railroad Conductor

Ticket Punch

Railroad conductor's ticket and cash case

Cap, Railroad Conductor's

Porter’s clothes brush

Watch, Railroad Model Pocket Watch

Pullman conductor checking ticket of woman boarding Pullman car
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection

Pullman conductor John W. Zimmer greets a passenger boarding at Burlington, Iowa, 1925. The woman's fashion in clothing marks the year. The conductor's name ('room' in German) seems appropriate for a man in charge of a 'rolling hotel,' which a Pullman car was.

Burlington, Iowa, was on the mainline route of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, between Chicago and Denver. Note the ground-level boarding; a 'step box' - the portable step to the left of the lady's right foot - assists in mounting the steps of the Pullman car. (In the U.S., only at the biggest big-city stations or at high-volume commuter stations were there high platforms to board at car-floor height.)

This picture is typical of people boarding trains almost anywhere in the U.S. And boarding from ground level was normal at most stations on the Southern Railway, including Salisbury, N.C.

Physical Description
Photo from Dec 1925 Pullman News
Date Made:
Iowa, North Carolina
Scene could be anywhere in 1925 U.S.

The Pullman Co. owned and staffed its cars. On a passenger train, the operating railroad's conductor oversaw the train as a whole, while a Pullman conductor supervised the porters on all his employer's sleeping cars and collected the Pullman fares.

The railroad that owned a given route, and thus owned and ran the trains, incorporated Pullman sleeping cars into all overnight trains on the route. The Pullman Co. also operated parlor/lounge cars on trains that normally carried a large number of Pullman sleepers. (A typical overnight train might have from one to a dozen Pullman sleeping cars, depending on demand.)

Pullman cars were almost all sleeping cars - i.e., cars that had day seating which was converted to sleeping berths at night. A ticket on a Pullman 'sleeper' cost significantly more than a ticket in a 'coach' or 'chair car' -- a passenger had to pay both the railroad's basic coach fare, based on mileage, and the Pullman fare, which was accounted-for separately. The cheapest Pullman ticket was for an upper berth in an 'open section.' Each 'section' consisted of facing seats that converted into two berths. At night, the porter - one to a car - folded down ('made down') the berths and hung up heavy privacy curtains along each side of the center aisle of the car. More-expensive Pullman accommodations were private rooms with sink and toilet ('compartments') for one or two people, up to 'drawing rooms' for the wealthy.

In the 1920s, the Pullman Co. boasted that it was the largest hotel operation in the U.S., accommodating up to 100,000 sleeping travelers each night.

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