Equipment Types

Designed for use by railroad officials, the large majority of these cars are from the “heavy weight” or pre-WWII construction period (opposite of “streamlined”). Typically they come with kitchen, crew quarters, dining room seating six to 10, two to four bedrooms, lounge and open brass-railed platform. Some have fold-away beds in the dining room or lounge.

A car with a rear lounge and rear-facing windows, intended to be placed at the end of a train. End may be closed, round, squared, or open rear platform. The forward and may contain the business car arrangement or any combination of lounge, dining, bar, or sleeping space.

Often these cars have their entire length devoted to sleeping rooms (mostly) or some open sections (rarely). It is not unusual to find one or two bedrooms removed to provide food service, lounge or shower space. Sleeper-lounge: This type of car will typically contain five or six double bedrooms, a small serving pantry with refrigerator (rail road name “buffet”). Some now have food preparation facilities as well. A lounge or casual seating area completes the car.

  • Master Bedroom:
    A loosely defined luxury accommodation which may include a real full-size bed (often in business cars) or two lower beds and one upper bed, its own toilet and wash stand, and perhaps a shower. Capacity is two to six people.
  • Drawing Room: The drawing room accommodates three full-length beds at night. By day it is a spacious living room, with wide sofa, two movable lounge chairs and two large windows. Toilet and washing facilities are completely enclosed in a separate annex.

From a 1956 Pullman Brochure-representative pictures only

  • Double Bedroom:
    A wide comfortable chair or long sofa seat by day converts to lower berth for sleeper. An upper berth is stored folded away against the ceiling or wall and repositioned for sleeping. These rooms usually have an individual toilet and wash basin in each room. The aisle in double-bedroom (master bedroom and compartment) areas is on one side of the car, the rooms occupying the rest of the car width. Some variations may be found on business cars, such as a bathroom and shower shared between two bedrooms.
  • Compartment:
    A compartment sleeps two in lower and upper berths. This room gains a bit more space than in a double bedroom through rearrangement of room components. It usually has a long or short sofa and an individual lounge chair, plus toilet and wash basin in each room.
  • Roomette:
    This room is designed for one person. The bed is stored against the wall by day allowing the use of a comfortable sofa seat for the passenger. These rooms usually have a toilet and wash basin. Roomettes are arranged on both sides of a car’s center aisle and are usually found in combination with double bedrooms in the same car.
  • Open Section:
    This was the classic accommodation in the Pullman days, but much less commonly found in modern cars of the streamlined period. Paired facing seats by day make up into lower and upper berths at night with heavy privacy curtains. Mattresses and blankets are stored away in the upper berth when the section is set up for day use. Your porter (attendant) brings a step ladder on call for the occupant of the upper berth; the more agile descend without it.

Full lounge:
These cars typically provide casual seating, some tables, and perhaps a bar at one end.


Dining car:
Dining cars contain a large kitchen and table seating for up to 48. These cars may be found with a mix of dining tables and lounge chairs.

The coach is the universal high density daytime rail travel vehicle, with washrooms typically at the ends. In luxury private car service, these cars are often fitted with long-distance leg-rests and adjustable seat backs. In some cases the seats may face each other with a table in between, creating an environment for playing cards or dining.

A glass bubble above the roof line was popular in the construction of railroad passenger car fleets after WWII. Vista-Dome is one marketing term used, though there were others. The Vista-Dome provides an outstanding 360 degree view of the scenery you pass through. Vista-Domes were made in many styles, such as coach, diner, lounge and sleeper. Clearance limits prevent these from entering Boston and New York. Washington, however, is accessible on Amtrak via Pittsburgh and from the south.

The bi-level cars are now operated by Amtrak south from Washington, west to Chicago, between Chicago and New Orleans and generally between all points west of the Mississippi. These cars have car-to-car passage only on the upper level. Private cars operate behind them, but passage between this type of Amtrak car and private cars is not possible except by use of a transition car.

Transition Cars:
A limited number of cars have upper level passage on one end, low or standard level at the other.

Heritage Fleet:
These are the single-level cars of post WWII construction that Amtrak has upgraded and uses primarily in the East. Many cars of this design have reached private ownership through public sales by Amtrak, and in fact their use by Amtrak continues to diminish at a rapid rate as bi-level cars and redesigned single-level cars replace them. Many of these cars which have been sold to private owners have had their interiors modified and enhanced.