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Articulated Cars

The fully articulated Motor Trains soon faded into history, but articulating 2 (and sometimes 3) cars together is still a popular practice on western roads, the Golden State Route and on the Overland Route. Here is a representative sampling of some of these cars.

While California is geologically isolated from the rest of the country, it is a cohesive economic region in its own right. The Southern Pacific provides comprehensive services throughout the Pacific west. Shortly before the war, they made a major commitment to upgrading their operations, which had managed until then with aging Harriman heavyweights.

In keeping with the passion of the hour, the fleet of new cars ordered from Pullman are mostly articulateds. Intermediate haul services, notably the "Daylight" (which has been expanded to the "Morning Daylight" and "Noon Daylight", Los Angeles to San Francisco on the Coast Line), have received these 46 + 46 seat coaches and a similar series of 44 + 44 seat chair cars (plus the humongous triple unit diners).

These are an eccentric breed: smoothside cars built to the basic Fleet Of Modernism pattern, but plated with false front stainless steel siding to impersonate the all stainless Budd cars. This duplicity of Pullman has been matched by the SP, who bought these cars in preference to the more expensive Budds. This false front paneling is now coming off because the electrolytic reaction between the two different alloys is causing severe corrosion problem. In the future, these will be otherwise identical smoothside cars.

The design is spartan and functional. Next to the entry ways is a clever innovation: a small elevator which lifts passenger's luggage up to the storage bins at the car ends. This really helps with the age-old problem of wrestling bulky luggage through the crowded vestibule.

Inside, the seats are laid out in the comfortable 2+2 pattern, with plenty of leg room in between. Technically, these are a chair car, although SP refers to them as coaches. It seems that Pullman is finally getting the traditional seat-to-window alignment problem under control (although they still have room for improvement).

In the center of the car are two large restrooms which are identical in size and accommodations (although only two toilets doesn't seem like enough for this passenger load). The two cars are mirror images- except that the seats in the second carbody are turned backward. Connection is made by a span bolster between the carbodies, on which the center truck rests. Passage between carbodies is by a fairly standard but permanently coupled flexible diaphragm.

In addition to the trains named above, these cars are showing up on the "Cascade", the "San Joaquin" and the "Lark" as well as individual cars assigned to various trains on the Overland Route. Some nearly identical cars, differing only in not having the baggage elevator, are used on the Texas & New Orleans "Sunbeam" from Houston to Dallas, Texas (an intriguing miniature version of the "Daylight" complete with SP streamline styled 4-6-2).

Food service, particularly in the form of the full dining car, has long been the hallmark of a railroad and its passenger trains. Since the days when Fred Harvey opened his chain of frontier restaurants, the quality and selection of meals has been a make or break proposition.

In the immediate prewar period, this competitive pressure has reached its ultimate peak in the articulated dining cars on the Overland Route. When "The Challenger" was created as a deluxe chair train, it was equipped with these five kitchen-dorm + dining car sets from Pullman.

At left is the crew dormitory: essential, as these cars roll through non-stop. On some long haul trains, dorm space is provided in an older section sleeper (several roads have leased Betterment rebuilt Heavyweight 12-1s for this purpose) or in a baggage/dorm car coupled at the head of the train. Here, the dormitory is right in the same car. This is more convenient, certainly, and keeps the dining car crew from roaming back and forth the length of the train.

The dormitory space is also used by the club car Stewards. The Porters, however, do not have a dorm. From tradition immemorial, the Porter has been on call 24 hours a day - snatching a nap when he can. (This dilemma has never been worked out satisfactorily.)

Each of the three dormitory rooms has triple berths with small lockers for each man. The room at the end is for the Steward. His prestige - and the need for a secure place to keep the cash box and receipts - earns him a private room, which he may share with the club car Chief Steward.

In the center of the car, over the articulated joint, is the greatly enlarged kitchen and pantry. This has all the common features of dining car kitchens, albeit on a grand scale. The center of the car has a full width articulated joint (the car is essentially one long room) and the deck in this area is a floating disk about 8 feet in diameter. The articulated joint area is divided by a heavy canvas curtain to separate the hallway from the pantry.

At right is the dining room with a capacity of 68. The 4+4 seating is typical of economy trains. Each pair of tables is manned by a waiter- for a total of 9 in all. The waiter at the center of the car, who has the two double tables, also acts as the pantry attendant. This is the least desirable spot on the waiter's staff: the tips from only 4 seats being so small.

For all their ingenious design, these cars still have many Heavyweight features: notably the coal burning stove (which supplies hot water for the steam table through a heat transfer coil). Although air conditioned, the cold storage still relies on ice which is loaded through several hatches in the roof.

Without doubt, the premiere trains on the Overland Route are the extra fare "City of Los Angeles" and "City of San Francisco". The current equipping, known as the "7th" and "8th Trains", respectively, feature these remarkable articulated sleepers.

The 4 compartment- 3 drawingroom carbody (at left) uses the modern (prewar) accommodation designs. The compartments have crosswise berths and covered toilets near the centerline. The drawingrooms are spacious and comfortable, with a separate toilet alcove.

The crosswise berth in the drawingroom eliminates the space hogging section. The upper folds away and the lower acts as the traditional sofa. The third berth (which was the sofa in the old heavyweight drawingroom) folds into the wall, leaving room for two chairs.

Open sections, which are rapidly disappearing from most roads, are still popular in new construction for the Overland Route. A great many Military and Civil Service travel to the West Coast and the Government will only reimburse for a lower section. Further, in these still-difficult prewar years, low end accommodations are still in demand.

This is a curious arrangement for an extra fare train: a sort of Deluxe Economy class featuring fast schedules, air conditioning, the best diners and the most attentive crew. Not the sort of thing one can expect to find in most section sleepers these days.

These carbodies are a standard design with variations on window arrangements and accommodations (solid Pullman traditionalism). They are mixed in several combinations: the 4-3 (at left) being combined with 12 open section (shown) and 13 roomette, 1 section (for the porter). The 12 section (at right) also comes as a 12 enclosed section (sort of an early roomette). Both versions are combined with 11 double bedroom carbodies.

Interior features include large restrooms and indirect lighting. Externally we find modern Pullman mechanical A/C (a car could hardly claim to be "lightweight" with 6 tons of ice boxes dangling under the floor!


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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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Current update: 8/13/99