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Heavyweight Combines, Coaches & Parlor Cars

Not everyone travels by Pullman. In fact, while the Pullmans garner all the glory, the real passenger head counts - and receipts - come from coach service. Here is a representative sample of day equipment.

This is a concept that actually dates from the Wild West. The combine was the first design adaptation of the early crackerbox wood coach. In the days when all train travel was done in upright coach seats, these cars provided the checked baggage space that would later move to the baggage-club cars when the Pullmans came in.

Today, they are most commonly used for regional locals and connecting trains. As day trains like this have little demand for checked baggage, many of these cars have been adapted as Company Stores cars (making regular deliveries to stations and towers long the line) or have had their baggage sections changed into RPO or express sections.

You will also find them on commuter trains, with the baggage section distributing the morning newspapers along the line.

In some states (north and south) black passengers could ride in the baggage section at reduced fares. These cars also serve in some instances as Jim Crow cars.

These cars are fairly common in areas where there are a lot of local trains- notably along the Mississippi River Valley, around the Lakes and in the South. Couple this behind a baggage-RPO, add a coach, a connecting section sleeper and a cafe-lounge-obs and you have the archetypical branch line accommodation train.

These are the anonymous day trippers that roam up and down the secondary lines. They are also very popular in short haul commuter trains. The market served is short distance day travel, so amenities are minimal and the seats crammed as close together as possible for maximum payload. While the carbody designs advance, the underlying concept remains unchanged from the days of the Wild West.

The seats are straight back leather upholstered benches: the loading philosophy here being described by one historian as "as many asses across as possible". The floor is covered with sheet rubber (a predecessor to linoleum). As the illustration above shows, many of these cars are still heated by coal burning stoves, as the branch line 4-6-0s often do not have train heat lines.

More often than not, these cars are built by ACF, St. Louis Car or Osgood Bradley. Cars like this, and the combine above, are adaptations of head end car designs: the basic 60' or 70' carbodies receiving a vestibule at one or both ends. Ventilation is by the clerestory vents and 4 wheel trucks are typical. As cars like this are cheap, most of the railroads prefer the short designs and run as many of them as the route requires.

Long haul coach service is generally provided in cars like these. Some of these are rebuilt Gothic 12-1s while others were built as such by Pullman or any of the smaller builders. The Plan 4045, shown here, is a fairly popular 12-1 rebuild used on a number of roads. Unlike their revenue sleeper cars, Pullman usually sells these to the railroads outright.

Reflecting its clientele (the railroads have always been careful to distinguish various classes of passenger by the amenities on their trains) this car has straight backed seats and the floor is covered with rubber sheeting with a carpet runner down the aisle. Evidently social equality for women is more easily found in coach service, as the two restrooms are the same size - indicating an equal ridership.

Cars like this are among the last to be air conditioned, and the regional coach trains are often never air conditioned at all.

Technically, this is considered a "chair car" on some roads as it has individual "chair" seats. A "coach" has continuous bench type seats. Either way, long distance travel by coach is not a comfortable experience, and these cars will eventually be superseded by the reclining seat "economy chair car".

Parlor cars are the day trip version of the Pullman, being an extra-fare service for the well-to-do. As with the 12-1, this car has a drawingroom, which is actually more of a dayroom (there is no fold down berth). These drawingrooms are frequently used by groups of businessmen to hold meetings while en-route.

The main area of the car has plush reclining seats (the Varnish cars often had ottomans as well) and the traditional green fern pattern carpeting used on so many steel era Pullmans. Restroom facilities reflect the clientele: the men's being far larger than the ladies. There is no beverage or snack service on the 2416s, but similar parlor-buffet, parlor-cafe and parlor-lounge-obs types are fairly common and the Porter will bring a drink to your seat.

Parlor trains are limited to areas where there is enough demand for fast, frequent short haul day service that the railroad can segregate coach and parlor passengers into different trains. This pretty much limits their use to the East Coast, to the Chicago area and to a few isolated runs around Atlanta and in Florida. The trips these trains make are relatively short, so food service is usually limited to buffet or cafe cars, and it is rare to see any head end equipment.

A curious thing about the Plan 2416 cars is that most of them - 200 - are Gothic cars. Production of parlor cars tapered off before the standard Heavyweight designs came in; there being only 118 Heavyweights built to this Plan. Interestingly, while this car is Gothic styled, it does not have the false-front board siding.

Refer to "Free Downloads" for a summary of Pullman car types.

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North East Rails  Clint Chamberlin.
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Current update: 8/21/99