Even by the end of the 19th-century most cars were still
built almost primarily with wood, save for the support structures (such
as the center support beam, trucks, and other necessary railroading
components) which were made of early steel, which by the mid-1850s had
become inexpensive enough to be used in widespread applications within
the railroad industry. However, also around this time also what were known as "heavyweight" passenger cars were introduced, built almost entirely from steel, hence their name. Steel not only allowed the car
to be stronger but also reduced the chance that it would so easily
catch fire. However, steel was quite heavy and with the advent of
lightweight materials in the 1930s, when the streamliner was born, passenger trains became much lighter and cost less to operate just through sheer weight.
|It's dinner hour aboard the Southern Crescent during June of 1978. With only a year left under private ownership the train was by then experiencing a surge in ridership from railfans and those wishing to take one last trip while it was still in Southern's hands.|
The streamliner era of the 1930s saw the most advances in passenger train car construction as company's spared no expense wooing passengers to their trains. Comfort, relaxation, and stunning interior and exterior designs became the norm for a railroad's most prominent passenger train(s). These amazing trains during the 1930 to 1950 era are commonly remembered as the "Golden Age" of passenger railroad travel with sleek streamlined equipment and a round-ended observation car on the rear to complete the look. Many of these were built by the most famous names in manufacturing such as Pullman-Standard and the Budd Company.
|The DRG&W's Rio Grande Zephyr (a truncated version of the original CZ still operated by the railroad) boards passengers at the station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado on May 23, 1977.|
Just as a point of reference, all of the passenger car equipment
built for railroads through roughly the 1950s is commonly referred by
railfans and historians as varnish, an endearing term that gained
prominence because of the grand designs, architecture and construction
built into the cars. This was especially true prior to the streamliner
era when car construction still carried a Victorian style and featured
much interior plush and wood designs, often employing the use of master
carpenters and woodworkers to complete the work.
Railway Post Office (RPO) Cars
The Budd Company
For more information on cars, types, manufacturers and the
history of each please visit the links above. Also, for more
information regarding passenger train services currently available
around the country please click here.
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|Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train #583 led by F59PHI #463 is about to board passengers at San Diego on May 3, 2005.|
With the advent of Amtrak in 1971 not only did romance of passenger
railroad travel slowly lose its appeal (mostly because a decline in the
service provided, which had actually been taking place since the 1960s
when many railroads began to give up on their passenger train
operations) but car construction technology also declined. By the 1970s
many of the most famous manufacturers had left the business or were in
severe decline, such as Pullman and Budd. Today, Amtrak service has
continued to improve but the days of relaxing in a rear observation car
or enjoying a five star meal prepared by an on board chef are no more.
Hopefully, though, one day these services will return to the public.
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