The Towering Pine Sleeper Car

Towering Pine Sleeper #3467

The Towering Pine number #3467 was the seventeenth of twenty-two new sleepers purchased by the L&N in 1953. These lightweight sleepers were purchased by the L&N to replace aging heavy weight sleepers.  During the period following World War II the traveling public had began to expect more comfort and accommodations than previously expected by rail travel.  This sleeper order was a continuation of equipment upgrading by the L&N and represented state of the art rail sleeping accommodations.

In November of 1951 the L&N placed an order for 22 new sleepers cars. The cars were built at a price of $163,000 each by the Pullman Standard Company in their Chicago plant. The sleepers floor plan was a 6-4-6 configuration (6 roomettes, 4 double bedrooms, 6 sections) and built from Pullman plan #4183. The cars were 85 feet long, lightweight, smooth sided steel. In addition to the L&N’s order, two connecting railroads, the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad placed an order for four sleepers, and the Nashville, Chattanooga & St. Louis Railroad purchased three sleepers.

On March 8, 1953 the L&N received the first of the new sleepers, #3450, the Alabama Pine. The new sleepers were named after pine trees to honor one of the South’s most important commodities. The final car, #3471 The Yellow Pine was delivered in May of 1953. The Towering Pine and other new sleepers were delivered in the L&N’s post war blue sides, gray roof, and gold script lettering paint scheme, which was adopted by the railroad in about 1946. The new sleepers were used to replace aging heavy weight sleepers on the Humming Bird, Georgian, and Pan American. The new C&E.I., and N.C. & St. Louis sleepers were also delivered in the same paint scheme, named after pines, and placed into service on the Hummingbird and Georgian.

A Pullman Company survey incorporated the suggestions and comments of over two thousand people into the design of the new cars. The latest luxury features and improvements in car design were incorporated into the construction of the new cars. The new cars sat on 4-wheel trucks with 24-inch center bearings and Helical springs. The new outside swing hangers made for easier maintenance and a smoother ride. The equipment was designed to provide the smoothest ride possible, and was similar to equipment of the highly publicized General Motors “Train of Tomorrow.” The cars also included two silver-framed stretcher-loading windows on either side of the car.

The modern interior design was also decided by customer preferences. Interior improvements included sponge rubber seats and chairs along with electro-mechanical air conditioning, fluorescent lighting and circulating ice water in the various compartments.

The six roomettes were equipped with sliding doors and curtains. The seat backs were equipped with armrests, and one side was plastic faced for use as a beverage holder or shelf. The cutaway beds could be raised and lowered with the compartment door closed. No longer was it necessary to step into the aisle to lower the bed. Beds could also be lowered without the necessity of a porter. The clothes lockers in the “Pine” sleepers were ten inches deep compared to the normal six inches in other sleeper cars.

The four double bedrooms were placed in the center of the car to ensure comfort and a smooth ride. Two adjacent bedrooms could be made into a large suite by a folding sliding partition. In this configuration the two lower berths could form a twin bed. All beds were provided with double coil springs and a rubber topper mattress which were recent developments by the Pullman Company. The reading light switches were in easy reach of passengers in all berths.

Each of the rooms and roomettes had private toilets and wash stands. The non-folding wash basin was said to prevent dentures from falling into the drainpipes. The washstands had foot pedal operated water valves for the proper mixing of hot and cold water. The wash basin could also be converted into a dressing table. A section table could also be installed in either roomettes or bedrooms where passengers could dine without leaving the room or a businessman could work while en-route to destination.

In the six section accommodations there is a permanent stepladder attached to both of the upper berths. These ladders were a lightweight hinge type folding ladder attached to the sides of berths at night. When a passenger put his weight on the ladder it folded out into a regular set of steps. It was no longer necessary to ring for a porter to assist a passenger in or out of the upper berth. The men’s and women’s lounges were located at the end of the car for the section passengers. These lounges were attractively decorated with tile floors, wainscoting and china wash bowls. David P. Morgan, Editor of Trains Magazine, rated the new Pine sleepers as “The best Pullman’s built.”

The 1957 merger with the N.C. & St. Louis added her three Pines sleepers to the L&N roster. The Towering Pine and many of the other Pine sleepers continued in service with the L&N until 1971, when Amtrak took over the passenger service of America’s railroads. Amtrak passed up ownership of the aging steel cars and their associated corrosion. The Pine sleepers were retired on May 1, 1971.

After a short period in storage the Towering Pine and six other Pine sleepers were sold to J.L. Wade. Wade was an industrialist and life long nature enthusiast. In 1962 Wade had helped the city of Griggsville Missouri to begin a mosquito abatement program by introducing the purple martin bird species into the area. The communities embracing of this bird and Wade’s love for trains led him to start the Purple Martin Train Museum.  This museum displayed wildlife art in about 30 antique railroad passenger cars. The Towering Pine and the other cars were painted purple to follow the purple martin theme. The museum was built with the expectation of heavy traffic from construction of a new Interstate. A conflict arose over habitat for endangered bald eagles and the interstate failed to locate near Griggsville.

In 1987 the Purple Martin Train Museum closed and the cars were sold to Bob Kennedy and a group of Southwest Iowa investors under the name Atlantic Pacific Railway Corporation. The cars were moved about 85 miles to a 12-acre site at Atlantic, Iowa. Some of the cars were purchased with the intent to begin a tourist railroad on a 27-mile stretch of old Rock Island Railroad track between Atlantic and Audubon, Iowa. The Purple Martin Museum was also moved to Atlantic, Iowa and housed in several of the cars. Other cars were rented as restaurants and shops.  Due to the expense of restoring the museums steam locomotive to operating condition and the amount of track maintenance that was needed to ready the road for rail travel, the tourist railroad failed to materialize.

This train museum closed in 1995 and the collection of cars was disbanded and sold at auction on July 19, 1995.  This sale included five L&N cars, the Towering Pine, the Lonesome Pine, former N.C.& St.Louis Chickamauga Pine, and two L&N lounge cars, #3002 and #3003. Brad L. Dusenbery purchased the Towering Pine. Dusenbery was President of Mid-West Rail Holdings of Parkville, Missouri. Dusenbery placed the car in storage for several years.

Dorian Walker, Chairman of the Bowling Green Historic Rail Committee, felt the newly restored Bowling Green L&N Depot needed rail cars to remind the community why the depot was built. Efforts to create a railroad museum began when Walker started looking for authentic L&N equipment to be displayed at the depot. Walker felt the cars would celebrate the history of the railroad and its importance to the community. In the spring of 2001 Walker located the Towering Pine in Kansas City, Missouri. Walker was drawn to the fully authentic interior of the sleeper and purchased the Towering Pine. The sleeper then underwent an extensive overhaul of its mechanical systems before it could be safely moved by rail. The Towering Pine then passed inspection and the Kansas City Southern Railroad and CSX Transportation moved the car from Kansas City to Bowling Green. A video was made of this trip and is available for viewing at the Historic Railpark and Train Museum.  The still purple Towering Pine sleeper arrived in Bowling Green in early September 2001.

The Towering Pine is one of only five Pine sleepers currently known to exist. The car is complete including all the section drapes, folding ladders, mattresses, carpeting, signage and light fixtures.