• Section sleeping

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by John_Perkowski
I was 10 years old at the time.

We were coming home from a visit to my grandparents. Mom relented, from having just a lower berth, and got me an upper berth for the backhaul from Abilene to Los Angeles.

Things I remember:

Big Wide Bed ... I have several Pullman Blankets in my house even now. They kept me warm (still do) and cover fully a twin bed, so they were generous on a standard berth.

Thick bouncy bed: Like the Amtrak enclosed section (oops, standard bedroom), Pullman sections were a mattress atop the seat cushions. Unlike Amtrak, the mattresses were THICK! The upper was genuinely comfortable.

Headroom: Mom is 5'6" even now in her 80s. She showed me how to get up the folding ladder, get in, and sit up in the berth. I'm only 3" taller than she, but when I sit up in a SL berth, I hit the roof before I go vertical.

And of course, a bathroom you can turn around in, with a separate annex.

  by Gilbert B Norman
I too can recite many a memory from open Section travel.

My first was from Summer Camp years, namely 1952-1955, GCT-Meridith, NH. One time, I did it in line space as I was sick the day camp opened. Type A Dad was "let's just drive 'im up" Mom was "he was SO looking forward to the Sleeper". Mom fortunately won.

Next were the 1956 experiences I related NY-Kapitachuan Club at Rail Travel Memories Topic thread. You can still get to Camp K on VIA today, sorry 'bout Meridith, although I believe a portion of the route along Lake Winnepasaukee is someone's tourist road.

I also recall a Section sleeper ride on the GCT-Boston Owl. For the sake of memory just lets say that was 1964. It was, to say the least a non-sleep event, and is a factor in why I have "not exactly' been a great fan of set out Sleeper operations.

A historical note: when a Section was closed for day occupancy, the passenger holding the Lower Berth got to ride forward, the Upper otherwise.

Needless to say, by the time I got to make my own rail travel decisions, such as my college years, the Section was gone. But I will admit that when riding an Amtrak Standard today, I have a preference for the Upper.
But simehow I think it's because I will still have my little sitting room down below. Other factors may be the Viewliner's Upper windows (but I'll bet Col. Perkowski, sir, has experienced same in his UP rides aboard an "American--" , maybe even "National--" as well, car) AND the attrocious quality of drapes Amtrak seems to outfit the Viewliners with. When delivered, they had night shades, but those have been lost along the way.
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Thu Mar 25, 2004 7:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by EastCleveland
I plan to take a trip on VIA Rail's Canadian during the next few years. I'm thinking of traveling in a section, just for the "novelty" value.

How comfortable are / were the seats? I've only seen them in photos, and they appear to be slightly glorified "bench" seats that don't recline. They don't look as if they'd be particularly comfortable for extremely long-distance trips.

Should I take a chiropractor with me, just in case?
  by Gilbert B Norman
As noted above, Mr. Cleveland, all of my Section rides were simply overnight, however, from sitting in the seats for what limited time I did so, I did not exactly recall them as being overly comfortable.

I believe that they will recline, in much the same manner as do seats in Superliners and Viewliners.
  by John_Perkowski
They're not AS easy to manipulate as an airline seat, but that is why you pay a Porter his/her tip.

A Pullman era standard section seat, properly maintained in its springs, upholstering, and covering, is in fact more comfortable than current Amtrak enclosed sections, errr, standard Bedroom seating.

Remember, the upholstering technology of the section worked its way into all the seating Pullman, Budd, and ACF used for their sleepers.

All bets are off, though, if Via has done something to these seats.

BTW, my rides as a child were 2 full day, 2 overnighters.
  by John_Perkowski
Yes, Gil, I have ridden National series cars for certain.

American series cars are a maybe... but I remember seeing "American Fortress at Ogden in 1967 as CoStL was switching into the COLA.

Amtrak, if it ever orders new SL sleepers, needs to bring back these openings from the coffin uppers they have now.


  by David Benton
What is ( or was ) a Section , exactly ? form above it sounds like a duble bunk roomette , that converts to seating during the day , but was it open to the corridor , or enclosed ?
  by Gilbert B Norman
The Section comprised the traditional Lower and Upper Berth that were the butt of jokes from Jack Benny to Abbott and Costello. For those not familiar, best imagine a Superliner Standard with instead of the enclosed room, it was open to the corridor. Just like with the Standard, there were heavy curtains to enclose the bunks.

However, unlike the Amtrak Standard, each berth could be sold to unrelated parties.
  by John_Perkowski
Overland Trail has the dubious reputation of being the first streamlined fully lightweight sleeper. It toured during the demonstations of UP's M-10000 (the City of Salina), then was folded into the City of Portland M10001.

EDIT, 26 Jun 06: The first streamlined sleeper (kinda sorta) was George M Pullman. If you see a picture of her in Two Tone Grey, she does look streamlined, but in other pictures, because of her HW windowage, she looks like a wannabe. JP

She had 8 enclosed sections. 1 double bedroom, and one (dubious) compartment. Those enclosed sections are the historic model for the Superliner Standard Bedroom of today, EXCEPT:

- in 1934, the enclosed section had a washbasin and mirror. The Standard BR of today lacks running water.

- in 1934, the enclosed section had two full width beds, as opposed to the 30" rack in todays lower and the even shallower rack in the upper.

Last edited by John_Perkowski on Tue Jun 27, 2006 2:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  by PRRGuy
When I took the Three Rivers To Altoona, Pa last year, i had a viewliner standard bedroom and I did have a toilet and sink in my room, shower down the hall to the left. I also prefered the upper berth as was recommened by my car attendent.
  by bill haithcoat
As to what sections looked like I believe they are shown in the old movie "Some Like It Hot" which takes place partly on a train.

My only experience is this. I was on the Dixie Flyer from Chattanooga to Chicago just before Xmas 1964. Train had dwindled to all coach by then. So, I was a coach passenger. But due to holiday equipment demands, an old section sleeper was being operated in coach service.

Some military guys were on the train who knew how to turn the seats into beds and they were kindly enough to turn my seat into a bed as well. Of course the mattress was big and wide but there were no pillows, etc. I used my raincoat for a pillow.Slept fully clothed, no green curtain, etc. Of course there was no extra charge. And if military personell had not done all that turning of seats into beds the conductors would probably not allowed it.

  by jhdeasy
My first (and I believe only) experience with open section sleeper accomodations was a Saturday night in November 1977, when I had a lower berth on an x-CN "GREEN" series sleeper operating as the Toronto to Ottowa occupancy sleeper on Via's "Cavalier." It was quite comfortable, with a wide thick mattress.

It was part of a 48 hour trip that a friend and I made from New York's Grand Central Terminal (NYG) to New York's Pennsylvania Station (NYP), routed as follows:

Amtrak "Empire State Express" from NYG to Buffalo. [coach]

CR/TH&B/CP RDC from Buffalo to Toronto [coach]

Via "Cavalier" from Toronto to Ottowa [lower section]

Via "Canadian" from Ottowa to Montreal, via Van Kleek Hill [coach]

Amtrak "Montrealer" from Montreal to NYP [bedroom]

  by Gilbert B Norman
OK, guess this is evolving into a "how many miles do you have" thread with regard to open Section sleepers.

I think mine goes as follows;

Stamford-Meredith NH summer camp 4 years 1952 et seq RT

NY-Montreal-Kapitichuan Club 1956 RT

NY-Boston Owl Dec 1966

Several other opportunities over the years; Mexico, USA (Butte Special), Humming Bird as noted by Mr., Haithcoat, Canada, Japan, Stmfd-Portland ME; I'll pass, thank you.

  by CarterB
I don't remember that the section seats were 'movable' so that they would recline. IIRC they were about the same as the roomette 'couch' (though wider, could seat actually 2 persons) and were pretty 'upright'.
I do remember however that because they were wide you could get a pillow and sit slanchwise and relax quite well with your feet up on the seat (don't forget the etiquette of removing your shoes) and lean against the pillow propped up against the window.
The 'uninformed' would always get into an argument as to who got the 'forward facing' seat during the daytime. The porter would always politely point to the seat # which IIRC corresponded to whether you had an upper or lower.
  by Gilbert B Norman
With daytime Section travel, Pullman rules called for that the Lower occupant got to ride forward, the Upper "otherwise'.

And yes, I do recall that Section seats did recline of sorts, in much the same manner as do Amtrak Sleeper seats.