Troop cars to move farm workers? : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

Pullman troop cars seem to be a hot item in model train magazine advertisements. Every time I look at one, my mind is drawn back to a day in the mid 60's when I was train watching at Delray Beach FL. A northbound movement, possibly the mail and express, stopped for a few minutes. It had a string of unusual looking cars in pullman green, They were not typical heavy weight cars and seemed to resemble troop cars (however, my memory on this is limited and they could have been something else). The windows were open and the cars were filled with what appeared to be migrant farm workers. I have never seen anything like this in all my SAL material. The SAL color guide book does not have anything in it that resembles what I remember. Can anyone shed light on what this might have been and the type of cars used? If the Florida railroads had special trains to transport migrant farm workers, this might be an interesting future article for Lines South. Any help would be appreciated.

-- Jim Coviello (, July 13, 2004


There's an example of a troop sleeper converted to Maintenance of Way service at the North Carolina Transportation Musuem. It had belonged to the Norfolk Southern RAILWAY.

I don't know that SAL had the same policy, but N&W would not allow gangs to deadhead with the traveling public. When installing rail, for example, a "system" gang would be ferried to the site from points all over the railroad. There, they slept and ate in cars assigned to the gang. But on Fridays (usually), the gangs deadheaded home for the week end. N&W would add additional cars to the passenger trains to haul the gangs. These were known as "labor cars".

-- Harry Bundy (, July 31, 2004.

I remember sneaking into one of these cars in the 60's. it was in South Richmond Virginia on the SAL yard near Clopton. It was set up with a long table to serve food to the track workers. I did not enter the other cars.

Randy Bass

-- Randall Bass (, July 24, 2004.

I had the thrill of bouncing around, literally, in several of those troop sleepers on various troop trains during WW2. The bunks were stacked three deep on both sides of the aisle. I thought that was a tight fit until I crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Queen Elizabeth. believe it or not, we had 18,000 souls on that one ship. I came back to the states in comparative luxury with 19 other guys in a B-17 Flying Fortress on a four hop flight, England to Iceland, Iceland to Goose Bay, Labrador, Goose Bay to Presque Isle, Maine, and Presque Isle to Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Ct.

-- Bill Sellers (, July 21, 2004.

This is intriguing. Since the windows were open, it's possible the cars could indeed have been SAL work cars converted from old coaches or Pullmans - SAL had a good many of these. But, several other factors make me wonder. First, my sense is that track gangs didn't typically move to their works sites on board such cars at this late date, but instead got there by other means and then lived on them for the duration of the work. (At least that's how Bill Cogswell described it, I believe, in an article he wrote for Lines South once about his work in an ACL signal gang.) Also, I think the converted work cars usually had bunks and not seats. Finally, I am not sure any given work gang was big enough that it would have "filled" "cars" (plural) - that implies far greater numbers of individuals than I think most gangs had. So I lean toward thinking it may in fact have been farm workers. But as to what kind of cars they may have been, or whose, that's still a good question. I don't think any of the RRs still had open-window revenue coaches in the mid-60s - I believe they were gone by the early 50s.

-- Larry Goolsby (, July 14, 2004.

Speaking of troop sleepers, after the war, the New York Central cpurchased and converted a batch of troop sleepers to express cars. One of these cars ended up in Grand central terminal where it was parked on a short siding under the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. The hotel leased it from the railroad for storing china and silverware.

Sometime in the 1960's, the Allied Full Cushion trucks that the cars were originally equipped with were prohibited for interchange by the AAR. The NYC changed the trucks on some of its cars and scrapped the others. This car was moved from Grand Central, had its trucks changed and then was sent back to the terminal where it slumbered throughout the Penn Central and Conrail days, forgotten by all. In the mid 1980's, the Waldorf Astoria removed its china and silverware and the car was "discovered" by a contractor who was working on the rehabilitation of the terminal. Unfortunately, he "modified" the car by cutting openings for windows and doors in its sides to make it into a field office. When the contractor left the site, we took over the car and are now using it as a project office within Grand Central Terminal.

-- Michael W. Savchak (, July 14, 2004.

By the mid 1960's, most of the WW 2 built Troop sleepers were long since converted to baggage, express and work cars. SAL did purchase a series of Pullman Tourist cars after the war and immediately converted them into work cars. Photos of these cars are in Paul Faulk's SAL book in the back section of the book dealing with work equipment. Other work equipment was rebuilt from aged box cars and such. What you probably saw was a RR track, bridge or signal gang being transported to a work site. Most migrant farm workers were transported by truck or school bus.

-- Michael W. Savchak (, July 14, 2004.

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