In late 1908 Richard Dean and other Pullman Officials come to
the west coast to select a new site. Pullman operated a small shop in Denver
which Pullman shared with the Union Pacific. The shop in Denver was too small
and too far from the growing cities of pacific coast.
Early construction of the shops Summer 1909 Contra Costa County Historical Society
In March of 1910 construction began on 22 acres of what would become the Richmond Car Repair Shops of The Pullman Company. The facility as built with men, horses and wheelbarrows. All the concrete was mixed by hand. The exterior was faced with 350,000 white sandstone bricks. In September the first large pieces of machinery, a wheel press and giant lathe, arrived from the Denver shops. The shops opened on 11/ 27/1910. The superintendent was F.E. Beck. He began his career at Pullman in 1894, the same year as the great Pullman strike. He transferred to Denver and was the manager of the shops there. He was one of many employees transferred to Richmond when it opened.
The shops opened just as Pullman had begun its massive conversion to all steel cars. Train speed and length had increased dramatically in the last ten years, and the safety steel provided was demanded by the railroads. Richmond was built with complete facilities to work on the wood cars as the steel car conversion would end up lasting until the 1930's when the depression wiped out any use there was for the older cars.
The depression of the thirties hurt the railroads and Pullman,
but the Pullman Company had been through depressions and recessions before.
During the twenties there had been a trend in one direction for more private
rooms in the cars and the other direction for more of the economy "Tourist"
sleepers. Air conditioning had finally become compact enough to place under a
railroad passenger car. Pullman used the downtime to air condition thousands of
their sleepers. Also many of the older steel cars built from 1910 to 1920 in
the most common 12 section - 1 Drawing room configuration had open sections
removed and replaced with more private rooms. Other cars had the single drawing
room removed and more sections added. Pullman was positioning itself for the
expected recovery in the economy.
World War Two put huge demands on the Railroads and the Pullman Company. Millions of troops were moved in solid trains of sleepers to bases and ports throughout the country. Personal travel was restricted as their were never enough cars to move all the troops. As much as the shops worked to keep the cars on the road, new special "Troop" Sleepers had to be built to keep up with the demand. These cars resembled ship bunks in boxcars more than the standard Pullman sleeper.
After the war, railroads were ready to put into action the streamliner plans of the 1930's. Thousands of new lightweight cars were ordered along with new diesel locomotives to pull them. Many of the older sleepers were dressed up in the new streamliner paint schemes to fill in for new cars that were slow to come because of the demand. It was during this time that The Pullman Company, the operation division was separated from Pullman - Standard, the car building division by court order. Fifty - seven railroads purchased shares in the new Pullman Company.
Unfortunately the railroads and Pullman had been optimistic
about their ability to compete with airlines and cars. President Eisenhower's
Federal Highway Act put into motion the freeway system you see today. As more
people purchased automobiles, an entire industry arose to cater to these new
As fewer passenger trains ran, the number of cars declined. Pullman began closing the repair shops. When Richmond closed on December 31, 1959, only St. Louis and Calumet were left. These two remained open until Pullman ceased all operations in 1968.
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