Hop Aboard the Pullman "Sunbeam"

Monday, February 2, 2015
Well, it seems the groundhog has confirmed we're in for several more weeks of winter and by the looks of things outside my window, there is no question we are definitely in the thick of it today.  I have to confess I actually think it's quite beautiful, however, that is in part thanks to the fact that I don't need to be on the road today.  I'm definitely a girl who loves her seasons and for a photographer, there's not much prettier than freshly fallen snow cover.  Since you probably have had your fill of dealing with it today, I'm going to take you back to summer and share a place that I've been meaning to share for quite some time.  So sit back a spell and come along to some day's gone by and hop aboard the Pullman "Sunbeam".

You may remember that back in July I did a couple of blog posts featuring Hildene - the home of Robert Todd Lincoln, son of Abraham Lincoln.  Hildene is located in Manchester, VT - a quaint town where Robert Todd and Mary Lincoln made their home in 1905. 

When Robert Todd and his wife, Mary, moved to Manchester in 1905, Robert was the president of Chicago's Pullman Palace Company, the maker of private, luxury train cars.  It took years to locate and restore a car that would illustrate an era where Robert Todd Lincoln lived - the gilded age.  According to Seth Bongartz, Hildene President, the reason they got the car is because it explains Robert and Hildene.  Robert made his fortune as President of the Pullman Company.  The car, 165-feet long, sits in a wooded glade, surrounded by a structure built to look like an old depot.

According to Hildene's website:   The Sunbeam was built by the Pullman Company as a 10-section luxury car in June 1888. The car’s original name was Ortega and was built for the Pullman – Southern Pacific Association. It was used by President McKinley until his death in 1901. In June 1903 Pullman rebuilt the Ortega and four others as private cars for Pullman charter service. With the rebuilding done, the Ortega was renamed Sunbeam. The Sunbeam was part of the train that former President Theodore Roosevelt employed for correspondents accompanying him as he traveled between Chicago and Milwaukee in October 1912 at the height of his campaign for President on the Bull-Moose ticket. In June 1916 the car was sold to the Northwestern RR of South Carolina, controlled by the Atlantic Coast Line. In the 1920s the car was sold to the Charleston & Western Carolina and was named car 100. The Sunbeam returned to South Carolina where it was eventually taken out of service in the late 1940s. When the Sunbeam was retired, it was placed next to a lake in western South Carolina. A private party acquired the car in 1957, and built a pole barn to protect it in Parksville, South Carolina. Hildene bought the Sunbeam in the summer of 2007 and it was restored in South Carolina. In its new home at Hildene, Sunbeam is the finest example of a wooden Pullman car on public display.   Part of the display offers opportunity for education and research, and part of it features the people who used the cars as well as those who worked on them.  Bongartz says the African-American porters on these trains were treated badly by modern standards. But the porters helped build unions and a black middle class.

 Can you imagine traveling in this?  I wouldn't mind trying!

Porters' Quarters - a little less fancy

If you've never visited Hildene, I encourage you to put it on your list of 'must-see' destinations this spring.  While Hildene is open year round, the gardens, the goat farm are probably best enjoyed during the spring and summer months.  Whether you're a train enthusiast or not, one cannot fail to be impressed by the beauty of this restored Pullman car and I'm sure that for a brief moment, you'll feel as though you've stepped back in time during a time when travel was unlike your typical day on the interstate.  Thanks for the read and come back soon to Life As I See It!
If you missed my earlier blogs featuring the estate and the formal gardens, use these links to enjoy them now. http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/07/hildene-home-of-robert-todd-mary-lincoln.html  and http://gwfirecracker.blogspot.com/2014/07/gardens-in-stained-glass.html

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