Pullman Troop Sleeper and Troop Kitchen Cars

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This page was last updated on October 14, 2018.

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MAIN Trains

Troop trains traveled under what was known as a Military Authorization Identification Number, or "MAIN." The MAIN numbers listed for military movements were identification numbers assigned by Washington that might refer to one or more troop cars or an entire train. The MAIN numbers remained with the movement from origin to destination, even if the rolling stock was switched from one train to another enroute.

Each January, a new series of MAIN train numbers was begun, with the MAIN number ending with a five-digit number by the end of each year. A MAIN number could be assigned to a single car, or to two or more cars running together, or to an entire train. It was not uncommon to have multiple MAIN numbers on the same train, suggesting that cars were picked-up or switched out en route.

Before 1943

During World War II, large groups of military personnel, known as "troops," were moved around the country by train. The railroads and the Pullman Company were overwhelmed by an almost four-fold increase in passenger traffic between 1940 and 1944, from 23 billion passenger-miles, to 96 billion. They met the high demands for troop movements during World War II by pressing every sleeping car possible into service. In addition to special troop trains, standard passenger service and passenger cars allowed troops to be moved from one military base to other bases, or to their debarkation points for overseas assignments.

These troop trains followed no fixed consist. Railroads assembled whatever types of sleepers they could get to accommodate the troop movement. Troop trains used a variety of railroad-owned coaches, standard heavyweight Pullman sleeper cars, and beginning in late 1943, purpose-built Troop Sleepers. In the cars themselves, soldiers in standard Pullman sections or tourist berths usually slept two in a lower berth and one in the upper. Soldiers in coaches had to sleep in their seats.

During the war, most sleeping cars were standard heavyweight cars and still owned by the Pullman Company. Cars were mostly Pullman green with "Pullman" on the letterboards, but other colors could be mixed in the train. For troop trains before late 1943, and before the new troop sleeper cars, the railroads used conventional 85-foot Pullman cars, which were 16-section Tourist sleepers with all sections and no rooms. The officers slept in standard Pullman heavyweight sleepers that had 12 sections and one drawing room.

High ranking staff, such as generals, were assigned a railroad-owned cafe-lounge car. This type of car was more deluxe than required by a troop train. The presence of a cafe-lounge car in a troop train consist would indicate that a general and his staff were on the train, using the observation section for meetings and the lounge area for staff work.

By early 1943, as the war effort gained momentum, the War Department's Office of Defense Transportation found that there were not enough standard heavyweight passenger cars to move the troops where they needed to be, so the War Department asked rail car manufacturers to build a fleet of cars that could be built and put into service quickly. These became known as troop sleepers, which also included troop kitchen cars. The vast majority of these were built by the Pullman company.

The first groups of 1,200 troop sleepers and 400 troop kitchen cars were delivered between October 1943 and March 1944. Additional cars were ordered in 1945, with 1,200 additional troop sleepers being delivered between October 1945 and May 1946. Four hundred additional troop kitchen cars were delivered between September and December 1945.

Forty Medical Department Kitchen cars were built by A&CF in February and March 1944, to the same pattern as the earlier 400 Troop Kitchen cars. These special 40 cars were spliced between hospital ward cars in special hospital trains for wounded soldiers as they returned home.

Troop Sleepers

Pullman constructed the first troop sleeper cars in late 1943 to help ease the burden on the standard Pullman fleet. To increase the troop movement capacity of the railroads, the U.S. Office of Defense Transportation contracted with Pullman-Standard Car Company to build 2,400 troop sleepers, and with American Car & Foundry (ACF) to build 440 troop kitchen cars. ACF also built 200 hospital cars and Pullman built 10 hospital cars.

For production efficiency, Pullman based the design on the AAR standard 50' 6" boxcar design. The cars lacked typical box car ladders to the roof and roof walks. The ends were flat, with doors like regular passenger cars, with diaphragms, passenger train steam and signal air lines. Other modifications included side doors that were three feet wide, ten large windows along easch side, two lavatory windows, and six small upper berth windows on each side. The cars rode on special Allied "Full-Cushion" trucks. The first half of the production had step wells and trap doors under the doors centered on each side of the cars. Later production eliminated the step wells and used simple strap foot rungs.

The Troop Sleeper cars were owned by the U. S. government, but were operated under contract by the Pullman Company, including a full-time Pullman porter, as well as standard Pullman bedding, sheets, and pillow cases, which were changed every night. All other facilities conformed to standard Pullman practices.

Each car slept 29 troopers and one Pullman porter. The troops were closely situated in three tiers of berths. During the day, the middle bunk was folded down to serve as a back rest for the bottom bunk, with seating for three. The cars rode hard, as they were built using freight trucks. Minimal interior lighting and ventilation meant that the cars were dark and stuffy. As the trains traveled between destinations, there was little for the troops to do on board except play cards, sleep, or talk. The cars were only 9 feet high inside, at a time when standard box car height was moving from 10 feet to 10-1/2 feet high.

Troop Kitchen Cars

Before ACF delivered the first purpose-built Troop Kitchen cars in late 1943, railroad-owned standard heavyweight baggage cars were converted into temporary kitchen cars. One or two kitchen cars were surrounded by troop cars in the consist because the troops were served in their seats or bunks.

Initially, the trains may have stopped at railroad diners for food, had regular diner cars, or employed baggage cars as temporary kitchens. Food eaten on the train was served to troops at their seats or in their bunks. A train with troop sleepers for enlisted men, full size Pullmans for the officers, and kitchen cars for food service was an ideal consist for efficiency and cost.

The Troop Kitchen cars were spliced between the sleeper cars, so that each kitchen car served approximately 250 men. The stoves and other equipment in the kitchen cars were standard Army issue, to be familiar to the cooks which were furnished by each traveling military unit. Troops were served in their seats or bunks by troops assigned to kitchen duty, moving from car to car. The troops ate on paper plates and paper cups. The entire operation was supervised by a mess sergeant.

After 1946

March 15, 1946
The following comes from Railway Age, January 26, 1946:

Sleeper Ban Off March 15 -- Removal of limitations on the operation of sleeping cars on regular trains has been definitely scheduled by the Office of Defense Transportation through an amendment, issued last week, to its General Order 53. That order, effective July 15, 1945, prohibited the continuance of sleeping car service in runs of 450 miles or less while the peak movement of returning service men has been in progress.

Subject to the ability of the Pullman Company to have the cars available for use, the amendment provides that sleeping car runs of 351 to 450 miles may be restored February 15. It is estimated that 334 cars now assigned to military use will be required to accomplish this restoration of regular service.

On March 1, subject to the same condition, sleeping car runs of 251 to 350 miles may be restored, involving the return to "civilian" operation of an additional 372 cars. On March 15 the ban is removed entirely, permitting sleeping car runs of 250 miles or less to be restored ; another 189 cars will be required to accomplish this.

While the complete revocation of these restrictions on sleeping car use contemplates the withdrawal from exclusive military service of the 895 sleeping cars made available when they were instituted, Director J. Monroe Johnson of the O. D. T. explained that conditions have so changed that there will still be available for military use more sleeping cars than were in such use during the peak movement of December, 1945. This situation results from the delivery of 1,200 troop sleeping cars on government order. While their completion by the manufacturers by the time scheduled, December 31, 1945, was prevented by strikes, 711 of these cars were ready for use January 16, and the entire 1,200 are expected to be in service before March 1.

At the same time, of course, troop movements will decrease in volume during the coming months, as the Army approaches the end of its program for the return of men from overseas.

Likewise effective March 15 will be the removal of the O. D. T. limitation on advance reservation of railroad passenger accommodations. This order—General Order 52—went into effect June 29, 1945, with a prohibition on the sale or allocation of either sleeping car or seat space of any type on passenger trains more than 5 days in advance of scheduled departure time. On September 9 that limitation was changed to 14 days, on which basis it will continue until March 15, when the order will be revoked, leaving the railroads to "make such arrangements as they please" as to the acceptance of advance reservations for passenger space.

Roster Listing

Troop Sleepers

Quantity Builder Dates Notes
USAX 7000-8199 1,200 Pullman Oct 1943 to Mar 1944 Pullman, Michigan City, Indiana
USAX 8300-8499 200 Pullman Oct 1945 to May 1946 Pullman, Michigan City, Indiana
USAX 9000-9999 1,000 Pullman Oct 1945 to May 1946 Pullman, Michigan City, Indiana

Troop Kitchen Cars

Quantity Builder Dates Notes
USAX K-100 to K-499 400 AC&F Oct 1943 to Mar 1944 AC&F, Chicago
USAX K-600 to K-999 400 AC&F Sep 1945 to Dec 1945 AC&F, Chicago

Medical Department Kitchen Cars

Quantity Builder Dates Notes
USAX 8731-8770 40 AC&F Feb 1944 to Mar 1944 AC&F, Chicago


The ratio of troop sleepers, to troop kitchen cars was approximately one troop kitchen car for every six troop sleepers, with the kitchen car located in the middle to allow the meals to be served to the troops in their seats. Some troop trains had one, two, or three heavyweight baggage cars, or no baggage cars. The sleepers assigned to each train were a mix of either the newly delivered troop sleeper cars, or standard heavyweight Pullman cars, usually taken from their fleet of Tourist cars, for the enlisted troops, and standard Pullman sleepers for the officers.

The enlisted troops were in the troop sleepers. The officers were in the standard heavyweight cars, with the better rooms given to the higher ranks. These standard heavyweight Pullman sleepers for the officers were usually 12 sections with 1 drawing room.

An example of single-car MAIN troop movements was the 14-section Pullman "Fort Nelson" traveling as MAIN 26069 in the consist of the B&O Amabssador on September 24, 1942.

ACL Troop Train, 1942

MAIN 9240 departing Camp Stewart, Georgia, via Atlantic Coast Line on May 7, 1942, enroute to San Francisco

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 9)

ACL 455 4-6-2 steam locomotive
ACL 1628 4-6-2 steam locomotive
AT&SF 10135 Box-Express car
NYC 6450 Express-Refrigerator car
Pullman 2003 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1864 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1726 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1177 Tourist car (13 Sections)
GM&O 72 Baggage car equipped as kitchen car
GM&O 74 Baggage car equipped as kitchen car
Pullman 2213 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1971 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1915 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1855 Tourist car (13 Sections)

MKT Troop Train, 1942

Missouri-Kansas-Texas R.R. special train, en route to Camp Hood, Texas October 27, 1942

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 12)

M-K-T 856 2-8-2 steam locomotive
M-K-T 378 4-6-2 steam locomotive
Pullman 1365 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1112 Tourist car (13 Sections)
PRR 9775 Baggage car
Pullman 5027 Tourist car (13 Sections)
ESCONDIDO 10 Sections, 1 D.R., 2 Compts.
FORT CASEY* 10 Sections, 1 D.R., 2 Compts.
NYC 8055 Baggage car
P&LE 430 Coach
P&LE 429 Coach
NYC 8429 Baggage car
ISLAND REGAL* 10 Sections, 1 D.R., 1 Compt.
McCORD* 12 Sections, 1 Drawing Room

*Running in tourist-car service in this consist.

In the above train, cars 1365 and 1112 (originating at Columbus) and cars 5027, ESCONDIDO and FORT CASEY from Fort Thomas, Kentucky, were all operating as Main 31213. Cars ISLAND REGAL and McCORD from Camp Perry, Ohio, were running as Main 31212. The two P&LE coaches were operating as Main 31220.

C&O Troop Train, 1943

Main 53866 passing Charlottesville, Va. enroute on Chesapeake & Ohio R.R., September 28, 1943

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 18)

C&O 483 4-6-2 steam locomotive
NH 567 Express car
GRAND VALLEY* 10 Sections - Lounge Observation
CRRofNJ 967 Coach
B&O 4654 Coach
PRR 1495 Coach
PRR 9087 Baggage car equipped as kitchen
Pullman 1136 Tourist car (13 Sections)
B&M 558 Coach
B&M 518 Coach
Pullman 1378 Tourist car (13 Sections)

*Running in tourist-car service in this consist.

Southern Troop Train, 1943

Main 68638, operating as second section of Southern R.R. train 32, passing Danville, Va. on December 24, 1943, en route from Carlow Siding, Fla. to Camp Kilmer, N.J.

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 20)

SOU 4813 2-8-2 steam locomotive
B&O 1591 Express car
Pullman 6001 Tourist car (42 beds - troop service)
PARK WOOD 14 Sections
Pullman 1054 Tourist car (14 Sections)
ACL 535 Baggage car
POINT DUME 10 Sections, 2 Drawing Rooms
Pullman 4265 Tourist car (16 Sections)
USA 7113 Troop sleeper
USA 7021 Troop sleeper
USA 7257 Troop sleeper
SAL 458 Baggage car
USA 7280 Troop sleeper
GLENARTNEY 7 Compartments, 2 Drawing Rooms
PALO 12 Sections, 1 Drawing Room
SAN MARCIAL 10 Sections - Lounge

ACL Troop Train, 1944

Main 15092 enroute on Atlantic Coast Line R.R. from Camp Robinson, Ark. to Camp Rucker, Alabama, April 10, 1944

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 22)

ACL 1622 4-6-2 steam locomotive
GN 2052 Baggage car
StL-SF 5115 Baggage car
USA 8225 Troop sleeper
USA 7009 Troop sleeper
Pullman 5052 Tourist car (13 Sections)
USA K-484 Troop kitchen car
USA 7285 Troop sleeper
USA 7243 Troop sleeper
Pullman 6011 Tourist car (42 beds - troop service)
Pullman 2277 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1816 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 2592 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1331 Tourist car (13 Sections)
USA K-402 Troop kitchen car
Pullman 2483 Tourist car (13 Sections)
SEQUOYAH 7 Compartments, 2 Drawing Rooms
CAMP McCOY 10 Sections, 1 D.R., 2 Compts.

L&N Troop Train, 1944

Consist of an L&N troop train at the time of its wreck on July, 6, 1944:

L&N 418, a 4-8-2 type
4 Pullman heavyweight
1 Pullman troop kitchen car
1 Pullman troop sleeper
2 Pullman heavyweight
1 heavyweight baggage car
3 Pullman troop sleepers
1 Pullman troop kitchen car
2 Pullman troop sleepers
1 baggage car

NP Troop Train, 1945

Main 3991 enroute on Northern Pacific R.R., February 17, 1945

(from Wayner, Passenger Train Consists of the 1940s, page 28)

NP 2659 4-8-4 steam locomotive
ACL 1883 Refrigerator car
PFE 773 Refrigerator car
PFE 667 Refrigerator car
Pullman 1727 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1775 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 6003 Tourist car (42 beds - troop service)
USA 7232 Troop sleeper
USA 7679 Troop sleeper
USA 7991 Troop sleeper
USA K-280 Kitchen car
USA K-414 Kitchen car
Pullman 1330 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 2478 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 2318 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1348 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 2627 Tourist car (13 Sections)
Pullman 1758 Tourist car (13 Sections)

D&RGW Troop Train, 1946

A Kindig photo, taken in March 1946, shows a troop train on the Rio Grande at Tennessee Pass, coming down empty to load at Camp Hale at Pando.

D&RGW 2-8-2 type
1 Pullman troop sleeper
1 Pullman heavyweight
1 Pullman troop sleeper
1 Pullman troop kitchen
1 Pullman heavyweight
6 Pullman troop sleepers
1 Pullman heavyweight
1 Pullman troop kitchen
3 Pullman heavyweights
2 Pullman troop sleepers
1 Pullman troop kitchen
1 Pullman heavyweight

More Information

Troop Train -- An archived War Department film showing troops on the move. The film shows the troops in standard heavweight cars, before the use of the Pullman troop sleepers and troop kitchen cars.

Pullman Virtual Museum -- Photos and text describing the Pullman troop sleepers and troop kitchen cars.

U. S. Army Guard Car G-10 -- Photos and information about an ACF Medical Department Kitchen Car converted to a Guard Car.

"Troop Cars," by Pat Wider, Classic Trains, Winter 2001. An excellent overview of the cars and the trains, with photos.

"WW II Troop Sleepers and Kitchen Cars," by Pat Wider, Railway Prototype Cyclopedia, Volume 5

"Prototype Info: World War II troop sleepers and kitchen cars," by Jeff Wilson, Model Railroader, January 1999

"Troop Kitchen Cars," by Mont Switzer, Mainline Modeler, September 1993


Railroad Model Craftsman, July 1969 (Troop Kitchen)

Model Railroader, December 2001 (Troop Sleeper)

Model Railroader, February 2002 (Troop Kitchen Car)


UP Big Boy pulling a troop train near Devils Slide, Utah, in 1946 (approaching). Photo by Emil Albrecht.

UP Big Boy pulling a troop train near Devils Slide, Utah, in 1946 (going away). Photo by Emil Albrecht.