Currently Offsite for Restoration
Pullman Sleeping Car Description
- Manufacturer: Pullman
# 2422 "Lake Pearl"
- Owned and operated by the Southern Railway
- Said to be the finest example of a Pullman car remaining in the United States
- Donated to the Museum by the Norfolk Southern Corporation
The Lake Pearl, built in 1923, is a deluxe sleeping car from the golden age of passenger rail travel. It contains a combination of sleeping compartments: open sections with seats that fold into beds with upper berths above, screened from the aisle at night by heavy curtains; two private bedrooms; and one drawing room–a bedroom with a private lounge. Fixtures are largely intact. Fabrics are authentic Pullman ‘rose-red,’ dating back to the 1940s, needing careful cleaning, and some minor repairs. The carpet may need to be replaced.
Why is it important to save the Lake Pearl?
William Withuhn, who has curated every transportation exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution since 1983 and until his retirement in 2011 and who has overseen the restoration of numerous pieces of rail equipment, has said that the Lake Pearl is the finest example of a Pullman sleeper in the country. In his report of his assessment in April, 2012 he states “ the interior is very special because it is so fully intact. It is extremely rare to find an unrestored, ‘heavyweight-era’ sleeping car interior in such authentic and complete condition, with Pullman berths, folding-berth hardware, seats with Pullman upholstery, and interior fixtures including dressing/bathroom fixtures."
In addition to the rarity of the car itself, a Pullman sleeper tells a powerful story of life in America. There are romantic stories of luxurious passenger travel, economic stories of the growth of commerce made possible by overnight travel, and — most significantly — political stories of the rise of the civil rights movement. Pullman porters assigned to each car made beds, shined shoes, and served travelers’ needs, but were the respected leaders in their home communities fighting to end segregation.
How can the Lake Pearl be saved?
The Lake Pearl cannot be open for display due to its current condition. The primary threat to the Lake Pearl comes from water damage–roof leaks and leaking around windows which has caused rusting. Heavily-flaking paint prevents visitor entry. The Museum has a plan for the car’s conservation, which is underway.
A private donor has already offered $25,000 toward the restoration of the Lake Pearl. This funding has enabled an assessment of the condition of the car and the development of a restoration plan. New windows have been fabricated and installed to replace the rotting windows so that water damage around the windows has been halted. The roof needs to be waterproofed and repainted and the exterior repainted. Flaking paint must be removed in the interior and then repainted. Upholstery, carpets and curtains need to be carefully cleaned, and in some cases repaired or replaced. A very few fixtures need to be repaired or replaced. All the wiring needs to be replaced, and an HVAC unit must be added for conservation and visitor comfort.
What are the future plans for the Lake Pearl?
The Lake Pearl will be moved under cover in the Museum’s Rail Yard and opened to the public, eventually with on-grade access.