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Clover Colony

Clover Colony: An Emblem of Railroad History

Constructed in 1920 by the renowned Pullman Company, the Clover Colony stands as an iconic sleeping car associated with the golden era of luxurious railroad travel. Originally named the BERNADOTTE, this 12-1 sleeping car was designed using the classic plan 2410F (12 open sections: with sofas that turned to a berths plus an upper that lowered from the ceiling, and only curtains for privacy; and 1 large private drawing room with its own section, sofa, and toilet annex) as part of Lot 4574, and subsequently placed in the Pullman Pool service. Based upon shopping and maintenance records, it seems the BERNADOTTE saw service in the western states, throughout the 1920s, and service in the Southeast throughout the later 1930s.

In September of 1936, the BERNADOTTE was updated with a Pullman mechanical air conditioning system, further enhancing passenger comfort. This system only operated when the wheels were turning, or the car, was connected to “Stand-by” power in a terminal. As such a battery powered chilled brine system was included, which would pump chilled brine through separate coils when the car was stationary in a siding, boarding passengers at an intermediate station, or anywhere else. A significant transformation took place in August 1940, when the car underwent extensive renovations at Pullman’s Calumet Shops. The late 1920s and 1930s saw a rise in popularity of the private bedroom, which Pullman answered by building “all-room cars”, and beginning several rebuild programs in the late 1930s to replace sections in existing cars with bedrooms. The “CLOVER” series (Plan 4036) was launched in 1934, which replaced 4 sections and one vestibule with 5 double bedrooms. The BERNADOTTE was the second to the last of 103 cars rebuilt, rolling out in August of 1940. Transitioning from a 12-1 to an 8-5 sleeping car, it retained eight open sections and featured five private bedrooms, each with fold-away toilet and wash-stand, and an upper and lower berth. 2 of these were located on one end, and 3 on the other. 4 of the 5 featured adjoining doors. Of note the earlier CLOVER series cars featured all 4 bedrooms on one end (as did the 15 GARDEN series “8-5” cars rebuilt in 1934. Post-renovation, the car was rechristened as the CLOVER COLONY. This rebuilding also saw replacement of the grained wood interior, with a solid-color interior, and the brass fixtures with nickel streamlined fittings. Once again maintenance records show western locations, which correspond with the car’s appearance on the Lark.

In 1947, the Clover Colony was sold to the Southern Pacific Railroad alongside 15 other 8-5 sleeping cars. This came in the wake of federal anti-trust lawsuits that led to the fragmentation of the Pullman Company’s operating division among multiple railroads. Southern Pacific, and most roads, promptly leased the car back to the Pullman Company, who continued its operation. Any car not leased back was required to have ALL Pullman markings removed. (And they were everywhere, from linens, water pitchers, soap, to journal box covers on the wheels). The car retained its original Pullman Standard Color (“Pullman Green”) until it was repainted in the “Pool Scheme” of two-tone grey, for service on the Southern Pacific Overland, likely in December of 1949 during a shopping in St. Louis. Only a few short years later, during another shopping in St. Louis, the Pullman “Green” returned, although with Southern Pacific markings added. Three years later it was back to the two-tone “pool scheme” with prominent Southern Pacific lettering in the center and Pullman in smaller characters at either end, and its name replaced with the number 8351. Interestingly, this work was undertaken at Pullman’s facility in Wilmington, Delaware, far from the car’s usually shoppings at the Richmond, California facility.

With the introduction of more and more lightweight cars, and declining passenger traffic, the 8351 was sold for scrap, to Midwest Steel, in 1961. The car was pulled to the site near Birmingham, Alabama; and eventually parked at the very end of the long line of Pullmans. Midwest Steel had large numbers of Pullman heavyweights, many of which had limited mileage since their last shopping, but times were changing. Happily, for the 8351, Midwest Steel contacted Jack Ferris, of Fort Wayne, Indiana; an industrialist and enthusiast who had recently purchased the Pullman 10-Section-Lounge-Observation Car CAPITOL HEIGHTS of 1925, and offered him the 8351. The 8351 underwent mechanical servicing, and was taken to Chattanooga for additional work, before making the journey to the Ferris Industires siding in Fort Wayne. The CLOVER COLONY and CAPITOL HEIGHTS were joined by the TRAVEL CLUB and entered private car service in 1964; ultimately being joined by 7 additional cars. Ferris’ Private Rail Cars, Inc; added a shower, restored the CLOVER COLONY name, and turned the car out in a deep blue livery with gold striping. These cars made trips on excursions and passenger trains, including several Southern Railway excursions, even ones led by 4501. Changing times, and decreasing passenger schedules, led to the sale of the CLOVER COLONY in 1968, to the High Iron Company. After 5 years of operation, the High Iron Company sold the car to two of its HICo. caretakers. With changing times in the Amtrak era, the new owners of the Clover Colony chose to rebuild the car’s trucks and wheels with Timken roller bearings (at Pointe St Charles in Canada). This, along with new couplers allowed the car to travel all over the country, and even into Mexico. After years of fun, the car was sold yet again in 1986 to yet another private party, who took it to yet more places. Ultimately, the Tennessee Valley Railroad (TVRM) acquired the car in 1993, and completed a restoration to service (after sustaining damage in 1992) in April of 1994. While TVRM does not utilize the Clover Colony for overnight trips – its original purpose – the car is frequently featured on extended excursions, providing first-class seating to passengers. Adorned with 1940s décor, the car’s interior offers a time-capsule experience, transporting riders back to the Pullman Company’s heyday of offering safe and plush overnight journeys.

The Pullman Sleeping Car Clover Colony is a remarkable relic of railroad history. Built in 1920, this sleeping car from the legendary Pullman Company embodies elegance and comfort. It offers all the luxuries expected in a premier sleeper car – including cozy beds, generous storage, and a private restroom. The success and popularity of the Pullman Company for several decades is evident in this beautifully preserved piece of machinery.

Railroad enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate the Clover Colony as a Pullman dining car, set in day time condition. The Pullman Company offered “upstairs” service in its sleeping cars, where passengers could order food to be served on a section table (as TVRM does in the CLOVER COLONY), but also operated restaurant and buffet cars, which featured on-board kitchens with a greater number of tables. It should of course be remembered that Pullman pioneered the first dining car, in 1868, and operated a fleet of dining cars into the 1920s. As the CLOVER COLONY makes its way through picturesque landscapes, this magnificent machine offers a unique and opulent experience to passengers, reminiscent of the Pullman dining service offered at the request of sleeping car passengers; and offered in full-restaurant and buffet cars (some of which also had sections/berths in them).

The Clover Colony, numbered Car 97 at TVRM to satisfy modern requirements, had a notable role in the 1959 movie, ‘Some Like It Hot‘, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, providing exterior shots.


Car: Clover Colony

Car Type: 8-5 Sleeping Car

Operators: Pullman Company, Southern Pacific Railroad, Private Rail Cars Inc, High Iron Company, Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum

Builder: Pullman Company

Date Built: 1920

Paint Scheme: Colonial Red

Lettered: Tennessee Valley

Status: Operational

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