- Historic Sites
Varnish For The Nabobs
For decades the private railroad car was the great symbol of wealth. Here is what it looked like in its heyday.
June 1956 | Volume 7, Issue 4
The number of private cars that have been built for owners other than railroads themselves over the decades since the Sixties is not available to precise tally. The Pullman Company estimates that it alone has outshopped approximately 450 such cars. American Car & Foundry may have constructed between 100 and 150, and car shops of individual railroads contributed an unguessed number to the total. It has long been the practice of both main line railroads and short lines to keep their car-building staffs employed in slack seasons on the construction of office cars, and one of the first such ever seen in the Old West was built at the Virginia & Truckee shops at Carson City for the general superintendent, whiskered old Henry Yerington. Alas, the beautiful car caught the eye of John Mackay, the arch-millionaire of the Comstock, who borrowed it for such a prolonged trip even before its rightful occupant could try it out that Yerington, a year later, wrote a friend: “My personal car is in the East where it has been for some months at the convenience of Bonanza Mackay, the richest man in the world.” Nevertheless the pride of ownership and of participation in a splendid tradition still burns fiercely in the hearts of a few unreconstructed men who would rather travel by rail in their own cars than enter the finest private plane of the richest Texas oil millionaire.