A sleeping car is a railroad car which is designed to accommodate sleeping passengers on overnight trips. Numerous configurations of the sleeping car from luxurious and fully private sleepers to public and shared spaces are in use on railroads all over the world. Several manufacturers make sleeping cars, although the most famous was the Pullman Car Company, which was ultimately dissolved in the 1980s. Typically, a railroad ticket which allows a passenger to use a sleeping car is more expensive.
The origins of the sleeping car can be found in the early 1800s, when several American railroads started offering crude sleeping cars which converted daytime seating into nighttime berths. These early sleeping cars would have been far from comfortable, and also not terribly private. In the mid-1800s, George Pullman revolutionized the railroad industry and the sleeping car with his development of a luxury sleeping car. By 1865, when Pullman released the “Pioneer” sleeping car, “Pullman” had become a household name.
Pullman made several innovations to the sleeping car. The first was the creation of private or semi-private berths, where anywhere between one and four travelers could sleep in relative privacy. Pullman also tried to make sleeping cars more comfortable to sleep in, with the use of padded seating, curtains, sound buffers, and other homey gestures. In addition, Pullman leased most of his cars to the railroads, rather than selling them. The lease was accompanied by a full staff, which served passengers and enforced company policies. Pullman cars became well known for their comfort and cleanliness, especially on American railroads.
Numerous famous railroad routes offered overnight routes at some point in their history, including the Orient Express. In the days before sleeping cars, these overnight rides must have been excruciating, since passengers were forced to sit upright throughout the entire trip. Sleeping cars of various levels of luxury made railroad trips much more enjoyable for passengers, who usually had choices between a number of “sleeper” configurations.
Most modern sleepers include a small bathroom, which can be shared between multiple booths or entirely private. Many railroads offer sleepers with a single bed, intended for the use of one or two travelers. More budget-conscious travelers can reserve a shared sleeping car, in which two to four travelers may sleep together. In some parts of the world, it is still possible to find a mass sleeper car with no privacy measures whatsoever, usually for a very low price.