Sleeping car


November 30, 2021

A sleeping car is a passenger carriage that enables lying down travel. The international type designation for sleeping cars is WL from the French wagon-lit. A differentiation from the sleeping car is the couchette car, which is less comfortable and has more couches per compartment. For the use of sleeping cars, either additional fees in the form of surcharges or correspondingly higher tariff levels, which include the use of the sleeping car, are charged.


A sleeping car has compartments for one to four people each. The standard sleeping cars used in Central Europe can optionally be occupied by one to three people per compartment. In these cars, several compartments can often be connected to one another. Some railways only offer compartments with one or two beds in newer sleeping cars (Germany, Turkey). In the successor states of the Soviet Union, compartments with two and four beds are common. Four-bed compartments can be found in newer design double-decker sleeping cars. The beds can usually be converted into seats for daytime traffic. As a rule, each compartment contains a washing facility (with the exception of the vehicles from the former Soviet Union mentioned above). In addition, in most cases a sleeping car has a duty room for the sleeping car attendant as well as one or more toilets and, in some cases, showers. In the luxury compartments of some modern sleeping cars, there are small bathrooms with their own toilet and shower. In special trains, such as the luxury train “Blue Train” in South Africa, compartments (and suites) with bathtubs are available. From an international perspective, the transition to the saloon car is fluid.


Simple-design sleeping cars existed in the United States as early as 1830. In the years 1859–1863, George Mortimer Pullman developed a sleeping car that was luxurious for the time. This was made possible by taking over the factory from Theodore Woodruff, who had already developed a sleeping car in 1857. Pullman is probably the best-known designer and manufacturer of sleeping cars, but contrary to popular belief, not their inventor.

Development in Europe until 1920

Georges Nagelmackers transferred the idea developed by Pullman to Europe after driving Pullman's cars on a trip to America, and founded the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) in Belgium in 1872. This company operated the first sleeping car used in Germany, which started on October 1, 1873 on the Berlin – Ostend route. However, it was only available to first class passengers. From June 1, 1874, a sleeper wagon ran between Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main. From 1880 the Prussian State Railways set up their own sleeping car courses from Berlin: to Warsaw (1880), Aachen (taken over from CIWL in 1884) and Hamburg (taken over from CIWL in 1885). In 1886, the Prussian Railway Administration terminated the concession contracts of the Belgian-French CIWL and took over the sleeping car courses from Berlin to the East Prussian border station Eydtkuhnen, as well as the Berlin – Cologne and Hamburg – Cologne courses. Up until the First World War, there were only three companies operating sleeping cars in continental Europe: the CIWL, which operated sleeping cars on the railway networks of Baden, Bavaria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the Ottoman Empire, Austria-Hungary, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Serbia, Spain and Württemberg; the Prussian State Railways, which operated sleeping cars on their network in Prussia and neighboring German states and offered sleeping cars of the first and second class; the Swedish State Railways, which from 1910 was the first railway company to introduce third-class sleeping cars between Malmö and Stockholm. Sleeping car journeys were (and are) in comparison

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