J.P. Morgan’s Railcar: Erie 400 Pullman Car

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Personally I like anything with wheels, and that includes trains and airplanes as well as cars. So when reader Jim S. sent us the link to this beautiful, custom made Pullman car, we found it impossible to resist. We hope you enjoy this find, even though it is pretty far afield from the cars and trucks we usually cover.

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And this rail car, known as the Erie 400, is very much unaffordable and unattainable for most, I am sure. It is big and very beautiful and also very expensive. This rail car is being auctioned, where else, here on eBay now with a starting price of (only) $350,000! It’s sitting on a siding in Huntington, West Virginia, awaiting a new owner.

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As the story goes, titan of banking and commerce J.P. Morgan, Jr., commissioned this railcar to be built for him by the Pullman railcar company in 1924. Its history is not readily available. JP Morgan, Jr. died in 1943. His grandson, Robert Pennoyer, still active as an attorney at age 90, told me that he had never ridden on the Erie 400, and did not know anything about it, which seems strange to me, so maybe the rail car passed out of the banking tycoon’s family during the Depression, when even the wealthy suffered tremendous setbacks.

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I found an article in People Magazine from 1985 about private rail car owners, which described the Erie 400 as belonging to an attorney named John Hankins, Jr., who lived in Huntington, had railroading in his blood, and spent some ten years restoring the car for private use.

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By 1988, the Erie 400 belonged to an entrepreneur named Bob Snow, who used it in connection with his real estate developments, and then lost it in a bankruptcy proceeding. Maybe that is how it got back to Huntington, where it now sits.

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The car rides on two three-axle wheelsets (trucks) and was at one time rated for 110 mph travel on Amtrak passenger trains, but will likely need considerable work to regain that status.

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It can accommodate up to ten guests on overnight trips and up to twenty-four on day excursions. One of its most attractive features is the open-air rear platform which is surrounded by brass railings.

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The Erie 400 is a truly beautiful work of transportation art. It is a rolling link to American railroad history. And also to another period of time when, much like our own era, great wealth enabled great ostentation. It is out of the league of all but a few, but what a great way to travel. Any takers here? I am sure they will listen to offers….

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Comments

  1. Van

    I love these
    I’ve wanted to get one like this for years and take it off the takes to make a house.
    Cars like this are available from $5,000 to this $350,000 palace.
    For $350,000 you normally would expect a totally operational car possibly a dome car.
    My understanding is that it would cost $100,000 for an Am track certification.
    Business cars are the best as they typically have 2 bedrooms a sitting room and small kitchen.
    Like automobiles a $5,000 car will have lots of rust and cost more than its worth to restore. To make rail worthy minimum $200,000.

    • repietrafesa

      Rest assured that JP Morgan sailed through the Depression with fortune intact and growing.

    • Anthony Anthony

      We need this here in Alaska to be converted into an Orthodox Chapel.

  2. Charles Hixon

    The car needs to go to TrinityRail Maintenance Services for rebuild and certification and then the interior needs work. Next, you need a crew to keep it in operating condition.

  3. Charles

    The car needs to go to TrinityRail Maintenance Services for rebuild and certification and then the interior needs work. Next, you need a crew to keep it in operating condition.

  4. mtshootist1

    I think this one has seen quite a bit of interior restoration, but the exterior is showing signs of being weathered. There are certain clues like the bathroom appears to be of newer fixtures, certainly not 1920’s vintage. Back years ago, I was involved with the purchase of Virginia City and Nevada City for the State of Montana, part of which included a bunch of rolling stock, including a what was termed a presidential car, a rolling Catholic Church, and numbers of boxcars. The presidential car, if I remember correctly had belonged to one of the owners of the Great Northern, later Burlington Northern, and dated to about 1910. The amount of money it takes to successfully put one of these cars into functional condition would knock most of us out of the ballpark, before we could even climb aboard. The State went through with a previously arranged trade for an operational fuel oil burning locomotive, and spent the better part of a million dollars on a “round house’ and five miles of track. The cost of operating the engine was so much that eventually it was only brought out on special occasions. Anyway, outside Livingston, MT there is a rail car that I suppose is fifties vintage sitting on a piece of track, that is used as a vacation rental. I could see this being used in a similar setting.

  5. Danno

    Beauty. I could look at these all day. What a great way to tour the continent, especially if you had a dedicated locomotive.

  6. Ken

    I worked for the Chicago & NorthWestern Railroad from ’77-88, and they would put us up on the business cars in Northwestern Station when we’d come into Chicago for meetings instead of putting us up in hotels, if the business cars were in town. All that carved wood and brass luxury was lost on a young punk like me who just wanted to get to Rush Street and party!

  7. Kevin

    The Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY has a beautiful one on display that belonged to the Vanderbilts.

  8. Kevin

    you can buy it and pretend it’s a house and live in it

  9. kman

    When I was a kid out of high school I took a couple of years off before heading on to college. The first job I had was coach cleaning in the old Canadian Pacific coach cleaning yards in Vancouver before if was all dug up to build Expo ’86. On a few occasions the railroad brought in one of the executive cars which were private and named after all the founding fathers of the railway. They were the guys who drove the “last spike” in a famous old photo after the long transcontinental was built up here in Canada. These cars were not only similar to the one on display but in the same livery since CPR’s colours in those days were that same maroon with gold lettering. They were not as long being on two sets of trucks and not as luxurious as this example either. I don’t know who used them besides the odd executive but I’m sure anyone with the $$$s could probably charter them. Wonder where they went.

  10. van

    Check out
    “Ozark mountain rail car”
    Just don’t blame me if you catch the bug too.

  11. BradL

    Here’s an interesting article from 1988. I don’t know if the railcar ever made the auction, or if the railroad fees were just too much and it was parked on a siding, but here it sits in West Virginia.

    http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-07-03/features/8801120619_1_railroad-car-national-christmas-tree-guests

  12. Matt Tritt

    Think about this one as a charter land-yacht. I’m sure there are plenty of people out there with a sufficiently jaded travel appetite who would love being hauled around the more scenic parts of the country in privacy and opulant luxury. This is one hell of a giant car though, and I bet there aren’t too many open sidings capable of keeping it for any length of time. What a beauty.

  13. Olaf E

    Just clicked the link, but what auction?? I see they have a Buy It now of $ 350,000.00 or make an offer… Great railcar though.

  14. Ed P

    “It rides like a Pullman” refers to the smooth, comfortable ride these big, heavy cars provided.

  15. Duff6

    It’s an RV! Can’t go offroading or… “offtracking”, but what a way to see the USA!

  16. Oddimotive Cason Oddimotive Cason Member

    Too bad it’s from 1924 or later. Whatever Morgan owned in 1913 would be the “rail car of infamy” which transported bankers and members of Congress to Jekyll Island and would eventually lead to the creation of the Federal Reserve…

    • Alanjnc

      Now THAT my friend, is obscure! ;)
      AJF

    • Matt A.

      That’s J.P. Morgan, Sr., who died in 1913 (the Jekyll Island meeting was 1910). This rail car was owned by his son J.P. Morgan Jr.

  17. Jim Marshall

    This belongs in a museum not riding the rails.

    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Sorry Jim, I somewhat disagree, In my mind she deserves both. Riding the rails, crossing the country. Perhaps as a charter. With stops to expose her to the masses. She reminds me of the old TV show Wild Wild West. What a cool life. Saving the Country and riding the train! Take care, Mike.

  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    thanks Jim S your always finding neat stuff like this….wish I’d won a lottery this would be cool to have under a cover somewhere…

  19. Kychessieguy

    My understanding about the railcar is that it is totally trashed in a mechanical sense I would say your looking at 400,000 to 700,000 to make it amtrak certified I’ve been on and under the car

  20. Thomas

    I understand the car is literally rusting in place. I do not know who is paying for the car to be parked on the Carolina Track. I know the car can not be moved by rail. I know the car has been parked for 10-15 years.

  21. R Bramley

    Wonder if it ever sold, who ever got it must have deep pockets to keep it up. Does anyone know what a car like this might sells for? Seems like a old time long gone, but would love to owe it.
    Depending on the cost to first buy it and then most likely the same or higher cost to put it in service?

  22. TriPowerVette

    Did anyone tell Sheldon Cooper about this? He might have some savings…

  23. C. Chase Brown

    January 27, 2020
    Where is JP Morgan Railcar now. Is it still in Huntington, West Virginia.

    Please reply.

    Like 1
    • Daniel Kelly

      J.P. Morgan car 400 arrived at Clifton Forge, Virginia about February, 2020. As of May 12,2020 she had been move to another track near the C&O Heritage Station and is coupled to another car, a C&O business car. Info from Dan, Clifton Forge
      resident.

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