Last updated: 04:36 PM ET, Thu July 02 2015

Ellis' Restored Pullmans Turning Up All Over

Car Rental & Rail | Pullman Rail Journeys | James Ruggia | May 07, 2015

Ellis' Restored Pullmans Turning Up All Over

PHOTO: Classic American rail travel is back thanks to Iowa Pacific Holdings devotion to the legacy of Pullman. (Courtesy of Pullman Rail Journeys)

These are good times for one of the most prominent names in American travel, Pullman. In February, Chicago’s Pullman Historic District, an 1880s model city in which people lived and worked while building luxury sleeping train cars, was designated a National Monument. As well it should be, with a history long enough to reach back to when labor won a battle every now and then. Pullman’s real guardian angel is Edwin Ellis, the president of Iowa Pacific Holdings who has purchased 70 of the existing 500 Pullman Carriages in existence.

For Ellis this is more a devotion to memory than to history; a devotion to rail experiences from his childhood when he would ride the original Pullmans with his mother. That devotion has led Ellis and IPH to assemble the world’s largest collection of Pullman carriages. Ellis is spending between $750,000 and $1.2 million each to restore the cars as slowly and painstakingly as each car requires. Those cars are turning up in several American rail packages in 2015.

INSIDER TIP: The luxury in a Pullman carriage is about authenticity rather than opulence.

Pullman Rail Journeys is a division of Iowa Pacific Holdings. Known for its classic art-deco rail cars and exceptional service, Pullman Rail Journeys offers authentic rail travel from when Pullman was a top name in American travel. For the first time this summer, Pullman Rail Journeys will offer first-class train service between Chicago and Denver, departing three select weekends in July, August and September from Chicago’s Union Station.

The departures come with two-night packages including accommodations to explore Denver’s dining, nightlife, live music, culture and outdoor adventure offerings. In addition to Rocky Mountain National Park’s variety of options for camping, hiking climbing and wildflower walks during its Centennial Celebration year, Denver also has various festivals and events occurring this summer and fall.

The three round-trip departures from Chicago to Denver available for purchase are: Thursday, July 30 to Monday, Aug. 3; Thursday, Aug. 27 to Monday, Aug. 31; and Thursday, Sept. 24 – Monday, Sept. 28. Prices for rail only begin at $1,466 each way per person double.

Pullman Rail Journeys are also being offered by Key Holidays in its 2015 American Heritage Series alongside luxury sailing with the American Queen Steamboat Company. It’s hard to imagine a more American combination than that.

After the Chicago to New Orleans via Pullman Rail Journeys, travelers will then take a one-night, pre-cruise hotel stay in New Orleans before boarding the American Queen for a seven-night voyage along the Mississippi, stopping to take in historic sights, antebellum mansions and more. Key Holidays’ 10-day Rail & Sail American Heritage Series is available select dates through Dec. 20 and begins at $2,399 per person, based on double occupancy with one-way rail and includes:

Uncommon Journeys’ 2015 summer itineraries feature the Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Pacific Northwest and California onboard private vista-dome train “The Great Western Limited.” The train also features Ellis’ meticulously restored Pullman cars.

The 14-day The Best of the West, priced from $4,495 per person double, rides the Rocky Mountains, exploring Canyonlands National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Glacier Park. This scenic journey through America’s rugged west includes luxurious stays at beautiful and acclaimed hotels along the way, including Utah’s Red Cliffs Lodge and The Lodge at Whitefish Lake in Montana.

And finally, there’s the Mount Hood Railroad, which is now offering a weekend dinner train, featuring glass-enclosed dome cars and a four-course farm-to-table meal. Not a Pullman, but still an American original. The train starts in the Columbia River Gorge and rides to the foot of Mt. Hood, one of Oregon’s most picturesque routes.

The three-hour train departs Saturday evenings, June 6 through Oct. 31. The Mount Hood Dinner Train departs at 5:30 p.m. and arrives back at 8:30 p.m. Fares begin at $89 per person for First Class and $139 per person for Dome Car Diamond Class (bar service not included).

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