Henry Ford's Private Railroad Car "Fair Lane," 1921

Summary

By 1920, Henry and Clara Ford found it increasingly difficult to travel with any degree of privacy. They purchased a private railcar and named it Fair Lane. The car had four private rooms, an observation lounge, a dining room and a fully equipped kitchen. It could accommodate eight passengers. The couple made over 400 trips using Fair Lane before selling the passenger car in 1942.

By 1920, Henry and Clara Ford found it increasingly difficult to travel with any degree of privacy. They purchased a private railcar and named it Fair Lane. The car had four private rooms, an observation lounge, a dining room and a fully equipped kitchen. It could accommodate eight passengers. The couple made over 400 trips using Fair Lane before selling the passenger car in 1942.

By 1920 Henry Ford's fame was such that he could no longer travel with any degree of privacy. The Fair Lane, Henry Ford's private railcar, was his solution. Private railcars, originally developed for railroad officials as business cars, offered wealthy individuals customized access to the vast railroad systems of The United States and beyond. Fair Lane was ordered from The Pullman Company in 1920 to Henry and Clara Ford's specifications. It was designed to accommodate eight passengers in four private rooms and included an observation lounge (with platform), a dining room seating eight, and a fully-equipped kitchen with adjoining accommodation for the cook and porter. Between 1921 and 1942 the Fords and their family used the Fair Lane for over 400 trips, many of them business related, but also including regular journeys to their winter home in Florida (and later Georgia), and their summer home in northern Michigan. Clara was particularly fond of using Fair Lane for taking family and friends on visits to New York City. Wartime restrictions on private car use finally prompted the sale of the car. It was acquired and fully modernized by the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Lines for their Executive Department (including president H. J. McKenzie). In 1973 the Fair Lane was in turn sold to the Cherokee Nation and was ultimately used as a tourist office.

Detailed Description
Artifact

Passenger car (Railroad car)

Date Made

23 June 1921

Creators

Houghton, Sidney 

Pullman Company 

Place of Creation

United Kingdom, England, London 

United States, Illinois, Kensington 

Creator Notes

Made by the Pullman Company in Kensington, Illinois; interior was designed by Sidney Houghton of London, England.

Henry Ford Museum
 On Exhibit

at Henry Ford Museum in Transportation - Trains

Object ID

96.112.1

Credit

From the Collections of The Henry Ford. Gift of Richard and Linda Kughn.

Material

Steel (Alloy)
Wood (Plant material)
Paint (Coating)
Mahogany (Wood)
Walnut (Wood)
Brass (Alloy)

Technique

Painting (Coating)

Color

Green

Dimensions

Width: 119 in

Length: 88 ft

Inscriptions

Painted on side of car: FAIR LANE Painted on door: OFFICIAL CAR On plate inside: RAIL PASSENGER SERVICES, INC. / TULSON, ARIZONA / FAIRLANE / ORIGINAL BUILDER; PULLMAN 1921 FOR HENRY FORD / REBUILT; RAIL PASSENGER SERVICES, INC. 1986 FOR RICHARD P. KUGHN/RPS On clock: BALL WATCH CO. CLEVELAND On electric tachometer: WESTINGHOUSE, USA On gauge: WESTINGHOUSE, WIUMERDING USA / RED HAND BRAKE CYLINDER / BLACK HAND TRAIN LINE / PAT. DATE JULY 30, 1889

Connect 3

Discover curious connections between artifacts.

Learn More