A vestibuled train is a passenger train whose cars have enclosed vestibules at their ends, in contrast to the open platforms on early cars. Typically, a vestibule has doorways on either side to allow passenger egress at stations, a door into the body of the car, and, at the end of the car, a doorway to allow access to the next car through a flexible gangway connection.
The first vestibuled train was introduced on June 15, 1887, on the inaugural run of the Pennsylvania Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad, forerunner of the famous Broadway Limited.
The railway car vestibule as a concept had been tried in various primitive forms during the latter part of the 19th century, but the first viable form was invented by H. H. Sessions and his staff at the Pullman Car Works in Chicago. Sessions' patent was challenged by others and reduced in litigation to the spring mechanism of his vestibule design. Further litigation by Pullman was successful in modifying the earlier rulings.
Prior to the development of vestibules, passage between cars when a train was underway was both dangerous—stepping over a shifting plate between swaying cars with nothing on either side but chain guard rails—and unpleasant, due to being exposed to the weather, as well as soot, red-hot cinders and fly ash raining down from the exhaust of the steam locomotive hauling the train. As passengers were mostly confined to a single car during the trip, trains had regular meal stops built into their schedules, and sleeping cars were uncommon. The introduction of the vestibuled train in the late nineteenth century led to dining cars, lounge cars, and other specialized cars.
During the 1880s and 1890s, the slogan "Vestibuled Train" was a magic term to railroad publicity departments everywhere. More importantly, this development brought into existence the "train" in the sense we know it today — no longer a series of cars coupled together and pulling together, but a continuous unit for human uses. ... A whole new way of thinking about rail travel developed. You could eat and sleep on trains and [arrive] in a fraction of the previous time.
Vestibuled cars allowed the development of luxury trains during the golden age of rail travel, trains like the Union Pacific's Overland Limited (1890), the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pennsylvania Limited (later renamed the Pennsylvania Special, then the Broadway Limited), and the New York Central's 20th Century Limited (1902). The Southern's Crescent was introduced in 1891 as the Washington and Southwestern Vestibuled Limited and widely known as The Vestibule.