A Superliner roomette in daytime configuration.

(Ben Schumin, CC BY-SA 3.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0>, via Wikimedia Commons)



A roomette is a type of sleeping car compartment in a railroad passenger train. The term was first used in North America, and was later carried over into Australia and New Zealand. Roomette rooms are relatively small, and were originally generally intended for use by a single person; contemporary roomettes on Amtrak, however, include two sleeping berths.


1945 ad by the Budd Company for its "Budgette" cars.

(Budd Company in The Saturday Evening Post, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


North America

The term "roomette" dates from 1937, when the first sleeping cars with such accommodations were constructed by the Pullman Company. The roomette was an innovation for its day, providing a relatively economical, fully-enclosed sleeping accommodation for the individual traveler: a marked change from the open-berth sleeping accommodations that were the standard of the era. Roomette and other private-room sleeping accommodations quickly gained popularity, and became the standard in the United States after World War II. Similar equipment later became commonplace in Canada and Mexico as well.

The basic roomette design pioneered by Pullman remained standard in North America until well after the advent of Amtrak in 1971. The roomette section of a sleeping car included a central corridor with rooms on either side. At night, each room contained a small single bed, placed longitudinally, which occupied nearly the entire area of the room. The bed could be folded away when not in use, exposing a padded bench seat at one end of the room and a toilet at the other. A small washbasin was also provided. A mid-twentieth century sleeping car could contain approximately 22 roomettes, though it was more common for a car to include a mix of roomettes and other private-room sleeping accommodations. The most common sleeping car type of the era contained ten roomettes and six "double bedrooms", which were designed for use by two people. Sleeping cars containing roomettes of this basic design remain in use today in Canada.

Amtrak designed new types of sleeping-car accommodations when it began constructing new long-distance equipment in the late 1970s, and today it uses two primary types of sleeping cars. Most long-distance trains use double-deck Superliner equipment, while a few eastern trains use single-level Viewliner cars. Roomettes on these sleeping cars include single bench seats on both ends of the room; the seats fold together to form a single bunk bed, and an upper bunk folds down from the ceiling. Superliner roomettes do not include private toilets or washbasins. Roomettes in Viewliner I cars built through 1996 have toilets and washbasins, while those on Viewliner II cars built starting in 2010 have washbasins only.