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Menu Medley – Southern Railway

Along with the Rio Grande, the Southern gave many of us an opportunity to experience traditional dining car service after the creation of Amtrak. Unlike the Rio Grande, the overnight run of the “Southern Crescent” (and to a lesser extend, the “Piedmont”) allowed for a multi-day, multi-meal dining car experience.

The Southern had a number of trains and a number of routes featuring dining car service, well into the 1960’s. Indeed, the dining car operation at the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum features a modernized heavyweight dining car that was still being used on secondary trains before going to the museum to continue to serve rail passengers, hardly without missing a beat.

Don Phillips years ago in Train Magazine referred to the Southern’s passenger service as rating a letter grade B (I assume he would rank ATSF or UP an “A”), but their no-nonsense Southern traditional dining car service is memorable for reflecting the areas it ran through.

1939 dinner menu, in partnership with the Norfolk & Western, reflecting their participation in the New York-New Orleans “Pelican”, the DC-Memphis via Chattanooga “Tenneseean”, and the DC-Memphis via Birmingham “Birmingham Special”
1939 Dinner menu


1941 Menu for the “Crescent”:

The 1973 dinner menu from the “Southern Crescent”
I do remember having the fried chicken (as a kid, more of a treat than prime rib!) and it was quite good.

Photo of the dining car crew – 4 chefs, 1 steward, 6 waiters.
1973 view of Southern diner (Bill Schafer photo)
Waitress Lois Steed in 1979, just before the Southern handed the train over to Amtrak.
The “Peach Blossom” pattern was the standard pattern used for many years.
The “Piedmont” pattern was the one in use until the end of service in 1979. I have always thought it was a pleasant modern pattern.
Dinner is about to be served on a Christmas trip on their ex-Southern modernized heavyweight diner 3158, now named “Travelers Fare”. While not an attempt to replicate Southern dining car service, certainly a great recreation of the typical circa 1960 dining car experience.

We hope you enjoyed a look back at the Southern’s dining car service.

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Menu Medley – Erie

Since the Erie was probably the weakest competitor in the New York to Chicago market, it was forced to start offering dining car service fairly early to compete with the NYC, PRR and even the B&O. The early menus reflect that kind of high end dining experience. By the time of the Depression, the Erie’s dining cars more reflected the kind of passengers it served: not so much that New York to Chicago passenger but perhaps the Jamestown, NY to Marion, Ohio traveler. A meal on the Erie was more like Sunday dinner at home.

Menu from the 1890’s
Menu from 1901
Menu from 1901
Menu from WWI


Breakfast menu from 1951
Erie breakfast 1959
1959 menu
1959 menu
1959 menu
Erie diner in 1901
Erie diner in the 1940s.
Publicity photo from the late 1950’s. By this time, the dining car departments of the Erie and the Lackawanna were merged (before the railroads did). Here you see one the the Erie’s fleet of modernized (circa 1948) diners, using Lackawanna china!
The “Hornell” pattern was in use around the turn of the 20th century
The “Gould” pattern was in use during the 1920’s
The “Starrucca” pattern was the standard used from the 1940’s until the EL merger. In fact the EL never ordered its own china pattern, so this became the defacto standard pattern of the EL.

We hope you enjoyed a look at the Erie’s dining car service.

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Menu Medley – Great Northern (before World War I)

We decided this time to take a look at dining car service on the Great Northern, specifically pre-WWI service.

1901 single card breakfast menu
Another 1901 breakfast menu


1914 menu

Postcard promoting the Oriental Limited
GN early scene
Photo of the early “Hill” china pattern.

We hope you enjoyed our look at the Great Northern’s dining car service in the early 20th century.


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Menu Medley – New Haven

The New Haven probably had the most extensive dining car operation of all the U.S. railroads. In addition to traditional dining cars, they had their lower cost “grill cars” as well as parlor cars and bar cars on the commuter trains.

New Haven Breakfast Menu from 1960
1962 dinner menu – by the mid 1950’s on, most New Haven menus featured ads and tourism guides, mostly to Boston and New York.
1962 menu cover
Special menu from 1952 last steam trip.
Ad showing the diner, but also promoting the grill cars.
The grill cars featured waitresses. Here, picking up an order.
1941 – Thanksgiving meal being served.
Typical bar car scene on the New Haven
These aluminum coins were given out for free coffee. The Phoebe Snow Company offers the very mild roast the NH used.
Merchants china – this plate was supposedly used on the grill cars.
The Platinum Blue pattern was used in the 1960’s. It was interesting because each order seemed to supply a lower quality version of the china. You can find many pieces where the quality of the white transfer art is terrible!
The Baked bean pot. A stock piece where the New Haven added their logo in a haphazard way. However, I am fond of this piece as I remember it distinctly from my first New Haven dining car experience Labor Day weekend in 1966.

I hope you enjoyed our look at the New Haven dining car operations!