Dinner menus on railroads of the past

MK Dec 3, 2019

  1. MK

    MK TrainBoard Member

    Note, I know it's a little off topic but this is the only place I really hang out on TrainBoard. If I can be excused for the interruption.

    Wonder what it's like to eat aboard trains way back then? Here's a GREAT read on it. It's a little on the longish side but very informative. And those menus!


    And they digitized all 227 menus that Ira Silverman collected when he was a teenager. What a treasure! Fully scanned here:

  2. John Moore

    John Moore TrainBoard Supporter

    I had the pleasure of dining on the North Coast Limited going to Chicago. Both in the Lewis & Clark Traveller’s Rest” Buffet-lounge car and the diner and the food was excellent along with the service. I have the NP fruitcake recipes both light and dark and they are excellent. By the way this was in the 1950s and the return trip was on the Empire Builder and once again the food was excellent.
    Kurt Moose and Hardcoaler like this.
  3. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

    I remember linen table cloths, china and cutlery with the railroad's monogram, and servers delivering meals equivalent to the finest in New York City.

    OK, that was a memory from 1945 when my mother and I traveled from New York City to Tucson, AZ. IIRC, we were on the NYC Commodore Vanderbilt and the RI/SP Golden State. I was 10, but that memory has been with me for 74 years. My meals on Amtrak's Crescent have been pleasant, but I miss the elegance. (Crescent's meals were pleasant until 10/1/19 when they became something McDonald's would be ashamed to serve.)
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  4. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

    In March of 2001, my mom asked my wife and me to accompany her to ride on the American Orient Express. I did not turn her down. One of the dining room staff was kind enough to save a copy of each menu and gave them to me at the end of the trip. Here are a few of the meals.


  5. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    At age 13 I took the train from Boston to Florida. That was about 52 years ago. I can remember dining on the 'Seaboard Coast Line'.
    • You were led to a table and sat with strangers who asked all sorts of question as if some how I was too young to be traveling alone.
    • Yes, there was metal and ceramic serving places on a cloth table cloth
    • The waiter handed me a relatively small menu and a board with a pencil. The 'grownups' at the table explain that I had to check off what i wanted.
    • The hush puppies were fantastic! Um, what? You mean I couldn't have 2nds? I couldn't or more?
    My sister recently took Amtrak on an overnight trip. You had to stand in line for microwaved food. Breakfast was no better.
    Kurt Moose and nscalestation like this.
  6. nscalestation

    nscalestation TrainBoard Supporter

    Brings back memories, I had a similar experience as a 9 year old in 1965 on the Santa Fe Super Chief. Years later my wife and I took Amtrak to Reno and that experience was similar to what your sister had. If you want a nice meal on a train these days it's going to have to be on one of the tourist / dinner trains.
    Hardcoaler likes this.
  7. Hardcoaler

    Hardcoaler TrainBoard Member

    My memory of meals in the dining car on Amtrak's Broadway Limited in 1971 didn't end so well. Amtrak was only two months old. My Mom and I rode from Trenton to Chicago and when I ordered milk at dinner, the waiter said they "had one carton left" and it wasn't very cold. He said they were out of ice and would get a replenishment at Crestline, OH. I drank the milk and awoke sick with nausea the next morning. Morning arrival in Chicago was on time and after a walk of a few blocks from Union Station to North Western Station, we were headed home and I to bed. It took a few days for my stomach to settle down. With that memory, nearly 50 years later I rarely drink milk anywhere but at home.
  8. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

    One of my memories of pre-Amtrak dining was on the PRR #54, the Gotham Limited (yes they had a train named that) between Chicago and Philadelphia. It was in 1956 and I was not yet 4 years old. However, I remember it quite well. My mom, two brothers, grandma and I were traveling to visit my dad who was training for a new job in Philadelphia. It was breakfast in the diner and I was having French Toast. My gran had cut up the pieces to bite size but instead of grabbing the little silver pitcher of syrup, she grabbed the larger one with her coffee. Poured it all over my French Toast. She and Mom were too embarrassed to order a fresh serving but would not let me even try to eat it. All I got was my moms regular toast with some jelly on it. I was quite mad to put it mildly.

    In the late 60s my older brother was attending class at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He would take the Texas Chief to Chicago and then hop the C&NW to Madison. We would take him to Houston Union Station early in the morning to catch the train. The dining car was open to anyone but you had to be finished and off the train 15 minutes before departure if you were not ticketed. We would order breakfast before seeing my brother off. I was always sure to get my French Toast (Santa Fe Fred Harvey style) in honor of what I missed as a little kid. :D
    Hardcoaler, MK and catfan like this.
  9. bill pearce

    bill pearce TrainBoard Member

    There was a book published of all the recipes from the Fred Harvey Co. that were served on the SF. They are quite good. You can often find copies at trainshows and swap meets.
  10. JMaurer1

    JMaurer1 TrainBoard Member

    There's another book called 'Dinner in the Diner' by Will Hollister that also has recipes from various railroads. I've been able to live vicariously by trying some of them out. Used copies can be easily found for under $10 and it's worth every penny and then some. I've also collected old menus from the SP as well. Amazing how much food one got for a very small (compared to today) price. The one thing I remember is reading about how the NP (or was it GN) had baked potatoes that were the size of footballs.
  11. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    My best friend recently took an Alaskan trip that included a train run by the 'Princess Cruise Line'. She said it was fantastic. Everything from the service, to the food and lodging.
  12. rray

    rray Staff Member

    Sadly, other than fan trips where I was served sumptous meals, I never traveled by train. I did however travel by airlines, and their food, although sometimes very good, always leaves you hungry. I think they only have so much blue stuff for the toilets, so they feed you just enough that you don't have to visit the bathroom. [​IMG]
  13. Kenneth L. Anthony

    Kenneth L. Anthony TrainBoard Member

    Diner story on the Amtrak Texas Chief 1973. I ordered a whitefish dinner and then the stopped on a bridge over a river. Kept stopped a few minues, then started up and they brought me my fish dinner. Not saying they caught the fish from the train, like in an old w. C. Fields movie. Just a coincidence. Probably. But true story. I didn't take a picture of my dinner like some people do on smartphones these days, but this IS an actual photo of the dining car on that day.
  14. Point353

    Point353 TrainBoard Member


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