Railroad Dining Exhibit

Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania collections manager Dodie Robbins shares the highlights from a 2014 exhibit on railroad dining.   Watch the video.

At the dawn of the railroad age, railroads were only concerned with basic transportation. Little consideration was given to hungry passengers. They would have to wait until the train stopped at a station, which often provided meal service.

It would be several years before railroads began to see the potential of the dining car. In 1868, the first full dining car, Delmonico, named after the luxurious New York restaurant, was constructed by the Pullman Palace Car Company for the Chicago & Alton Railroad.  Within the next two decades, other railroads began having their own diners built.

Competition to get passengers to their destinations more quickly precipitated the need for diners. By offering meals on a dining car, trains could eliminate time wasted stopping for passengers to eat.  Beyond ordinary dining, railroads wanted to create a first-class restaurant experience so passengers would continue to patronize their line.  To meet this goal, railroads offered comfortable accommodations, exquisite cuisine served on fine china and excellent service by well-trained and detail-oriented staff.