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It is distinct from other railroad food service cars that do not duplicate the full-service restaurant experience, such as cars in which one purchases food from a walk-up counter to be consumed either within the car or elsewhere in the train. Grill cars, in which customers sit on stools at a counter and purchase and consume food cooked on a grill behind the counter are generally considered to be an "intermediate" type of dining car.
||The examples and perspective in this article may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (December 2010)|
Before dining cars in passenger trains were common in the United States, a rail passenger's option for meal service in transit was to patronize one of the roadhouses often located near the railroad's water stops. Fare typically consisted of rancid meat, cold beans, and old coffee. Such poor conditions discouraged many from making the journey.
Most railroads began offering meal service on trains even before the First Transcontinental Railroad. By the mid-1880s, dedicated dining cars were a normal part of long-distance trains from Chicago to points west, save those of the Santa Fe Raiilway, which relied on America's first interstate network of restaurants to feed passengers en route. The "Harvey Houses", located strategically along the line, served top-quality meals to railroad patrons during water stops and other planned layovers and were favored over in-transit facilities for all trains operating west of Kansas City.
As competition among railroads intensified, dining car service was taken to new levels. When the Santa Fe unveiled its new Pleasure Dome lounge cars in 1951, the railroad introduced the travelling public to the Turquoise Room, promoted as "The only private dining room in the world on rails." The room accommodated 12 guests, and could be reserved anytime for private dinner or cocktail parties, or other special functions. The room was often used by celebrities and dignitaries traveling on the Super Chief.
In one of the most common dining car configurations, one end of the car contains a galley (with an aisle next to it, so passengers can pass through the car to the rest of the train) while the other end has table or booth seating on either side of a center aisle.
Trains with high demand for dining car services sometimes feature "double-unit dining cars" consisting of two adjacent cars functioning to some extent as a single entity, generally with one car containing a galley plus table or booth seating and the other car containing table or booth seating only.
In the dining cars of Amtrak's modern bilevel Superliner trains, booth seating on either side of a center aisle occupies almost the entire upper level, while the galley is below; food is sent to the upper level on a dumbwaiter.
Dining cars enhance the familiar restaurant experience with the unique visual entertainment of the ever-changing view. While dining cars are less common today than in the past (having been supplemented, or in some cases replaced altogether by other types of food-service cars) they still play a significant role in passenger railroading, especially on medium- and long-distance trains.
Today, a number of tourist-oriented railroads offer dinner excursions to capitalize on the public's fascination with the dining car experience.
The U76/U70 tram line between the German cities of Düsseldorf and Krefeld offers a Bistrowagen (dining car in German), where passengers can order drinks and snacks. This practise comes from the early 20th Century, when interurban trams conveyed a dining car. Despite the introduction of modern tram units, 4 trams still have a Bistrowagen and operate every weekday.
The dining car of the Via Rail Canadian has here been prepared for meal service
The pantry aboard former Santa Fe dining car #1474, the Cochiti. Over a million meals were served in the car, which remained in service through the late 1960s.
An 1880s print advertisement extols the virtues of meal service aboard the Chicago and Alton Railroad.
- Foster, George H. and Peter C. Weiglin (1992). The Harvey House Cookbook: Memories of Dining along the Santa Fe Railroad. Longstreet Press, Atlanta, GA. ISBN 1-56352-357-4.
- Luckin, Richard W. (1994). Mimbres to Mimbreño: A Study of Santa Fe's Famous China Pattern. RK Publishing, Golden, CO. ISBN 0-9626362-1-5.
- Luckin, Richard W., dir. (DVD) (2003). Super Chief: Speed-Style-Service. RK Publishing, Golden, CO.
- Porterfield, James D. (1993). Dining by Rail: The History and Recipes of America's Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine. St. Martin's Press, New York, NY. ISBN 0-312-18711-4.
- Schafer, Mike; Joe Welsh (1997). Classic American Streamliners. Osceola, WI: MotorBooks International. ISBN 0-7603-0377-0. OCLC 37281634.
- White, John H. (1985) . The American Railroad Passenger Car. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801827434. OCLC 11469984.
- Notes on W.A.G.R.'s Dining Cars Watson, L.G. Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, September 1982 pp194–213
- On-train Catering in New South Wales - 1921-2001 Banger, Chris Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, March to July 2004 pp102–118;123-141;188-198;222-237;264-279
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Dining cars.|
- Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway No. 1471 Cochiti — photographs and short history of a Super Chief Dining Car built in 1936.
- Erie Lackawanna Dining Car Preservation Society — restoration of two historic dining cars to recreate the dinner in the diner experience.
- Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railway's dining car service
http://www.sta-dg.com/etransport/ - new dining car