Dining car

Dining car
A dining car on an Austrian inter-city train in 2008.

A dining car (American English) or restaurant carriage (British English), also diner, is a railroad passenger car that serves meals in the manner of a full-service, sit-down restaurant.

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.



Dining car Queen on the B&O Royal Blue in 1895.

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.


See also


  • 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 and Joe Welsh (1997). Streamliners: History of a Railroad Icon. MBI Publishing Co., St. Paul, MN. ISBN 0-7603-1371-7. 
  • The American Railroad Passenger Car by John H. White, Jr. Two Volumes (1978) by Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • ISBN 0-8018-2743-4 (pbk.: set: alk. paper)

Further reading

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • dining car — dining cars N COUNT A dining car is a carriage on a train where passengers can have a meal …   English dictionary

  • dining car — n a carriage on a train where meals are served = ↑restaurant car …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • dining car — ☆ dining car n. a railroad car equipped to serve meals to passengers …   English World dictionary

  • dining car — ► NOUN ▪ a railway carriage equipped as a restaurant …   English terms dictionary

  • dining car — noun a passenger car where food is served in transit • Syn: ↑diner, ↑dining compartment, ↑buffet car • Derivationally related forms: ↑dine (for: ↑diner) • Hypernyms …   Useful english dictionary

  • dining car — UK [ˈdaɪnɪŋ ˌkɑː(r)] / US [ˈdaɪnɪŋ ˌkɑr] noun [countable] Word forms dining car : singular dining car plural dining cars the part of a train that is a restaurant …   English dictionary

  • dining car — din|ing car [ daınıŋ ,kar ] noun count the part of a train that is a restaurant: Let s go back to the dining car for a good breakfast …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • dining car — a railroad car equipped with tables and chairs, in which meals are served. Also, esp. Brit., restaurant car. Also called diner. [1830 40, Amer.] * * * …   Universalium

  • dining car — din·ing car || daɪnɪŋ railroad car equipped as a restaurant …   English contemporary dictionary

  • dining car — din′ing car n. rai a railroad car equipped for serving meals …   From formal English to slang

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