This page originally appeared on Thomas Ehrenreich's Railroad Extra Website
In the early days of railway travel, trains which ran long distances stopped at certain stations to enable the passengers who did not carry their lunches to obtain meals at nearby hotels or restaurants. When the train drew to a halt and the conductor shouted "Twenty Minutes for Refreshments," there was frequently a "mad scramble," every passenger seeming to be bent upon getting out of the train and into the restaurant ahead of the others. Plates of food were on the tables or counters in readiness. The first-comers fared pretty well, but those who came in last sometimes had to hurry back to the train before they had finished their meals.
In 1863, trains running between Philadelphia and Baltimore introduced a car fitted with an "eating bar"something new in railroading. These cars had no kitchens, the food being cooked in restaurants in Philadelphia and Baltimore and placed in "steam boxes" in the cars just before the trains' departure.
A few years later, George M. Pullman, who had won fame as a builder of sleeping cars, introduced what he called a "hotel car," equipped with a kitchen for preparing meals, with tables for serving meals and with berths for sleeping, so that passengers could actually live in the car like they could in a home or a hotel.
Then in 1868, Mr. Pullman introduced a dining car, equipped with a kitchenthe first passenger car designed exclusively for cooking and serving meals. This car was very popular, and before many years had passed dining cars were in use on many railroads.
Today hundreds of passenger trains in the United States carry dining cars, providing travelers with a wide variety of foods and as excellent service as may be obtained in a first-class hotel or restaurant.
The interiors of modern dining cars are decorated in attractive style, many of them in gay pastel shades. Some have novel seating and table arrangements, including built-in lounge seats. Diffused lighting, colorful window drapes, and soft carpets suggest the friendly atmosphere of a neighborhood club or a home dining room. Tables prepared with snow-white linen, gleaming silverware and sparkling glasses give promise of an appetizing meal to come. Air-conditioning has made dining on the train a greater pleasure than ever before.
The dining-car steward greets his guests at the door and ushers them to their tables. The white-coated waiters help them in the selection of their meals from the menu, place their orders with the chef, serve the dishes in delectable style and attend to the patrons' every want.
On some trains lunch-counter cars are operated. They specialize in light lunches or meals at popular prices. Some trains include grill cars, a combination of cafeteria and soda fountain. These cars are especially popular on overnight trains. On many trains, tray service is provided, from the dining car direct to the passengers' seats. The latest innovation is a buffet luncheon or dinner served from a special table where passengers may select any articles of food and as much as they can eat.
When the passenger has finished his meal, the waiter brings the order blank (or check) on 'which the steward has written the amount of the meal. The passenger pays the waiter, and the waiter turns the order blank and money over to the steward. At the end of the run, the steward turns all order blanks and money over to the superintendent of dining car service or his assistant for forwarding to the treasurer.
Every year the railroads of the United States serve nearly 25,000,000 meals to their patrons.
Dining car crewsstewards, chefs, cooks and waitersare carefully selected. Each man must undergo a thorough physical examination before entering the service and at frequent intervals thereafter.
Newly employed cooks and waiters usually attend a school for dining car employees conducted by the railway company before they are allowed to go on the road. The school teaches them their duties and responsibilities. They are instructed in such matters as courtesy and deportment. Only in this way are the railroads able to maintain their high standard of service.
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