Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Roadside Diners

 Here's a collection of diners of interest for architectural reasons - they're either originally railroad cars or close copies (like O'Mahony). As usual, click on the photo to see a full-size version.

Now serving 24 great states and parts of Wisconsin!
Top of the World
DeValls Bluff -- The Coffee Cup
Pine Bluff
Russellville -- Stoby's Restaurant
Buellton -- Mullen's Dining Cars
Castroville -- Trolley Car Rotisserie
Perris -- O'Neill's Streamline Diner
Pismo Beach -- Rock & Roll Diner
San Francisco -- Grubstake Diner
Yreka -- Yreka Cafe
Wallingford -- Trackside Pizza
Barrington -- Chessie's 111 Grille
Chicago -- Diner Grill
Chicago -- Do's Place
Chicago -- Lunch Wagon
Chicago -- Tutto Italiano
Gardner -- Route 66 Cafe
Sandwich -- Bull Moose Pub
Union -- Salem De Luxe Diner
Jeffersonville -- Trolley Inn
Peru -- The Siding
Aberdeen -- Ideal Diner
Falmouth -- Betsy's Diner
Lowell -- Owl Diner
Lynn -- Capitol Diner
Middleborough -- Sisson's Diner
Natick -- Ray's Lunch
Salem -- Salem Diner
Parma -- Silver Diner
St. Paul -- Mickey's Dining Car
Tupelo -- Dudie's Diner
Kansas City -- Trolley Drive In
Red Oak
-- Red Oak II Diner
Carson City -- Denny's Diner
New York
Newark -- Newark Diner
Rochester -- Highland Diner
Syracuse -- 4th St. Diner
Staten Island -- Golden's Deli
North Carolina
Sedalia -- Midway Diner
Bono -- Al's Diner
Fremont -- Whitey's Diner
Baker City -- Baker City Diner
Portland -- Brooklyn Diner
Edinboro -- Crossroads Dinor [sic]
Fredonia -- Coach Dinor [sic]
Rhode Island
Pawtucket -- Modern Diner
Gordon Junction -- Trolly373
Salt Lake City -- Ruth's Diner
Springville -- Art City Trolley Restaurant
Bellows Falls -- Miss Bellows Falls
Chatham -- Garner's Streetcar Diner
Easton -- Minnetta's Sportsman Diner
Moses Lake -- Mom and Pop's Diner
North Spokane -- Frank's Diner
Seattle -- Andy's Diner
Snohomish -- Ritz Limited Cafe
Spokane -- Frank's Diner
Kenosha -- Frank's Diner
Oconomowoc -- Maxim's
Stevens Point -- Silver Diner
Superior -- Choo-Choo Bar and Grill

Al's Diner - Bono, O.

This is the body of a classic McKeen car, Lakeside and Marblehead #5.  It was retired in 1930, and stored intact in the enginehouse until 1947, when it was sent to a scrapyard in Sandusky, still with its trucks and equipment.  At some point it became a diner in Bono, as pictured, but was demolished in 1962 after being damaged in a fire.  

Betsy's Diner - Falmouth, Mass.

This appears to be an original O'Mahony. More information would be appreciated. The "Eat Heavy" neon sign is striking, to say the least.

(Photos by Al R.)

Capitol Diner - Lynn, Mass.

(Frank) The Capitol Diner in Lynn, north of Boston, is a relatively old example, dating to 1928. It's sited right along the embankment for the MBTA commuter railroad running to Rockport and Newburyport, conveniently located just adjacent to the Lynn train station. This diner was built by Brill, the streetcar builder, at its Wason plant in Springfield, Mass. only a year before IR 205 was built. The construction of the diner (see right) would be pretty familiar to anyone who has worked on steel railroad equipment. Unfortunately my interior photo somehow got corrupted, but the interior still features the "glass box" counter and original stools, though updated kitchen. I highly recommend the food.

Chessie's 111 Grille - Barrington, Ill.

Illinois Central car 1406, an MU trailer built by Pullman in 1927, serves as the lounge for Chessie's, an upscale bar and grill in the Ice House Mall in downtown Barrington.

The food is good, but prices are somewhat high. There is often live entertainment, and the lounge car can be rented for private parties. It looks out on the diamond between the C&NW (now UP) and EJ&E (now CN).

I have more pictures, including another IC electric car used as a store, in this post.

Choo-Choo Bar and Grill - Superior, Wisc.

This is more of a tavern than a usual diner, but they serve diner-type food for breakfast and lunch. We had breakfast there and it was quite good - the house specialty for breakfast is bratwurst patties. Not much of the original car structure is left - mostly the ceiling and roof. The inner wall is completely gone.

The owner told me the history of the car: he said it was an 1898 C&NW coach which was retired in 1932 and bought by his uncle. He made it into a diner a few blocks away; in the 1970's it was relocated and expanded with new construction and parts of another diner.

The Coffee Cup -- DeValls Bluff, Ark.

The Coffee Cup was located in downtown DeValls Bluff at Main & Brinkley (the building next door is still there).  It is the body of ex-Manhattan Elevated car 36, built in 1885 by Pullman and sold for use at the Pine Bluff Arsenal on June 30, 1942.  Here is a picture of a similar car in service in New York.  Many such cars were sold off in 1942 for use at various government facilities.  These pictures were taken by the late Earl Saunders, and the information was provided by Bill Wall. The diner was demolished sometime in the 1980's.

Diner Grill - Chicago, Ill.

This diner on Irving Park in Lakeview was built around the bodies of two Evanston Railways streetcars. (R) They have a nice picture of the two cars in their original appearance after being moved to the site. By now not much of the original fabric seems to be left, but you can still make out the basic outline of the first car (below left), and some of the end framing (below right).

It's still open for business 24 hours a day, and this is a diner at its most basic. The seating is limited to about twelve stools at a long counter, as you can see. The menu consists of the usual breakfast items and an array of sandwiches. And coffee.

And basically not much seems to have changed overall. One can easily imagine what it would be like without the ATM, the TV, or the closed-circuit camera, and we're pretty much back in the Depression! Brother, can you spare a dime?

Do's Place - Chicago, Ill.

Do's Place, which may have had other names during its history, was located on the north side of 38th Street north of Corwith Yard in Chicago. It was built out of a Chicago Surface Lines trailer, of the same series as CSL 9020 preserved at IRM. A lot of these trailers were adapted by the CSL and CTA for other uses - storage lockers, yard offices - but this is the only one known to have been sold to a third party and it's one of very few, if not the only, CSL streetcar that was turned into a diner in the city. The dates it was in operation are uncertain but was likely 1950s to 1970s, give or take. Thanks to Norm Krentel for providing these photos.

Frank's Diner - Kenosha, Wisc.

Frank's Diner is an early O'Mahony in downtown Kenosha, of a much different style than IRM's Salem diner or Mickey's. It has a barrel roof with skylights, and the roof arches slightly upwards towards the center of the car, instead of the railroad roof. This picture (R) is about the best I can do. On the other (west) side (L), the building had a "porch" added at some point, so not much of the original is visible.

The restaurant is still very active and has a website, with better interior pictures than I could take, since it was jammed with customers! But here's a detail of the bulkhead windows. Each end of the original diner has sliding doors to the vestibule, just like a Niles car. On the whole, the interior appears to be little changed.

Golden's Deli - Staten Island, N.Y.

(Frank) A deli located at the famous Staten Island Mall has an unusual centerpiece in its dining room: about two-thirds of a New York subway car! It's R6 type car #978, built in 1935 and moved to the deli in 1985. It is used as a portion of the deli's restaurant seating. The section of the car that still exists is fairly intact, with all of the original seats in place and most, if not all, hardware still intact.

Highland Park Diner - Rochester, N.Y.

(Frank) A well-known local landmark, the Highland Park Diner is a located just southeast of downtown Rochester. It was built in 1948 by the Orleans Diner Company of Albion, N.Y. and was originally known as Dauphin's Superior Diner. It has had its current name for around two decades now.

Ideal Diner - Aberdeen, Maryland

Our friend Tom Hunter sent these views of his favorite diner from back in the days when he was working on the Northeast Corridor. It's an O'Mahony.

Lunch Wagon -- Chicago, Ill.

It's not a railroad car diner, but close.  This nameless "lunch wagon" used an old touring bus body.  Notice how the rear end of the roof was flattened to provide a platform for luggage.

These images were taken by Edward Rosskam in 1941 while working for the Farm Security Administration (and thus are not copyrighted) and were found in the Library of Congress online database.

The diner was located on an empty lot in the shadow of the L.  The exact location is not specified, somewhere in Bronzeville, evidently.  These stark images are a forceful illustration of the effects of the Depression.

Mickey's Dining Car - St. Paul, Minn.

This is an O'Mahony diner much like IRM's, still very much in business and a landmark in the Twin Cities. They also sell lots of souvenirs, as seen at right.

Here are some interior views, but it's difficult because the place is almost always so crowded. This elegant ambience, however, is coming soon to a museum near you! We hope.

Miss Bellows Falls -- Bellows Falls, Vt.

This is a classic Worcester lunch car, construction #771.

Modern Diner -- Pawtucket, R.I.

Bob Foley sent us this picture of the Modern Diner in Pawtucket, and says he eats there regularly. It's a Sterling Streamliner, of the same type as the Salem Diner in Salem, Mass., built by J. B. Judkins.

Monroeville, O.

Just like Gasoline Alley! This nameless diner was the body of Lake Shore Electric #171, a 1918 steel Jewett. Here we see Norm Krentel and Jeff Brady examining it in May 1979. It was obviously out of business. I hopefully suggested that IRM should acquire it and keep it as a diner. Of course nothing came of that idea. Several years later, however, the body was acquired by Seashore with the eventual intention of restoring it as an interurban car. Good luck!

Mom and Pop's Diner - Moses Lake, Wash.

This is an active diner, using the body of #53, a 1910 Niles car built for the Seattle-Everett Interurban.  Car 55 from the same order has been preserved and restored by the city of Lynnwood.  The body of 53 appears to be relatively unmodified, and is sitting under a roof.  I would be glad to get better pictures.

Newark Diner - Newark, N.Y.

(Frank) Right on Route 31 in Newark, New York is this 1939 Sterling (#397). It's in a neat location that backs right up to the old Erie Canal, and is quite a local landmark. There is a sign on the wall pointing out that this diner was featured on the TV show "General Hospital." Incidentally, the photo on the left was taken about 15 seconds before I was approached by a kindly Mormon missionary from Australia, of all places, on a pilgrimage to see the Hill Cumorah in nearby Palmyra. You never know who you'll run into at these old diners! -Frank

O'Neill's Streamline Diner - Perris, Cal.

This is a favorite of mine, now on display at Orange Empire. It was originally a standard Santa Fe heavyweight, with a plaster front end added to look like the UP's M-10000 lightweight streamliner. It looks to me like something a model railroader would make out of papier-mâché!

Owl Diner - Lowell, Mass.

Frank recently had a chance to visit this 1940 Worcester in Lowell and reported that breakfast was quite good. You have to like the clerestory roof.

 Pine Bluff, Ark.

Enough advertising signs for you?  Hidden behind them is the body of  #572, an ex-Manhattan Elevated car, built in 1878 by Pullman.  Here is a picture of a similar car in service in New York.  Many such cars were sold off in 1942 for use at various government facilities.  In this case, it was undoubtedly used at the Pine Bluff Arsenal. These pictures were taken by the late Earl Saunders, and the information was provided by Bill Wall.  The (nameless) diner itself was demolished sometime in the 1970's.

Rock & Roll Diner - Pismo Beach, Cal.

Near the entrance to popular Pismo Beach, California, is this Rock & Roll Diner in Oceano. It consists of two streamlined passenger cars: a smooth-side diner and a fluted Budd obs-lounge. The cars are still on trucks and seem to have most or all of their underbody equipment, but the interiors have been modified, of course.

I was unable to learn anything about the identities of these cars from the man running the restaurant. But food was good, the music is non-stop rock & roll, and you can watch trains roll by on the coast route across the street. What's not to like?

Route 66 Cafe - Gardner, Ill.

This is the body of a Kankakee single-truck streetcar. It's a pre-Birney design built by American for Albany, Ga. and later sold to Kankakee. After the system was abandoned, it became a diner in downtown Gardner.

It is now located behind the Riviera roadhouse, a couple miles north of Gardner along old 66. It is being preserved and restored by the Illinois Route 66 Preservation Volunteers. The interior is at least partly set up in its diner configuration.

These pictures were taken July 6, 2008. The Riviera closed on Dec. 31, 2008.

2009 update: Although the Riviera is no longer in business, the diner is still open to the public. Here are some interior views dated June 21, 2009.

Jan. 2010 update: The Sun-Times is reporting that the former employees of the Riviera Supper Club have reopened it! Now's your chance to have dinner in a former speakeasy with a streetcar sitting outside!

Aug. 2010 update: The Riviera burned to the ground in June in a suspicious fire. The body of the diner has been moved to downtown Gardner where it will be put on display, they say.

Oct. 2011 update: As promised, the diner has been restored and put on permanent display in downtown Gardner, near the historic jail. The roof has been rebuilt and is now in much better condition, and the car itself has been nicely repainted. The interior is much as it was before.

So we were glad to see that the diner is being carefully preserved.

Salem De Luxe Diner - East Union, Ill.

This is an O'Mahony diner built in 1934, originally located in Salem, Ohio. (L) An interior photo at Salem. (R&W #150, photographer unknown.) (R) The diner was later stored in Akron before it was acquired by IRM.

Here's its status as of March, 2009. The ceramic panels have been completely replaced, and it looks stunning! One interesting thing that you can no longer see is that these O'Mahony diners had truss rods, much like a real passenger car. Why does a building need truss rods? It's because they were built in a factory, then shipped to the purchaser's site by loading one end onto a semi tractor, and putting the other end on a dolly. The truss rods ensured it would hold together during shipment.

Here's the current status of the interior. We essentially have all the parts, but a lot of interior restoration will be needed.

(R) The ceiling is in good condition; they've cleaned it up as much as possible. This is a type of wallboard with a colored surface that cannot easily be replaced.

(L) Some of the counter appliances. Most of the diner fixtures are still in their original location. (R) The art deco metal panels at one end of the car, and behind the stoves.

(L) New insulation has been installed in the outside walls.

(R) The floor is in need of rebuilding; here we see what's left of the tiles on the floor beneath the counter. The locations of the stools are obvious.

Salem Diner - Salem, Mass.

(Frank) This is a Sterling Streamliner diner built in 1941 by the J.B. Judkins Company. It's got a rounded shovel-nose front end similar in appearance to Kelly's in Sandwich, Ill (see below), but the Salem Diner was built new this way. It's located on a small lot south of downtown Salem just off of the abandoned Boston & Maine branch to Marblehead, which has been converted into a bike path. While I was there, some structural repairs were being made to the diner at the "engineer's position."

The interior of the diner is very original, with the kitchen and counter in the same arrangement as built. Note that the diner is much wider than a railroad car, allowing for a row of booths across from the counter. The rounded end of the diner also has booths. The food was excellent!

Update: Randy adds: I saw on the Diner Hotline blog that the workmen were installing insulation, and later that day they managed to start a small fire! Luckily it was quickly put out, and the diner re-opened the next day. It would be ironic if Frank had managed to take the very last pictures before it burned to the ground!

A similar model is located in Pawtucket, R.I.

2019 Update: It appears from this article that the Salem Diner closed in May 2019 and is currently up for sale by its owner, Salem State University.

Sandwich Diner - Sandwich, Ill.

The Sandwich diner is built around the body of wooden CB&Q passenger car #4438, a 1904 chair car built by ACF and retired at Eola in 1933. It then became a diner at Sandwich, with a sheet-metal front end to look like the early shovel-nosed Diesel trains. It was originally, I believe, known as Wright's Diner. When Frank and I first went there about ten years ago, it was still a diner.

Kelly's Pub

By 2008, when these pictures were taken, it had changed hands and was known as Kelly's Pub. The phony wheels are hilarious, and the crossing signals add a nice touch. The body had a door cut into the side nearest the street, and part of the other side is missing, as usual. It was now more a tavern than a diner.

The interior of the car is remarkably intact.

2011 Update - Bull Moose Pub

The diner has recently changed hands again, and the new owners have completely rebuilt the outside, removing the sheet metal and installing new wood siding to make it look more like a wooden passenger car. Note that the rounded end on the west end of the car extends well beyond the original carbody.

The gap in the north side of the car was filled in by removing a double window section from the south side.

The interior is relatively little changed. The picture to the right shows the same windows as one of the 2008 pictures above, but the scenery has changed.

There seems to be an amusing local tradition that each new owner should add another layer of fantasy to the already steaming pile of misinformation about the car's origins. The previous owners claimed it was a Pullman diner built in 1893 for the C0lumbian exposition. The new owners claim it was Teddy Roosevelt's private car, and was moved here from California in 1933. At this rate, in a few years it will have been Lincoln's funeral car.

The Siding - Peru, Ind.

This restaurant incorporates two Milwaukee Road Hiawatha lightweights: 1351, a baggage-dormitory converted from the 1947 Touralux Mount Stuart, and 1948 coach 524, converted to leg-rest and renumbered 612..

More and better pictures can be found at these links:   Car 1351      Car 612

Thanks to Justin Nelson for bringing this to our attention!

Sisson's Diner - Middleboro, Mass.

Sisson's Diner is located in a rural area of South Middleboro, Mass.  It incorporates the body of an old Wason streetcar, #229, from the Middeborough,  Wareham, and Buzzards bay Railway which ran past its present location.  It was turned into a diner in 1923, 90 years ago!  As of June 2013, it is being refurbished by new owners who plan to put it back into food service.

  A surprising amount of the original car's fabric is still present.  Here is what the outside looks like, with its added roof and building behind it.  A painter was at work on the exterior.


Most of the car's original roof is intact.  What you're looking at here, from the top down, is the "new" shingles on the added roof structure.  Under that, you can see the clerestory windows, and below the windows, the original roof canvas on the hips, tacked to the tack molding!  Below that is the car siding and window frames, newly repainted.

Here's the interior, while the painter takes his lunch break.  Most of the rear wall, away from the road, was removed, and this counter and seats placed in the usual configuration.

Here we're looking towards the north end, and off into the additional seating area.

The ceiling has been covered with new material, and new light fixtures installed.

But in this area part of the lower roof remains exposed, and it too has the original canvas still in place.

And then, here we are looking at the clerestory again, on the side away from the road.  It's been covered over, but two of the steel carlines are still projecting out.  They would be resting on the top rail, which was removed for most of this side of the car.

Sisson's Diner - 2017 Update

Four years later, a lot of changes have taken place, although the diner is not now in business and is being rebuilt, again.  The carbody is in the same place, but the garish paint scheme is gone, and the dilapidated outbuilding behind the car has been completely replaced with a new structure.  The car itself was stacked high with chairs and other items, so the interior is inaccessible.  I would imagine the diner was opened for business after our last visit, but didn't stay in business very long, and is now in new hands, but that's just speculation.   In any case, it seems that it should be open again some time relatively soon.

This may be the Oak Island of diners.

Stoby's Restaurant -- Russellville, Ark.

 This diner is still in business, and Bill Pollard provided these pictures and a description::

Here are photos of the ex Illinois Central car, currently in use as part of the dining room of Stoby's Depot & Restaurant, a popular sandwich shop in Russellville, Arkansas.  This car was built as IC coach 3661 in 1918.  It was completely rebuilt by the Centralia shops in 1948, receiving roller bearing trucks, tight-lock couplers and a new "modernized heavyweight" appearance which allowed operation on streamlined Illinois Central trains between Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans.  It was also renumbered 2697 at that time.
The car was purchased by the Rock Island in July 1972 for conversion to maintenance of way service.  In this usage, it became RIMW 196695, but continued to wear its IC orange and brown paint.  The car was in the Biddle (Little Rock) yard when the Rock Island shut down, and was sold at auction in 1981.  Moved to Russellville, it was incorporated into Stoby's restaurant, attached to a building designed to be architecturally similar to Missouri Pacific stations.  The restaurant sits across the mainline from the actual MP station in Russellville (now a community center and museum).

Top of the World, Ariz.

This nameless classic was located near the unincorporated area called "Top of the World" at the summit of US Route 60 between Phoenix and Globe. It started as a wooden railroad coach - notice the marker brackets on the corner posts. The wall nearest the road was completely replaced with cheesy house-type construction, but the roof, ends, and far wall appear to be basically original. These pictures were taken in March 2003, and it was still there in March 2008, but had disappeared by 2014, presumably demolished.

Trolley Inn - Jeffersonville, Ind.

The photograph above is dated 1989, but it appears the diner has since been replaced by a modern restaurant building.  It was located at the corner of Riverside Drive and Spring St.  This was probably the body of a Cincinnati curved-side car from Home Transit, which operated through Jeffersonville.  

Italiano - Chicago, Ill.

This is an Italian restaurant near downtown, using the body of a Rock Island commuter coach which would have looked like this. To the right, it may look like a nice quiet neighborhood, but it's actually right on the Congress Expressway at Wells.

The interior has been completely redone, of course, and there's a door cut in the side, as usual. But you can sit and watch the Metra trains at LaSalle St. station on the old Rock Island line, where this car ran. Is this really a "diner"? Everybody has a different definition of the term; I'm going by railroad content, so my answer is yes.

2019 Update:

Bill Wulfert points out that the exterior has been repainted in Milwaukee Road colors.  It's certainly eye-catching.

Whitey's Diner - Fremont, O.

This building started life as a Lake Shore Electric wooden car (number unknown), but it had been rebuilt so thoroughly over the years that by 1979, when we visited, little of the original car was left. But we ate there, and the food was pretty good by diner standards.

31 years later, in January 2010, Whitey's is still in business and little changed, except for signage. I had lunch there, and the food was still good.

Yreka Cafe - Yreka, Cal.

This was the body of Yosemite Valley car 330, a parlor-observation built in 1907 by the Hicks Locomotive and Car Works, at about the same time as the 309. Amazingly enough, the car has been preserved and returned to service at Niles Canyon; restoration is ongoing. See this history for more details, and here for recent photos of the restoration. Photos by Glenn Joesten from the Jack Burgess collection. Jack reports that it was serving as a diner as late as 1987, and that it had "great burgers."

Found on the Web
(Actual railroad cars only)

Andy's Diner - Seattle, Wash.
Includes two Oregon Electric interurban car bodies, and one or more railroad cars. Pictures here and here. Restaurant closed in Jan. 2008, but is still in operation as a Chinese restaurant.  Picture of the "Oriental Express" in May 2014, from Glen Brewer:

Update: A discussion of the various cars, with pictures, is here.

Art City Trolley Restaurant - Springville, UtahIncludes the body of FJ&G Brill Bullet #128, pictures here and here. Restaurant apparently still in business.

Baker City Diner - Baker City, Ore.
Glen Brewer has posted pictures of this old diner here and here. It is now a Mexican restaurant, and Glen notes: "It is made from two former UP cars welded. The food was pretty good too."

Brooklyn Diner - Portland, Ore.
This diner incorporated the body of a very old Central Pacific passenger car, #1279.  (Further details wanted....)  The diner was in operation until the 70's, and the building was used for other purposes until 2013.  It was then demolished by the expanding light rail system, although salvageable parts of the car are being preserved.  (Picture from the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project)

Coach Dinor - Fredonia, Pa.
This "dinor" is the body of a Penn-Ohio lightweight 700-series Kuhlman car. A couple of pictures and some description here, scroll down.

Crossroads Dinor - Edinboro, Pa.
This "dinor" is Northwestern Pennsylvania Railway #103, a 1913 Niles interurban combine. It was made into a diner in 1929 when the line was abandoned. Pictures here and here. Brought to my attention by Michael Trosino of ECTM. Bruce Wells supplied more information, and a picture of the car when new, at the same corner where it now sits!

Hmm, I don't remember reading about any "Grape Specials" on the CA&E!

Denny's Diner - Carson City, Nev.
This McKeen car from the Virginia & Truckee was a diner in Carson City for many years. Excellent history here from the Nevada State Railroad Museum, which has done a beautiful restoration job.

Dudie's Diner - Tupelo, Miss.
Body of Memphis Street Railway #630, a 1923 St. Louis lightweight, preserved as a diner at the Oren Dunn City Museum in Tupelo. Picture here. On display.

Frank's Diner - Spokane, Wash.
Wooden parlor-obs car, 1906 Barney and Smith, built as NP #1787. Restaurant in business.

Frank's Diner - North Spokane, Wash.
1913 Pullman sleeper "Laketon", lettered as GN #670, later rebuilt as a diner and then a camp car. Same owners as car above - website here.

Fresno, Cal.
This is a 1913 Brill "hobbleskirt" car built for Fresno Traction; the body of another is preserved at Orange Empire. Picture here. A recent article in the Fresno Bee has further information, and a better picture:

The diner at 1731 S. Cherry Ave. near Broadway was constructed from the last two surviving* trolley cars -- 1912 Dragon and 1925 Birney models -- run by the Fresno Traction Co. Fresno Traction Co. abandoned the Dragon-style cars, designed with low-set center doors, in 1934. The diner's Dragon car was moved to the site for William Meyers in 1935. It is unclear when the Birney car became part of the L-shaped diner.
A 1936 building permit indicates the trolley was remodeled into a cafe called the Standard Diner. A small building was moved from Amador Street and Broadway for a kitchen. The diner was later known as Parker's Trolley Car Diner. In 1969, Carole Gostanian of Fresno ran a coffee shop called Trolley Car Carole's. In 1975, it became simply the Trolley Car. In 2003, a new owner repainted the outside of the trolleys the original black, red and dark green colors and made other repairs, but the diner did not reopen.
The former diner is listed on Fresno's Local Register of Historic Resources. Today the the trolley interiors are set up like an office.
*Note: This, of course, is not true -- there are six other Fresno cars preserved by museums.

Garner's Streetcar Diner - Chatham, Va.
Body of Danville Traction and Power Company #66, a 1923 Perley Thomas standard, pictured here. Restaurant was in business until recently, but is now being considered for other uses. Chatham also had a Duke Power Co. Birney body serving as Bill Fretwell's Streetcar Diner - but this was demolished in March 2010. See comment below from Marcus Ruef.

Photo of Garner's in Mar. 2010 by Marcus Ruef

Grubstake Diner - San Francisco, Cal.
Incorporates the body of a Key System streetcar, which was turned into a diner in 1927.  Website here.  Further information on the car's identity would be appreciated.

Maxim's - Oconomowoc, Wisc.
This restaurant includes a wooden coach, originally NP #1923, we believe. It was used as a business car at the Kettle Moraine tourist railroad for many years, and was sold for use as a diner at the Ocnomowoc depot in 2002. Restaurant website here. h/t: Dennis Storzek.

Midway Diner - Sedalia, N.C.
Thought to be a c. 1900 Pullman coach or chair car. Out of business as a diner for many years, the car was for sale as of March 2010.

Minnetta's Sportsman Diner - Easton, Wash.
According to the info painted on the side of the car, this was NP diner #1663, built by Barney and Smith in May, 1910 for the North Coast Limited.  Besides food, they featured hunting and fishing information, hence the name.  Pictures taken in 1980 here and here.  After the diner went out of business, it was acquired by a private owner and has been moved to a suburb of Tacoma for restoration.  A second car, a Harriman diner from the UP, remains at the Easton site in derelict condition.

Mullen's Dining Cars - Buellton, Cal.
A diner incorporating two Type-B Huntingdon standards from LA Rys., built by St. Louis in 1911. Long story here. Out of business for 50 years when moved to Morrow Bay, CA in June 2012.  Both car bodies were moved to the Bitter Creek Western Railway in central California in March 2013; story here.

March 2013 Update: The two bodies were moved in June 2012 to Morro Bay, then in March 2013 to the Bitter Creek Western, a large 7.5" live steam operation near Arroyo Grande.  Story and pictures here.

Ray's Lunch - Natick, Mass.
A 1901 Stephenson closed single-truck car from the Lexington and Boston served as a diner in Natick from 1927 until the 1950's. The body was acquired by Seashore in 1962 and the car awaits restoration. Long story here.

Red Oak II Diner - Red Oak, Mo.
A Birney car preserved as a diner in a historical park, whose website is here. Good picture of the diner here. Tentatively identified as Southwest Missouri #80, built in 1921 by Cincinnati on order #2480 as one of eight identical cars.

Ritz Limited Cafe - Shohomish, Wash.
This car was built in 1898 by Barney and Smith as a Baptist chapel car, one of the few in existence. For several years after retirement it was a roadside diner, as seen in this blog post (scroll down). It was acquired in 2007 by the Northwest Railway Museum and will be restored as a chapel car, which is excellent. But did anybody save that Ritz Limited neon sign???

Ruth's Diner - Salt Lake City, Utah
Jim Vaitkunas
brought this to our attention. This diner has a website here and is very much in business. Jim believes that the carbody is an SL&U interurban car, which accords with the 1949 date when it was made into a diner.

Silver Coach - Stevens Point, Wisc.

This restaurant incorporates a Barney & Smith sleeper, built in 1903 as Soo Line #1214, a 12-1 sleeping car named Glen Flora. The upper sash were blanked by the railroad in 1926, and the car was retired in February 1932. One small portion of the original car interior (possibly the stateroom) remains intact, with other parts of the interior rearranged throughout the restaurant.  Pete Deets brought this to our attention, and our old friend Dennis Storzek provided the detailed information about the car.

These four pictures courtesy of Ron Smolen.

Silver Diner - Parma, Mich.
 This classic diner was originally interurban trailer #53 from the same order as Michigan Electric #28, now being restored at IRM. Built by St. Louis in 1913, it was later motorized and renumbered 31, and operated until the ME folded in 1929. It became a diner in Concord, and was later moved to Parma to replace a wooden streetcar diner that burned. By 1972, it was out of business. It contributed several of the special pressed glass upper sash windows to the 28, and was scrapped not long afterwards. Contributed by Dennis Storzek and Norm Krentel.
(Photo courtesy of Norm Krentel)

Trackside Pizza - Wallingford, Conn.
A pizza restaurant uses the body of Broad St. subway car 31 (a 1927 Brill) from Philadelphia, without trucks.  The website has several good pictures.   The car was evidently featured in a horror movie, which seems appropriate.  Thanks to Ron Smolen for finding this one.

Trolley Car Rotisserie - Castroville, Cal.
This diner incorporates the body of Key System streetcar #958, built by American in 1923.  It became a diner in Castroville after the Key System ended streetcar service in 1948.  These pictures were taken in 1976 by Bob Davis when it was Bing's Diner, and are used by permission of the photographer.

In 2009 it was revamped as more of  an up-scale restaurant and is still in business.  Excellent website gives some of the history here.  Thanks also to Ted Miles for information on the car's origins.

Trolley Drive In - Independence, Mo.
This diner (not a drive in, despite the name) appears to be the body of a Kansas City Public Service car, with either a deck roof or turtle-back roof seen peeking out over the entryway. Recently re-named Novella's Soup Trolley.

Trolly373 - Gordon Junction, Tex.
A streetcar body, thought to be a Dallas Railway & Terminal 700-series car, evidently no longer used. Picture here. Probably doomed, but still in existence as of Feb. 2013.

Update: Still in existence as of Oct. 2019.

4th Street Diner - Syracuse, N.Y.

This classic diner was already out of business when this photo was taken in 1941 by John Collier for the FSA.  (Photo from the Library of Congress online database.) Assuming this is a Syracuse city car, it's one of the 800 series built in 1912 by St. Louis.  It was withdrawn from service in 1937, so it could not have been a diner for very long.  Would you rather have a hamburg or a double decker coney?


Anonymous said...

There's an O'Mahoney diner not just across the border in Kenosha.

Frank's Diner, which is just a couple blocks from the Kenosha streetcar circulator originated from a O'Mahoney diner in 1926.
There's some add-on buildings but the core is still the original New Jersey import.


Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, John, that's quite interesting! It looks like a trip to Kenosha is in order. If the Three Stooges ate there, that's good enough for me.

Larry said...

Hi Larry Cultrera from the Diner Hotline blog here. I see you found my blog. Thanks for the link.

Just to let everyone here know, Diners did not originate from train cars. They evoloved from horse-drawn lunch wagons.

It wasn't until the mid-1920's that the general size and shape of these wagons lent itself to the various manufacturers consciously styling their product after railroad dining cars, which were then considered the height of luxury. They were not even called diners until 1925 or so.

Just as some of your photos show, there were diners that were converted from train and trolley cars.

This was a small piece of diner history that sometimes gave diners a bad reputation. These converted cars were not generally up to the standard of cleanliness or cleanability that were the hallmark of prefabricated diners.

They of course would have had years of service in their former lives and may have been somewhat worn out, cold and drafty.

Don't get me wrong, there were many great places that were converted train or trolley cars but the quality and cleanliness were certainly dictated by the dedicated owners.

By the way I want to correct John Cloos, the name of the manufacturer of Frank's Diner in Kenosha was the Jerry O'Mahony (no "E" after the "N") Dining Car Company. He was the largest builder of diners for years. His slogan was "In Our Line We Lead The World"

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks for the info. I've corrected the spelling of O'Mahony.

Larry said...

I noticed in your piece on the Capitol Diner of Lynn, Mass. that almost all your info is correct. There is one problem though. Yes it is a Brill Diner but it was built by Brill subsidiary Wason Manufacturing Company out of Springfield, Mass. (not G.C.Kuhlman). Most if not all of the Brill Diners in New England were built by Wason. At one time there were countless examples of these Brills in New England, the Capitol is the only one left operating.

Frank Hicks said...

Larry, thanks for the info! The Capitol Diner description has been updated.

Sara said...

I noticed that you linked to one of my photos of Trolly373. I have likewise provided a link to your blog post from both of my photos of the diner. Hopefully more people will find their way to this great post.

Marcus Ruef said...

Both Chatham, VA birney bodies are still on the same corner within sight of each other. My parents live down the street from the double truck "Gardner's" and I have eaten there in the past. Next visit I'll takes some pictures and try to get a menu for you.

Randall Hicks said...

Marcus Ruef says:

Randy, I was in Chatham, VA this week and arrived just in time to see the last bits of the single truck Birney being loaded into a dumpster. Apparently the town was unable to come to terms with the owner, who chose to destroy the body. The double truck car is no longer a restaurant. It is being considered as a welcome center. In fact, my Dad, a retired Episcopal Priest, was asked to be one of the volunteer docents to staff it if that plan materializes.

Len Arzoomanian said...

One Rhode Island trolly/diner conversion is the Veteran's Square Diner formally in Warwick, RI. The restoration of the 1911 Osgood Bradley Trolley that was once the Diner is detailed here:

Len Arzoomanian

Frank Hicks said...

I wonder whether Ruth's Diner in SLC may indeed be a city car rather than an interurban. All of the SL&U interurbans I could find photos of had paired upper sash, which Ruth's appears not to. Also, the window arrangement at the left end of the Ruth's Diner car, with two windows on the platform, appears to match the SLC city car shown here: http://davesrailpix.com/odds/ut/htm/slc03.htm. There's an "early diner era" photo of the car on the Ruth's website which shows an end door, but if you look closely it looks to be a building door cut into the car - not an original interurban train door.

Anonymous said...

Hi Randall,

Here is a Chicago trolley cottage in Wisconsin that you might be interested in.



Pete Deets said...

You may want to add Pete's Silver Coach in Stevens Point, WI. It is built around a Barney & Smith Soo Line coach and their website is http://w.mawebcenters.com/silvercoach1/
Enjoy!, Pete Deets

Anonymous said...

Here's some more info on the origins of the Silver Coach Restaurant in Stevens Point (actually Park Ridge) WI:

The car was built by Barney & Smith of Dayton, Ohio in 1903 as Soo Line 1214, a 12-1 sleeping car named GLEN FLORA. The "Gothic" upper sash were blanked by the railroad in 1926, and the car was retired in February, 1932. One small portion of the original car interior (possibly the stateroom) remains intact, with other parts of the interior finish rearranged throughout the restaurant. The current owners know the car is the GLEN FLORA, and have restored that name on the outside, although not in the original style.

Dennis Storzek

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, Dennis! That helps a lot.

Anonymous said...

No mention of Chicago's very own Diner Grill on Irving Park Road, made from the only two surviving Evanston streetcars?

Randall Hicks said...

Sorry about that, the Diner Grille has now been added. And by the way, I'd appreciate any detailed information on the cars. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Next time your in the Diner Grille, ask to be let behind the air conditioning unit on the west end. You have to go thru the back storage area but once there, you can make out the ENTRY doors that are still there.

Anonymous said...

Diner Grill is great.

If I could, I would go there daily but I'd probably get tired of it.
Instead, I do try to get there every couple months. To anyone going, try the SLINGER,

As your photos show, if you walk around towards the bathrooms you can still see the rivets and original steel. I was once taken into the back storage area, and you can see more tell tale signs of when it was a streetcar.

I remember ... there used to be a diner just west of Cicero Ave on the North side of North Ave. As a kid I was told it was an old streetcar, but now I'm thinking it was perhaps a Mahoney style diner.

Do you have any name or Information ... Thanks in advance... Rick

T.U. Leaton said...

I have seen (and eaten at) these:
South street Diner--formerly Blue Diner--, Boston MA;
Rosebud Diner, Davis Square, Somerville, MA;
Kelly’s Diner, Somerville, MA ( Jerry O'Mahony);
Deluxe Town Diner, Watertown, MA;
JAX Truckee Diner, Truckee CA;

--Tom Leaton

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks for the list. I think I remember the Rosebud in Somerville from back in the seventies; it is now a modern restaurant building, but they had a picture of it back in the thirties when it was a trolley car diner. And we ate at the Blue Diner last time we were in Boston, but I decided the architecture wasn't sufficiently railroad-like to include. But it was a good place to eat at, just a block or two from South Station.

Randolph Ruiz said...

My name is Randy Ruiz and I edit the Orange Empire Railway Museum's newsletter. You may be interested in knowing the Huntington Standard carbodies from the Dinning Cars Cafe in Buellton, CA have been relocated to Morro Bay, CA in an effort to create a new diner. I am a little concerned their new owner may be in over his head, but as of a couple of weeks ago, they were in pretty good shape on blocks at their new location.

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks for the update, Randy. I'd be interested to see any pictures of the new arrangement.

Bob Davis said...

Bob Davis (OERM 253) In Castroville (near Monterey CA) there's a Key System streetcar that's now a diner. Years ago it was "Bing's Diner" but it has changed hands several times since then. As I recall, the back side has been cut away for a BBQ pit. For some time, it was kept in the NCL "Fruit Salad" KSTL paint job but last time I was there it was red and white.

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, Bob, that's quite interesting. If you could send us some pictures I'd be glad to include it.

Justin L. Nelson said...

Re: The cars at the Siding Restaurnat in Peru, IN. Those are Ex-Milwaukee cars 1351, a baggage-dormitory converted from a 14 section touralux and coach 612. They are part of the restaurant which I believe is still open. One can even have dinner in the lower berth of the touralux. Photos of the cars interiors can be found at the following

Bag-Dorm 1351:http://www.flickr.com/photos/33672589@N08/sets/72157626579934794/

Coach 612: http://www.flickr.com/photos/33672589@N08/sets/72157626477152803/

Randall Hicks said...

Thanks, Justin, your information and pictures are fantastic. I'll update the listing.

Unknown said...

Some additional info on the Sandwich diner

The Diner, Sandwich, IL

This was known as the “Diner” for many years. The 75-foot railroad car was built in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition at a cost of $25,000. It is believed that Theodore Roosevelt used it for his 1900 and 1904 presidential campaigns. It was retired in 1931, purchased by Henry Tattersal of Sandwich for $75 in California, and moved to Sandwich to the southwest corner of Main and Church Streets for a restaurant. A year later, it was moved east across the street to its present location.

It has been named the Diner, Wright’s Diner, Paul’s Diner, Cucina Plata, Kelly’s Pub, American Grill, and now the Bull Moose. Today’s facility includes the train car and the home just to the south, all in one facility. H. C. Tattersall opened a small ice cream stand on the east end of the Diner in 1937 and held a naming contest. Charlotte Fields’ name was chosen, and so it was called The Humpty Dumpty.

Thank you Kurt Drath for the photo and history.

Anonymous said...

I am looking to get in touch with Norm Krentel concerning the photo he supplied of the Silver Diner in Parma, Michigan. (The people running the facebook page for the museum said to contact this page.) I am looking to see if I could get permission to use the photo in a book I am writing on diners in the Great Lake states. I would gladly trade a book for permission to use the photograph.

Also, who owns the Bono, Ohio photo? That is a fascinating looking diner in its own right. Could I trade a book for use of that photo also?

Michael Engle
speigletown at hotmail dot com

Randall Hicks said...

I've forwarded this message to the appropriate people. When Mr. Engle's book gets published, maybe we'll hear about first!

Phil Mulligan said...

I notice you put "(sic)" for the two Diners on your list from NW Pennsylvania that were "Dinors." That is the local spelling for that part of PA. Elsewhere in the Commonwealth we do use "Diner" but in NW PA it's "Dinor."

Unknown said...

Phil Taylor said....
Fifty years ago I could have told you the number of the Lake Shore Electric car now known as “Whitey’s Dinner in Fremont Ohio.
I would suggest contacting Thomas Patton in Avon Lake , Ohio, also restoring LSE freight motor #38 , or Dennis Lamont, if you can get ahold of him. I’m sure they would know. They co-authored the Lake Shore Electric Railway book found at Arcadia Publishing Co.