If, as I speculated a couple of days ago, differences between City of San Francisco and other City train menus in the late 1950s were due to differences between the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific commissaries, those differences did not extend back to 1946. Here, courtesy of the New York Public Library, are 1946 dinner menus from the City of Denver and City of San Francisco.
Click image to download a 774-KB PDF of this menu.
The menus are about two months separated in time–one is dated January 20 and the other March 18–which may account for the slight design differences. But the items on the menus are very similar. The a la carte sides, for example, are nearly identical, and while there are some differences in the table d’ôte side, they can be accounted for by the usual rotation of meals over time.
We’re going back in time, as today’s dinner menu is from January, 1955, as opposed to yesterday’s March, 1957 menu. The two use similar type faces and are about the same size, but are laid out differently: the 1955 one unfolds vertically, while the 1957 menus unfold horizontally.
Click image to download a 1.0-MB PDF of this menu. Like yesterday’s menu, the original had holes punched in it by the Rio Grande Commissary, but I repaired these with Photoshop.
This menu offers five entrées: trout, veal chop, turkey, leg of lamb, and sirloin steak, each available table d’hôte or (except for the steak) a la carte. Of these, the veal and sirloin steak were on the March, 1957 menu while the trout and leg of lamb were on the April, 1957 menu, suggesting that the railroads had a dozen or so items that they used in rotation.
Here’s a Cal Zephyr menu dated March, 1957. I previously presented a menu dated April, 1957, and despite the small separation in time the two are very different. Both are about the same size and same layout, but the paper used for the two are very different. The March menu is rough and has a deckled edge while the April menu is smooth with straight edges.
Click image to download a 1.5-MB PDF of this menu.
Like the April menu, the March menu had been cut and had holes punched for insertion into the Rio Grande Commissary files, but in this case I “repaired” the damage in Photoshop.
The cover of this menu shows Nob Hill in San Francisco. The description doesn’t say so, but the red building on the right is the Huntington Hotel; the large building in the center is the Mark Hopkins Hotel; and the small building peaking from behind the Mark Hopkins is the Stanford Court Hotel. Huntington, Hopkins, and Stanford were three of the “Big Four” founders of the Central Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads, and all three (plus the fourth, Charles Crocker) built giant mansions on Nob Hill.
Click image to download a 1.7-MB PDF of this menu.
After the Big Four’s deaths, all of the mansions were destroyed by the fire that followed the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, and the hotels were built in their places (except the Huntington was built across the street from the site of his mansion, which is now a park). The red building on the left is the only mansion to survive the fire; it is now the Pacific Union Club. The building behind the Pacific Union Club is the Fairmont Hotel, which was under construction when the earthquake hit.
This 1958 lunch menu has a marvelously colorful cover. Like yesterday’s breakfast menu, the menu inside has a wide range of offerings. Complete meals include fried or grilled fish; hot turkey sandwich; omelet with minced ham; baked beans and sausages; and a chef’s salad.
Click image to download a 1.9-MB PDF of this menu.
Six different entrées are on the a la carte side, including trout; “other fresh fish”; broiled chicken; lamb chops; ham; and sardines. There are also at least three soups; three salads; four appetizers; and five desserts. The “other fresh fish” is $1.75 (about $14 today) on the a la carte side and 35 cents (about $3 today) more as a complete meal with string beans; whipped potatoes; rolls; and a beverage. Since those additions are valued at about $1.25 on the a la carte side, the complete meals are a good deal–if you like whipped potatoes.
The Union Pacific seemed to have complete control over the menus of the City of Los Angeles and City of Portland even though these trains also went over the Chicago & Northwestern (before 1955) and Milwaukee Road (after 1955). But the City of San Francisco was another story, one over which the Southern Pacific seemed to have more influence.
Click image to download a 2.0-MB PDF of this menu.
The Union Pacific never hesitated, for example, to put Mt. Rainier on the cover of a City of Los Angeles menu or Disneyland on the cover of a City of Portland menu. But City of San Francisco menus all seemed to have scenes from San Francisco on their covers.
This menu was issued the same day in 1961 as yesterday’s lunch menu. Like the lunch menu, the painting on the cover is by E. Irving Couse and this time depicts a Hopi Indian making an arrow.
Click image to download a 1.7-MB PDF of this menu.
A color version of this painting, taken from the Santa Fe’s 1932 calendar, is below. The little Santa Fe logo in the lower left corner was added to the calendar version by the railway.
Between 1892 and about 1960, the Santa Fe Railway acquired more than 600 paintings, mostly of the Grand Canyon and Southwest Indians, by scores of fine artists. Beginning in 1907, the railway used many of these paintings on its annual calendars, and starting as early as 1910, it also used them on its menus.
Click image to download a 1.6-MB PDF of this menu.
One of the railway’s favorite painters was Eanger Irving Couse, whose paintings graced nearly two dozen Santa Fe calendars between 1914 and 1938. Couse was born on a Michigan farm, and after studying art in New York and Paris, settled in Taos, New Mexico, where a colony of artists interpreted the Southwest Indian way of life.
This 1971 dinner menu was printed for the City of Portland. Appropriately enough, it features a Fogg painting of a train in the Columbia River Gorge. But the railroad in the painting actually precedes the Union Pacific by several decades.
Click image to download a 3.4-MB pdf of this menu.
This 1872 scene shows a portage railroad used to get around some rapids between Portland and modern-day Hood River. As of 1872, the railroad was owned by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. As the rail line was extended east and west, the company changed its name in 1879 to Oregon Railway and Navigation Company. By 1883, the railway was under the control of Henry Villard, who also controlled the Northern Pacific, and he joined them together to give the latter road access to Portland.
After 1969, the Union Pacific went back to its photo menus for most meals, but–perhaps using up leftover stock–continued to use Fogg menus from time to time. Here is a 1971 lunch menu featuring a painting of a steamboat used to ferry cars across the Missouri River until construction of the bridge in the background is completed.
Click image to download a 3.6-MB PDF of this menu.
Despite raging inflation–a 1971 dollar was worth only about 90 percent of a 1969 dollar–the menu prices are the same as the 1969 lunch menu. The only difference I can see is that a Spanish omelet has replaced the roast turkey meal. Personally, I prefer the turkey.