The inside of this 1958 menu is identical to yesterday’s coffee shop menus, but the cover photo shows a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. Today, we’ll compare it with a City of Portland dome-dining car menu from the same period. Both, in fact, are dated August, 1958.
Click to download a 2.2-MB PDF of this menu.
I’ve already presented a dining car menu from that date featuring Mt. Hood on the cover. This one is identical on the inside, but features the Columbia River Gorge on the outside. Although Union Pacific’s tracks are on the near side of the river, they aren’t visible in the photo.
Click to download a 1.8-MB PDF of this menu.
Here’s the inside of the dome-dining car menu.
If you click this image, you’ll get the same PDF as if you clicked the previous image.
Compare it with the inside of the coffee shop menu, below.
If you click this image, you’ll get the same PDF as if you clicked the first image above.
Both menus have a steak dinner, but in the diner it is $5 (about $40 in today’s money) while in the cafe car it is only $3.50 (about $12 difference today). The only real differences were that the $5 dinner had “cottage fried potatoes” vs. “hashed browned potatoes”; the $5 dinner had “garlic buttered French bread toasted” vs. “dinner rolls”; and the $5 dinner promised “thousand island dressing” vs. “chef’s special dressing.” Perhaps the steak in the diner, which was “charcoal broiled” vs. just “broiled,” was also larger. The menu says nothing about dessert, but I suspect the steak dinner came with the same choice of desserts as the table d’hôte items.
The other table d’hôte meals in the diner were brook trout, chicken, omelet, and prime rib, vs. salmon, chicken a la king, and beef pot roast in the cafe car (imagine wild salmon being so common that it would be served in the cafe car while only trout was good enough for the first-class diner). The dome-diner meals were more expensive but also more complete than in the cafe car, as the former dinners include soup and salad; what were probably fresh-baked muffins instead of reheated dinner rolls; spinach instead of corn; and a selection of fancier desserts.
For these additions, the dining car entrées cost $1.00 to $1.75 more than the cafe ones (about $8 to $10 in today’s money). Heck, I’d pay $8 to $12 (for the steak) more even without the additions just to eat in the dome, but considering that just 18 of the diner’s 46 seats (including the 10 in the private room beneath the dome) were in the dome, there was no guarantee that people would be seated in the dome.
Surprisingly, the dome-diner menu includes no a la carte items; most other railroads put table d’hôte selections on one side of the menu and a la carte on the other side. A check indicates that UP lunch menus had an a la carte section but many older dinner menus did not. Perhaps Union Pacific figured that the passengers who could afford to eat in the diner would prefer complete meals; or perhaps the railroad offered a la carte items on request.