The Ranch Menu

This 1958 menu from the the Mid-Century Empire Builder‘s Ranch Car is decorated to look like cowhide. The letters “The Ranch” closely resemble those on The Ranch brochure, where they are clearly intended to look like brands in the hide. However, this isn’t as apparent on the menu cover, an oversight that seems strange in view of the Great Northern’s otherwise meticulous attention to detail. At least the GN logo on the cover is from the “G-bar-N” brand that the railway had registered in Montana in June, 1951, to commemorate the new train.

Click image to download a PDF of this menu.

Inside, the menu features two cartoon cowboys who, a close look reveals, are actually Rocky Mountain goats. The most expensive item on the menu is a “Chef’s Suggestion–Plate Meal” consisting of unspecified “meat or fish” with potatoes and vegetable, bread, dessert, and beverage. This is all for $1.85, or about $15 in today’s dollars. A hamburger with fried onions is $0.50, or about $4 today–this at a time when 49 cents would buy you a cheeseburger, fries, and a milkshake at McDonald’s.

Apparently, even though the Ranch Car was aimed at coach passengers, it didn’t offer particularly inexpensive food. Nor was the quality all that great. While the Empire Builder‘s dining car offered freshly mashed potatoes, the only potatoes on this menu are “whipped,” which almost certainly means instant.

Skyline Coffee Shop Menu

The first dome car in the Canadian had a small kitchen beneath the dome and a coffee shop/lounge behind the dome. While each of the dome-observation cars were named after individual national parks and had interior decorations specific to those parks, the first domes were all called “Skyline” and were identically decorated.

Click image to download a 0.8-MB PDF of this menu.

Here is a 1964 menu for the Skyline car. It includes a table d’hôte dinner featuring “poached fresh fish,” “sugar-cured ham,” or “cold plate, garnished,” with soup, vegetables, roll, dessert, and beverage for $2.25 (about $15 today). The a la carte side includes “minced sirloin of beef” or “chef’s selection” for $1.60 (about $11 today); cold salmon or fruit salad with ice cream for $1.20 ($8); or a variety of sandwiches from $0.45 to $0.85 ($3 to $6).

The Post-War Denver Zephyr

I’ve previously presented brochures for two incarnations of the Denver Zephyr: the 1936 articulated train pulled by shovel-nosed Diesels and the 1956 domeliner pulled by E-8 or E-9 locomotives. This flyer presents a transition stage: the 1936 train but with E-8 locomotives instead of the shovel-nose locomotives that came with the 1936 train.

Notice that this flyer advertises that the articulated train provides “smoother riding”–a claim quickly dropped when the 1956 vista-dome Denver Zephyr had no articulated cars. Click image to download a 2.3-MB PDF of this two-page flyer.

Curiously, the back of this brochure was printed upside down relative to the front. To save readers time in flipping pages, the PDF shows both sides upside up.

Postcards by Fred Harvey

The Santa Fe was unusual if not unique in that–at least until 1963–it didn’t operate its own dining cars. Instead, it contracted them out to Fred Harvey, who also operated restaurants in many Santa Fe train stations and hotels in many Santa Fe destinations.

This postcard of Indians selling jewelry to tourists at the Albuquerque train station dates from before the streamlined era. The back of the card notes that all Santa Fe trains stop in Albuquerque for 25 to 30 minutes, but the streamlined trains stopped for only five minutes.

Harvey started the nation’s first restaurant chain in 1875 with eating houses that were soon associated with Santa Fe trains. In 1893, Harvey began operating dining cars on the Santa Fe’s California Limited.

Continue reading

Away from It All on the 20th Century Limited

This March 10, 1954 menu offers whitefish meuniere, shrimp, capon, veal steak, roast ribs, and charcoal broiled sirloin steak. Prices for complete meals range from $3.90 ($33 in today’s dollars) to $5.85 ($49 today). For those with more modest tastes, there is also a club sandwich for $2 ($17 today), and if you want a glass of milk with that, it is an extra 25 cents ($2 today).

Click image to download a 1.3-MB PDF of this menu.

The back of the menu invites passengers to watch the passing lights from their rooms–as an overnight train, the 20th Century didn’t offer a lot of scenic viewing opportunities–or to visit one of the train’s two lounge cars once they were done with dinner in the diner.

Pennsyliners Ticket Envelope

The Pennsylvania considered itself the “standard railroad of the world,” so it didn’t stoop to having the same streamliners as other railroads; instead, it had “Pennsyliners.” At least, that what this 1954 ticket envelope says.

Click image to download a PDF of this envelope.

By this date, the Pennsylvania was also advertising that it relied on “electric power all the way.” Of course, the only trains it had that were powered directly by electricity were between New York and Washington and Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Elsewhere its trains were headed by Diesels–but they were Diesel-electric locomotives.

Illinois Central Ticket Envelope

This undated ticket envelope advertises six streamliners: the all-coach City of New Orleans and all-Pullman Panama Limited, both Chicago-New Orleans; the City of Miami, which went Chicago-Birmingham on the Illinois Central and on to Florida on other roads; the Daylight and Green Diamond, both Chicago-St. Louis; and the Chicago-Iowa Land o’ Corn. By this time, the Green Diamond was no longer green but painted the same chocolate brown as other Illinois Central streamliners.

Click image to download a PDF of this envelope.

Northern Pacific Railway Coaster

This coaster, if that is what it is, is very different from the others shown here. For one thing, instead of having printing in ink, it is embossed with the flowers and Northern Pacific logo.

Click image to download a PDF of this coaster or doily.

Second, it is much larger: 5 inches in diameter instead of 3-1/4. What kind of drinks are served in glasses large enough to need that big of a coaster? More likely, it is not really a coaster but a doily placed under ice cream and other dishes in the dining car.

Continue reading

The Empress of France Menu

As the “world’s greatest travel company,” Canadian Pacific had steamships and airplanes as well as trains and it happily cross-advertised between these modes. This menu from the steamship Empress of France features the Chesley Bonestell illustration of the Canadian on the front cover, with a description of the train on the back.

Aside from being in French rather than English, menus aboard steamships appear different from those aboard trains. Food is included in the price of travel, so passengers don’t have to choose between a la carte and table d’ôte–they get all they want. Entrées include fillet of haddock, pork tenderloin, and prime rib.

Go East via Glacier National Park

Since the bulk of the population is in the East and the bulk of the nation’s scenic beauty is in the West, most advertising by western railroads was aimed at eastern audiences. But sometimes westerners had to go east, so the the Great Northern, like the Northern Pacific, had a few brochures aimed at them.

Click image to download a 5.3-MB PDF of this brochure.

I don’t see a date on this brochure but it is from after 1955 when the Empire Builder got its domes. It has the same number of panels as the 1956 Western Star brochure, but they are arranged differently: instead of unfolding four across and two high, Go East simply unfolds into one long, eight-panel-wide brochure.

Continue reading