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Dining Car to the Pacific

Dining Car to the Pacific: The “Famously Good” Food of the Northern Pacific Railway

William A. McKenzie
Copyright Date: 1990
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Dining Car to the Pacific
    Book Description:

    William A. McKenzie offers a lavishly illustrated and richly detailed account of hospitality on the Northern Pacific Railway. McKenzie includes authentic recipes used on the line, such as the Great Big Baked Potato and Washington Apple Pan Cake. Dining Car to the Pacific will be a treasured addition to the libraries of historians, cooks, and anyone with nostalgia for the dining car experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-9721-2
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Personal Observations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. 1 A Trip in a Dining Car
    (pp. 1-22)

    It wasmid-morning in mid-July in the mid-1960s. Fluffy cumulus clouds drifted to the southeast in leisurely fashion, seemingly reluctant to take leave of the Mississippi River that flowed placidly between high white bluffs below. The air was unseasonably cool for a Minnesota summer, and quite still, smelling faintly of diesel locomotive exhaust with a hint of freshly baked bread. A flock of pigeons thrummed into the sky, startled by an automobile that came crackling over a cindered road leading from a littleused pavement toward a long, nondescript, two-story brick building that flanked several parallel lines of railroad tracks filled...

  6. 2 Eating on the Road
    (pp. 23-30)

    Eating has been a major concern of travelers almost since time began, especially when trips were of some distance and duration. The kinds of food chosen and the amount of time required to eat them have been tied closely to progress in modes of transportation and in methods of food preservation and preparation. For millennia before the first rustic inn was founded, travelers either carried provisions or ate off the land. In fact, the earliest inns offered little more than a roof over the heads of their patrons. The stopping place where Jacob’s sons rested on their return from Egypt,...

  7. 3 Building the Northern Pacific
    (pp. 31-42)

    It might be saidthat the Northern Pacific Railroad was, from the outset, a manifestation of a familiar New Testament warning: The first shall be last, and the last shall be first. For, although it was the last of the federally chartered transcontinentals to place a last crosstie, line a last rail, and drive a last spike, it was a vision in the minds of men even before railroads were invented. It might even be said to have been first imagined by Thomas Jefferson.¹

    The dream of opening the Pacific Northwest to settlement and commerce with the East is not...

  8. 4 Henry Villard and the Dining Cars
    (pp. 43-56)

    Soon after his birth in 1835 at Speyer, in Rhenish Bavaria, Ferdinand Heinrich Gustav Hilgard began to exhibit the independence of spirit and action that would mark him for the rest of his life. As a precocious 13-year-old, he became caught up in Germany’s campus unrest of 1848-49. His jurist father, mindful of his own political future, sent him to various schools in order to separate him from the prevailing revolutionary climate; the son finally concluded that his own and his father’s political sympathies would never coincide. To spare his parents further embarrassment, he set out for the United States...

  9. 5 Across the Continent
    (pp. 57-64)

    Before 1883, few events had beenconsidered important enough to bring together heads of state or their highranking personal emissaries. And certainly no one but a Henry Villard would ever dream that a used and rusty iron spike being driven into a rude wooden tie in a remote mountain valley in the largely uninhabited American West could accomplish that very thing. But dream it he did, and to the amazement of many, he succeeded.¹

    A cynic might suggest that Villard wanted dining carsonlybecause he needed them for his grand celebration. After all, he could not expect nobility, government...

  10. 6 Hazen Titus and the Great Big Baked Potato
    (pp. 65-80)

    When J. P. Morgan became savior to the NP, James J. Hill also came to have a voice in its affairs. Hill’s role was far smaller than historians and his lionizing biographers have given the world to believe, but somewhat larger than his detractors claim. In scale, it was rather more like a Hollywood superstar’s making a cameo appearance in a bigbudget movie than that same star’s playing the leading role, whatever may be displayed on the marquee.

    With the help of British and Canadian financiers, Hill had built the Great Northern Railroad across the continent north of the NP,...

  11. 7 Waiters and Unions
    (pp. 81-90)

    Although nonunion railroad employees fared better financially under government control of the industry, they were among the first to sacrifice some of their gains when the high-flying passenger business began to lose altitude after 1920. Large wage increases granted by the U.S. Railway Labor Board that year were short-lived for all but the “ops,” or operating employees—those who worked on the trains. In 1921, “non-ops” on the nation’s railroads took cuts of more than 10 percent, then a year later lost most of what remained of those increases.¹

    A mini-depression that hit the United States late in 1920 and...

  12. 8 Dining Car Line to the Pacific
    (pp. 91-104)

    Thomson and his minions in the dining car service did not suddenly set out to make money during the war. Profit was accidental, merely a by-product of efficiency and timesaving changes that enabled overworked crews and overtaxed space to accommodate record numbers of guests at each meal. Furthermore, the huge increase was not so much a matter of high passenger counts on the trains as it was the unheard-of percentage of travelers who patronized the dining cars.¹

    Troop train movements accounted for the greater part of wartime passenger traffic, of course, but they placed no demands on the NP’s dining...

  13. 9 The End of the Dining Car Service
    (pp. 105-108)

    Changes were actually taking placebefore Bill Paar’s retirement. And even before 1966, when Louis W. Menk, former president of the CB&Q, became president of the Northern Pacific, the nation’s railroad leaders had reached the conclusion that, bottom lines aside, passenger service was a losing proposition; no longer could aging equipment function as a showcase, an advertising medium for a railroad’s ability to operate as a modern, efficient, fullservice transportation entity. Some freight customers were seeing themselves as subsidizers of an expensive drive to save an albatross that defied preservation.¹

    Whatever Lou Menk may have believed during his year at...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 109-114)
  15. 10 The Recipes
    (pp. 115-158)

    Despite widespread bootlegging and smuggling, most Americans writhed beneath the yoke of the Volstead Act for 15 parched years. With ratification of the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, the railroads moved as quickly as possible to slake the thirsts of their passengers. When liquor was available once more, the NP’s dining car department reacted typically, and on January 29, 1934, Supt. Thomson issued the first instruction sheet since World War I. Many of the stewards and waiters had joined the department during Prohibition, so the instruction sheet was rather more detailed than its predecessors. That sheet, entitled “Service Instructions...

  16. Index
    (pp. 159-161)
  17. Recipe Index
    (pp. 162-164)