Monday, December 27, 2010


Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer - history - page

Even had a typo in my web page in the previous post.

Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer

For regulars to my website, you know that I publish a yearly newsletter chronicling the new information that I have found. I call it the "Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer"
For people who are not regulars, the purpose of the newsletter is to keep people up to date on my research, and hopefully get the word out that I am actively researching diners in the Great Lakes region. The newsletter has been published since 2003, and all back issues are available online.
This year, I have dedicated almost the entire issue to Ward & Dickinson.

Check it out! This link will bring you to my history page, and from there, it is only a click away. (In case you also want to check out old issues)


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Quick update - Toronto

Morey's Diner in Oneida is Diner #215.
I need to do more checking on this. Diner #233 and #244 had 1930 openings.

From a Toronto, Ontario Bankruptcy newspaper clipping.
Cars #160 and 162 had a lien on them dated 5/26/28
Cars #161 and 165 had a lien on them dated 8/09/28

The problem with going by these dates is that cars #111-116 had a lien date of 7/12/26
And the Ward & Dickinson ledger says they built 117 in the middle of 1927. So something seems askew with the lien dates. Car 97 was built in Nov 1926.
Also this Grape Belt article seems to help my theory that the newspaper meant 1927
May 3, 1927 : Ward & Dickinson have taken on a larger force at their factory to finish 10 dining cars for immediate delivery to a Toronto Company.
Maybe the Toronto Company decided only to start with 5 diners????

Once I can pinpoint a date for Morey's Diner, it will help even farther with a timeline of diners.

The diner in East Syracuse does not have the original backbar, so no chance of a tag there, but I did send a letter to Silver Creek, because in looking at my pictures, I noticed that Steve's Diner does indeed have the original backbar.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Utica - Rochester Grills

At the same time two Sterlings were coming to Utica, a Rochester Grill also arrived. Shown here is a chain of two diners. The first was a Bixler, and the second was a Rochester Grill. For people in the know, Mr. Shale's name will sound familiar.

He originally worked for Bixler and jumped to Rochester Grills when business for Bixler dried up. It is quite possible he also made furniture and pianos for the Rochester company either before or after (maybe during???) his dining car career.
Rochester Grills was not a prolific company. They were around from late 1935 through about 1940 and we know of about a dozen diners that they built. I was able to discover that two of their employees were from Livonia, NY and the local paper mentioned that this worker went on the road for Rochester Grills about six times, getting the diners in place. The only new piece of information was a Rochester Grill diner sent to New York City. Other Rochester Grills went to places in New York state like Sidney, Norwich, Johnson City, Watertown, Olean and Bradford in Pennsylvania. you can still get light fare at the diner in Bradford, as they have recently reopened the place as a place for food and gifts. "Grandma's House Tea and Gifts" can be found on facebook.

Ward & Dickinson #310 found

Word has reached me from Middletown, PA that Kuppy's Diner is #310. This diner was brought into Middletown in 1938, so this makes the Chautauqua diner a little bit younger.(early 1938 or maybe 1937)
On a side note, the Westfield, NY historian(Marybelle Beigh) has been able to make contact with a gentleman who ran a diner in Sherman, NY, starting after WW2. The short story is that they found a diner stored at a baseball field in Corry, PA, and bought it and brought it up Sherman. The story gets a little strange as the diner was plopped onto tired, which naturally blew as the diner was set on them, so the diner was cut into four pieces and moved in sections to Sherman.
The historian will be meeting shortly with this gentleman to talk about the history of the diner and hopefully pick up a copy of a photograph of the diner, so I look forward to identifying the maker of the diner. Initial research shows the (verified) Mulholland which was in Corry is the front runner. That diner disappeared somewhere between 1943 & 1957(no city directories available in between these years.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Ward & Dickinson #306 found

Donald Kofoed was the son of the foreman for Ward & Dickinson. Berthel Kofoed was hired by Ward & Dickinson to design and build the first lunch car built by the company. He was also wise enough to order in bulk to save money. His son, Donald relates that he bought all the wheels from a wagon company who was going out of business. Donald worked for Ward & Dickinson for a couple of years after getting out of college and talked a little about the company.
One thing he mentioned is that there was an ID tag under the bread drawer on each of the diners. Well this weekend, I proved this to be true! Upon entering the Tasty Acre of Chautauqua, outside the entrance of the Chautauqua Institution, I found the owner at the diner. After talking, I noticed that the original drawers behind the counter were still there. After asking to look under them, I noticed an unassuming tag which was painted over. After some cleaning, you can notice the number 306 punched in to the tag! This diner was said to have come to the location in 1944, so there is still a lot more research to do. Did Ward & Dickinson build a new diner? If not, where did it come from and how long was it at the other location?
Hopefully there are other Ward & Dickinson diners that also have their original drawers. The only possibilities I can think of are in Oneida, NY and Middletown, PA

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sterling example

No photo of the diner, but a mention of the builder. So now we know that Utica had two Sterling diners in the area. In fact, there was also a Sterling in Herkimer for some years, known as the National Diner. The National Diner was part of a chain possibly out of New Jersey, but with a regional office in Syracuse. There were four National Diners in Utica at one time and one in Rome. Litle Falls also had a National Diner from the late 1920s.
Next month, we will continue with our look at the diners of Utica with a look at a New York built diner. But probably not the company you would think that I would post about.

Monday, September 20, 2010

September-October History Post

Falling behind already. This month's post comes from Utica, NY. In Utica, there was a Bixler diner that came into town in October of 1931. It is not known where this diner went after this location, as it was shortly repossessed. Utica had a Bixler that lasted into the 1950s on Genesee St., so possibly this is what became of this diner.
This diner was located at 314 LaFayette, and right across the street at 313 was the Elgin Diner. The Elgin was a ca. 1923 O'Mahony that was hooked into a larger building that also housed a bar. The diner may have been called the Wilcroft Lunch at one time also. In the late 1930s, the O'Mahoyn was replaced by a Sterling diner. the O'Mahony was incorrectly identified as an interurban trolley car, even in the 1930s.
Next time, we will look at another Utica advertisement. I will keep the manufacturer's name in suspense.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Want to buy a diner?

The Rainbow Diner in Woodlawn, just south of Buffalo on NY Route 5 is for sale. We have not checked on the price of the diner, but if you're truly interested, you could call the phone number to the left. The phone number is 716-854-5943.

We also stopped at the Auburn Diner and found a very busy diner. We had not been to the diner in maybe 5 years, so it was log overdue.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

August History post.

One more verified Ward & Dickinson. [past]

I have known about a Ward & Dickinson existing in Palmyra due to a postcard, but knew little else. The historian did not know of this diner. Fortunately, I found this July 6, 1950 newspaper article.
I believe that this article may be the perfect article to explain the brief history of Ward & Dickinson, and why so many of these small diners do not exist today.
At one time, Ward & Dickinson diners were top of the line. They had a couple of booths, ready for that family who was on the road, and needed a place to eat. Especially people who did not like stools, but really did not want to go into a full blown restaurant, or deal with city traffic. But even by as early as 1930s, booths and tables were becoming ever increasingly popular. Downtown diners could survive with stools, but diners out on the road needed booths for those families who were traveling. The truckers and such were happy at stools, but not many families liked stools.
As the 1940s rolled around, diners were ever increasing in size, especially in width. some diners were even sold in two pieces. In some cases, this allowed for dining rooms to be added. Plus, this also meant bathrooms, something tat did not come with any Ward & Dickinsons. So by the 1940s, Wardies were being viewed as small and cramped diners. Not as many people wanted them, and they were becoming tougher to maintain and make a profit in. This article tells that story perfectly.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Some new diners in the works

Wappingers Falls - DeRaffele is currently building a diner to be located on US Rt 9w in Wappingers Falls, just south of the junction with I-84. It has been two months since we have checked in with the diner, so for all we know, it may be in Wappingers Falls by now.

Glens Falls/Queensbury - The latest is that a modular diner is hopefully coming to exit 18 of I-87 just north of Glens Falls in Queensbury.
The article can be found here.

The diner would be owned by the Pilarinos family, who also own the Ambrosia Diner in Catskill.
From the way the photos look, it would seem that DeRaffele or maybe United from Philly will build this diner.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

July's History of the Month

This is the first of a hopeful monthly post to keep this blog worthwhile.

The inaugural post deals with speculation. While speculation and intention do give us a really good view into what could have been, it also throws us down wrong roads. But it also reminds researchers that on occasion, newspapers are incorrect.
This June 1930 newspaper article mentions that Louis Bakery, the proprietor of the Crescent Diner in Ogdensburg had intentions to start a new and grander diner. Some background first. The Crescent Diner was a used Ward and Dickinson diner, numbered 69. The diner was built in July of 1926 and spent about 3 years doing business in Watertown, NY. So this particular diner was a basic 30 foot model. Around the time of this article was published a new Ward & Dickinson, to be known as the Miss Ogdensburg Diner was coming into Ogdensburg. This new diner was a 40 foot deluxe model. Perhaps this new diner was already in town and Bakery thought that he needed a new, larger diner in order to compete with this new diner? Or, maybe the writer had Bakery confused with someone else. Whichever is the actual story, we will never know the true story. But this article does give us a look at a northern New York town and its Ward & Dickinson diners.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

We are still updating

Unfortunately there are so many different places to update on and offline, that every places is not being updated.
But a list of changes to the diner book can be found here. The biggest updates are that the Chuck Wagon Diner has opened and Dan's Diner in Spencertown has reopened and is doing well.
The Executive Diner in Hawthorne has has the facade around the front door "updated" probably by DeRaffele. The American Dream Diner in Orangeburg was built by the United Diner Co. of Philly in 2008 or 2009. Dean Smith has bought the Penn Yan Diner.
DeRaffele is building a new diner to be placed in Wappingers Falls. Shown here in May, the diner was in the process of being built at DeRaffele's factory in New Rochelle. Thanks goes out to for the initial news about this diner.