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A locomotive is a self-propelled vehicle which runs on rails and is capable of pulling, and sometimes pushing, railroad cars. Trains allowed for the movement of large loads of goods and passengers over long distances by linking together multiples cars or vehicles which ran on a rail system. In 1803,  Richard Trevithick in South Wales,  built the  first steam locomotive to run on rails.
Purchases made through links provided on this website may result in a commission being paid to the website owner. Long before supersonic jets made it easy to cross the country, train travel was the elegant way to get from place to place in the United States. By the 1870s, the Transcontinental Railroad stretched all the way to California, and with it came a new era of railway dining.
Even though the railways led to California, dining cars were nonexistent west of Omaha until the 1890s. During the golden age of railroads in the United States, even breakfasts were opulent affairs. A steam engine locomotive typically burns wood, coal or oil to produce the steam in a boiler which powers the steam engine.


During the golden age of American trains, their sleek, opulent interiors featured plush seats, porters for your every need and gleaming dining cars.
Even on longer hauls, in the 1840s passengers were expected to bring their own food aboard or eat at boarding house restaurants along the line. The most detailed account of train foods comes from an article in Harper’s Magazine published in 1872 and written by Charles Nordhoff, a prominent journalist of the era. A menu from an inspection trip aboard the Southern Railway reveals that passengers enjoyed oysters on toast, steak with marrow sauce, baked or creamed potatoes and a choice of chops, bacon or ham. The dining car was the heart of train life, a place for passengers to relax and enjoy a meal in the company of newfound friends.
These women worked as waitresses in the Harvey Houses, restaurant-inns that dotted the Western landscape for decades. All this before a luncheon featuring roast teal duck, Smithfield hams and mince pie with brandy sauce. Isolated water stops were frequent targets of attack by bandits, so it’s no wonder that rail companies quickly adapted to create sanctuaries on the train where passengers could dine in peace.
On board the Nickel Plate Railroad, which stretched over the mid-central United States, diners could choose the meal and budget that fit them best, from a 55-cent special of sliced tomatoes and baked beans to finnan haddie a la Delmonico (a smoked haddock dish) for 90 cents.


Fred Harvey opened the first branch of his Harvey House in 1878, and from then until the automobile age in the 20th century, passengers could count on delicious, high-quality food served in beautiful surroundings. Far from the reheated, packaged meals of today, train chefs prepared food from scratch, from the turtle soup to the spiced nuts.
Meals as varied as chicken enchiladas, roast goose with apples and apricot Charlotte were served by the Harvey Girls, clad in long black dresses with voluminous white aprons.
Fred Harvey insisted that his serving staff be female, attractive, between the ages of 18 and 30, and, most importantly, unmarried. In return, the staff got free room and board, a generous salary and a one-year employment contract.
Often the only young women in rough-and-tumble railroad towns, the Girls were a civilizing force in the Wild West.



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Comments to “Trains hornby”

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