Classic diners are shaped like train cars for a very good reason

Cheryl Kahla
Sep 03, 2018
07:30 P.M.
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Diners have always been an integral part of American culture, even before they were popularized by the glitz and glam of Hollywood.


Often described as an Americans' "home away from home," diners have a distinct feel and ambiance, immortalized by films like "Back To The Future" and "Pulp Fiction."

Diners also resemble trains cars in the more ways than one, and the reason for that can be found at the inception of the diner industry nearly 150 years ago.

Back in the day, diners were portable and only "lost their wheels" approximately six decades ago. Read more on our Twitter account, @amomama_usa.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock



It all began with Walter Scott in 1872, a frustrated businessman and printer by trade from Providence, Rhode Island, who had an innovative idea and was in desperate need of a challenge.

Scott redesigned his spare horse cart into a mobile eatery which he could park in busy parts of town. He would sell coffee and snacks during the bustling nightlife to folks out on the town, and to night-shift workers.

Known as the "night lunch wagon," the idea soon spread like wildfire. In just two decades, the night diner evolved from a horse-drawn carriage to train cars.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock


The Worchester Lunch Car Company, founded by T.H Buckley, soon rose above the competition and dominated the market by the early 1900's.


Train cars were the perfect solution to a booming business idea, as the carts were assembled and hooked to cargo trains that would pull the diner to its new location.

Even though their wheels were removed once the carts reached their destinations, the diners would remain open throughout the night.

Source: Shutterstock

Source: Shutterstock



The name was eventually shortened from "dining car" to "diner," and the brick-and-mortar buildings that followed retained that classic "dining car" feel.

From the chefs who purchased the first the diner cars to the family-run businesses of the brick buildings, the tradition lives on. Diners still have that distinct feel of fifties nostalgia and good food.

In modern times, Hollywood immortalized the classic diner with films like "Groundhog Day," "The Big Lebowski" and "When Harry Met Sally."

Diners are still a big part of ordinary Americans' lives, and with more than 600 diners, New Jersey is known as the "diner capital" of the world.



While diners are still a favorite feature all across the country, it also gave rise to its distant cousin, the food truck, or lunch truck.

The industry saw a spike in the late 2000's, with approximately 40 percent of all food truck offering American cuisine, and 25 percent offering Latin American food.

The modern-day food truck was popularized by chef Roy Choi, Mark Manguera, and Caroline Shin. Jon Favreau based his 2014 film "Chef," on their success story.

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