The 2003-2004
Great Lakes
Dining Car

Michael Engle
182 Speigletown Rd
Troy, NY 12182


Continuing to tell the story of the lunch wagon and dining car business that once prospered in the Great Lakes region.
With focus on the Great Lakes and neighboring states, and extra empathesis on Chautauqua County in New York.

[PAGE 2] Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer - 2003-4  [PAGE 2]


Focus on a Project  -  3
  • Michigan Diner Project
Focus on a Manufacturer  -  4
  •  Ward & Dickinson, Silver Creek, NY 1926
Sanborn Maps  -  5
  •  How they have helped in the research of diners.
In the News (Old)  -  5
  •  Information gleaned from newspapers.
List of Manufacturers  -  2, 6
  •  The builders of the lunch cars.
In the News (New)  -  7
  • This year's news.
News from EBAY -  7, 8
  • Auctions of interest.
Additions to Lists -  8
  • Verified Diners we have learned about.


 My name is Michael Engle.  As a volunteer with the American Diner Museum I have learned about documenting the history of diners.  So, independently, I am researching the diners of the Great Lakes region to not only tell the stories, but save the history of these diners and the manufacturers.  During the 1920's and into the 1930's there was a dining car craze in this area, especially Chautauqua Co.  It even prompted one manufacturer to move to Dayton, Oh., in an attempt to introduce the dining car into Ohio and the Midwest.  This booklet is my attempt to help save the history of the owners and manufacturers of dining cars.

Dining Car Manufacturers

Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Co. -  Silver Creek, NY 1925-1938.  The most prolific builder of the region.  They started in mid 1924 building lunch cars in the open, and became a company in 1925.  Their motto was, "They're built to last."  Charles Ward left the company in late 1927

Closson Lunch Wagon Co. - Glens Falls, NY 1902-1912.  Westfield, NY 1912-1917? The first known builder of the region.  Albert Closson had his design patented in 1905.

Sorge - Silver Creek, NY 1940's

(continued on page 6)

[PAGE 3]  For more information, visit  [PAGE 3]

Focus on a project  -  Michigan Diner Project

  The Michigan Diner Project is a natural extension of the research being done on the diners of the Great Lakes Region.  Combined with the article about using Sanborne Maps to research and identify diners, these two articles highlight what is being done at the present time.  These Sanborne Maps were canvassed, and, if possible, city directories were used for verification purposes.
  The bulletin written up to accompany the project starts out with an introduction to the project itself.  Because it will be sent to people who are unaware about diner research, this is followed by a listing of some of the diner manufacturers.  The major players of the Lake Erie Region of lunch car manufacturers were included; such as Ward & Dickinson, Closson and Richardson, plus the bigger companies of New Jersey & New England.  What also can not be forgot is that a decent number of diners in the midwest were actually trolley cars or rail cars.  One of these actually existed up until about a year ago in Pontiac, MI.
  Next, comes a listing of diners that exist today in Michigan.  Some of the more known diners are Rosie's Diner in Rockford, the Fleetwood Diner in Ann Arbor, Lamy's in the Ford Museum and Pal's Diner in Grand Rapids.  Obviously the current diners were included so that people do not send in these diners, thinking that they are not on the list.  But, it is also hoped that this will show people that we are interested in authentic diners, and not the storefront variety.  Detroit has numerous coney Island Hot Dog Stores that are similar to diners in food, but are basically all storefront buildings.
  Finally, are the "Diners of the Past".  This is where we hope to obtain the most feedback from the receivers of this newsletter.  Our hope is that some historical society or library will see a diner they have information on, and will reply back to us.  Listed here are the diners procured by Sanborne Maps and city directories that no longer exist.  It is to be guaranteed that this list is no where near complete either.  Because of the size of the city, most of the diners were located around the greater Detroit area.  S&C Coffee Cars had a chain of 6 diners that have been rumored to have been Worcester Dining Cars.  Eighty more probable diners are listed, and they are located all around the state, except for the UP.  One important fact to remember is that this list does not include lunch wagons.  Even though the packaged lunch box was a hugh business in Detroit, due to the automobile factories, there must have been a number of lunch wagons around Detroit and the other bigger cities of the state in the first part of the 20th Century.

Acknowledgments :  We would like to thank the Michigan State Library in Lansing for not only having the entire set of Michigan Sanborne Maps, but for also having on hand, all of the adjoining state's Sanborne Maps.  And also to the state for having weekend hours for the library.

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Focus on a Manufacturer  -  Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Co.

  In 1926, Ward & Dickinson's net income was $99,792.53 which was nearly $40,000 more than the previous year.  By the start of the year, the Ward Dining Car, which was to be the standard model built by the company, was already designed and being built.  It can be also assumed that the company copied the Mulholland Co. in adding metal panels onto the exterior of their diners by late 1925.  At $5,500 these dining cars could easily out price the models being produced in New Jersey, which were going for between 8 and 11 thousand.  The combination of the Ward Dining Car's design, inside and out, and Richardson's penetration of the lunch car into the Great Lakes region, brought success to the Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Company.  In January, the Silver Creek Times announced, "40 people are now employed as against 10 one year ago. having a weekly payroll of $1,750.00"
  The year 1926 also brought two interesting developments within the company.  The first had to do with employment.  Lee Dickinson announced that all employees had to live in the village of Silver Creek.  "They point out and with much force and justice that it is not fair to give employment to those who do not assist in paying the village tax and the local school burdens."  This was followed by an order of 30 dining cars to a Cleveland, Oh matter.  "The thirty cars which will be shipped to Cleveland are all to be served by a central cooking station costing $15,000."
  Along with this order, came this news, "Lee Dickinson of the firm of Ward & Dickinson, has announced that the factory building on the hill will be exactly doubled in capacity at once."  By April, "Ten more men will be added to the already large force of the Ward & Dickinson Dining Car Factory Monday morning.  Orders are coming in for cars faster than they can be manufactured."
   As the Richardson Dining Car Co. was moving to Dayton, Oh, because they believed that the eastern states were already saturated with diners, the Ward & Dickinson company was moving ahead at full force.  By the end of the year, they had at least 80 men working at the factory, building dining cars.  It was stated that by December 16th, they had built a total of 100 dining cars.  Fifty were built by the end of 1925, so that would make 50 built in 1926.  This does not match O'Mahony and Tierney, who were nearly making a diner a day during the 1920's.
  The company also announced tentative plans to build a brand new factory, in which would be built something that had never been manufactured in the United States.  Unfortunately, all that happened were plans.  Even worse, is that the newspapers never mentioned what were going to be the items.  After this, Ward & Dickinson didn't seem to make the newspapers much.  Even though, 1927 would continue to be a prosperous year for the company.
  In Silver Creek itself, a few locals continued to be mentioned as moving away to run lunch cars, but by the turn of the year, that number would dwindle.  The company also treated its employees well.  Besides being mentioned as being well paid employees, for Christmas, all the employees received turkeys, and the foremen and office help all received "very substantial checks."
  Also in 1926, Charles Ward received a design patent for his "Ward Dining Car".

[PAGE 5]  For more information, visit [PAGE 5]

Sanborne Maps -

  Sanborn maps were developed due to a need created by insurance companies.  Insurance companies needed to have information about the buildings they insure, right in front of them.  The Sanborne fire insurance map company took care of that need.  Their agents would map out any populated city, village, or even hamlet, and document how many stories a building was, what it was made out of, plus, it would go into greater detail for factories.  It's obvious to tell where this could help with respect to researching diners, even, at times, with lunch wagons.
  Sanborne maps were created in large books, for easy viewing, they were color coded so that you knew what a building was made out of.  Mattering on the size of the location, they were updated every 5 years to maybe even 20 years apart.  In the larger cities, they would just paste the corrections in the book, leaving gaps of anywhere from 25 to 50 years.  But in the smaller towns, they would just create a new book for every period that they wanted to change the books.
  So where can these maps be found.  Over the years the older maps would either be kept by the building permit dept., given to a historical society or find their way into the cities archives.  The Sanborne company always kept a copy for themselves.  Today, they make their maps available, by subscription, via the internet.   Also, some libraries, especially state libraries, have microfilmed copies of these maps.  Michigan, besides the entire set for their state, have the entire sets for 8 neighboring states.  Some colleges even subscribe to the Sanborne maps online, and CleveNet, a library network in the Cleveland area, subscribes for the Ohio maps.

In the News (OLD)

  Kendallville, Indiana was a rather unique town for Indiana.  They had 2 lunch cars/wagons and a diner.  Currently, I have only found pictures, exterior and interior, of the lunch car known as Fulk's.
  Ward & Dickinson also had their own matchbooks that they gave to some owners of their diners.  The matchbooks announced that the diner that the customer was in, was built by Ward & Dickinson of Silver Creek, NY, with a drawing of one of their diners.  So far, we have found two diners that used the matchbooks.  Batavia Diner of Batavia, NY and a diner in LaPorte, IN.
  A Seward Cornell ran a lunch wagon in Greenwich, NY for about a year, around 1905, before moving his business to Waterford, NY.
  There was a Smoky James' Lunch Wagon in Westport, NY ran by Grover C. James.
  I found that I missed an owner of a lunch wagon in Glens Falls, it was run by Newman Peabody at the Bank Monument from about 1904 to 1907.
  Granville, NY had the Chanawaka dining car and possibly a lunch cart, both run by members of the Petty family.  Clarence and Chester with the dining car, and Raymond was a, "lunch cart man."
  Pictures of diners in Conneaut and Wooster, Oh shows diners whose manufacturer can not be pinpointed based upon strange roof contours.

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Dining Car Manufacturers (continued from page 2)

Rich Dining Car Company - Silver Creek, NY 1921-1926.  Dayton, Oh 1926-1929.  Earl Richardson came from Westfield, NY in 1909 and ran a lunch wagon until he started building them as a business.  Supposedly, his original lunch wagon was self built.

Liberty Dining Car Co. - Clarence, NY 1928-? Owned by Charles A. Ward previous of W&D.

Silver Creek Dining Car Co. - Silver Creek, NY 1923-?  First ran by a Dr. Fitzpatrick, later by a Dr. J. J. Sharp who might or might not have went by the Silver Creek Dining Car Co. name.

Orleans - Albion, NY 1940's  Built 3 diners, one being the Highland Park in Rochester, NY.

Rochester Grills - Rochester, NY 1936-?  Like Bixler, they built diners that were pieced together on site.

Mulholland - Dunkirk, NY 1920's?  The first company to add metal to their diner in the region.

Bixler -  Fremont & Norwalk, Oh Late 1920's-1935 The first company to build diners that were assembled in 4 ft sections.

Goodell - The Goodell Hardware store in Silver Creek, NY also built dining cars in 1927.

Guy E. Russell - Ripley, NY late 1920's.  He is listed in the 1930 census as a "diner builder".

Peter Schneider - Gowanda or Silver Creek, NY ?  Only one blurb in the newspaper mentions him building a dining car in 1922.

National Dining Car Co. - Silver Creek, NY late 1920s

G. C. Kuhlman Car Co. - A Cleveland, Oh. interest.  They built Brill diners.

Dag-wood Diner - Toledo, Oh., late 1940's  Made kits called Dag-Wood Diners that made boxy rectangular diners.  Rumor has it that they only made half a dozen kits.

[PAGE 7]  For more information, visit   [PAGE 7]

News from around the Country (NEW)

  In Hillsdale, Michigan, is the Coffee Cup Diner.  A Ward & Dickinson that has been there since at least 1927.
  Last year's information about Whitey's Diner in Fremont being a diner is wrong, it was an old trolley car/interurban.  John Baeder, in his book, "Diners" said that there were 4 trolley car diners in Fremont at one time.
  Morey's Diner in Oneida, NY was closed all summer this year, and reopened Oct 27 for breakfast only.  The current owner of this diner, Lynn Morey, saved this diner, and did an excellent job of restoring the inside of this Ward & Dickinson diner.
  Dottie's Diner in Cleveland Heights, Oh has unfortunately closed.
  In a recent talk with Gordon Tindall, who has restored a 1927 Tierney, he said that he used to own a Brill Universal model that was built by the Kuhlman Co., who were located in Cleveland, Oh.
  The E-lite Diner, a Mulholland from East Liverpool, Oh, now sits in storage in the Lancaster, PA area.

 EBAY Information
[Postcards seen on EBAY]
  • A W&D in Kittanning.
  • A Bixler in Selingrove.
  • Neebuhr's Dining Car in Conneaut, Oh.  Built by Richardson.
  • A postcard of Weed's Diner(probably O'Mahony) in Sussex, PA does not match the matchbook(W&D style)
  • A possibly W&D in Warren, PA at a gas station on US 6 & Laurel.
  • A Closson in Trenton, NJ called Ted Forker's Quick Lunch.  No number attached.
  • A train diner in Benson, Minn.  Ben Liette, prop.
  • A trolley diner in Rantoul, Ill
  • Min's Diner in Wooster, Oh.  Unknown manufacturer
[Matchbooks seen on EBAY]
  • De Luxe Diner in Waterbury, CT
  • W&D stock matchbook of Rippey's Diner in Batavia, NY
  • W&D stock matchbook of a diner in LaPorte, Ind
  • Andy's in Peoria, Ill
  • Shadix Diner in Conneaut, Oh.  Unknown manufacturer

How you can help: If you know about an old diner, especially pictures or first hand accounts, but even if you just remember a diner, please contact me.  Also, let people who you know have information, know about this project and how they can help out.


[PAGE 8]  Great Lakes Dining Car Wagoneer - 2003-4   [PAGE 8]

Addditions to the lists

   At, there is a listing of diners/lunch wagons for each manufacturer, plus a list of diners which we are unsure of the make.   The lists are split up as follows : Ward & Dickinson list is at ; Richardson list is at ; Closson Lunch wagons are at ; and the rest of the companies are located at
  Currently, we have documented 19 Clossons, 111 W&Ds, 17 Richardsons (plus newspaper article mentions 26 were built in late 1925), 11 Mulholland (one sales agent said he sold 32), 3 Liberty, 2 Goodell, 1 Sorge, 2 Orleans(Superior), 8 Rochester Grills, 3 Dag-Woods, 3 Dr. Sharpe's (he built at least 7) and 1 National.

In 2003, we have added these to the lists :

Coffee Cup Diner, Hillsdale, Mi : Ward & Dickinson {still standing}
Sammy's Diner, Randolph, NY : Unsure [barrel roofed]
Auburn Diner, Auburn, Ind : Ward & Dickinson
Club Diner, Albany, NY : Ward & Dickinson
Franklin Club Diner, Franklinville, NY : Ward & Dickinson
Club Diner, Mayville, NY : Mulholland
Court House Diner, Bath, NY : Goodell
Batavia Diner, Batavia, NY : Ward & Dickinson
Young's De Luxe Diner, Waterbury, CT : Ward & Dickinson
LaPorte, IN : Ward & Dickinson
Rich's Dining Car : Wyandotte, MI : Richardson
Elmira Diner : Elmira, NY : Ward & Dickinson
Reading Diner : Reading, PA : Ward & Dickinson
Ted Forker Quick Lunch : Trenton, NJ : Closson

EBAY Information
[Other info seen on EBAY]

    Interior pictures of Anderson's Diner in Bradford, PA.  This was a W&D
  Goodell Dining Car Co. brochure.  This brochure was picked up by the American Diner Museum.  It only contained an exterior picture, and some general information.  Included information :  Two sizes, 30x10(ft) or 40x10(ft); seats 18-21 people; double steam table and double coffee urn; solid philippine mahogany interior; large ice box with water coil, plus an ice machine; fire proof asbestos exterior.